Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sunya Publishing (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Adding and Subtracting


Game days are always appreciated here because they're always a fun way to sneak in learning. Games don't look like schoolwork, so, of course, kiddos think they're pulling a fast one on mama. Our newest game is from Sunya Publishing and called  Sunya - The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Adding & Subtracting. My gang now thinks they're extra special because we've gotten to try it before it's even available to the general public.

Included are two decks of cards, a number line, and a comb bound instruction book


Included in the game set are two decks of cards, a number line, and a comb bound instruction book, the School and Homeschool Teacher/Parent Guidebook. While you can play a quick "pick up" game in about ten minutes once you know how reading the entire instruction book takes time and focus. If you're used to scanning instructions that come with a game and diving in, you're going to feel overwhelmed with this twenty-five-page instruction book. When I first looked at it, it was too much, and I put it aside until I had time to sit and pay attention. However, if you approach it from the perspective of a "teaching manual" rather than "game instructions," and focus on one variant of play at a time, it is less intimidating. If you focus on one game at a time, it becomes simpler. However, so many options help keep boredom and "I'm tired of playing that..." at bay. Once you know a couple of variations, the cards are small enough to rubber band into their decks, corral in a zip-top bag, and pop in Mom's purse for playing in waiting rooms.

the cards allow for many different learning styles and variations

The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Adding & Subtracting is intended for ages seven and up. However, Damien (age five) can add and subtract, so he had little difficulty playing the basic "make math facts" variant. If I were giving this as a present and I was unsure what math skills a child had already learned, I would wait until the middle or end of first grade. (Yes, I'm the kind of parent that gives the sneaky learning gifts.) However, if I knew that the child had already learned basic math facts, I would consider giving it earlier. While younger students can "team up" with older ones and work in groups (especially useful for some of the game variations), I think it would be incredibly frustrating if a child didn't know how to do ANY of the required skills.

The one game twist we have not incorporated is "Calling Sunya!" Pronounced, "Soon-ya," it means empty. The first person to use all of their hand declares, "Sunya!" and draws from the math and science deck to stump the other players. Most cards are cute riddles that check to see how closely the others pay attention, but some require prior knowledge or a quick Google. Usually, it's Jude, Damien, and I playing games, and they either don't get the jokes or haven't learned the answers.



I think the little boys enjoyed the game, but the big ones had to be my guinea pigs as I tried to figure out the rules before playing with the younger ones. We probably will continue to play the variants we know while at appointments because the cards are easy to carry around, but it's not likely to become a "play for fun" game.

In addition to the game we received (pun intended!),  some Crew Members received Sunya -- The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science, Multiplying & Dividing, ages 9+.  You can read reviews of both games by clicking the Crew banner below.


Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}




©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Field of Dreams

America's Game: The Negro Leagues

Baseball was originally played by men in rival athletic clubs for recreation, and in 1864, immediately after the Civil War’s resolution, baseball’s popularity increased dramatically.  At this early time, it was still an amateur sport that attracted all races.  Reflective of society at large, there were both single-race as well as integrated teams.  However, on December 11, 1868, a casualty of the formation of the National Association of Baseball Players was a silent "gentleman’s agreement" barring black players.

In the early years of the 20th century, there were two attempts to establish leagues for black teams.  The first was in 1906 when the International League of Independent Baseball Clubs was formed in the Philadelphia area. This league was an integrative league, as it was initially composed of one white American, two Cuban, and two African American teams. The championship game pitted two black teams against each other and attracted 10,000 fans to Columbia Park, then the home of the Philadelphia Athletics. The league was planned to continue with a 1907 season, but it never happened. Four years later, there was an attempt to start an independent black major league with teams across the country; unfortunately, the league died before any sanctioned games were played.

The 1887-88 Cuban Giants
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The first nationally-known black professional baseball team was founded in 1885 when three clubs, the Keystone Athletics of Philadelphia, the Orions of Philadelphia, and the Manhattans of Washington, D.C., allied to form the Cuban Giants. The newly-formed black teams played as independent but allied ball clubs until the organization of the first black league in 1920.  That same year, Rube Foster, now known as the father of black baseball, founded the Negro National League.  In 1923, Ed Bolden formed the Eastern Colored League.  These two leagues thrived in the beginning years, but eventually declined because of financial difficulties.  In 1933, a new Negro National League was formed, and the Negro American League was chartered in 1937.  These two leagues, bankrolled by black businessmen, prospered until the color line was broken by Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson made history in 1947 when he broke baseball’s color barrier to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. A talented player, Robinson began his professional career in the Negro League before being selected by Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ president, to help end segregated Major League Baseball. With the number 42 embroidered on his jersey, Robinson won the National League Rookie of the Year award his first season and helped the Dodgers to the National League Championship – the first of Robinson’s six trips to the World Series.  In 1949, Robinson won the league MVP award, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Jackie Robinson in his 1950 Brooklyn Dodgers Uniform,
By United States Information Agency
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Despite his skill, Robinson faced a barrage of insults and threats because of his race. The courage and grace with which Robinson handled the abuses inspired a generation of African Americans to question the doctrine of “separate but equal” and helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement. On April 15, 1997, his jersey number was retired throughout all of Major League, an unprecedented and still unrepeated tribute to the man who returned his race to the mainstream games.

Hank Aaron, 1960 Milwaukee Braves
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
While Jackie Robinson became the man who broke the color barrier, and essential the “first strike” against segregated baseball, the Negro Leagues did not immediately strike out when Robinson took the plate.  Dwindling finances as more players opted for the integrated MLB was strike two; the NNL disbanded in 1948 while the NAL lasted until 1960 before shuttering. A few teams of the Negro League teams continued independently beyond this, though. The last team to play was the Indianapolis Clowns, who mixed comedy with baseball. The Clowns were the lineal descendants of the Ethiopian Clowns of the 1940s, who had outraged many fans by wearing grass skirts and painting their bodies in a cartoonish version of cannibals. But the latter-day Clowns played serious baseball until the team’s end in 1973; home run king Hank Aaron made his professional debut with them in 1952.  The folding of the team was the last strike against segregated baseball, ending the era of the Negro League's games.

Just a few years after they learned to play baseball while fighting alongside white soldiers in the Civil War, blacks became quietly forbidden from Major League Baseball.   In the Jim Crow era, the formation of the Cuban Giants association, followed by the Negro National and Negro American Leagues, gave black players a chance to make their big league dreams come true.  The Leagues were especially successful during World War II and in the years after when black urbanites, flush with cash from well-paid defense jobs, crowded into stadiums across the nation to see players like Hank Aaron play.  After Jackie Robinson had broken into the “white league”, some proposals were floated to bring the Negro leagues into "organized baseball" as developmental leagues for black players, but that was recognized as contrary to the goal of full integration.  Negro Baseball Leagues provided African Americans their own “field of dreams,” while Jackie Robinson and his cohorts proved that baseball wasn’t a white man’s sport, but America’s game.



Cover Image credit:  David King, [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons






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©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Science Shepherd: Introductory Science (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Since the younger boys are "only" just finishing kindergarten and third grade, science is an "extra" sort of class. In a perfect world, we would study it daily, because I do think it's as important as reading and math. However, in the real world, we seem to spend so much time on those other things that science gets pushed to the side. One good thing about being chosen to review Introductory Science from Science Shepherd is that science now got shifted from the "if we have time" list to "priority." The program's recommended ages are ages 6 through 11 (approximately first through sixth grades), making it appropriate for both boys. The program combines short videos with two levels of workbooks to create an integrated course of study. Level A is for younger students (ages 6 to 8, or up to about third grade), while Level B is for the older ones. For our review, we received the "Level B" program for Jude: twelve-month access to the program videos plus a Level B Workbook. In addition to the products received for review purposes, I purchased a Level A workbook for Damien so the boys could work together.

Review of Science Shepherd Introductory Science


The core of this creation-based program is short videos, which are mostly presented in a lecture format. Jude remarked that the presenter "looked like the people on the news in the morning" -- a single person seated at an anchor desk, with video/slides behind or next to him, presents the material. Five "lecture style" videos of three minutes or less, with a hands-on activity demonstration interspersed, comprise each week's instruction. The daily lesson plan is for the student to watch the daily video, then complete the corresponding workbook page. Jude's Level B notebook had about five questions per page, and they took him about two or three minutes to complete.



 Usually, I find programs too much for Jude, but this one was too easy! He has made incredible strides this year in catching his expressive language skills up to appropriate levels and is very close to fourth grade. When I chose Level B for him, I thought that it might be a challenge since it was for ages 9 to 11, approximately grades 4 to 6. I thought if it was too challenging, he could always look at Damien's book for a few days until I could get another Level A (the books are single-student consumable), and we'd just save the Level B for later. I wasn't overly concerned at first when it was easy for him; I just thought maybe he had made more progress this year than we initially estimated.

Damien, using Level A, never took more than one minute to (correctly) complete his page. (He was so fast I timed him!)


On a whim, one day I worked with him while Jude did another subject. I wanted Damien to have an opportunity to try answering the questions in Jude's book; by working separately, Damien was able to respond orally to the questions without his brother's input/answers. To my surprise, he answered all of them easily! Twice more we worked on our own, and he easily answered the study questions. I'm glad I opted for the upper-level book for Jude; after looking at the "easier" level, it would have been a complete waste of time. I almost wish that I had bought a second Level B for Damien!

Science Shepherd's motto is "Homeschool Science Curriculum with Simplicity, Excellence, and Biblical Perspective." There is simplicity here; in fact, I think it was almost *too* simple. With an almost-6-year-old and a third grader, short videos seemed ideal. None is longer than five minutes, and most that we viewed were under three. The videos were very low key, and the boys complained they were boring. I have to agree with them. I don't think every school program needs to be a Broadway showstopper, but we all thought these were too flat and monotonous.

Review of Science Shepherd Introductory Science - use with multiple levels at one time


Combined with the minute or two it took to fill out the workbook pages, the day's lesson took about eight minutes, from setting up the laptop to finish. The boys started to fight doing science because by the time we had everything out and organized, it was time to put it all away. We began doing a week's worth of science lessons in a single day because it only took about 30 minutes. On one hand, it was nice to crank out a week's worth of science after lunch on Tuesdays, and thirty minutes a week for science seems reasonable for Damien's age, but I don't feel it's enough for Jude.

As excited as I was about having a reason to prioritize science, I don't think this is the right program for us. I thought a split-level program would be ideal for us, but if my not-yet-first-grader can easily complete the "upper level" questions, it's not enough for my older child. Having used Science Shepherd's high school biology program (you can read Crew Reviews of that program, as well as the Introductory Level program, by clicking the banner below), I had hoped that this would be a good fit for the younger boys. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for us.

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Science Shepherd Review



©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

America's Game: A League of Their Own





America's Game A League of Their Own

From its first pitches, professional baseball was considered a “gentleman’s sport,” played almost exclusively by men.  However, with America’s entry into WWII, the major league teams were running out of male players.  Half the players in the majors were in military uniform, the farm system that groomed new players was decimated, and there was talk that the 1943 season would have to be cancelled. Who would watch professional baseball without Joe DiMaggio in Yankee pinstripes? Not eager to lose their revenue stream, major league managers turned to a new potential pool of players: the women on the homefront. From 1943 to 1954, America’s pastime was a game played in skirts.

Women had, of course, played ball before the 1940’s, but not with any professional clubs. In 1942, Philip Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, looked at the future of professional baseball and found it bleak.  He finally had a brilliant idea: start an All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to fill in the gaps.   Teams were to consist of fifteen players, a player manager (coach), a business manager, and a female chaperone.  Wrigley recruited notable men for managers, believing that they would create a bridge between the die-hard male fans and those interested in the novelty of women players. Johnny Gottselig, former National Hockey League coach; Bert Niehoff, former Major League player and minor league manager; Josh Billings, former Major League player; and Eddie Stumpf, former Milwaukee Brewers catcher were hired to lead teams.  1943 would be the inaugural season, and scouts searched the country for potential players.

Philip K. Wrigley
By Chicago Daily News, Inc [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
On May 17, 1943, lady ballplayers as young as 15 years old streamed from Chicago’s Belmont Hotel to assemble at Wrigley Field for the one-day tryout. League officials systematically scrutinized each candidate, testing their skill in field positions, catching and throwing, running and sliding, and importantly, hitting prowess.   At the end of the day, no one wanted to answer the phone for fear of being told the answer was, “Thanks for coming, maybe next year.” The 60 women who survived the grueling tryout were signed to contracts for salaries ranging from $45 to $85 a week.

In order to prove they were “Beauties on the Diamond”, not uncouth young girls, standards and rules of conduct were imposed by the League. A strong yet delicate feminine appearance was a high priority. Wrigley negotiated with Helena Rubenstein's Beauty Salon to meet with the players at spring training. After a full day of baseball practice, the young ladies were required to attend Rubenstein's evening charm and beauty classes. The proper etiquette and dress for every situation imaginable was taught. The players were required to wear short skirts during play to show off athletic bodies.  Lipstick at all times was mandatory,  and trousers and short hair were forbidden.  They could not smoke or drink alcohol in public.  Fines for not following the league's rules of conduct were five dollars for the first offense, ten for the second, and suspension for the third.

1945 Rockford Peaches
Photo Credit: Social Studies for Kids 


During their initial seasons, the teams played almost a hybrid of baseball and softball. Certain regulations like the ball’s 12-inch circumference, the underhand windmill pitching, and the distance between the mound and home plate resembled those of softball. However, regulations such as a nine-man team and the use of an actual pitcher's mound in the first place resembled that of baseball.  However, as time progressed, this hybrid play slowly diluted. By 1948, the ball’s circumference had been shrunken to just over 10 inches (slightly larger than a standard baseball’s 9 inches), the option of overhand pitching was permitted, and the pitcher’s mound was moved from 40 feet to 60 feet away from home plate.

Though the teams brought excitement and a much needed distraction to a country reeling from the stresses of war, many still believed that women had no place playing baseball. In 1944, when it became clear that the war would not lead major league teams to disband, Wrigley lost interest in the women’s league and sold it. Less emphasis was placed on appearance, and charm school classes ended in 1945, and the league enjoyed continued success for several years.

At its peak in 1948, the AAGPBL fielded ten teams in midwestern towns, and the ladies drew crowds of nearly 1 million.  The most notable teams were:


  • Rockford (Illinois) Peaches
  • Racine (Wisconsin) Belles
  • Grand Rapids (Michigan) Chicks
  • Fort Wayne (Indiana) Daisies

However, now that the war was over, and the male athletes time in the service was complete, the men returned to their own diamonds.  Fans returned to their pre-war attendance patterns, causing attendance at the women’s games to dwindle.  However, the post-war league produced several outstanding players,  including first baseman Dorothy Kamenshek, second baseman Sophie Kurys, and pitcher Jean Faut. However, televised major league (men’s)  baseball and slightly condescending promotion of AAGPBL games led to the league’s demise in 1954.

Sophie Kurys
Photo Credit: mlive.com

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is just one more way that women contributed to the war effort in the early 1940s. Some women took jobs in factories, but these women took the job as keepers of the National Pastime.  During the league’s twelve-year existence, more than 600 women athletes earned the title “Professional Baseball Player.”





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©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Institute for Excellence in Writing: Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

When we began homeschooling, I had zero ideas about what homeschooling "style" we were.  "Whatever works," was what I'd say if someone asked me which theory best described us.   We're now in our fifth year of homeschooling, and while I would say we could be categorized as "extremely eclectic," we are finding that a classical, memorization approach to some subjects has been successful for us.  Knowing this, I was eager to try out Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Our review package included a Teachers Manual, five audio CDs with five levels of poems and speeches, and a DVD recording of Andrew Pudewa's presentation, Nurturing Competent Communicators, and a .pdf file containing the Student Book.   It also included download codes for six additional audio MP3s (an audio version of Nurturing Competent Communicators is also included).  The student book is also available separately as a pre-printed spiral-bound book, which we also received.




The centerpiece of Institute for Excellence in Writing's curriculum is a core writing program for students and additional, supplemental activities.  One of our favorite add-ons is their Fix It! Writing program.  Luke and Matthew worked on it when we reviewed the program a few years ago, and because of their success, I then used it for Celia (to give her some extra assistance in grammar and writing) and Jude.  While it's not necessarily a purely classical model, Jude's appreciation of the repetitive nature led us to use some other similar programs, including one that uses poetry as a base for learning spelling words and rules. Through the year of using it, Jude's confidence has bloomed; he gets excited when he can say "I remember this," and takes great pride in being able to remember passages without having to wait for me to dictate them.  I looked forward to trying this program that used more adult poetry for source material rather than his other program's "nursery rhymes."

Before beginning the core program, I viewed Nurturing Competent Communicators.  In this presentation, Andrew Pudewa explains the mastery system, how it was used throughout history as a primary way of teaching/learning, and why memorizing poetry can positively impact a student's vocabulary and writing.  Here, he and I agree, but then our opinions diverge.  Mr. Pudewa discusses a long-held belief: if students are well-read, they will also be able to write well.  He makes the argument that many of the books children are exposed to should not be considered a source of language that is "reliably correct and sophisticated."  One one hand, he may have a point, but I would say that any book a child reads is better than one that sits on a shelf.  Having a child who struggled for so long to crack the visual and auditory codes of reading and speech, and even still often fights to comprehend them, I would argue that even a "lesser" book that interests the child and encourages a love of language is priceless.  I agree with the idea that we should read good literature aloud to and with our children, but I think that "good" is in the opinion of the reader.  I would rather Jude choose to read and be engaged with a book about superheroes rather than "check out" when being read a classic, as he did when we read Tales from Beatrix Potter.  (Maybe this is why we do not subscribe to a single educational theory?)

I tried not to let this bit of ruffled feathers affect me when Jude and I began studying. I went with the idea that we were just going to learn these great poems "for fun."  Apparently, my idea of fun and Jude's idea do not agree.

All students (regardless of grade) begin at Level One, and progress at individual paces; once they memorize a poem, it's time to start the next. I thought the Level One poems, with rhymes like "Ooey Gooey" and "Celery, stewed, is more easily chewed," were cute, straightforward, and simple to memorize.  Jude, however, though the opposite.  To him, they were random things to learn.  The student book included the words for him to follow along with (definitely appreciated when auditory processing is not a strength), but there was no lesson to connect with - no copy work, no phonemic chunking, no supporting lesson.  I imagine that the poems could be worked into other lessons/unit studies, but they didn't align with anything we were currently doing.  For him, it was like stepping blindfolded into a room and being expected to remember everyone's names.

He also struggled with enjoying the words.  The first time we went over the poems, they were "sort of" fun.  After that, they were like his speech homework, and he fought working on them (he'd rather lose a privilege for not doing his work than fail at a task).  I'd like to say that repetition at least helped his speech, but it only left him in tears. After much negotiation, we agreed that he would work on making it through the entire poem twice, and be done.  He succeeded in matching the cadence of the recordings, but not the articulation; he just couldn't get his mouth and tongue around the sounds.  Without being able to get the words clearly, he couldn't remember the poems from day to day.  Clearly, this was not a flaw with the program, but it does make want to warn others that if your child struggles with articulation, these may be frustrating for him.

In addition to four levels of poetry, there is a fifth level of (excerpts from) notable speeches.  They are chosen from different eras but serve as examples of great orations.  Among the pieces are the classic Greek Socrates' Apology by Plato,  Lincoln's inspiring Gettysburg Address, and Churchill's rallying We Shall Fight on the Beaches.  It also attributes the Brandenburg Gate Speech to President Ronald Reagan.  While it is the image of Regan standing in Germany, uttering the demand, "Tear down this wall!" that I clearly recall from my childhood, I wish that credit had been given to Reagan's speechwriter, Peter Robinson, for penning the iconic speech.

I know Jude is capable of memorizing because I've seen him do it in multiple situations.  However, Jude's particular set of disabilities made this program nearly impossible for him.  I think that the idea this program is a good one, and the selections that have been chosen are fantastic.  The bylines read like a "Who's Who" of poetry: William Shakespeare, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson are among the notable authors; it even includes one of my favorite poems, Lewis Caroll's Jabberwocky.   I still think I love the classical ideas of this program, but I've decided we're definitely not purists. This is a substantial exposure to poetry, and I am inclined to use it next year as a spine (not stand-alone) for Matthew's literature course.

For more about this and other IEW programs, follow them on social media or click the banner below. To read our previous reviews, click the titles:

Fix It! Grammar
IEW Resource Trio


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Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review



©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Monday, May 16, 2016

Blogging through The Alphabet - The Winner!

A very special thank you to everyone that joined us on our Blogging Through the Alphabet journey. I'm still catching up a bit on reading through all the entries -- some of my weeks turned out to be far crazier than I ever expected.

I really do appreciate all of you that blogged and commented over the past seven months. Whether you joined us once, twice, or twenty-something times, I'm thankful for you.



Without further ado, I'd like to recognize the bloggers that linked up for all twenty-six weeks:

Carter Chaos

A Learning Journey

Lynn's LIFE

Homeschool Coffee Break

Mom's Heart

Living the Dream

Joyful Hearts and Faces

My Full Heart

Unexpected Homeschool

Meg used a random number generator which picked #2 to win our special prize -- A Learning Journey! We'll be sending you a $26 gift card to your choice of Starbucks or Amazon.

Cristi and I have decided to end our hosting here.  She's running out of stories, and I am out of ideas that I love enough to commit to another round of the alphabet.   Once again, thank you all for joining us.


©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Zeezok Music Appreciation (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Music Appreciation for Elementary Students


Celia is passionate about music.  She began violin lessons at age seven after a successful lobby to both her school's principal and her parents.  Five years later, she's added piano lessons, dabbles in guitar, is giving serious consideration to a conservatory-style program for high school.   This child lives and breathes music!  I had a feeling that she was going to love Zeezok Publishing LLC's Music Appreciation Book 1: for Elementary Ages.  It's nice to know that sometimes, even with a "tween," Mama was right.  It was like Christmas when the box arrived!


The Music Appreciation Book 1 Collection consists of a student Activity Book, music CDs, a printable lapbook, and composer biography texts. Seven Baroque and Classical era composers are included in this music curriculum:  Bach, Handel, Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, and Schubert. Units are divided by composer, with four weeks allotted to each.  Zeezok has composed this program to meet national Music Appreciation standards for kindergarten through sixth grade.   Each composer is a self-contained unit, so you can begin anywhere in the program, not just at the start. However, Celia eagerly started at the beginning with Bach.



The Student Activity Book is the "tour guide" of the program.  It begins by breaking the lessons down into a manageable syllabus.  Activities for each week are outlined, with about seven to ten activities for each week.  Activities that are "required" to meet the national standards are marked, making it easy to scale the program from a "highlights to fulfill a state requirement" to an "in-depth unit study."  A sixth grader and fairly strong reader, Celia found that she could complete a "week" in just about two hours.

The first lesson each week is to read the accompanying composer biography, and then complete the activities in the workbook.  It contains comprehension questions and supplemental activities, ranging from music-focused instrument identification and music theory to cross-curricular activities. When appropriate, the activities are leveled for different age ranges: manuscript vs. cursive copy work, drawing a picture vs. writing a paragraph, etc.

Workbook divided by grade level

Note: it ALSO contains the answer keys at the end of each unit.  I have mixed feelings about having it in the middle of the student book.

Being a music student, Celia is familiar with several of Bach's compositions.  I loved that the biographies included playable passages of selected pieces.   After discussing one of Bach's minuets, the text asked, "Can you play this?" and showed the notation for the piece.  After quickly scanning it, Celia laughed out loud and said, "Actually...Yes!"


A more in-depth comparison and she realized it was her recital piece from last spring!


However, if your student is not a musician, it won't stop her from learning.  The musical compositions presented in the biographies are recorded onto the included ten CD set.  Music is such a multi-sensory experience. I think it's very smart to have the sheet music to follow along with listening.  Zeezok wants the program to be a multi-sensory experience, and this helps.  Sure, hearing a piece is one sense, and reading the biographies uses sight, but I believe that to be fully appreciated, music needs to be experienced using multiple senses simultaneously.  (I think that this is a reason that symphony concerts are often considered "boring" -- just listening doesn't provide enough sensory input for many people.)  Even if a student can't read individual notes, following along with the written composition can see when the music goes up in pitch or changes fervor, and the visual and tactile experience enhances the auditory portion.

Finally, there is an accompanying lapbook that coordinates with the textbook activities.  Celia enjoys the creativity of most lapbooks, but she was not as excited about this one as I thought she would be.  She enjoyed assembling the folders, and even broke out her "good" music note duct tape!

accompanying lapbook assembly

For the first activity, she got to work "compose music" on a staff, but then was disappointed that the rest of the activities, as she put it, seemed very "Glue tab A into slot B." The color PDF-sourced printouts were beautiful, but she would have preferred the ability to decorate/color the covers. She also thinks it would have been nice to have a way for her to write definitions, rather than just gluing pre-printed ones to booklets and then gluing the booklet to the folder.  She thought that pre-printed made sense for younger kids, but this sixth grader seemed almost insulted that she wasn't getting the opportunity to do them herself.  She thought there were great things to learn from the content, but the assembly part was boring for her.

Lapbook complete

Celia couldn't wait to share what she learned with her music teachers! She is excited to be working on the unit about Handel because one of her current repertoire pieces is from his oratorio, "Judas Maccabeus." She feels like she has learned a lot about Bach, which has helped her interpret the minuets and musette that she has been performing.  She hopes learning about Handel will help her with this piece as well.

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Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}






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