Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mosaic Reviews - Saving Memories Forever

Saving Memories Forever is a service that can be used on the web, through an App - Android or iPhone  - or a combination of both to record precious memories that can be lost only too easily. It is a potential gold mine for genealogists.  Imagine being able to visit the family cemetery and record dates  and locations via your smartphone instead of trying to write it all down or remember it!

The basic subscription is free as is the App. However there are many advantages to becoming a Premium Subscriber. For $3.99 per month or $40 per year, you get the flexibility of having unlimited storytellers or listeners as well as being able to add photographs to the story. There are a bunch more advantages listed here. You can also upload an Mp3 audio file directly to the website so you do not need a smartphone to use this product. It just makes it easier. That being said....

Despite a detailed How to Section, I had trouble using the App part. (I struggled with it for most of the review period and set it aside for a time. This is not a reflection of the product. I have a lot of trouble with hearing my own voice and we've had a lot of recent deaths in the family so it was emotionally difficult to use a product that I wished I'd had two years ago.) I have an iPhone.

So I called in my trusty technical support person - Oldest. Of course he figured it out and it worked perfectly the first time. I then re-recording one of my stories in addition to a bunch of his. It was very easy to upload and it prompted the sharing feature immediately.

This is the main screen after you log in on the App:


You then choose your storyteller: (I added Oldest later)

Then you make sure you have pressed the red button and start talking. When you are finished press the stop button and it will prompt you to upload from there. This was my attempt that failed.

This was Oldest first attempt that was a smashing success.... ("Ma, you gotta press the record button!" Me: "Ooopsss!")

I had a blast using this with Oldest. He is so outgoing and a naturally funny storyteller that is intent on getting the facts on record.

Once it is uploaded to the website you can go in and view the stories as a manager and delete those that you don't want to save.

I wish I had this service two years ago. My mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in July 2011 that took her life in December of that year. Then my grandmother, her mother, died of pancreatic cancer in March of 2012. To have been able to record all of the stories my grandmother told me so often, for my mother to have been able to leave some wisdom for her Grand boys.... Priceless. To be able to hear their voices - just once more.... That's the power of this invention.

My father's family holds their family reunion in October of every year. Saving Memories Forever is making the trip with me. My father was one of thirteen kids and my aunt and uncles who are left are wonderful storytellers. I cannot wait to get these memories in a safe place.

I highly recommend this product and feel it is a quality product at an affordable price. I appreciate being given the opportunity to try and review this product.

To see what other reviewers on the team had to say about this product, click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mosaic Reviews - Spanish for You!

Spanish for You! is a Spanish curriculum that can be used with a wide range of students. The levels are Grades 3-4, 5-6 or 7-8. It was written by Debbie Annett, who saw a need for this type of curriculum and created it. You can read more about her and her reasons on her About the Author page.

I received a package of items from Spanish for You! to use and review. I got an e-book, a lesson guide, worksheets, two sets of audio files and flash cards. All products are downloads except a purchased package does come with a bound student book.

There are lots of freebies on the site that will give you a taste of the program:

Mini Lessons  and Free Worksheets as well as Curriculum Activities.

 The packages are grouped by a central theme. Ours was Estaciones (Seasons). Others include - Fiestas (Celebrations) and  Viajes (Travels). Other themes are forthcoming.

My boys have a lot of trouble learning English and have auditory processing issues to boot. We have had trouble finding a foreign language curriculum that might work for them. I took French in High School but my husband took Spanish and is still a bit fluent in it. I decided to let him listen in to see how it sounded to him. (He had been less than impressed with another popular Spanish program we'd tried.)

Though he liked it a lot - especially the two audio versions - non native speaker and native speaker - the boys did not fare so well with it. Since all three have auditory processing issues and language weaknesses I am certain the fault is not in the curriculum. They enjoyed the flash cards and the materials as well as the short lessons but the audio was too fast for them to grasp. I had no trouble following it so I am sure that it is a processing issue. I will continue to try to adapt this to make it work as I believe Spanish is a language they need some familiarity with going forward.  They also do not like to draw and that caused us some problems. Fine motor skills are another struggle in our homeschool. 

I had my husband use the audio materials with them since he could coach their pronunciations. They had a lot of trouble with it and I now see why our reading tutor advised against trying to teach a foreign language. After many tears and lots of frustration I decided to take a step back for now and try to adapt it for their specific issues.  We did a weeks worth of lessons before the gasket blew completely. :)

(The only change that could help with the audio files would be a longer pause between words. I tried to hit pause but was not quick enough. Between their fine motor issues, auditory issues and my poor eye hand coordination it's a wonder we get anything done around here! )

The product's conference call with Debbie helped me sort through the material and put it into order. I did struggle without a specific teacher's guide (one will be available for Estaciones in May 2013) but I was able to manage to use the curriculum enough to get a sense of it thanks to the Lesson Guides. I just require more hand holding.  Debbie is so responsive and helpful. In response to the confusion over putting the audio files in order, she has reordered the audio files by lesson as well as divided them for easier downloading.

There are several purchase options available. You can opt for a 4 week trial of Viajes for grades 5-8 for $9.99 or for 6 weeks for grades 3-4 for $12.99. (Full 30 week package has an estimated completion date of June 2013)

For Fiestas and Estaciones:

Grades 3-8  complete package - $64.95 (Teacher Lesson plans not included in package - see note at bottom)

Price by levels - $39.95 each:                               Extra books are $12.95 each
Grades 3-4                                                                                  
Grades 5-6 
Grades 7-8

Note: Teacher Lesson Plans are a separate purchase and are only available for Fiestas - per level. For Pricing - click here. (bottom of page)

I would highly recommend this product. I believe it is very well written and put together in a way that most in the grade range can understand it. The author is quick to change or update or provide valuable input as needed. It is also VERY affordable when compared to other Spanish curricula. I plan on using this for our boys as soon as I can figure out how to work around the auditory and fine motor issues. I love the shortness of the lessons and the practicality of using themes to learn a language.

To see what other members of the Review team had to say about this product, please click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mosaic Reviews -The Ultimate Planner Junkie discovers The Ultimate Planning System

My name is Peggy and I am a recovering planner junkie. My collection of planners clogs up many hard drives, storage boxes... I have searched high and low, tried to make my own planners but nothing seemed to do the trick.

And then it arrived - or rather they arrived.

 The Ultimate Planning System I've been searching for my entire seven year homeschooling career:

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner - a planning system designed by Debra Bell

(Click here for a sample)

 Cost $28.00.

The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students

(Click here for a sample)

Recommended for Grades 4-8.

 Cost $19.00.


The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens.

(Click here for a sample)

Recommended for Grades 7-12.

Cost $19.00.

Wow. Not only were they lovely - they came packaged with bubble wrap and the kittens immediately claimed the box for their own. I am a planner junkie - my kittens are box junkies. My kids are bubble wrap junkies. Everybody won with this one!

The main thing I appreciated about The Ultimate Homeschool Planner was that it walked me through learning to plan - step by step. It gave me a framework for teaching my boys to use their planners. It has taken longer for my boys to develop independent work habits than their peers for many reasons.  Their prompt dependance started in public school and continued because we sort of backed into this homeschooling thing. I am not the most organized person myself - which is why I've searched high and low for the perfect planner - and have no clue how to start to teach the boys how to be independent. Thanks to the helpful instructions in The Ultimate Homeschool Planner I now have a plan.

(Many children on the autism spectrum or with ADD/HD have what are known as weak Executive Functioning skills. I did not realize that this problem of mine had a name until the boy's therapist explained this to me. I now understand how crucial it is to give them this skill set as it was a huge blow to my self esteem that I could never seem to get things done or organized. It's a reason - not an excuse. :) )

I liked the setting of goals - Character Goals and Academic Goals. That gave them - and me - something to strive for. Then Family Priorities - something I need to remind myself of constantly. It helps to have it written down - where I can see it and remind myself. The Resource List helps me to use the supplements I'd otherwise forget to use.

Then there were the monthly planner and the weekly planner pages. I get to see the big picture and then break it down week by week. The weekly planner starts out with focusing on the week to come as well as having space to write down Prayers, Bible Plan - including Fighter Verse, Hospitality/Outreach and a place to write down those moments I inevitably forget to write down - a light bulb moment - an achievement. It also helps me see where God is working with the Evidences of Grace section.

 I liked them so much I ordered two more of The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students so that each boy would have their own. (We did go over the Teen Planner but I want to give the older two time to use the Daily Planner before I move them up to the Teen Planner. )

The first week I wrote their assignments in the planner - explaining why I did and how to use it. They were enthralled by all the information in the planners - the maps - the study notes. I had to get them to quit reading the information and go back to the school work on their lists!

The next week I had them write their own assignments in their planners. That didn't go very well because handwriting is a huge struggle for my guys. We type whenever possible. There were tears and frustration when they didn't write small enough or tidy enough to suit them.

The week after that I then met with each child - showed them their school work that I had written in The Ultimate Homeschool Planner and at their direction ordered their work in the way they chose. That went much smoother.

It took all three weeks to teach them to check their planners instead of asking me what they had to do next. They aren't quite there yet but I see that eventually they will automatically check their planners down the road.

 I'm very confident that when they have filled these up then they will move to The Ultimate Weekly Planner for Teens which has the added bonus of keeping track of time spent on the subject, due dates, appointments and work schedules and devotion tracker. In the back of this planner it has a College Admissions Timeline and a High School Checklist that covers core coursework, recommended subjects and activities, experiences, tests and college  entrance requirements in a checklist type format. There is a recommended reading list, how to for students to position themselves for scholarships and a list of books than can be helpful to a teen transitioning from teen to young adult.

My favorite things about all of the planners are:

Durable but spill resistant covers that can be wiped off if the need arises. I have one child that does not think to wash his hands after Doritos and this really helps. I can't tell you how often the cover comes off of anything spiral bound if it is simply a paper cover.

They are Dateless! Dated planners don't work as well for us as we have to have a flexible schedule between therapy, tutors, golf and Oldest's woodworking. I like the ability to go back and fill in the date later. Also we school year round and we are currently doing one subject a day (a weeks worth of lessons or immersion in one topic per day).

The Planners are visually appealing and not overwhelming.  The colors are soft and not taking over the entire page.

The About Me and The Study Smart Student Toolkit. The About Me helps the student make the planner their own. The Study Smart Toolkit had helpful suggestions for the student and pictures. Anything visual is a help to my guys.

The Informational Lists.  I also like the SAT vocabulary on the weekly pages of the Teen Planner and the Bible verses and trivia questions on the Student Planner. I'm a big fan of bite sized pieces of information.

No Attendance Sheet but a durable pocket in the front cover of the Ultimate Homeschool Planner.  The State of NC requires a special attendance form and I have a convenient place to put it so I record school days as they happen.

The cost is more than most planners on the market but most planners don't do what this system does. One planner works with the other in a flowing way. They will be a must have in our homeschool budget until Youngest graduates in 2020!

To see what other team members had to say about these planners - because I personally don't think enough CAN be said - click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.