Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Music. Show all posts

Friday, January 22, 2010

TOS Crew Review: Frederic Chopin Early and Later Years Special Offer by Zeezok Publications


For those who follow the Charlotte Mason method of education, music/composer study is high on their list of must dos.  With each term, at least one to two are studied, in enough depth so that the student has a general knowledge of his/her background, and can recognize their music upon hearing it.  Even though we are not 100% CM with our approach, I try to remain faithful to at least some areas-such as the artist/musician studies.

I was thrilled to learn that I would be reviewing the Frederic Chopin Early and Later Years Special Offer from Zeezok Publishing.  The package includes the Teacher's Study Guide, a free Companion CD (contains songs found in the books and PDF files of coloring pages that correlate to the material) , and the two books, Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland, Early Years and Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland, Later Years.  I was wondering what who we could cover during the Winter Term, and lo and behold-Chopin ended up on our doorstep!

So right away my mind flew to avenues to present and retain the information we would be learning through this study.  I decided we would put together an Envelope Book project to complement it, along with using the materials included in the package.  The Early Years and Later Years (by Opal Wheeler) books are written in an engaging and charming manner (and yes, Jesus Christ is honored and acknowledged) that seems to be missing in many books today.  These stories take you from the start of Chopin's life to the end.  You learn about his family life, his love of music, and how he interacted with the world around him.  The language Wheeler used, dances off your lips as you read it, drawing the listener in to the melody of the words and the stories they weave. I had no problem keeping my 8 year old interested, and even my 15 year old was drawn into this study.  The CD was great for a music illiterate like myself...it helped to hear what the music sounded like, which is shown in the book penned in the musical note fashion (sheet music-well, OK don't laugh at me you musically gifted folks-that is what I call it).  To add to it, I dug out a book (Lives of the Musicians-Good Times, Bad Times and What the Neighbors Thought) which I have on my shelves. When I turned it over-I saw that I had purchased it from the Book Peddler company, which is Zeezok Publishing's retail store.  So, I am familiar with the Book Peddler company and recommend them-as I have shopped their company since-well, way back when! 

Another nice feature in this package is the Study Guide, which was useful in clearing up some information for me, but for my son-it was "above his head and below his feet".  I had to pick out a few tidbits that I knew he could grasp, and left the rest for my teen to learn from.  I will dig that out again when we revisit Chopin to study in greater detail with him, a few years from now.   With the images from the PDF file (on the CD) I was able to create a lovely cover for my son's keepsake book, and print off pictures of images contained within the 2 books (Younger Years and Later Years) that offered him some familiar scenes to color, as well.   I am so impressed with this collection, that I am looking forward to procuring a few more of the famous composers special offer packs, for future studies.  Zeezok's selection of books, which they reprint/publish, is quite admirable and refreshing.  Their choice of Opal Wheeler's books about Chopin, most certainly meet their goal:

"Established in 2003, we believe "It is better to build children than to repair men." To that end we strive to provide quality literature and educational books for use in training the next generation. We trust our products will assist you in developing your family's love for God and country."

"Zee", you "zok" my socks off  with this great collection!



The books themselves have mention of God and Christ, but it isn't totally dripping with it-hence this icon. Also, the folks behind Zeezok are Christian, but again-the icon is for the actual products I reviewed




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Zeezok Publishing Homepage

Chopin Early and Later Years Special Offer package:  $30.90

Don't forget to read what my TOS mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschool products on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Zeezok Publishing provided me with a free Frederic Chopin Early and Later Years Special Offer package,  to test and use with my family. I have discussed my opinion regarding this product, and have not received  financial compensation for writing this review.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Kinderbach (revisited)

Wow!  I posted a review for Kinderbach from my previous voyage on the TOS SScruize ship-and here I am posting another exactly to the date a year later!  I haven't changed my mind, nor am I going to bore you with another long winded post describing the very same thing.  What I am going to do is provide the link to my post from last time:  2008 Kinderbach Review by yours truly, [that I updated recently] so that you can head over there and read it for yourself. But after you do so, please come back here, as there are some new features I wanted to fill you in on.

OK, have you read it? I am hoping you are shaking your head yes, because there is some good info there that I will not repeat here. If you are trying to avoid eye strain-perhaps you can come back when you can read all the info in one sitting-it is too valuable to miss.

Well.... goodies such as:


Lots of new downloads for purchase or available for free. For instance we received the Craft and Games Level 1 PDF download to view and enjoy. It is loaded with activities that match what the child is learning in the regular lessons.  ($9.95).  For example: they can make a floor size piano key set up, then add  Dodi's House cards (in super large size here) to practice what they learned. There are posters, and games which can be a nice added touch to enhance the child's learning of these skills.  I should think that if your child is very tactile, this would be a good way to go. This is supplemental and is not included with the membership.

Dodi the Donkey Coloring book which is 16 pages relating to Dodi and a little dilemma he is facing. ( $3.95 ) There is a collection of  3 coloring books, and a couple free one page downloads available, to tag along with the main curriculum. I am particularly fond of donkeys as of late (did ya read my review on the Noah's Ark set or the Nativity scene? I fell in love with the wide-eyed Eeyores) and Dodi is no exception.  My son loves to color (even though brown is green to him-since he is color blind, but even a green Dodi is a great way to decorate my fridge) and so I had my son color a few pages just for the enjoyment of it. 

The site itself seems to be a fresh new layout, with easy access to all the areas. It is clean and simple to navigate, which is always most helpful. The changes are a very nice addition to the already wonderful program. Plus, since writing my last review-they have added the 5th and 6th levels.  That is good news for those who have worked through the other levels, and are ready to continue on.

Now that we have gone through this 2x, I have to say that if I were to be purchasing it-I would go the DVD route, for a couple reasons-but mainly because trying to finagle time slots to use the online version can be complicated around our home. My 'puter gets tons of use from me, and so I have to remember to schedule in times for my son to work on this. It would be much easier to pop a DVD into the TV and let him go from there, than to try to find time to get him on my computer. Now, for most this isn't a problem-but if you need your 'puter for work like I do-it may become somewhat difficult. Oh, and don't forget-if you have more than one student-then you have more juggling to do, when perhaps with the DVD you could have 2 kids going at once (that is if you have 2 pianos). Plus, a lot of times for me-outta sight is outta mind-and well, then I forget I have it. So again-for us, the hard copy would work better. But don't get me wrong here-we have enjoyed revisiting the Kinderbach experience and are very grateful for the opportunity. My son was able to pick up where we left off last year, and is now going through new lessons, and learning more piano techniques.  An added bonus is that he enjoys it-and that is what counts!








since the child does most of the work while listening to the lesson, but you will need to be nearby to follow through on the worksheets or to assist.

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Kinderbach Homepage
Lessons via internet: $19.99 billed monthly, or one time payment of $95.88 for a year subscription

DVD packages-$40.45 and up

No change here-the 30 day Money Back Guarantee is still available.

Don't forget to read what my TOS mates have to say about this and other homeschooling products at our TOS Crew Review Homepage.

***Kinderbach provided me with a free 3 month Online Subscription, a free download of the Dodi the Donkey coloring book, and a free PDF download of the Craft and Games Level 1 book, to use and test with my family. I have discussed my opinion regarding this product, and have not received  financial compensation for writing this review. 

Monday, December 28, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Worship Guitar Class-Volume 1 DVD + Book

When we bought our oldest a guitar a few years back, we had high hopes that it would be played on a regular basis. Sadly, that was not to be. College came up fast, and her courses depleted any extra time she could devote to picking it back up, and learning to play. I was excited to receive the Worship Guitar Class-Vol. 1 DVD + Book set by Jean Welles to review, especially since just a few weeks prior to getting notification that we'd be receiving it-my 15 year old dd was pestering me about learning to play the guitar!




This is the first volume of a four part series. By the title you can see it is Christian-based, and is beginning lessons for learning to play the guitar. The DVD starts out with a section covering the parts of a guitar, then moves into 7 lessons (which can be heard in Spanish too).  Each one is short enough to not overwhelm, but has enough packed into it to get a decent start on playing.  The good thing is that you can pause the DVD to practice the techniques before continuing on. With the book as additional help,  the student will quickly learn to start strumming up a few songs we're all pretty much familiar with. The site also contains several tips and techniques necessary for good guitar playing. The articles are really quite helpful, as we have already learned a few things we were clueless about. Best of all, Jean ties in references to the Lord whenever she can, and I really appreciated that.  I do want to point out, that in my opinion,  you really need the entire series to gain enough mastery skills to play more than a couple cords or basic songs, but the level 1 we reviewed is a good start!

We have been slowly working through the lessons, but with the holidays-it has been slow going. We hope that over the next several weeks we will be able to get a better handle on this product, along with how well it is working for our guitar playing hopeful. I will be sure to come back and post how things are going with this, and what our final opinion is, after we have spent more time with it. I have decided, at this time, to give the Worship Guitar Class a middle of the road rating. If things change, I will update it and let you know.







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Worship Guitar Class Homepage

Vol. 1 DVD/Book Combo pack: $29.95 (same price for vol. 2, 3 or 4 also)
4 Pack of series: $119.80

They also offer Deluxe packages which includes the guitar. For further info, see Products page.

Check out what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschooling products on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Worship Guitar Class provided me with a free Vol. 1 DVD+Book Combo pack, in order to test and use with my family.  I have discussed my opinion regarding this product, and have not received  financial compensation for writing this review.   

Thursday, December 3, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Maestro Classics CD: The Tortoise and the Hare

Just like that Tina Turner song, "What's love gotta to do with it?", I am compelled to change it up a bit to "What does million dollar legs got to do with it?" Well, just about everything if you are a boastful little hare with special running shoes, and an ego the size of Texas! When I plopped the CD I received from Maestro Classics, into the car CD to listen to-you know, to do my pre-evaluation of it-I spent a good part of my listening time chuckling away! I am sure the folks who passed by me, were wondering if I was mentally ill or something! But no, I am not-I just enjoyed the modern retelling of a very old Aesop's fable is all. I am now finding myself repeating some favorite phrases that I picked up after my first run through of the Tortoise and the Hare story and my son has caught the bug too.


 

If you are a frequent visitor of my reviews here, then you know I have an astute aversion to most children's musical CDs. I tend to find them rather cheesy, but this here CD is far from it! I couldn't wait to have my son listen to it-and when he did, I saw the same smiles and giggles I had over the same story lines. When a Hare states that his legs are "million dollar legs" and that they could even become a "tourist attraction" I couldn't help but laugh. When this rather boastful braggart of the Lagomorpha order (I had to look that up)decides it is time for the forest friends to have a friendly competition, he finds that the only brave soul (who is told he will embarrass himself)to accept the challenge is a rather unlikely opponent-Mr. Tortoise. And so begins the story. But wait! There is more to this than a charming retelling of a well-known fable, there is well orchestrated (the London Philharmonic Orchestra that is) classical music peppered in and out of the storyline, which truly spices it up, to make this a wonderful product for anyone to enjoy. I also appreciate that there is a character study tucked cleverly within it...I was able to pull a few verses from the Bible to illustrate what happens to those who are proud and boastful, even if what they may be saying is true.

On the Tortoise and the Hare CD, you have several tracks. The first tells the story, then one discusses the actual fable, then it is the Pretzel Vendor of Paris Song (which I am now finding that I am singing before I get out of bed-it is that catchy), after that-the conductor and composer Stephen Simon takes the child (and adult) through the various instruments he chose to represent the animals, the events and of course, the Pretzel Vendor song. Once the listener has had a moment to digest all of that, they will hear the story again (which is told by an expert story teller Yadu, he is excellent with his voice inflections and French accent), on the next track. I found that I did miss some of the music or little things that Stephen mentioned, so it was fun to go back through the story and see if I could pick them out. My son missed a lot too (mostly because his sister was chatting a bit too much during our listening time), so it was a good way for him to try to focus and listen more closely. The last tracks cover some fun activities for the kids to try, and lastly-there is the musical accompaniment for your singing pleasure, of that catchy tune-The Pretzel Vendor of Paris. There is also a little booklet tucked inside the CD case, that your child can go through while listening or after wards. All in all, this is a keeper in our home!



I am also very excited to see that they have a wide variety of other such CDs, especially the Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel story. That is my son's all time favorite book. We're all hoping that "Santa" will leave that under the tree for him this year! I think that any family with youngsters who like to hear stories, enjoy classical and jazzy-ish (I say that because I felt one of the songs sounded jazz like) music, and who just enjoy a good laugh or two; will enjoy the Maestro Classic CD, The Tortoise and the Hare immensely.

**I do want to point out that 2x (actually 4x if you listen to the second telling) there are statements made by Hare about enjoying "a good French wine"...so if you have an aversion to any mention of alcohol, you may want to try one of their other stories (which I have not heard, but you can always ask them if they contain any mention of it) instead. We personally (especially since I am of French decent) do enjoy a good wine from time to time, so it was not bothersome at all to us.










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Maestro Classics Homepage

The Tortoise and the Hare: $16.98
other story CDs: also $16.98
Gift Sets (Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel or Casey at the Bat): $24.99

Don't forget to visit the TOS Review Crew Homepage to see what my crew mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products.

***Maestro Classics provided me with a free copy of the Tortoise and the Hare CD to test and use with my family, so that I could write this review.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Hank the Cowdog Series, Tornado Game and Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog CD



What do you get when you take a smelly, crusty, and somewhat over-confident pooch, and place him as the head of Ranch Security? Why Hank the Cowdog of course. Toss in a loyal but hypochondriac of a side-kick (Drover), a few arch enemies (such as the clever and somewhat persnickety, Pete the Barncat), with a host of daily misunderstandings, which seem to snowball into memorable events-and you've got yourself a whole series worth of Cowdog adventures. And let us not forget the fact, that Hank (who has also assumed the role of the Private Eye too) is always on the prowl to solve any mysterious cases, which just seem to arrive uninvited-more often than not.

Nestled in the vast landscape of the Texas panhandle, Hank manages to find himself caught up in situations, that are somewhat hilarious at times, while protecting the integrity, and safety of the ranch he calls home. Now let it be said, Hank is a Cowdog-and Cowdogs have been known to speak Cowdogese. Therefore, one can find sprinkled about the pages, ill-spoken, unkind words that would cause most folks to grab a bar of soap, and start washing the guilty party's mouth out. And Hank isn't alone-seems the ranch hand, and the owners themselves, need to partake in a good old-fashioned, Bible thumping, revival meeting (or two), as well. We found ourselves squirming a bit from time to time, due to Hank's, or some other rowdy character's uncouth behavior. This series definitely provides a gold mine of material for any preacher's Sunday "Example Family" sermons. One could quote more Bible verses than a porcupine has quills (and yes, Hank has a run in with one of those too) to highlight why this behavior is not proper, nor acceptable in the Lord's eyes. Thankfully, these occur in staggered episodes, making them not too terribly overwhelming, in most of the stories we have read.

For those with younger children, the reader could easily slip in a more suitable word or two; or simply skip it all together. Usually, with older children you find that they can discern the inappropriateness regarding such antics. With a bit of impromptu character studies, you should be able to bypass having any of this permanently morph into your child's personality. We personally found these situations to be minor. The various other books we've read: Drover's Secret Life (#53), The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado (#25), and Slim's Goodbye (#34) all seemed somewhat tamer than The One-Eyed Killer Horse Stud, we received to review. The Original Adventure of Hank the Cowdog (this is the first book, and since it was written more for an adult audience-it is by far grittier than the rest) gives you a great back story on Hank-and is worth reading. With a bit of preliminary leg work on your part; you can find many Hank stories (and there are 54 to choose from) which best suit your family. This series certainly qualifies for "fun reading", that we can work into our schedule of historical, scientific, and non-fiction readers, which we usually cover during the year. My son has enjoyed the shenanigans of Hank and his pals, and frankly I have too.



With the eighth book in this series, "The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Horse Stud", Hank and Drover find themselves in the midst of an uninvited guest at the ranch. Seems the local gotch-eyed horse named Tuerto isn't well versed in the saying, "Fences makes greats neighbors." No sir. And he also packs an attitude of high-handed (and according to Hank, he has 16 of 'em) snootiness . Armed with a drawl that mimics a Mexican Conquistador's well-bred stallion, which ole Tuerto most certainly is not; and some wild, dog-crushing guns for hind legs, he quickly becomes Hank's worst nightmare. What's more, Hank's day spews forth a valuable lesson regarding bacon grease and toast, the dangers of tangoing with Sally May, the demands of micro-managing his partner Drover, an opportunity to be all dolled up, and the exposure to a soft-handed, blue-eyed gal, Hank would lasso the moon for. After reading the story, we were left a bit bewildered about who this Hank was, or what exactly made him tick-and whether he had ticks too! We decided that Mr. Erickson (the author) had some "major 'splaining" to do. So we requested the first book (along with a few others) from the library. It gave us a much better picture of who this Cowdog is, and it set the tone for the series for us. As mentioned earlier, we did enjoy some of the other stories more than this particular one. But it did introduce us to the complicated, yet old softy of a Cowdog, Hank-and that certainly deserves a couple hats a-waving, and boisterous whooping it ups from this clan.




Now as far as games go, this puppy is quite the clever one. It comes ingeniously designed to hold all the pieces inside of its folded self. Come game time, we simply open it up to a full size, place the spinner in the center area, and put the little Hanks, Drovers and Buzzards into their positions-before taking a whirl around the board. I was very excited to see this one, because as a workbox fan (and if you are wondering what a workbox is, see my blog What's in the Box? for more information), I knew instantly that this would not only fit into the box nicely, but looked to be rather entertaining as well. My son and I decided to do a run through first, to get things tweaked out before playing an official game. To add to the excitement of twirling around tornado alley, we found it kind of fun (in a nice way) to land on, and then send our opponents back home. Now, because one can quickly pass their finish spot, due to being thrown forward by the tornado; or end up being sent home frequently (again in a loving, competitive way)- the game can become rather long in the tooth. To rectify that, we predetermined how long we would devote to play time, and stuck to it. On a few occasions, we didn't even need to worry about that, because one of us was able to get our characters home rather quickly, naturally making it a short game.

The timing for receiving this could not have been more perfect, as we are to begin studying the weather (particularly twisters). This will definitely be added to our unit activities, as a learning tie-in. And what do you know? The Tornado game is based on one of Hank and Drover's experiences, found in book, The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado. After listening to the tape (provided with the game) that highlights sections of the case, we knew we had to get it in order to learn about the rest of the story. This little gem has quickly become a favorite game round these here parts.



Lastly, the Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdow CD offers up snippets of adventures of Hank and his pals, with sprinkles of songs sung by the various characters on the ranch. At first, I was a bit reluctant about listening to this-I wasn't sure what to expect. After doing so, I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't too shabby -or should I say "shaggy"? The excerpts provided just enough enticement to fester the desire to get a hold of the highlighted stories, so we could find out what happens next. The songs were far from corny too. All though, we preferred some over others-like the Thank You Lord for Making Gals and I'm Rich, it was a huge relief to this family to not have to suffer through some cheesy songfest of a CD-if you have read my reviews regarding anything musical, you would understand this statement. We have some pretty strong opinions on the matter-and usually avoid such things like the plague. Additionally, it is neat to hear the songs actually being sung-since it is very easy to read those incorrectly, from the way they are to be sung. I am planning on adding The Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog CD (with a CD player, and a timer) into our workboxes, as an additional fun activity to break up my son's regular studies, too. More importantly (especially to this momma), he was intrigued enough to sit through it, and listen quietly. Which doesn't happen all too often. That gets a big high five from me. And for the money, it is a non-spency addition to anyone's collection of Hank goodies.

**The author, Mr. Erikson, has also written several Non-Fiction stories which may "trip your trigger", and he (currently) has penned two stories for those reading at the Young Adult level, in your family.




and for non-readers
**The author is Christian, but due to the various situations noted above, this series actually reflects a more Worldly view-hence the world icon instead.

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Hank the Cowdog's Homepage. Look for the section of games and puzzles for kids, along with the tour of the ranch page. This is a fun site to explore.

The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse, Book #8 PB: $4.24 HB: $12.49 (on author's site)

Tornado Game $12.99, 2-4 players, ages 5 years and up

Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog CD $3.00

Don't forget to read my TOS Mates' opinions on this and many fine educational products at our TOS Homeschool Review Crew Homepage.

**Maverick Books rovided me with the free copy each of Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Horse Stud book, the Tornado Game and Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog CD, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

TOS Review Crew: Bible Story Songs-David CD




For those families who love hearing the Word through songs, who are directors of the Children's Music Program at the their church, are Sunday School teachers and for those who learn best through music, this is a creative and fun way to learn the Lord's Word. Certainly, these could be a great addition to your VBS program or any other project you may have going which requires some sort of music.



We received David: Shepherd, Psalmist, Soldier, King! -which is the latest release by the Bible Story Songs company. There are 32 different songs packed into this little disk, such as "Oh, the Lord is My Shepherd", "David, a Man After God" and "Let's honor with Manners" to name a few. Some are set to familiar tunes and others seem complete original scores. There are several resources available at the site as well: including free Lyrics sheets, puzzle pages and of course, sheet music to accompany the CDs.

These CDs are designed to entertain and train up the wee ones (and perhaps the not-so-wee) in your home, by first speaking a part of scripture, and then rolling into a catchy song that expounds the message. Sung by a choir of young voices, which are blended into a variety of musical accompaniments, the hour long CDs each work through a specific book of the Bible, or are about it.




I wanted to explain why I am only giving this one safety ring: as for our family, we tend to favor a different style of Christian music, so all though the David CD was interesting to listen to, it is not something we would necessarily use in our home. Frankly speaking, our youngest begs to miss the first part of Sunday School to avoid the singing part (which we do not let him do), but that little bit of info is a good illustration of the fact that we just are not all "musically-istic" (yes I made that up) around here. My older kids barely survived the Barney years, and if a movie has a lot of singing it-we turn it off or avoid it like the plague (just something about all that singing bugs me, and a few of my kids have developed the "no singing" rule for many of our entertainment choices). It just isn't our style-"The Sound of Music"- forget it, "Pocahontas" -notta, "High School Musical"-not on your life, and the "Phantom of the Opera" -a good way to clear the room in a heartbeat! I realize these are not Christ-centered, and shouldn't be compared to something that teaches the Word, but I wanted to offer up a few examples of our aversion to such things. This also carries over to what type and style of music we listen to. It just isn't for us, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be for you. Take into consideration your family's musical tastes and go from there. Some devour all types of songs/singing styles and truly enjoy them, while others are very particular about what they can/cannot listen to. It's a personal choice really. Perhaps someone you know has one of their CDs which you can borrow, or I am sure many fine Christian stores would have a sampling for you to listen to as well. In the end, I find them to be of good quality, and can accomplish what they are intended to do: to help write the Word on your children's hearts.


(for us personally)

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Bible Story Songs Homepage
$9.99 for CD (any from their collection), $9.99 corresponding Sheet Music, $16.99 Bundle set (includes both CD and Sheet Music)

Also available at the Old Schoolhouse Magazine Store

Visit the TOS Review Crew Homepage for more reviews on this, and many other fine products.

**Bible Story Songs provided me with the free copy of the David CD, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.