Monday, March 9, 2015

I have to gush about Scribd -- unlimited ebooks AND audiobooks what!

It started with the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, getting me to think about audio books again. They have been hit-or-miss with my children, and it was fairly infrequent.

We have had a really good week with audio books, and I wanted to share why I think it's working, and gush about Scribd.

What is working:

  • Letting them listen to books they are familiar with (either I've read it to them before, or they are familiar with the characters, etc.)
  • Letting them listen at bedtime
  • Listening in the van 
  • Short books/short listening times
I have borrowed CD books from the library, downloaded some for free from the library, bought some cheap ones from Audible, and I now subscribe to Scribd. Scribd is my favorite thing right now! I wish there was a referral program. Bummer.

I also signed up for a promotional price deal from Audible, but I won't likely continue with it. The deal is 3 months at $7.49/month, and 1 credit per month. One credit = one book. With membership, you can also purchase titles at at least 30% off regular price.

If you own a Kindle ebook version, you can sometimes get a discounted audio book of that title.

So, I can buy 3 books or collections of books (whatever they are selling for 1 credit) for $22.47 during my promo time. After that, it is $14.95/m for 1 credit. 

Or. I can spend $8.99/month with Scribd and have unlimited access to tons of audio books and plenty of ebooks. Yep, the Netflix for audio and ebooks is an appropriate description. From what I've seen so far, there are many duplicate ebooks from Audible to Scribd.

The downside of Scribd, for some, is you need to use either your computer, smart phone, tablet or Kindle Fire to access the Scribd app. You cannot transfer files to a more basic MP3 player. You CAN save files for offline listening.

I don't care for the search feature, in that there is no filter. I don't want to search for a children's book and have some steamy romance novel cover show up. My kids don't need to see that. So, I save books ahead of time in their own "collection." 

For what we get for the price, you can't beat it. You can't buy an Audible credit for that price aside from promos, and public libraries typically have digital limitations. My own allows us only 5 digital titles at once, and I'm unable to return the downloaded audio book ahead of time to free up space for another book. I can return ebooks, though. Of course, if your library has a good selection of physical audio books, that's something to keep in mind. Mine is lacking.

Soo....if you enjoy digital books in any form and have a capable smart player, go get your free month trial. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How I am looking forward to the laundry mountain and dishes

I'm the kind of person who usually needs to let an idea marinate for awhile before I do anything with it. Here's one example: podcasts.

I love to READ. Eyeballs looking at words on a page. That kind of reading. I like to read blogs, though admittedly my blog reading today looks very different from how it looked a few years ago.

Podcasts have been around for a decade or more. I've listened to some on occasion but it wasn't really a habit.

Awhile back, my friend Laura mentioned how she is really into podcasts these days. I thought, hmm, interesting. And that's as far as it got.

Then a week or so ago, I discovered some free MP3s from a previous homeschool convention. I listened to a few sessions while doing some laundry and dishes, and really appreciated having something interesting to do while I was doing something so mundane.

I told my friend C. about it, and she pointed me to a wonderful podcast (Laura listens to it, too!) called Read Aloud Revival. Oh, it is just so good. The topic, guests, editing...I love it!

I am working my way through it and I'm hooked.

It's just so simple to subscribe to a podcast and choose an episode while I'm a'scrubbin' or a'foldin'. It is helping me look forward to those chores and other organizing that I'm trying to do.

Do you listen to podcasts or MP3s of something? Let me know what you'r into lately.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Some of what we're actually doing right now

In my last post, I wrote that we are only doing bare-bones of My Father's World kindergarten at this point, pulling in the literature, science topics/projects, arts & crafts, and Bible discussions.

This semester, we are doing:

All About Reading level 2 -- this phonics program has been wonderful for my son. I omit some of the activities, as they are overkill for him, but he does all of the fluency pages and stories in his readers. We don't use the magnet tiles, though I suspect I will use them when we start spelling. We also skip the activity pages. We did them for level 1, but J would rather just read the words instead of doing some sort of workbook page. The activities are fun, but eh. The goal is reading fluently. Workbook not necessary for that.

I did a quick online reading level assessment to see where his reading level might stack up. He placed between 4-6th grade reading level, depending on the test. Cool.

Today, he finished lesson #29/51. We'll wrap this level up at some point soon. I'm not putting the date on the calendar, in case we hit a wall or something. I own AAR level 3 already and I expect we'll just keep trotting along with that.

RightStart math level A -- we took a huge break with RightStart awhile back, and resumed in January. J has completed lesson 51/132ish. So. Hmm. I refuse to say that we are "behind." Behind WHAT? Nothin', that's what. We will keep moving at a comfortable pace, and we'll finish when we finish. I know that level B will cover a lot of the same concepts early in that level.

Handwriting -- Handwriting Without Tears K -- oh, handwriting. Somehow it is the subject of most resistance at the moment. We are still in capitals. Johnny enjoys writing on his own, but his letter formation is off, he doesn't do lowercase, and the sizing and spacing isn't so great. I know a lot of this will come with time and continued practice, plus other fine-motor activities to help those little hand muscles do their work.

I liked that I could sneak some handwriting practice in the other day, when they were signing Valentine's cards for their friends! We are going to a Valentine's Day party next week with some other homeschoolers. I'm bringing some books to read-aloud. So excited.

Bible -- we start our day off with something Bible. Sometimes I'll pull it from the MFWK materials, or I'll grab a devotional, or the Bible coloring book and accompanying storybook we have. It's nice.

My goal is to hit the 3Rs plus Bible at minimum for a school day. You might be surprised at how quickly we can accomplish it. It's focused work. Everything else, the frequency varies.

History -- I'm slowly starting some history. We've read the first 7 chapters of History for Little Pilgrims, which gives a very quick overview sweep of history. I have added some library books to go along, pulled from my All Through the Ages book guide. I'll probably stick with that approach for a few months. Perhaps I'll start adding titles from our TruthQuest History guide, or maybe I'll wait until the fall.

Poetry -- I love Charlotte Mason's ideas, and as part of "spreading a feast before my children," I want to add these elements to my children's education. I've read poetry to them before of course, but now I'm being more deliberate with the frequency. Even a few minutes of reading poetry can be beneficial. I am using "Favorite Poems of Childhood." So far, so good. After that, "Favorite Poems, Old and New."

Mason advocated sticking with one poet for a time, lingering with that poet. Read a biography about him or her, soak up the poems, maybe do some narration. (More on poetry the Simply Charlotte Mason way, which is a leeetle different than Charlotte Mason, I think).

Music -- We had a blast playing Christmas music from late November through oh, now, slowly tapering. An added bonus, the kids really learned a lot of songs. It helped that they were part of the Christmas program at church, but I think playing Christmas music on Pandora helped them know the songs. I would like to keep that going with hymns and other songs.

I have the composer study CDs from Simply Charlotte Mason (Bach, Beethoven and Chopin). Really cool series. I haven't read the bios to the kids yet. So far, I've just played a CD here and there and told them who the composer was and left it at that.

I would like to get a book/CD combo to help them learn and recognize the various instruments of the orchestra. Something like this book, perhaps. My library carries another title, and I'm going to borrow it to see how that goes over. This all may be a little beyond them right now, and that's fine. Just playing beautiful music is nice. It takes no extra effort to play something while they are coloring, Lego-ing, play-dohing, whatever.

Phys. Ed. -- Squee! J and V are participating in a class put on by the park's department of a nearby town. There's a preschool group and a homeschooler group, and they meet at the same time. The first part is in the gym where they were doing various running around activities. The preschool group even got out the awesome parachute. I hope the other group gets a chance with it at some point. Then, they were in the pool. J and V are in the same swimming group with 2 other kids. I'm cautiously optimistic. They are having an absolute blast so far. They need this outlet so much, especially in the cold winter.

Roughly, that's it. There are a few other things that might make an appearance in our day. I have a walk-in closet full of educational toys, games and manipulatives + craft supplies. We keep our library crate full of books and make regular visits. Some audio books thrown in (and I like to grab a paper version for Johnny to follow along with). Oh, and some Netflix. Heh. So nice, especially in winter.

We have days that go really, really well. I try to remember so many details about those days. We also have days where it's like everyone (me included) just is having a rotten day and nothing is going right. Total disasters. Just roll with it, I figure. The good outweighs the bad, and thankfully, by far.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Some thoughts with My Father's World Kindergarten, where we're at, and where we're going from here

This part was written awhile ago:

We've been going slowly through some of the My Father's World Kindergarten units lately. The farm animals units were fun, and I was glad we could go to a dairy farm for a group field trip roughly when we were learning about cows. Did I mention we made our own butter? We put heavy cream in a jar and shook it. For like 20 minutes.

All 5 of us took turns shaking it, and it turned into butter. I added a little salt and we spread it on zucchini bread. Nomnomnom.

Anyway, today I started unit 15/26 which is on elephants. It's the first of four units discussing various wild animals.

I read all five of the Bible lessons today, as they were so brief and I had attentive kids. We read a few books from the library on elephants, and Johnny read one to me. He was like, "wow! Did you know...?" and sharing fun facts with us.

I found some video clips with elephants and shared them with the kids. I especially enjoy watching elephants swim. There's just a certain grace about it. Plus, they look like they're having fun.

We'd go to the zoo to see them, except it's sub-zero right now and. I. just. cannot.

So, MFWK as a whole:

We aren't doing the phonics, math, or handwriting. Also not doing the Cuisenaire Rods alphabet book or classical music activities (but I do like the CD and play it from time to time). I do the Bible lessons, do the book themes, activities that sound like fun. We do a field trip if we can work it in.

What we're actually doing with MFWK is fun, but it's brief. It seems like the activities and are getting fewer as we go.

Written on 1/26/15:

We're now on unit 19, Rock. Johnny was a bit over learning about animals. He is more into physical science. He is interested in weather, astronomy and I wasn't surprised when he took to our rock unit.

I think we'll keep on using the MFWK teacher's manual to help with library book selection, projects and activities, and I still do like the Bible discussion that we have with it. After all, we're almost to the end, and in that slightly OCD way of finishing a program I think we'll keep with it.

But oh man. It is a really stripped-down version from where we began with it.

In a way, I knew this would happen. I drafted a post two years ago about why My Father's World Kindergarten wouldn't be a good fit for us. I never published it. I'm reading through it now, and yup. I was right. All of the potential negatives I pin-pointed ended up being true for us.

Also, I think we would have used the program more as-written if I began him on it sooner.

Ultimately, MFWK was overall a good thing for me and my firstborn, because it was our first year of being more intentional with structured learning, and it helped me to see the possibilities. It held my hand in some ways, and it left it open-ended in other areas.

I'm not sure if I'll use it in any form with my 2nd or 3rd children. It might prove beneficial to pull out some of the worksheets for the girls. I know my 3rd child will have no memory of any of it, heh. Maybe my 2nd child will remember some of the units, but I don't think there would be harm in me starting over with her in say, the fall when she's 4.5. I may end up doing that.

I may also scrap it and keep the 3Rs separate, as that proved to be a BIG DEAL to me.