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MusIQ Homeschool–My Review

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One thing I’ve never shared on any of my blogs is that I’m a Classically trained pianist. For seven years I took lessons from a sweet, soft spoken lady who met her husband at the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music. In the small town I lived, the Walters’s raised up at least a couple generations of cultured pianist. Training from them was highly regarded. When people found out you took lessons from them, you were expected to know something.

I haven’t really thought about those lessons for years until I received a request to review a music program from Adventus, a company that specializes in computer software designed to teach piano and music appreciation. The curriculum I received is MusIQ Homeschool. This included lesson plans for both an early learning program and a multi-level learning program.

MusIQ Homeschool is actually two separate programs. Children’s Music Journey is geared for younger students, ages 4-10, and is designed to be a 3 year program. Piano Suite is better suited for students aged 10 and over and covers 2 years, or your student can progress from Children’s Music Journey to Piano Suite. There are several purchase options for both programs, you can purchase a complete bundles, quick start sets, 1 year at a time, or a monthly subscription for $10.95. Looking at overall cost of this program, your child can take a 30-minute piano lesson for around $5–that’s a $1 less than my parents paid 30 years ago. I challenge you to find a quality piano lesson for that cost anywhere now.

As I stated above this program Adventus created isn’t just a way to teach kids how to play the piano. There is also an extensive study of the various periods of music, types of music, and composers. Beethoven and Scott Joplin and the two that come to mind right now.

Knowing my way around the piano, I wasn’t a bit intimidated to sit down and jump right in. For you parents who are not musically literate, or tone-deaf for that matter, you won’t have any problem managing this program. The MusIQ Homeschool lesson plans are laid out in outline form, and there is very little prep work. All you need to do is follow the plans. This program pretty much teaches itself. You are there for guidance. For younger students using Children’s Music Journey, you’ll need to read the lesson plans to them, but if you children are older and using Piano Suite, you can pretty much leave them on their own to do the lessons. Students are expected to practice around 30 minutes a day–typical expectations for any piano student. The MusIQ Homeschool lesson plans also include evaluation sheets that are self-explanatory, so you can tell if your student is progressing. As I said before, if your not musically inclined, don’t be intimidated. These are simple evaluations and you’ll be able to fill out the progress forms.

Even though Buttercup is older, I started her off in the Children’s Music Journey. I wanted her to have a firm foundation before tackling Piano Suite. She’s rapidly progressing through the animated lessons, and they are a bit babyish for her, but she’s having fun. She enjoys the simple games. I just let her work on the lessons until she’s ready to stop for the day. I will say that Buttercup could have handled the age appropriate Piano Suite. Generally, I have to remediate her lessons, but in this case it wasn’t necessary. So I do recommend following those guidelines and lesson plans closely to keep the student stimulated.

The only downside I’ve found with this program is setting it up. Be prepared to take an hour or so to get all of the software and manuals loaded and ready to go. Another problem I’ve encountered is with Windows 7. The cursor tends to lag and not move as it should. Buttercup becomes frustrated waiting for the mouse to catch up with the program. This could be just my computer because every system works differently.

This has been an extremely fun program. When your kids put their hands on this, they aren’t going to want to do any other school work. They will be begging for MusIQ Homeschool first thing in the morning. I can understand why, it’s definitely a program you can get lost in. I intend to continue to use this program and incorporate this into Buttercup’s curriculum plan for next year.

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The Art of Poetry–My Review

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One of my goals since I started homeschooling Buttercup was to expose her to many of the classical elements that she wouldn’t otherwise experience in a public school setting. Poetry is one of these elements. So when I received The Art of Poetry by Classical Academic Press, I  was ready to dive right in.

I received The Art of Poetry Bundle. This includes a Teacher’s Edition and a Student Book, and a DVD Set (I only received disc 1 of the set). Generally I would give you the current list price, but since there will be a permanent price decrease April 1, I’ll give you those prices. The Bundle price will drop to $99.95, and the DVD Set will be priced at $69.95.

The book is divided into Three basic sections: elements, history, and application. Elements is the basic section. It teaches the different techniques used and needed in writing a proper poem. These include image, metaphor, symbols, words, sounds, rhythm, shape and tone. The history section is a more in depth study of poems and their meaning with a special look at Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. In the application section, the student is taught an appreciation of poetry, how to best write, enjoy and share poetry.

And I can’t say enough about the author, Christine Perrin. You can tell she’s genuinely excited about the subject of poetry, and wants to share her knowledge. She teaches the lessons on the DVD Set, which can be used as either a supplement, or as stand alone video lessons. Each lesson is a recording of Ms. Perrin teaching a group of middle school students, where she and then gives a list of activities at the end of each lesson/chapter. The same activities are found in the Teacher’s Edition and Student Book.  She even has a blog where more information and tips can be located. 

This course can be implemented in so many ways. In fact, customization is limitless. The book gives suggestions for a  one-year program, a semester program, a four year poetry appreciation course, and how to incorporate into a co-op setting. Of course, I didn’t, and won’t, use any of these programs. Buttercup and I enjoy discussion. That way I can make sure she has a firm grasp on concepts. Even with her auditory processing problem, she does quite well taking in information with her ears. One of us read the poem, and then we discussed the questions in the Teacher’s Edition. I briefly went over the commentary given by the author on the current topic. With Buttercup, I have to move slowly so she won’t be overwhelmed. Getting into the deep meaning of symbolism is like talking to a fence post that only speaks Aramaic–you end up with a blank stare. She also can’t handle too much time on one topic because she becomes frustrated and burnt out. What’s really great with this program is I can hit the high points, read the poems, and move on. Poems she’s interested in, I can focus on a little longer. Otherwise, once the book is complete, we can start over and dig a bit deeper with each go around–skipping the topics she has a firm grasp on. Another thing we skipped was the DVD. The lesson had too much information for Buttercup. A normal or advanced middle schooler wouldn’t have a problem with these, but I don’t recommend them for remedial students unless done in small doses. I may it again with her in a smaller segment,  just the introduction parts of each chapter for now and progress to the class portions later on.

Another way I’m using this book is with our history program. Currently we’re in the Reformation time period. As we come across particular individuals, such as Anne Askew and Sir Walter Raleigh, I’m pulling their works from this book. Also it’s given me more fodder to explain this time period.

This is one of the best poetry anthologies geared for middle/high school I’ve seen. Even if all you can afford to purchase is the Teacher’s Edition, you’ll be doing your students a great service. Discussing poetry can give even your most callous and pessimistic child a different view of the world and help them express themselves in new and positive ways.

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