Saturday, May 30, 2015

PianoWithWillie ~ Studio Access

I had the incredible opportunity to review PianoWithWillie "Studio Access" by JazzEdge. With over 3,000 lesson chapters and multiple learning levels, this program has something for everyone. PianoWithWillie is NOT for the beginner piano student but for the student that already has some piano background, as well as for the more advanced piano students. Willie Myette's music programs have been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX as well as featured in many music publications. This program is unique and exciting!!!

The site has different tracks depending on your experience with the piano. They have lessons for the beginner, up to those that already have extensive piano experience. The program keeps track of your progress so that each time you log in, you can pick up where you left off. There is a great Unit Reference Guide to better help you see what is covered in each book and unit. Lessons are taught using a video format. There is an initial piano assessment that helps the learner know where to start based on the students current skills and ultimate goals. 

Navigating the site
There is a very helpful video on "How to use the site" which is very informative. The interface is somewhat confusing with so many links and options to choose from that it is easy to get overwhelmed and lost. I guess you could say that the site is "busy" but with all that is offered it is somewhat expected. 

Willie Myette is actively involved with the site on a continual basis. The site has a forum where you can chat with others in the PianoWithWillie community. Willie appreciates feedback and is open to suggestions in order to provide ease and understanding, as well as amazing content to its users. Knowing that Willie has a strong presence is reassuring to the paid user. For anyone questioning the true validity of Willie's expertise and ability, the answer is unequivocally, YES!!!

Piano Start
Willie provides a 5 step guide to get you started: 
  1. Getting Started
  2. 30 Day Success Playbook
  3. Piano Foundation
  4. Using the Site
  5. Next Steps
Each of these steps is very informative and offers suggestions on navigating the site as well as guiding you, based on your comfort level and ability. In Step 3, Willie offers his expertise on the best path based on the ease or difficulty with the 30 Day Success challenge. If the student is struggling with completing the 30 Day Success challenge, he suggests that the student try the HomeSchoolPiano. Willie really does want all students to be successful in their pursuit of the piano. 

Studio Lesson Library
Wow, there are so many options. Willie offers six genres to choose from:
  • Blues
  • Classical
  • Funk
  • Gospel 
  • Jazz
  • Latin
  • Rock
  • Universal
You are able to narrow your lesson search by using the following filters:
  • Element
  • Level
  • Genre
  • Tonality
  • Key Signature
  • Time Signature
  • Instructors
The student can also choose which path they want to take, either Foundational or Fun'dational. 

Fun'dational, Song, Beginner, Classical

My PianoWithWillie Experience 
It has been 33 years since I took piano lessons. I took two years of piano before stopping in order to pursue the violin. When the opportunity came to review piano lessons, I was very excited. I can still play basic piano. I have often times wished that I knew how to play the piano better. We have a beautiful piano sitting in our front room that is never played. I was so excited to try my hand at the piano again and hopefully share the love of piano with some of my children. I was pleased to find out that although I thought I had forgotten much of what I had learned so many years ago, the fundamentals came back to me, as I worked through PianoWithWillie.

30 Day Success Playbook
After working through half of the 30 Day Success Playbook, I felt a sense of accomplishment. I may not have been 100% successful in mastering everything just like Willie said I should have been able to, but I progressed further than I ever thought I would. I often repeated lessons in order to master the skills being taught. Being a "very busy mom", I was really excited with how short the lessons were. It is so hard to complete anything that requires long periods of time without being interrupted. I found myself going to the piano throughout the day and practicing what I learned. I even heard, "That sounds pretty good, mom" from my kiddos.

Playing the treble clef is easy, but when I added the bass clef, my left hand had a very hard time working together with my right hand. My "down here" (left hand) did not like working with the "up here" (right hand). I laughed when Willie said that age and dexterity had a play in how easily one is able to catch on. Willie is right!! I do not remember having my left and right hands fighting to play together when I was a kid. 

I am what you would call "music terminology" challenged. Willie does an amazing job of explaining the terms and then demonstrating them. I had to take a lot of notes because I knew that I would need to go back and review.

Now that I have regained some of my lost piano skills from childhood, I hope that some of my children will be able to share in the love and joy of learning to play the piano too.

Core Piano ~ Piano Basics For All Levels
There are 30 chapters in this series. Students will learn how to sit at the piano, proper posture, grab techniques, rhythms, cords, scales, sharps, flats, playing hands together, how to read music and so much more. The lessons are short and are extremely easy to fit into even the most crazy of schedules. 

My 12 year old daughter has always wanted to play the piano. She took lessons for a couple of months and then stopped. She regretted the decision and was excited when this opportunity became available. One of the reasons it was hard for my daughter to continue taking piano was because she deals with chronic health issues. Weekly scheduled lessons and practicing just does not fit into her world. This program is perfect because it is self paced and can be done without the stress of worrying about missing lessons or practice time. It may take her longer than most to learn to play the piano but that is okay. She is enjoying the piano. 

Book 1 ~ Perfect For Beginners
This book is perfectly designed for the beginning piano student. In this book you will learn how to read music, improvise and create your own music. There are six units with each unit, containing technique, rhythm, reading/song, improvisation, and bonus. 

Book 2 ~ Building A Foundation
This book is a continuation of book one. For the student with some piano training, Book 2 is a great place to start. 

Book 3 ~ Unlocking The Pianist Within
In this book you will learn how to create piano arrangements using both prior and new techniques that will be learned.

My daughter really enjoyed learning piano with PianoWithWillie. She has learned so much. This program is definitely the perfect fit for our family. 

My daughter said, "For so long I have been wanting to learn how to play the piano and now I am. Willie makes learning to play fun and easy. I look forward to being able to play really well someday."

Final Thoughts
I had my reservations about how someone on the internet who I had never met or who had never met me, would be able to TEACH ME PIANO. Well, Willie is amazing. His teaching style is fun and likable and is very easy to follow and understand. Willie seems to anticipate questions or obstacles that the student may have. During the lessons, he addresses many of the exact thoughts and questions that were racing through your mind. Willie has done an amazing job. You can tell that he has put a lot of work into making the site a great music learning experience. 

The summer months are almost upon us which means academic work is more laid back and not as intense. Several of my other children plan on beginning their own piano adventure this summer. I cannot wait to share the love of music with all of my children through Willie Myette's program.

I would highly recommend PianoWithWillie to anyone wishing to learn to play the piano. This is a great alternative to normal lessons. For those that have a tight budget, this is amazing. Go check out the fantastic programs that Willie has to offer. You will not be disappointed.  

To read more review click HERE.

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Spring 2015 Texas Floods

Education in real life is aways exciting. Recently, in Texas, we have received a huge amount of rain. All of the rain has caused flooding. The ground is so saturated that when it rains we have standing water in our yards. Our landscape is very green and plush thanks to the rain but on the flip side some vegetation is drowning in all of the water. What a perfect opportunity to study weather!!!

The Washington Post has an eye opening visual of what the recent rain in Texas has produced with regards to Texas Flooding. We live in Dallas near White Rock Lake and early today we captured these amazing pictures.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Homeschooling with Health Issues

Homeschooling while dealing with health issues is quite challenging and not for WIMPS!! Homeschooling in and of itself is a lot of work but when you have to juggle health issues on top of educating your children it is another story. Doctor's appointments, therapies, travel time, endless waiting in the doctor's offices, infusions, and sick days all take a toll on the school day and the school year. Despite all of the obstacles that come our way I would not choose to educate my children any other way.

At a recent appointment we had to wait a bit longer than usual. I decided to make the most of our time and started playing a question and answer game with my daughter. I wrote out a question and she had to read it and answer it in a complete sentence. My daughter had a blast doing this and never saw it as doing schoolwork.

During another appointment my daughter utilized our wait time by watching educational videos on her iPad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

As the school year draws to a close...........

My oldest child successfully completed her first year of COLLEGE!!! My second child completed her freshman year of high school. Next year, I will have two in high school, one in middle school, and two in grade school.

Due to chronic health issues, with some of the kiddos, our school year was interrupted many times. I have decided that we will be continuing through the summer with math and grammar and whatever treasures the CREW sends our way. I have already briefed the children on my decision and they are okay with the plan. They will have the opportunity to sleep in each day and choose when during the day they do their schoolwork. We will take time off for mini vacations and day adventures. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

FishFlix ~ Flight and Metamorphosis

I had the opportunity to review two videos from FishFlix, entitled Flight and Metamorphosis. FishFlix has a wide range of DVD's with the goal of bringing Christian and family friendly films to their viewers. Whether you are looking for wholesome viewing for your kiddos, educational films, or movies for family movie night, FishFlix has you covered. 

Metamorphosis - DVD

My 8 year old and 12 year old girls and I watched Metamorphosis. The footage was spectacular. I absolutely loved the close up microscopic footage which provided amazing details of these magnificent creatures. From the intricacy of the egg, all of the way to the beauty of the butterfly, Metamorphosis, chronicled captivating detail and information. This is definitely something that only God, an intelligent designer, could accomplish. The cycle of metamorphosis is mostly hidden from the eyes of the world, which makes the whole process that much more intriguing. 

Here is a brief overview of what we learned from Metamorphosis.

  • specific host plants must be chosen to lay eggs
  • the developing caterpillar will die if eggs are laid on the wrong plant
  • stick to the leaf by a sticky suction like cup
  • egg is protected by an outer layer

  • is pretty much a stomach with legs
  • growth is amazingly fast
  • molts 4-5 times
  • survive on plant leaves for nourishment

  • total reconstruction takes place
  • death of caterpillar cells to new cells that will be the butterfly

  • eyes have 180 degree vision
  • pinhead sized brain does so much
  • survives on nectar

Metamorphosis highlighted the Monarch Butterfly and its amazing yearly migration. The segment was truly spectacular and very informative. Did you know that Monarch Butterflies gather to rest on the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico on their journey down to Mexico in the winter months? Did you know that the Monarch Butterfly uses a magnetic compass to direct their flight to the Michoacán Mountain Range in Mexico? These are just two of the intreging bits of information that you will learn about the Monarch. 

Overall, I would give Metamorphosis, a ten out of ten, with regard to content!! 

Flight: The Genius of Birds DVD

Wow, Flight was another amazing film!! Flight was captivating and informative. My husband was sitting in the room watching a movie on his iPhone and within five minutes he stopped watching his movie and was also watching, Flight. I purposely did not call any of the children into the room before I began the DVD. Little by little, kiddos started trickling into the room to watch. They were hooked! Unlike other animal DVD's, FishFlix, utilizes graphics to show the inner workings of the subject being discussed. An example of this is the bird egg. The video chronicled the amazing journey inside a bird egg, from the beginning of development up until the bird hatches. Did you know that there are over 9 thousand species of birds?

The DVD discussed the importance of a bird's skeletal system, feathers, and the muscular system. A bird's bones are hollow in order to make the bird lighter for flight. Birds need structural strength as well as a light body.

The DVD highlighted three species of birds. 

Hummingbirds are natures equivalent of a helicopter. They are unique in that they are the only bird that can fly forwards, backwards, and side-to-side. Hummingbirds also have the ability to maintain a hovering position. Its heart beats 1,250 bpm. The hummingbird's tongue is extraordinarily unique. The DVD had a very detailed explanation as to how their tongues work in order to collect the nectar from thousands of flowers every day. 

I was extremely fascinated by the murmurations of the starling. They travel in flocks of hundreds and even thousands, in a symphony of whirling, ever changing patterns. The DVD compared their flight to a ballet. How they avoid collision is amazing!

Arctic Tern
Arctic Terns have the longest migratory distance of any animal. They travel from Greenland to Antarctica and then back again, each and every year. Scientists were able to use loggers, which are trackers attached to a birds foot, in order to track their amazing migration over a year's time. It was very fascinating to see the results of the data. 

When thou seest an eagle,
thou seest a portion of genius.
~William Blake~

Final Thoughts
The DVDs were amazing and our family loved them. I would definitely purchase more videos from FishFlix, for both educational purposes and enjoyment. I would also highly recommend these videos to fellow homeschoolers and educators. My 8 year old animal lover has already watched both of these DVD's, two times. I am sure that it will not be the last time she will watch them. The one thing that surprised me was that God's name was not mentioned. They talked about how only an intelligent agent/designer could have a hand in all of this spectacular intricacy of life, but their was no mention of who the agent/designer was. I kept on waiting for them to mention God but that was never done. The website says, "We believe that media and entertainment are gifts from God that help us spread his message with creativity and excellence." I do not mention this in order to criticize FishFlix, rather I want to make the purchaser aware that these two particular DVD's mention only an "intelligent agent/designer" in the generic sense.

To read more reviews click HERE.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Homeschool Legacy ~ Birds of a Feather

I had the privilege of reviewing Birds of a Feather by Homeschool Legacy. Birds of a Feather is a four week, once a week, unit study. The study is biblically based. This study meets the requirements to earn the Boy Scouts Bird Study Merit Badge as well as the American Heritage Girl Friends Badge. Homeschool Legacy sets out to provide biblically centered educational material, while integrating creative, hands-on activities.

Sampling a curriculum helps to see if it is a good fit for your child. Here is a Sample of Birds of a Feather.
Birds of a Feather Table of Contents:
  1. Bird Basics And Your Backyard Habitat
  2. Bird Identification
  3. Ornithology
  4. Birds of Prey
If you are not familiar with unit studies and how they work your questions can be answered by simply clicking on one of the three question links below.
  1. What is a unit study?
  2. Why unit studies?
  3. Why once a week?
There is a suggested, "How to Schedule Your Unit Study Time," to use as a guide. We opted to be more flexible and spontaneous with our unit study time.

I absolutely loved the suggested books throughout the study. The books range from preschool age through high school level. There are suggested movies to watch for a "family movie night". Throughout the study there are helpful online resources that are listed. Step- by-step instructions for the unit study, provide minimal work for the parent. 

Some of the books recommended for this unit study are:

  • "Whose Chick Are You" 
  • "Make Way For Duckling"
  • "The Story About Ping"
  • "Are You My Mother"

I really liked the "Family Devotional" sections.

One of my favorite bible verses, Luke 12:22-24, talks about birds: 

And He said to His disciples, "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and thebody more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!"

Just one of the amazing finds to be found in Spring. 

Words And Their Meanings
My daughters learned some new vocabulary such as ornithology, ornithologist, and chalazae.

Sayings and Phrases
  • "Don’t get your tail feathers ruffled." 
  • "She eats like a bird."
  • "He’s as crazy as a loon."
I had lots of laughs as my kiddos described what they thought these sayings meant. We had discussions about sayings and phrases and how they make no sense on their own. Their meanings come from metaphors and customs and not from literal definitions. 

We had fun looking up other English idioms and found many that had to do with birds such as:
  • "A little bird told me."
  • "Kill two birds with one stone."
  • "Mad as a wet hen."
  • "The early bird catches the worm."
  • "Birds eye view."
  • "A little bird told me."
  • "Wise as an owl."
  • "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."
Feathers, Feathers, Feathers
A feather has three main parts:
  • Shaft - runs down the center of the feather 
  • Barbs – the long, soft, flat strands of the feather attached to the shaft
  • Downy feathers - at the base of the feather, closest to the body, provide warmth and insulation to the bird 
We found a wonderful site called The Feather Atlas, that helps identify bird feathers. We took a nature walk to a nearby lake and searched for bird feathers. We found some amazing feather patterns.

Observation Journal 
When we set out to chronicle our observations in our notebook, Birds of a Feather, provided a long list of questions to answer. 

Here are some helpful things to ask yourself:

•What is its shape? Is it plump or slender?
•What is its wing shape? Is it pointed or rounded?

•What are its feet like?
•What is its color or color patterns?
•How does it fly? Does it fly straight, hover, soar, or undulate?

Making a Bird Feeder
Grandpa and Megan making a recycled material bird feeder. 

There are so many amazing videos on the internet that can be utilized to help learn about birds. YouTube is a great resource for videos. My kiddos spend time watching a lot of the FREE amazing bird videos online. 

Here is a video on hummingbirds.

Here is an amazing video on birds feathers.

I have kiddos that absolutely love all things nature, especially animals, bird, and creepy crawlers. We browsed through some of our bird books. One of my favorite books that we used during this study was a book that chronicles 250 birds and their songs. 

Observing Nature
My daughter spent the better part of an afternoon observing birds with binoculars. She saw a cardinal, a bluejay, a sparrow, a robin, and many other birds. We live in an area with lots of big trees. Because it is spring, birds are everywhere. 

Family Movie Nights
We had two family movie nights and watched, Fly Away Home and March of the Penguins.

John James Audubon

 Audubon's Birds of America is an artistic treasure of prints. We talked about which ones were our favorites. Several of my kiddos decided to try their hand at drawing their own bird. We researched John James Audubon to learn more about this incredible illustrator, painter and scientist. His extraordinary four volume, Birds of America, was published in London in 1827. 

The Little Bird
Once I saw a little bird 
Come hop, hop, hop;

So I cried, “Little bird,

Will you stop, stop, stop?” 

And was going to the window 

To say “How do you do?” 

But he shook his little tail, 

And far away he flew. 
~Mother Goose~
My Overall Thoughts
I really enjoying Birds of a Feather, as did my children. We had so much fun learning about birds through this unit study. I would recommend Homeschool Legacy to fellow homeschoolers and educators. 

Check out all of the other wonderful unit studies that Homeschool Legacy
has to offer. 

To read more reviews click HERE

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