Middlebury Interactive Languages Chinese Course Review

Learning foreign languages is an exciting learning experience. We have been learning Chinese informally as a family for a few months already when I was given a full semester course access to Middlebury Interactive Languages for 6 months as part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Middlebury Interactive Languages offers interactive and immersive online language courses in Chinese, German, French and Spanish. We were given access to the Chinese Courses Elementary Level 1 for Grades 3 to 5.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
Designed by Ph. D. level academics and linguistic experts, Middlebury Interactive Languages uses immersive approach in developing one’s fluency in foreign languages. The different rigorous online training courses have passed the standards set by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. This ensures that authentic materials are being used which translates to actual reading, writing, listening and speaking activities in every session. There is also a No-English Spoken Here policy making the student encounter real life scenarios when training elsewhere in the world.

The Chinese Courses are developed for the K-12 curriculum. This is a self-paced program and it is ideal for 3rd Grade to 5th Grade students, though one can start even without any prior knowledge of the language.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review
Since this is an online course, all you need is to have a stable internet connection and a web browser like Safari, Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer and your child can start studying by herself. My daughter is currently in 5th grade and I had her login and do lessons 2-3 times a week.

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Upon log in, you have the option of viewing the Calendar where there is a suggested lesson each day or going to the Table of Contents. Both can lead you to the actual lesson for the day. For the Elementary Chinese Level 1 course, the student will learn about numbers, greetings, family members, home, colors and adjectives, school and food. Every unit focuses on one of these topics. Each topic covers 6 lessons. Depending on the level of fluency of your child, you can do 1-2 lessons per day in my opinion.

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Each unit begins with a video about a Chinese legend or myth surrounding the lesson being taught. Then there are a few games and lab exercises which allows you to explore, practice, remember and speak the language.  For the speaking lab, the student will be asked to speak and record herself saying the new words she has learned. The microphone should be enabled for this exercise.

Middlebury Interactive Languages Review

The learning isn’t limited to the speaking and listening area. There are also some video lessons on Chinese culture like social customs, home customs and being a good host. Chinese character formation and stroke order is also taught throughout the lessons.

For every practice and test activity, there is an automated checking. Then the program automatically records the results and you can view the results when you click on Gradebook at the menu upon log-in.

The lessons are being sold per semester for a single user at the price of $119 without a teacher. There are 45 lessons per semester for the Chinese Courses.

What I Thought of the Product

I understand Chinese because I came from a Chinese family and studied in a Chinese school growing up, it is a different story with my kids. They don’t understand Chinese since we don’t speak Chinese at home. Hearing the spoken Chinese language with its complicated sounds and its rhythms, I salute the accuracy and the quality of the language program.

I also like the systematic approach throughout. With the step by step procedure every lesson,  I am confident that with the consistent usage of the program, my daughter will be able to speak basic Chinese words and understand them as well after one semester. If needed, she can easily access the old lessons and watch them over and over again.

The engaging learning environment provides a holistic approach and helps the student not just to read, write, speak and listen to the language but also understand and appreciate the culture surrounding the language.

This is a wonderful Chinese language online program which needs minimal parental supervision.

For more information on Middlebury Interactive Languages, check out their social media accounts at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Middlebury-Interactive-Languages/141015515949753
Twitter: http://twitter.com/MiddInteractive
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/middinteractive/
Google +: https://plus.google.com/b/110371351490550861545/110371351490550861545/posts

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My Student Logbook PDF Version Review

A month ago, we were blessed to be given an opportunity to review a daily student planner from My Student Logbook. Being part of the international community, we received the PDF version of the dated book for use with one of my child. My Student Logbook is best for 2nd grade students and up. My Student Logbook Review

My Student Logbook is a simplified but effective student organizer.  This product was created by a multi-level homeschool mom, Corina Abbott. She has been tirelessly looking around for an organizational system which is easy enough to do in a busy household.  With her husband’s support, Corina was able to create a system that utilizes a fold-over checklist. It lines up with the boxes in the dated columns and the checklist can be re-used for the succeeding weeks. There is one column for each day of the week. Mom or student can write the tasks on the checklist and the student just needs to write a check mark below the date if he or she has completed the task written on the specified day.

My Student Logbook Review
Organizing and planning the day of my homeschooler is one of the most challenging aspects of homeschooling. I am not very good at advanced planning and most of the time, this weakness makes me doubt whether our goals for the day or the week were met. It also makes me second guess how our day could have gone better. I have not been able to use any other homeschool planner before since I don’t like to use another planner just for homeschool. So when I saw how easy to use My Student Logbook was, I was excited to share it with my 5th grade daughter.

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We opened the PDF file mailed to us using our pre-installed Adobe Reader. We viewed the attached set up instruction file and also viewed the video on how to set up the logbook from the setup guide as seen from the website. Then we printed the necessary pages and clipped it all together. We didn’t have cover choices.

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 As shown on the photo above, I asked my daughter to write in her daily chores and subjects. We also indicated how many minutes approximately it takes her to finish the task. Then she folded the check list and ensured that the check list is facing out on the week she will be starting to use the list. Then everyday, she just looks at the logbook and place a check on the task she is able to complete. It is a very straight forward, low maintenance daily planner that works for her!

There are several useful pages inserted along with the 6 pages of daily planner. There is an all about me page, prayers and goal page, Bible verses memorized page, book list page, field trips and activities page, test records page and favorite memories from the year page. We found the Bible verses memorized page and book list page very useful.

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My Student Logbooks come in 3 options:

– the Dated My Student Logbooks for August to July school year. This is the product we reviewed.  The physical product costs $15. The PDF file costs $10 for single use and $20 for family use.

– the Dated My Student Logbooks for the calendar year. The physical product costs $15. The PDF file costs $10 for single use and $20 for family use.

– the Undated My Student Logbooks. The physical product costs $15.

 

What I Think of the Product

My Student Logbook has helped me “see” what we have accomplished over the past few weeks. It allows me to visualize how we spent most of our days and what we need to improve upon. Moreso, for my daughter, it has allowed her to be more consistent in monitoring what she has been spending her time on most of the time and it has taught her to be more responsible on how she uses her time daily. This is a good discipline which she would need once she reaches higher grades.

With this planner, I can now easily delegate chores and don’t have to constantly remind them about it. It helps me develop independence in my children as well.

With its simplicity and straight forward approach, I think even my 2nd grade son, if given the opportunity, would be able to use this product too!

For more information about this product, check out My Student Logbook Facebook page and My Student Logbook You Tube channel.

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UberSmart Math Facts Review

As part of the Homeschool Review Crew, I was given the opportunity to review the software UberSmart Math Facts from  UberSmart Software.

UberSmart Math Facts Review

Long before the device age, memorizing math facts were simple. Dot cards and flash cards were the way to go. But since the mobile gadgets became widely used, the applications became graphic oriented and it was hard to find a simple application which can help the children memorize math facts. It is because of this that David Kocur created UberSmart Math Facts!

Memorizing math facts is an important skill which can help children to become more confident when solving math problems. It would be an important skill to learn before they move to higher math. But oftentimes, memorizing math facts is not easy and doesn’t come naturally. UberSmart Math Facts helps parents by providing the platform that the children will use regularly to ensure familiarity with all the math facts. Automaticity or recalling the facts without thinking about it can easily be achieved through the drills offered by the program.

UberSmart Math Facts is a downloadable software which you can install on your  computers with the Windows operating systems only like Windows 7, 8, XP and Windows Vista. It primarily teaches the children to master math facts using simple dot cards and flash cards. The application is made for children grades K-6 but anyone can really use this simple math review software which focuses on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division drills.

UberSmart Math Facts software has 3 main components:

Dot Cards  It is like domino faces. It teaches the younger child to be familiar with the different operations using dots.

UberSmart Math Facts Review

Keyboard Entry  It teaches the student to be familiar with number’s location on the keyboard and visualizes the numbers for them.

UberSmart Math Facts Review

Flash Cards  It shows numbers and focuses on addtition, subtractraction, multiplication and division. It teaches one number group in a time and ensures that children have mastered the set before moving to the next number. The addition and subtraction goes up through the 9s while the multiplication and division can be set to 20s.

UberSmart Math Facts Review
As soon as you has installed the program on your compter, you can access the program without the need of internet connection. The program is independently installed on your computer and can be accessed anytime of the day and without limit. You can install the program on another computer but the test results will only stay with one computer since every copy of the program has their own record of results.

 

We installed the program to our laptop and didn’t encounter any problems. I added the name of my 7 year old son who is in 2nd grade and made him use the program at least 3x a week during the review period. He used the program for about 15 minutes each day.

The menu options of the program is learn, practice, test, compete, report and maintain. The child can start with learn where he will choose if he is a beginner (dot cards) or an intermediate (flash cards). Then student can choose what skill and number group they want to learn. As they practice, there is a bar on the lower portion of the screen which shows their progresss. This is not a timed session.

The practice sessions are basically the same with learn except that they are timed sessions. Each flashcard has a time limit.  The student also finds out the result of their answer at once as the computer checks their answer.

The test sessions are timed as a whole set. The student will automatically see how well he did at the end of the test and the right answers to the wrong questions.

The compete sessions are timed and the students grade will compete with other users all around the world based on their age range.

As the teacher, you can go to the maintain menu and set the name of the students, the time for their practice problems, mastery time limit and beat the clock time. You can also see the progess of your students by checking the report option.

My son took the assessment test and this is the report that I received.

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There are different types of report available. There are mastery reports, you can even see the practice drills result and how your child did in every number group. This gives the teacher a great overview of what you need to work on with your child. I really liked this feature!

It is stated in the website that  two or three fifteen minute sessions per day is recommended. But even if your child can do only a single ten minute session, the consistent daily review should be enough to help your child master his math facts! The software only costs $24.95 for home use and can be installed on as many computers as you have in your house. You can also use the software indefinitely.

After using this software, I found out that even if my son loves math, he still has many facts that he needs to master and daily sessions using UberSmart Math Facts can be a big help to him as he memorizes the basic math facts! In fact, I am also going to ask my 10 year old daughter to start using this program to help her with her math too!

If you are looking for a simple and direct math program that would help you child remember math facts with automaticity, go and try UberSmat Math Facts!

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FarFaria App Review

We have been invited to review an app called FarFaria, a collection of children’s books. The goal of Farfaria is to help children develop a passion for reading and encourages families to spend quality time together and this is something that we believe in as a family so I agreed to check it out.

With over 700 books available and 5 new books every week, my10 year old and 7 year old were quite excited to see what sort of stories were included in the colletion.

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FarFaria is available for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices. We installed it on our iPhone 5S without any problems. Once installed, the app requires internet connection so we can access the whole collection of books. The app is made for children ages 2-9 years old but can be read together by the whole family.

The stories are presented in an interactive format. It is like entering a magical world of stories!  Text can be read by the app or the children or parent can choose to read it themself. It makes a perfect read aloud companion for moms and dads who are busy working and can’t read to their kids.

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All stories are divided into several categories which include:

> Classics Grove

> Preschool Playground

>Looney Lagoon

> GoodLand

> Sing-along City

>Fairytale Falls

>Mt. Make Believe

>Animal Kingdom

>Adventure Island

>Genius Jungle

>Bedtime Bluffs

Mt Make Believe

 

Each story also has a level from P to 4 to indicate the reading level of the story.

What We Thought of FarFaria

Both my kids are readers and they thoroughly enjoyed Farfaria. The stories loaded fairly quickly.  The simple interface and the engaging stories were enough to make them want to access the app every day.  As every story is sorted according to genre and reading level, it was easy for them to search the book they want to read for the first time but they found it hard to find the exact title of the book, if they ever want to read it again. So they are recommending to have a search tab so one can easily find a particular title!

I liked FarFaria because there are numerous titles available and there are no advetising banners so I am confident that my kids are reading the different stories and not being taken elsewhere even if I am not beside them. I like the favorites option too as it allows my kids to download their favorite stories and enables them to read these stories offline.

FarFaria is developed by Intuary and is available for free at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/free-childrens-books-farfaria/id491771721?mt=8 but you can only read one story per day. The monthly subscription is just $4.99 and it gives you unlimited access to all the books for the whole month!

For more information on FarFaria, visit the FarFaria FB page.

 

HomeschoolPiano Review

I’ve never learned how to play the piano and I don’t want my kids to experience the same. Thankfully, we were given an opportunity through the Schoolhouse Review Crew to review  HomeschoolPiano. We received a lifetime subscription for up to five students for HomeschoolPiano – Complete Set of Books. This would give my children an opportunity to learn playing the piano even while at home!

Homeschool Piano Review
HomeschoolPiano offers piano lessons online. The lessons are all-video based and is made for all ages! If you are a beginner or you already have prior lessons, HomeschoolPiano can help you read music and even create your own music! This is perfect for learning piano at your own pace since you can view the lessons anytime of the day from your computer or your mobile devices like the phones or tablets.

The program is a well rounded music curriculum as it follows a 6-steps cycle which lays a foundation based on the National Standards for Music Education.

Homeschool Piano Review
In every unit, the lessons center on the following fundamentals: Technique,Rhythm, Ear Training, Reading, Song, Improvisation. This ensures that the students learn how to develop their ear, read music and create their own music and improvisations later on. There are a total of 4 books, the Core Piano, Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3.

Core Piano is a collection of 30 lessons teaching piano essentials. It is a must for those who have no previous piano experience. Book 1 is for the absolute beginner, Book 2 is for those who have some previous  piano training and Book 3 is for the advanced student where he will learn to create piano rich arrangements.

Homeschool Piano Review
There are 7 lessons in each unit and 6 units in each Book. Every lesson ranges from 5 to 10 minutes in length. After watching the video, it is expected that the student will practice what he has learned on his own keyboard or piano.

To use HomeschoolPiano, you need to have reliable  internet connection and a piano or a keyboard with at least 49 keys. You may use your computer or your tablets since you don’t need any special software to view the videos as you access them online.

If you can not watch the video online, there is a link which allows you to download the mp3 file for audio and mp4 for video.
HomeschoolPiano can be purchased in 2 ways. Through the Success Package which means you have to pay $299 in one payment or the Payment Plan which means you can pay $99.97 per month for 3 months. You will have unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students.

How We Used the Program

I created 2 logins for my 2 children. My 10 year old daughter started with Core Piano for 3 times a week. She has previous piano  experience so she breezed through most of the lessons in Core Piano, then she worked on Book 1.

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She also took the lesson quiz to assess her knowledge.

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After watching the video, she follows the instructor’s lessons on the keyboard so she remembers what she has learned. It usually takes her a total of 30 minutes per day to complete about 2 lessons.

My 7 year old son has no previous music or piano lessons so he took the lessons slower. He also started with Core Piano and is still watching Core Piano. He did the lessons twice a week.

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After watching the videos, we usually do the activities. Like when the lesson was about skip or steps, I asked my son to create his own steps scale and skip scale.

 

What We Thought of the Program

As the homeschool parent, I liked several aspects of  the program:

– It requires no assistance from me. I just made sure that they were properly logged in and doing their piano lessons.

– The continuinity of the lessons were important so that the student were learning efficiently. I am confident that they are not missing any foundational lessons.

–  My children can repeat the video lessons when needed. My daughter breezed through Core Piano and was excited to work on Book 1, but there were times when I asked her to check some topics in Core Piano again to remind her of the basics.

– I liked it that my children were learning music without us having to leave the house or hiring a piano teacher, since our budget can not accomodate it at the moment.

– One program for both kids. Since this product is for all ages, we can use it for both of our kids.

– The creative side of my children is also being trained as they are continuing on with their lessons. They are encouraged to vocalize and improvise.

– There are online quizzess to check whether they are learning their lessons.

– We have unlimited lifetime access to a program that can be used for a couple of years.

The most challenging aspect of this program for us is our internet connection. There were days that we had a hard time accessing the video online because of our slow or intermittent internet connection.

Another factor is that we have to be consistent in watching and practising the new learnings. As with most programs, it is up to the diligence of the student if she wants to learn and make the most out of an amazing product.

If you are looking to learn piano at home and unleash your musical side, this is a good product to try out. For more information, you can check HomeschoolPiano Facebook  or at HomeschoolPiano Twitter or at HomeschoolPiano Pinterest.

Homeschool Piano Review
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