August 28, 2013

Rock N Learn Phonics Review

Phonics DVD Volume 1 & Phonics DVD Volume 2

I am an avid reader, and I can't wait to pass on a love of reading to my own children. I know that learning how to read on their own will open up a whole new world to them. That being said, I'm not a reading teacher. I'm not an expert on phonics and I can't remember all of the rules when it comes to things like silent e, long/short vowel sounds, or blends. 

The Phonics DVDs from Rock N Learn contain over an hour of educational content put to music and animation. They cover all of the essential information when it comes to phonics (all of things I knew at one time and have simply forgotten). 

To be honest, some of the songs/animation were rather cheesy. It reminded me a lot of 80s pop/rock music and the animation is computer generated. It was a little over the top for me, but my boys absolutely loved it. They kept asking to watch it over and over again. 

My sister is a kindergarten teacher and I had her watch these videos with me to give her opinion on whether or not they would be helpful. She said that from a teacher's perspective that they did a good job of covering the material. 

My only other criticism is that there is no menu option on the title screen that allows you to select a particular segment to watch. I think that would make it more helpful for use in a classroom setting (as opposed to having to fast forward, or jump ahead several times to get to the section you wanted to go over). 

These videos are targeted for children age 6 and up, but my four-year-old really enjoys watching them, and I feel like they'll give him a head start on learning how to read. Yes, the animation and songs can be a little cheesy, but it's educationally sound and my children really enjoyed watching them and singing along. 

These DVDs are currently available on Educents for 50% off (through Sept 4, 2013). They also include downloadable phonics workbooks that include activities that supplement what they've learned in the videos. 

Phonics Volume 1:
Covers short vowels, consonants, blends, digraphs, word families, silent e, phonemic awareness activities, read-along sentences, read-along stories, and sing-along songs. Ages 6 & up. Approx. 70 minutes

Phonics Volume 2: 
Covers long vowels, vowel combinations, syllables, ending sounds, silent consonants, rule breakers, read-along sentences, read-along stories, and sing-along stories. 
Ages 6 & up. Approx. 78 minutes

*I received a copy of these DVDs to review. The opinions expressed are my honest thoughts of the product. This post also contains an Educents affiliate link that helps financially support this blog (but it won't cost you a penny)." 

***UPDATE (8/29)** 
I have learned that there is a way to access a menu of the individual lessons by chapter on the DVD. Just click the menu button from the remote or right click on the control panel if viewing it from a computer.  It will take you to a screen that looks like this: 


August 19, 2013

A Tale of Two Sarahs: A lesson in poverty

The heat radiated from the open flame. Within a minute, sweat started appearing on my back, causing my shirt to cling to my body. The already warm and humid air combined with the heat from the fire created a sweltering environment. The tin roof and tin walls seemed to amplify the heat emanating from the cook fire. It felt like I was cooking inside of an oven. Small scraps of trash and paper, a few broken egg shells, and a few pieces of wood provided the fuel for the fire.

 I kept stirring, scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure that the majal didn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. If the majal was burned, it couldn't be sold in the market. If it couldn't be sold in the market, then the family would have no money to eat.

A warm cup of majal, made from water, powdered milk, rice flour, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon
Each day Blanca prepares the majal at her home in the morning and then transports it to the market which is a bus ride away. It's served warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon. With her profits she buys the ingredients she needs for the next day's batch and feeds her family with the remainder.

Blanca lives in a small tin house with her three children. She is also eight months pregnant. The father of Sara and her two older brothers abandoned the family and now leaves her to provide for her soon-to-be family of four on her own. 

When I asked her how we could pray for her family, she said "Pray that we will always be together." When I asked what her dreams were for her children, she said she hoped that one day her children could live in a nicer home, where they could each have a space of their own. For now they live in a home with tin walls, a tin roof, and dirt floors. Sara shares a bed with her mother and her two older brothers sleep on the other side of the room. 

When you live in the midst of poverty, it's hard to dream of a future and a hope. When poverty is all you've ever known, it's easy to assume that that's all you'll ever experience. Thanks to the work of Compassion in Sara's hometown in El Salvador, there is hope that the cycle of poverty will be broken.

Sara has a sponsor through the Child Development Sponsorship Program of Compassion. Thanks to the generosity of a person she's never met on the other side of the globe, Sara has the opportunity to receive encouragement and opportunities to change her family's future. At her local child development center, Sara receives educational tutoring, regular medical check-ups, nutritional assistance, life-skills training, and most importantly, the opportunity to know about the love of Jesus Christ.

 When I think about Sara, I realize how very different our childhoods were. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. Sara lives at the back of a car junkyard. I shared a room with my little sister. Sara shares a room with her entire family. I never had to worry about whether there would be food on the table when I came home from school. Sara has gone without.

I moaned about having to do menial chores like making my bed or cleaning the abundance of toys off the floor. Sara washes the family's dishes by hand using a barrel of water and a plastic basin.

Her playground consisted of twisted metal and rusted out cars. Pigs, chickens, dogs, and a cow wandered their way among the abandoned vehicles. My playground was safe and secure in my own fenced in back yard.

It's easy to look back on my own childhood and think, "Why was I blessed and Sara wasn't?" The answer is simple. I was blessed in order to be a blessing to others.

I'm not wealthy by American standards, but I have enough. In fact, I have more than enough. If my $38 can literally change the life of not just a child, but an entire family, it's a choice I'm willing to make. To me, it's a much better investment than a new pair of jeans. It's something with the potential to make an eternal difference.

I've met these kids in person. I've shared a meal with the Compassion workers and leaders in various communities around El Salvador. I've seen their passion and their love. I've seen the sacrifices they make of their time and their energy to redeem their communities and the children that live there. Child sponsorship does make a difference. You, from your living room, can be a powerful force to change someone's world.

Budgets are tight. I totally, absolutely get that. We're right there with you. Wanna know what you can do? Pray. Seriously. Pray for these children and their families. Pray for the pastors and leaders. Pray for their safety and their welfare. Pray that their work will be effective in the lives of the children. Pray that children can be released from heartache of poverty and can then in turn, be used to make a difference where they live.

There is something you can do.

You can make a difference.

You can change the world. 

One child at a time.