Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The 14th Amendment

Just like anything, history can also be morphed and misinterpreted. With recent clashes among political parties and candidates with regard to illegal immigrants and anchor babies I found this to be very interesting. I do have my own thoughts and perceptions on this issue but I will not go there in this post. I instead want to point readers back in history to the original intention of the founding of our country. I think that we can all agree that we as a country have strayed away over the centuries. I will say that I am very discouraged and frustrated by society and its disregard for truth. Society is so quick to re-write and/or take what we like from history, the Bible, and make it into what fits our agenda.

The 14th Amendment, a great site to read about the purpose and history behind the amendment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Middlebury Interactive Languages

I had the opportunity to review Chinese Language, by Middlebury Interactive Languages. Middlebury offers digital language learning courses in Spanish, French, German and Chinese. The courses are offered for elementary, middle, and high school levels. Middlebury Curriculum provides the student with versatile implementation options in an immersive, online, interactive environment. 

How we used the curriculum
I reviewed the full course demo of Middlebury Elementary Chinese I, for grades 3-5 with my 4th grader. She was very excited to learn a new language. Middlebury Interactive Languages uses an immersion style of learning. Through the use of stories and interactive activities the program aims to make learning Chinese, not only fun, but cultural understand of China and its people. My daughter could not understand most of what was spoken but she became engrossed when listening to the stories. The pictures used to tell the story adequately allow the student to understand what is being told.

Elementary Chinese Course Breakdown
There are 16 units in the Full Course of Elementary Chinese. Within each unit there are 6 lessons with the exception of units 8 and 16 being review units. Unit 8 reviews the first seven units in the program and Unit 16 reviews Units 9-15.  Each lesson incorporates four major tools of learning:
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
 Lessons include a variety of instructional activities such as:
  • Explore
  • Practice
  • Speaking Lab
  • Stories
  • Objective
  • Video Teacher
  • Quiz
  • Review
  • Coloring Book
  • Culture
  • Greetings
  • Vocabulary
  • Tests
  • Matching
Middlebury utilizes many task-based activities in order to accelerate a student's learning. By providing multiple levels the program is able to engage students using grade level appropriate material to enhance learning. 

HouYi and the Ten Suns, The Mice and the Rice Ball, The Box and the Pearl, and One Rice, One Thousand Gold are just a few of the many stories that your student will listen to while learning lesson concepts along with Chinese culture and ways. When listening to the stories my other children were often draw in and wanted to know whenever a story was being told. My daughter would often go back an listen to the stories over and over. Each time she would pick up on more and more and a smile would come across her face. As an educator, I know that this repetition was important so I encouraged her desire to listen to the stories as often as she wanted.

Character Writing
The step by step instructions on writing characters was excellent. Looking at the characters it is quite overwhelming but with the writing tutorials learning to write characters is not that hard. My daughter practiced over and over in order to remember the order of the strokes to write each character. We soon realized that making notecard cheats was very helpful not only to reference back on, use while working through the activities, and studying for the quizzes/tests in the lessons. Chinese writing is beautiful. The strokes flow and the characters are quite detailed. My daughter really enjoyed learning how to write Chinese.

There is link within the program to print special graph-like paper to help the student with writing characters. 

Speaking Lab
The Speaking Lab is a great way to practice speaking what you have learned. The student is able to click on a given character, picture, phrase, or sentence and hear it spoken. After listening to the proper pronunciation the student then records themselves speaking. They can then listen to their recording to hear how they sound. This is not only fun but extremely helpful in the learning process. I was quite surprised at how quickly my daughter caught onto learning the language. 

In order to help learn the colors in Chinese the student can complete online coloring pages. I really applaud the stimulating ways that Middlebury Interactive makes learning pleasurable.   Both my older and younger children were quite curious about all of the fun their sister was having learning Chinese. 

What My Daughter Said
My daughter said, "Learning Chinese was hard work. The program was fun and not like doing schoolwork at all. I really liked the stories. It was fun to record myself saying different things. The Chinese language has some funny sounds and made me laugh which didn't make my mom happy. Writing Chinese is hard, much harder than English."

Overall Thoughts
My daughter really enjoyed working through Middlebury Elementary Chinese. I enjoyed learning along with her. I would highly recommend this program for educators and parents wishing to introduce a second language to their child or student. Your child will come away with more than just learning the spoken language. They will become familiar with world culture and understanding. I will continue to use Middlebury Interactive Languages with my children.

Middlebury Interactive Languages offers Chinese in multiple levels including:
  • Elementary Chinese I, Grades K-2
  • Elementary Chinese I, Grades 3-5
  • Middle School Chinese I & II, Grades 6-8
  • High School Chinese I & II, Grades 9-12
  • High School Chinese Fluency I & II, Grades 9-12


xiǎo dòng bù bǔ, dà dòng chī kǔ 
A small hole not mended in time will become a big hole much more difficult to mend.

~ Chinese Proverb ~

To read more reviews click HERE

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hotel Transylvania 2

This weekend we went to see Hotel Transylvania 2. Our family absolutely loved the movie. 
Definitely a must see movie. 

Alamo Drafthouse Theater!!

The whole family minus one. 

Some movie highlights

Friday, September 25, 2015


I had the privileged opportunity to review two games, Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game and Tapple: Fast Word Fun For Everyone, by USAopoly. These games are SERIOUSLY FUN and ADDICTING! USAopoly takes fun and games seriously. Wonky and Tapple are just two of the many family fun games available through USAopoly.

First up was:

The Crazy Cubes Card Game

Wonky is a nerve-racking, high-strung game that challenges players steadiness. Players construct a wonky, wobbly tower using oddly shaped wooden blocks. Wonky blocks have three flat sides and three curved sides making building a tower quite challenging. They also come in three sizes to make constructing a tower more challenging. Using strategy cards, players try to flub-up their opponents as they build the crazy cube tower.  Players anxiously watch as their opponents strategically place their block hoping that they will topple the tower. The first player to get rid of all of their cards without bringing down the tower is the winner! Players are dealt 7 cards at the beginning of the game. 

Some of the card plays are:

Stack Any Color, Any Size Block
Stack Any Color Small Block
Stack The Large Green Block
Pass Turn To Next Player Without Stacking A Block
Reverse The Direction Of Play Without Stacking A Block

Our family had a blast playing Wonky. After playing dozens of times we FINALLY succeeding at building a tower using all of the blocks without toppling the tower over. When playing with my younger kiddos we loosely followed the rules. The game was great for their reading skills development, following directions, hand dexterity, patience, and learning how to be a "happy looser". When we played the game with the older children it became more of a game of strategy. With each play our goal was to do anything to either not have to place a block or make it next to impossible for the next player to succeed in placing a block without toppling the tower. 

Wonky is definitely a fun game if you are 5 or 65. Every game is a new adventure. Don't be discouraged if you end up building and rebuilding multiple towers during any given game. 

Next up was:

Fast Word Fun For Everyone

Tapple is a fast paced, great for the brain game! Once you start playing you cannot stop. Controlling your laughter is virtually impossible. The Tapple wheel has twenty letters of the alphabet but has excluded the letters: Q, U, V, X, Y, and Z. Those six letters are uncommon for the start of words so are not included. A player has TEN SECONDS to call out a word. When playing the game with my younger children we opted to not use the buzzer. The buzzer caused too much anxiety for my younger kiddos and they spent the ten seconds panicking rather than thinking. On the other hand, when we played the game with our older children we had a nerve-racking, obnoxiously loud, laughter crazed time!! I laughed when I read the Tapple tip about remaining calm because a calm mind is a mind that thinks better under pressure. Haha!! 

The cards are split up with the blue and white side geared towards younger children and the yellow and red side having more difficult categories. Some of the topics included:
things at a party
smelly & stinky stuff
baking and cooking terms
at a wedding


My kiddos couldn't wait for grandma to come over to show her how to play the game. After the first game, Grandma was hooked. She loved the game and even asked if she could borrow it to play with some of her friends. 

Tapple is a seriously addictive game. We have played the game more times than I can count. After going through all of the cards my kids began making up their own categories. This will definitely be a game that we will bring out at every family gathering!! 

Final Thoughts
If your are ready for some serious fun, look no further!! Our whole family had a blast playing these games!! I would highly recommend these games. Disclaimer: do not attempt to play these games unless you are ready to laugh and have fun. Both of these games are entertaining for both children and adults. These games are perfect for family game night, parties, youth get-togethers, or play dates.

To read more reviews click HERE.

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