Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: KinderBach Beginner Piano Music Curriculum

I am always looking for fun things to do with my little man, who is 6. I've also wanted to have him try some music lessons, but he's really too young (and too wiggly) for traditional piano lessons. I play the piano, but I knew Isaac wasn't ready for sitting down with me at the piano to learn with the piano books I could find at the music store. I was delighted to have the opportunity to review the KinderBach Online Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner, meant for children ages 3-7, to see how he liked it. I received a 6-month subscription for us to try. There are currently 6 levels with a total of 240 lessons available, with more coming.

Let me tell you - this program from KinderBach has been a huge hit! Karri Gregor, the author, clearly knows young children, because there is very little sitting involved, and lots of FUN in these early music lessons! Each video lesson is between 3-4 minutes long, and if there is any coloring or other activity to do, it's done during the video. There are pictures associated with the concepts, like a little house for Dodi the Donkey, who lives over the two black keys on a keyboard, and the Beat Bugs, who help introduce counting beats per measure. There are songs to sing, and MOTIONS to do. We were standing up tall for high notes, squatting down low for low notes, and hanging out in the middle for middle notes. Isaac loved it, and wanted to do a week's worth of lessons each time! In our short time using the program, I've heard him clapping along with songs in the car to the beat - that's a pretty big improvement.

We used my iPad Mini to watch the videos, and that worked out very well for us. There are printable workbooks to go along with each level, and we printed off the Level 1 book to have ready when we did our lessons. You can see the printer icon in the image of the lesson screen, which also makes it simple to print the page you need when you open the lesson, if that works better for you.

There are lots of fun activities that go along with this program, and if you have children who like to do that kind of thing, you will be able to have lots of fun. Isaac enjoyed the video lessons, but wasn't terribly interested in the activities. He did agree to do some of the coloring, but would only do what was absolutely necessary. I was tempted to print and laminate many things, but resisted the urge, because I knew we wouldn't use them. My girls would have loved all that stuff at this age, though.

We did most of our lessons at the piano, and kept our crayons handy over there. When the lessons required a keyboard, Miss Karri told us right at the beginning. One of the best parts of this program was Isaac getting to play a song right away (by week 3). Also, even though I let him go through several lessons at once, there is a lot of review throughout the program, so I didn't worry about him missing something. We could always go back and review a lesson.

The Teacher Corner contains lesson plans for each level, along with the Teacher Guide, which includes lots of activities to go along with Levels 1-3; Audio MP3s for all the songs; and links to download the student books. Additionally, you will find a storybook, coloring pages, and song books with additional music to use with students. The resources in the Teacher Corner are really intended for use in a classroom setting, but there are lots of fun activities in there, like puzzles and games, etc. that you could print and use at home, too. I could see those being VERY helpful if you had lots of little people trying to do the same lesson.

In order to use this program, you will need a few things:

  • A computer or tablet for watching the online video lessons and downloading the student pages
  • An internet connection, faster than dial-up, to stream the videos
  • A printer, for printing out the student pages and any activities you'd like to use
  • A keyboard with at least 3-4 octaves, if you don't have a piano
  • Some basic craft supplies: crayons and scissors
  • Some lessons call for a rhythm instrument, and Miss Karri shows you how to find something to use, like a pot and spoon, if you don't have one already
The only thing I noticed about streaming the videos is that they have to stay pretty small in order to be good quality. They were all right on my iPad, but they wouldn't have looked very good on my full-sized monitor. There is an iPad app which puts all the lessons right at your fingertips - the app itself is free, and you can try the first two lessons of Level 1, but after that you have to purchase more lessons. There doesn't seem to be a way to log in to your KinderBach account and use your subscription through the app.

KinderBach is currently offering their Online Piano Lessons with Teacher Corner Membership for $95.88 per year, which works out to $7.99 per month for full access to levels 1-6 and all corresponding materials. If you've ever paid for music lessons, you know that's a great deal - and it's for any and all children in your family who might want to use it. I love having this resource for homeschool music lessons - one less thing that requires me to leave the house! You can try two weeks of lessons for FREE to see how you like it!

If you'd like to know more about KinderBach, you can find them on Facebook (Facebook for Teachers, too), PinterestTwitter, and YouTube.

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Our First Egg Case Has Hatched!

I'm so excited! I had to come over and post about our new critters. The first egg case laid by our praying mantis, Scipio, hatched! If you missed hearing about her, you can read my posts here and here. Emma saw the babies in the jar while we were making lunch. There are lots of them, and we've separated out several to put in their own jars. Because they are carnivorous, they will most likely eat each other if we leave them all in the same container.

The tricky part is getting them into something that will contain them. They're so small, they could easily get out of the lid we had on Scipio's tank. We kept the egg case in a quart-zied mason jar, with a piece of nylon panty hose over the top. Today, we pulled out all my jam and pint-sized canning jars, put some coconut bedding in them, small sticks for climbing, and then put the lids on with pieces of cut-up flour sack towel. I didn't have enough knee-high nylons to make covers for all those little jars!

I looked up what to feed them, because I have no live food for them at this point, and learned we could feed them ground meat. I had some thawed, thank goodness, and stuck it on their climbing stick. They really liked it! I saw some of them fighting siblings away from the food. Hence one of the reasons they need to be separated.

They are so terribly cute - they look like mini Scipios, except they are twig-colored for camouflage. They already act just like adult insects. We watched one sway back and forth, checking us out, while sitting on Abbie's hand, and we've even seen them cleaning their tiny feet and legs, just like their mama used to do. They got all defensive when I tried to move them into their own jars.

You should hear us all crooning at these little insects. They're adorable and we're besotted. We've missed Scipio a lot since she died, so having her babies in the house now is just that much more fun for us. In the pictures below, you can see how tiny they are. Aren't they amazing?

What this means, of course, is that I need to get the other two egg cases into some kind of container with a better lid, so if those hatch too, I won't have a battalion of little mantids running amok.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Boost Your Blog 100 Day Challenge

I'm excited to participate in the Boost Your Blog in 100 Days Challenge, coordinated by my friend Thaleia over at Something 2 Offer. She's a busy homeschool mom of 4, and created this challenge as a way for folks to get to know more bloggers and encourage each other in the process. Along the way, we will learn about things like Twitter, SEO, Blog Post Topics, Pinterest, and increasing blog traffic.

The first 10-day challenge started yesterday(!), and it is to comment on 10 blogs for 10 days. Thaleia is providing the links to the blogs for each day, so all you have to do is click and comment! Anyone is welcome to participate in the challenge and learn along with us.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mark Twain Said...

Is this the same as sleeping with books under your pillow to absorb the information by osmosis, do you think?

Sunday, February 09, 2014

What's For Dinner: Ravioli Casserole

One thing I have never quite mastered is meal planning. I know my life would be simpler if I made a meal plan, but I never remember. I should go do that as soon as I'm done writing this post. We will see!

Anyhoo, how does one who does not plan meals ahead manage to come up with anything for dinner? Well, I'll tell you. I try to keep standard (for me) ingredients on hand, so when I'm ready to make dinner, I can take some meat from the freezer (or, hopefully remember to thaw it the night before) and pull something together. Sometimes this works better than others. Occasionally, when my husband asks what we're having, I reply with something like, "Funny you should ask! It started out to be one thing, but when I started to make it, I realized I didn't have everything for the recipe, so I had to improvise." Heh.

I love to use my slow cooker. There are a couple of nights each week that go much more smoothly if I have dinner in the crock pot. This last week I made a recipe I hadn't made it quite some time, remembered how much I enjoyed it, and thought I would share it with you! It's from a lovely cookbook called Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting, by Rick Rodgers. Actually, the version I have is (ahem) a few years old and it's simply called Ready and Waiting. The recipes in this book are fabulous. Mr. Rodgers calls for real, whole foods, and while they do take some planning and preparation time, they are worth it!

Additionally, Mr. Rodgers provides clear instructions for every single step in his recipes. When I purchased this book, I was a newlywed, and had very little experience in the kitchen. I mean, there are steps to things (Mr. Rodgers calls them "principles of good cooking"), and I had no idea what I was doing. This cookbook was a wonderful addition to my collection, and I've used it often over the years. It does more than provide recipes - it teaches you how to use a slow cooker. I've been flipping through it again, and have found more recipes I'd like to try. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family! does 

Ravioli Casserole


  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 - medium onion, chopped
  • 2 - garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 - 28 oz can peeled tomatoes in thick tomato puree
  • 1 - 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp Italian herb seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb bow-tie pasta or fettucine, freshly cooked
  • 1- 10 oz packaged frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed to remove excess moisture
  • 2 C ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 C freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic, stirring often to break up lumps, until the meat loses its pink color, about 5 minutes. Tilt the pain to drain off excess fat, then transfer the beef mixture to a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker.
  2. Add the tomatoes with their purée, the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and pepper, stirring to break up the tomatoes with the side of a spoon. Cover and slow-cook for 7 to 8 hours on low (200˚ F). 
  3. Skim the fat from the surface of the meat sauce. Stir in the cooked pasta, spinach, and ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, and slow-cook for 5 minutes. Serve the casserole directly from the slow cooker.
My notes:

  • This recipe was posted with permission of the creator, Rick Rodgers.
  • My husband requested that I leave the spinach out, so I have.
  • Instead of "tomatoes in thick purée," I use crushed tomatoes. I have one who doesn't like chunks of tomatoes. (Also, I am not sure I've ever seen a can labeled, "tomatoes in thick purée.)
  • I make my own Italian seasoning from this recipe. I ran out of Italian seasoning from my little jar one night, so Googled how to make my own. It's easy to do, I had all the listed ingredients, and one batch lasts a long time. It does say to combine the ingredient in a spice grinder, but I don't have one, so I just mixed them together and put them in a little container.
  • We like it with cottage cheese just as well as with ricotta cheese. 

Friday, February 07, 2014

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Drawing with Rich Davis

A few years ago, someone posted a link to Rich Davis' blog, Draw With Rich. If I recall correctly, people were looking for some art ideas. I have followed his blog ever since, and have enjoyed drawing all the little things he posts. Recently, he started posting some step-by-step drawing instructions for different buildings. He's developing a new game. The idea is to give the instructions to children and see how well they can follow along, without much coaching. This week, we drew the first one in the series, the barn. We worked from this picture:

And here are our drawings! 

I have no idea why Isaac decided to draw a big swirl, or write "DOG." However, I thought he did pretty well on his barn for a boy of 6 who mostly refuses to hold a pencil. Of course, you could see it much better before he got ahold of the silver Sharpie, but I digress. The girls both had fun with their drawings, too, and you can certainly tell that Abbie took more care with hers than the rest of us. I was thinking, "This was supposed to be a quick, fun start to our morning, not take you all day, dear child..." That's all right, though. We're looking forward to next week's drawing.