PianoWithWillie ~Review

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I never played an instrument growing up unless you count the rhythm sticks.  But, it was a dream of mine to have my kids take some sort of instrument.  Skylar played violin and Mahala is our piano player.  She started lessons several years ago, but after a year or so we had to stop taking her due to the long drive, short class time, long wait in the car with Kaden for her and the cost to do it all.  Last year I was Blessed to have the opportunity to Review a Piano Program called Homeschool Piano.  And this year JazzEdge has given us a Studio Access Membership to Review for a full year to Willie Myette's amazing Piano program called PianoWithWillie. ($49 a Month or $99 Quarterly or $399 Annually)

This program is for people who have had the basics and who need to move on to the next step.  There are other programs available for beginning learners and for the Drums.....I encourage you to check them all out. Willie attended and graduated from the Berklee College of Music.  Both of my Kiddos found it exciting to learn that he toured and preformed across America and Europe. And that his music has been played on almost 100 different radio stations across the country.   Mahala loved the Homeschool Piano program and Kaden still uses it today, but she needed more of a challenge.  And this program absolutely delivers just that.  First I'm going to share what I love as a parent about Piano with Willie and then I'm going to let Mahala speak a little about what she thought.

First of all I love that Willie is the Instructor, he is Amazing.  You can feel his passion through the computer screen.  He has excitement in his voice and he beams with enthusiasm when he teaches.  For me that's great for both the experience musician and the beginner.  Kaden needs the motivation and encouraging words.  And to me Mahala seems to respond nicely and has a desire to learn because Willie is so engaging with his students.
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I Love the ease of using the program, he offers a tutorial that takes you through the basics and where to get to everything at your initial set up.  I will admit I had to watch it and go through it twice.  :)  But, once I got situated it was a breeze and with each lesson it's just click click click boom....all done! :)
I super Love that you can access the lesson from your computer, phone or tablet.  I can not tell you how awesome that little feature has been for us.  We were over at a friends the other day and we might have stayed a little longer then what I thought we were going to.  And the kids were bored.  I said to the kids to take their tablet and head out to the sunroom where they have their piano and take turns doing their piano lessons.  My friend was so impressed that both of the kids didn't complain, knew how to log in and get themselves all logged on and the music was beautiful.  
I Love that you have over 3,000 lessons to pick from and you can learn something new every single day!  And the Forum, It's a nice addition, we didn't really use it during the review period.  But, as Mahala continues on it may be a great additional tool for her to use.
I asked Mahala to comment on the things that she Loved about PianoWithWillie.  She said there were three main things she Loved the most.
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1.  The Split Screen!!!  She said that it feels as close to a live one on one practice then any other online program because you get to see Willie up-close and get an aerial view of his keys as he is playing.  
2.  The sheet music is right there and available to print or just bring it up and download on your tablet or computer and follow along.
3.   The ease of keeping up with the lessons you have worked through already and feeling confident using the site.  It's very user friendly and you don't waste time clicking through lessons trying to figure out where you were last.

We, used this program 3-4 times a week.  We wanted to use it more often, but with the way things have been lately we decided up front to stick with 3-4 days a week.  It worked our beautifully and without any stress.  I set it all up in a matter of about 10 minutes and then included Mahala in everything afterwards.  She went through the Getting Started, Using the Site and Next Step sections all by herself.  There is a Piano Foundations section that she did also, before she started on the 30 Day Success Playbook.  That was where all the fun began and the music started to flow from her fingertips.  Next will come the individual lessons, she has done a few of the 300+ already, but wanted to complete the 30 Day Success Playbook 1st before she went too deep into that.
Every day that we had piano time scheduled she basically logged on and did her thing.  Even Kaden who is much younger then her that is using another piano program with Willie does the same thing.  It's very user friendly, great for independent learning and I would definitely say it is a huge success in our home.  I will go in every now and then to the dashboard and check on their progress.  But, other then that it's great for independent learning.
So, would I recommend this Piano Program?  Absolutely, and if you can't use it because you don't have a piano I urge you to go out and at least look into buying a new or used 61 Key keyboard.  Piano can encourage self esteem and creativity while creating beautiful music that relaxes the soul.  I think any Homeschool Family or Non-homeschooling Family would benefit from this Piano Program.  It's affordable and a blessing to be able to have a quality teaching experience in the comfort of your own home during a flexible time that is convenient for you!  Check them out, you wont be disappointed.....I promise!

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Accepting Life for What It Really Is

I don't know if it's because I'm older now....just turned 40!  But, I am so content with my life right now.  Things don't have to be perfect, clean, tidy, over planned or even planned at all.  Life is life and life was meant to be enjoyed.  Not to be avoided and dreaded.  

My sweet Kaden, oh how I LOVE him soooo much, but I know for many nights I laid next to him and begged God to take away his Autism, make life easier for me.....Please!!!  I would struggle with his stims or his milestones not being met.  You know what Kaden....eat with your hands, giggle and laugh as you twirl around, touch our faces until you feel safe and calm, whatever you need to enjoy Your life.  I'm so proud of all that he has accomplished in the 8 years of his life.  I want him to be proud of who he is.  I still pray for his safety because he still has uncontrollable anger through out the week.  But, when I look at where he was 4 years ago and where he is now there is soooo much improvement with his social skills, communication and his ability to take care of himself. 
We have been working a lot on daily life skills.  Like keeping himself clean, cleaning up after himself and making healthy food choices.  He loves helping in the kitchen and coming up with new food creations.  He's working on a new strawberry lemonade recipe right now.  I love his enthusiasm for life, he wakes up happy every single morning no matter what kind of night he's had.  He attacks the day like I've never seen before from anyone I've ever known.  I can learn a lot from him....I think I already have!  Thank You Lord for my Sweet Kaden!!!!


More then Half my Life


So, it was another Birthday for me.....yay me!  I am thankful the Lord has given me 40 years and that 21 of them I have been a Momma!!!  We had a great celebration together, especially since my oldest was born on my Birthday.  We both hit milestones this year, I turned 40 and he made it to 21.  Here I am with my Sweet girl who just turned 15 not too long ago.  They grow up so fast and before you know it those late nights don't seem like such a big deal anymore.  I would do anything to be able to go tell my younger self to relax more and enjoy the kids.  No, I take that back!  I did do that and that's why my Son was out with his Family on his 21st Birthday.  Because I did take the time to stay up late and talk with them.  I did play board games, make cool art projects and decided to Homeschool them to tailor their education and be able to spend quality time with them.  We have made cookies just because it was Tuesday and have spent many afternoons dancing in the rain or basking in the sun.  These last 21 years have been the Best years of my Life.....I Love My Family!!!


Successful Homeschooling Made Easy~ REVIEW

I've been homeschooling for almost 10 years....seems like a long time, but to me it has been just a short journey I've taken along with my Kiddos.  I don't know if you are new to Homeschooling, been Homeschooling for years or maybe your thinking about it.  There are a lot of things to consider and to understand.  It may feel a bit overwhelming, but I'm here to tell you that every year I Homeschool my Kiddos I have a list of things I plan to change from the previous year and a list of things that worked and we plan to implement them again for another year.  It's a learning process, but the amazing thing is that you get to experience life with your Kiddos.

I struggle with a few things in our Homeschool.....organization, doubting my abilities and staying focused.  That sounds like a we run around in a mess.....some days we do!  :)  Anyway, I was given the opratunity to take a course from Stephanie Walmsley with Successful Homeschooling Made Easy.  She offers the Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course which is a 26 week long program.  Stephanie Walmsley is a Christian Mom of 5 Kiddos that started Homeschooling in 1985.  Homeschooling wasn't as popular back then like it is now.  She didn't have tons of curriculum choices, gadgets and gizmos to sort through and figure out what would work for each child.  There weren't as many Homeschool groups and mentorships available like you can find now.  Our resources now I would describe as Unlimited.  Stephanie created this program to fill a need for guidance in the Homeschool world.  Even if your a veteran Homeschooling Family there are a lot of lessons and gems found through out this program!

So, this is how it works....it's so simple.  Once you have signed up for the course you will receive your lesson in PDF format each week.  You can read it on your computer or print them out.  I'm visual and need to hold something if I'm going to get it to sink in my brain.  With that said I printed it out and hole punched it to fit nicely in a 3 ring binder.  That way too I can go back and reference latter on.  And I did do that several times during the review period.

The 1st few lessons help give you a simple 8 week plan to go by.  I love that she dosen't have you teaching 10 subjects on the first day and that is usually what I do when I start something new.  She really explains about the simplicity of your schedule for your Homeschooling.  She asks you questions about you and your Family to help customize a plan that will work for YOU.  Like, what time do you wake up?  Are you a morning person or afternoon?  What chores need to be done or appointments or other commitments that are a regular recurrence?  She also gives you a print out of a schedule for morning and one for afternoon learners.  Even though we tend to do better in the afternoon I want to work toward being a little more productive earlier in the day.  LORD HELP US! :)

My experience has been great with using Stephanie's course.  Even though I have been at this for many years I still struggle here and there.  She has renewed my faith in myself and has given me the little push I need to believe I am capable in making this work.  I do have one successful Son in college already, so why the harsh self talk everyday?  Well, not anymore I feel like I have a plan and the tools to work on some hard truths with our schedule.  

After the first few lessons I broke out the poster board, paper, glue and pens.  I did what she said to do which was to start out with a Literacy Hour.  And to fill that hour with Reading and Writing.  And so I did.....no stress, just Literacy Hour and a few chores, Bible time and lot's of outdoor play.  Then I added Math Hour and the next week we filled in even more time for our garden and so forth.  This slow progression really ensured success for us.  We are a Happy Bunch over here!

Would I recommend this Course?  I would indeed for anyone new to Homeschooling or to someone thinking about it.  And even those of us who may be in a rut or a new season of life.  When my oldest left for college it changed our whole Family dynamics.  It was a huge shift that caused us to need to regroup and get ourselves back on track.  This online course did that for us.  We are only 9 weeks into the program and I look forward to the upcoming lessons!  If you are looking for a Simple Course to help you work through making Schedules and Lesson plans.  Learn how to use your time more efficiently and truly learn how to break free from stress with Organization Choosing your Kiddo's Curriculum and Planning.  Even get tips with Teaching and Housekeeping and tons more!  This Course is super affordable at $10 per month for 6 months, or $48 if you pay for the whole course all at one time.

Stop by and connect with Stephanie from Successful Homeschooling Made Easy on Facebook.
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Family Bible Study from Real Life Press~REVIEW

Do you have Family Bible time during the week or weekends?  We have on and off, but it is something that I have had on my heart for many months to do with our Family.  So, when we were asked to Review a Family Bible Study written by Heidi St. John, Firmly Planted, Gospels, Part 1 (Stories from the Life of Jesus) from Real Life Press we were having a Jesus Moment, because it was just what I had been praying for.  We were sent both the Family Study Guide $9.95and Student Book $24.95. (10 week long study)

I don't know about you, but when I walk into the Christian Book store I sometimes get crazy overwhelmed.  I think it's just because I want them all!!  :)  I have to say when I was 1st presented with this review I went to their website and instantly made a wish list.  I urge you to go at some point today and take a little lookie lookie!  The Busy Mom Products     Firmly Planted Products

Real Life Press, created by Jay and Heidi St. John has a passion for the Lord and their mission is to direct people to Him.  Showing people how to have a working relationship with God in all areas of their life.  They have many different products like I mentioned before, you must go see them all for yourself.  They offer affordable Bible Studies, Books and CDs on all things to grow Faith, Homeschool, being Stronger as a Family, and of course Parenting. 

Before I get into how we used this product I have to scream how personal and beautiful this product is.  You can feel the Love and Passion as you read the Note from Jay and Hedi.  The layout and flow from one page to the next is captivating for even the youngest of kiddos, the older ones and even us adults.  And we all know how critical Kaden is.  Being Autistic gives him a few challenges.  One staying captured with the content.  And then there is the opposite problem and that's when the workbooks or program is too busy with lot's of extra unneeded flash and pizazz.  I know it's a crazy middle ground that we try to find and stay at with him.  
And I'm super pleased to say that he LOVED the program.  If you have a Special needs child, they will love this Bible study.  For many reasons that I will go into a few of them in just a minute.  Since I needed a supplement for Kaden's Bible time during the day I decided to do this with just him and I for the Review period and then after we finish our book we are reading during Family time in a week or so we are going to recap what Kaden and I learned and then continue on with the whole Family.  But for the sake of this review I did it just with Kaden and I.

Okay on to the good stuff.....Here is a pic of the Lessons in part 1.  As you see it covers from Mary being visited by the Angel Gabriel all the way to Jesus walking on water.  I went ahead and printed everything out and placed each page in sleeves in a binder.  I wanted to make everything easy, organized and portable anywhere at a moments notice.  I have been working on that a lot lately. :)  

At the beginning of the lesson in the Family Study Guide you find the title and passages that are in the lesson.  Let's take week 1 for instance.  

Gabriel visits Mary~Luke 1:26-38
After you read that with your Family you have some choices.  Here comes a Special needs Blessing.  There are variations for the memory verse.  First of all it's up to you if you want to memorize a verse or not.  But, they give you variations to use depending on the age/ability of your Kiddos.  
Here is an example.You have 3 ways~ 
1.  THE SEED which is basically the Big Idea or Key Concept.  
2.  PLANTING THE SEED is for Kiddos 4-11 
3.  Additional PLANTING THE SEED is a more Challenging with longer components.

*The Seed for Week 1 is The virgin birth of Jesus proves that He is God. 
*PLANTING THE SEED for Week 1 is And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus
*Additional PLANTING THE SEED for Week 1 is And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High.

We started out with learning just The Seed and then every day or so I went on until he memorized most of the additional PLANTING THE SEED.  Customize the program to fit Our needs! 

Next you find the Watering the seed segment.  Here the concept is basically with a short story it helps "germinate" the seed concept.  Also there are questions here geared for the older Kiddos.  You will find through out the program at the end of the lessons little Apples that represent Tasting the fruit.  Here your Family will be able to apply what they have learned in their own lives.  This is sooooo huge, anyone can memorize some answers, but this is where the line in drawn between listeners of the word and doers of the word.  When you come to the Digging Deeper sections is for mainly the older kids and adults.  But, I have to say Kaden took to it.  

But, he LOVES his Bible, the other day he was talking about Methuselah in the bath tub.  I mean this child Loves his Bible and not just the Heroes or the Action.  He has a heart for Jesus and he has told me before....if you want to know the Lord you need to read his word and talk to him everyday, all day.  Yes, sir!!!  So, the deeper conversation that Digging Deeper evokes was perfect for him.

Now let's chat about the Student workbook, it's a huge!!!  There are 200+ pages that go along with the 10 chapters from the Family Study Guide.  You will find so many fun things to help solidify what your kiddos learned and it's painless for both you and them. :)  They will find everything from crossword puzzles, word searches, mazes, science activities, journaling pages, coloring pages and lot's of extras for deeper study for the older kiddos.  There is so much to choose from that will be a perfect fit no matter their age or learning ability.  Once again this is helpful to have lot's of options when you have a child with Special Needs.  The pics I included doesn't show the coloring/art side, but they are there in the work book....I promise.  They are just not Kaden's favorite thing to do.  So, we were able to work on handwriting, major plus factor to be able to work on skill deficits while learning about the Lord. :)

We worked our Bible study every single Day except Sunday.  Kaden Loved it and I never had to ask more then once to gather his Bible study supplies and Bible.  We worked more some days then others, but we never took more then a week to complete one of the 10 lessons.  

Will we continue this program?  Oh yes, and I plan to purchase all of the other ones and probably a few of the other products available that are not Bible Studies.  I Highly recommend this Bible Study for anyone with a Family.  If you have wanted to do a Family Study or just want to use it with your Kiddos you will see your child start connecting the dots.  And watching them and yourself dive deeper into the Bible and getting closer to the Lord with each lesson is the most Beautiful thing.  Bless your Family today, head on over and pick out your first Family Bible Study.
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A+ Interactive Math ~REVIEW


Math is my Homeschool Nemesis....yes I said that!!  I have had a love hate relationship my whole life with Math.  I'm always worried about the Kid's progress and if they are where they need to be.  So, when I learned about A+ Interactive Math and their Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan I flipped with Joy.  I was excited to Review this product and was hoping It wouldn't be too painful.  

The Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan was designed to give You the ability to see if your student has gaps in their math skills and how to FIX them.  The program is 3 months long and evaluates from 1st Grade to Pre-Algebra (7th grade).

It wasn't until recently that I truly understood where my own math problems began.  I moved around a lot as a child, which meant different schools almost every single year. (Military Kid)  And with that also came different ways of teaching, teacher expectations and grading systems.  Going back and forth between private and public schools had me crazy, because one school was doing this and then the next school was doing something completely different and I see now how I missed core important instructionconcepts through out my elementary years.  I had huge gaps that were never filled.  It was apparent in all my subjects, but the most noticeable was Math.  I have noticed the same thing has happened right here at home with my Kiddos as we have endured some pretty huge obstacles and changes in our family over the past few years.

So, I had both Mahala and Kaden take the tests.  I can't even wait till the end of the Review to tell you if I like it or not.  I LOVE THIS PROGRAM!!!  This program has saved me time, money, confusion, frustration and did I say time?  :)  We have tried several different Math programs with Kaden.  He loves them and gets bored super fast.  He is all over the map though and I thoroughly believe it was because we let him push forward and didn't truly have a set direction or curriculum.  For an example Kaden can complete Algebra questions from his brother's High school book, but he can't tell you if an inch is bigger then a centimeter.  He has a hard time with the steps in division, but he can work out a word problem 3 paragraphs long.  So, you get the picture....he knows a lot and is very smart, but he has GAPS.  With him having Autism I think it gives him a few extra challenges and benefits in home schooling him.  

With this program, I was able to have both kids take a short assessment that tested their ability to successfully complete different levels of major math concept.  By doing this it helps determine their current skill level. By completing these assessments we were able to see exactly where Kaden and Mahala were as far as their appropriate grade level in skill.  Mahala was unfortunately behind a year or so in certain areas.  And Kaden was 3 years ahead of his current grade level.  After taking the placement tests they were each given a specifically designed lesson plan to fill each gap.  In the Picture above you will see the concepts in the 5th grade that he mastered and those he needed to learn.  Also, you see in the gray concepts he didn't try yet.  We decided 5th grade is where he should work on and then come back and retest.  I also loved that you can take them over again too.  The questions are timed and this was a little overwhelming for Kaden, but out of 4 different assessments he only timed out with one question.  So, it's not a discouraging factor in my mind.  Kaden skipped around on this specific assessment and we found that he needed to fill in some gaps, or in his situation just learn.  Mahala had a lot of gaps and we were thankful to get a wonderfully simple plan to get her where she needs to be.  We need Lesson Plans!!

When you are at the Dashboard you take your Placement Test and then you receive your results.  Next you can view your Kiddo's reports, very easy access. :)  The lesson plan gives you everything you need to get your child caught up! All your child needs to do is simply follow their lesson plan as it teaches them and allows them practice with interactive questions and answers.   They will also work through extra worksheets to master the skills and concepts needed to move forward. 
Good News is that you, the parent receives all the reports on their progress immediately after they complete the work! 

Our Family used this daily during the school week.  I would have them start the assessments each morning.  I let them pick the one or two for the day.  And then they did the worksheets needed if they did not master the concept.  If they mastered them I had them continue until they did 4 lessons or worksheets for at least one concept.  It was really important for us to get this all figured out, so we could kind of start next year with a fresh start.  The kiddos both enjoyed the program and Mahala's exact words were, "It wasn't as Painful as I thought it was going to be"!  I think we found a winner here.  I would HIGHLY suggest if you have a child in the school system or you homeschool them, you should try this Placement.  Just see where your child is, give them the extra foot in the door.   It is very easy to use and it truly does show you where the gaps are and gives you the tools you need to FIX those gaps.  I think this would be a great Summer supplements, because it's a 3 month Subscription.  How perfect is that!?!   We will definitely use this again in a year or so to see where we are once again.  If you still aren't sure if your Kiddo will benefit, try an assessment for free!  Do it, you will be glad that you did, promise.

 From now until May18, 2015 you can get the Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan on SALE for 40-50% off!! But only for a limited time--so don't wait!

Stop by and See what's going on with A+ Interactive Math
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A+ Interactive Math Review

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And God was There all Along!

We had recently moved a few months before I found out about my Husband’s addiction.  There was a church SUPER close to our new house, like i can almost see the lights from the end of my road.  We had been going to church off and on for years.  I grew up in the church and I have valued my close relationship with the Lord my whole life.  I am here to tell you I have been in situations in my life that I would not have escaped if there was no God.  I will scream from the roof tops that I know there is a God and he has literally had to carry me much of my young adult life and all of my childhood.  Life just has not been smooth sailing for me and I look at it usually as time to strengthen my relationship with God.

So, back to the church….it was a church that we had went to a few times, because we knew we were going to be moving there.  When I say we I mean mainly the kids and I.  My Husband usually made excuses as to why he couldn’t go.  One of the most common was our youngest with Autism couldn’t handle the noise and wouldn’t dare stay in the nursery or kid classes.  So, when we did go to church he would stay home and watch porn watch our son.

I remember the Sunday before I found out I went to church with the kids minus the little guy and Husband of course.  I remember singing and praying.  I prayed for the same thing over and over.  I bet you can guess what it was about….my Husband.  I would always pray that the Lord would soften his heart.  To keep him safe in all that he did and that he would find happiness in the kids and I.  Over and over I would ask the Lord to help me be a better wife, so that my Husband would love me and want to spend time with me.  I would beg God to help my Kids behave and to give my Husband the eyes to see how amazing they really were.

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My Husband found God in the Closet

One day I will have my Husband share his story, but for today I will retell it how I remember.  This is a story about unconditional love, forgiveness, acceptance and transparency.  This is my Husband’s story about his journey to find God in the closet.
It had only been a few days since he had shared with me the disgusting details of his Secret life of prostitutes, strip clubs and massage parlors.  I was numb and hollow inside, it was all I could do to feed the kids every day and interact with the therapists that came daily to work with our youngest Son with Autism.
I remember laying on the bed covered with tissues and reeking of Alcohol just staring off at the wall.  I was hating myself and I just wanted to float away, to never exist.  Hubby came and stood at the foot of the bed and stared.  He was a wreck, I know he was.  We weren’t eating, sleeping….just putting out fires and rehashing the past 10 years over and over until we passed out from exhaustion.  He looked on over me wanting to take my pain away.  I knew deep down he did love and care for me.  But, I didn’t trust him at all and at that point I knew we could never stay together.  I didn’t want to, I was going to just tolerate him for the next week or two and then that was it I was going to just leave.  I knew physically I couldn’t do it right this very moment.  But, once I gathered strength and could form thoughts that involved something other than what was crashing down in my life I would run.

More can be Read HERE