Learning to Type with an Ultrakey Online Family Subscription – Review

Hunt…hunt ….. peck … hunt… peck….

And so it goes.  Watching my kids try to type their special school projects and emails to friends was painful.  They were excited to be using the computer and didn’t mind the slow-as-molasses speed, but, me?  I couldn’t stand it.  That’s why I was jumped at the chance for an Ultrakey Online Family Subscription from Bytes of Learning.  

UltraKey Online Family Edition
After getting our log-in information, I checked out the dashboard, which is the main screen.  From there you can set goals, add students, check progress, and more.

I knew that My Little Man couldn’t type at all, and My Big Helper wasn’t all that much better.  I set their goals relatively low, between 10 and 20 words per minute, and got them ready to go.

UltraKeys

Each kid worked with the program at least twice each week (except for when our modem died and we were without internet for a week).  At first My Little Man loved the idea – until he sat down and tried it.  He was soon frustrated by the posture (“You mean I can’t sit on my feet?”) and tried to make his fingers follow his directions (“It’s hard, Mommy.  I didn’t get it right.”)  After realizing that it was okay to keep practicing a single set of letters and not advance with each practice session, he stopped worrying.  Within a week, he was typing over ten words per minute!  Now he asks after breakfast each morning, “What should I do for school, Mommy?  Math and typing?”

I love that it’s become a part of his regular routine.  He’s comfortable with the program, knows how to use it, and is happy when he gets faster or achieves great accuracy.

My Big Helper’s experience was a bit different.  She was excited all the way through and wanted to become a faster typist.  She has a finger issue which has hindered her accuracy a bit, but she’s doing well and is approaching 20 words per minute.  She’s been quite dedicated and hasn’t wanted to stop practicing a particular lesson until she passes, sometimes working well past the expected time.

To know exactly what they were doing, I set up an account for myself and logged myself in.  I didn’t set a goal since I haven’t been timed while typing since seventh grade, but I jumped right in to the lessons.

There’s a lot of introductory material that’s important for new keyboardists but maybe not too exciting for experienced typers – like videos about proper posture.  These things are great for newbies, though, and I’m glad they’re included.

Bytes of Learning

The lessons are perfectly challenging for my kids: they introduce a few letters at a time and practice different combinations of finger movements.  The idea is to start with simple, basic movements and practice those before layering on more difficult finger patterns.  I like the way that I could see the progression.  It made me feel very accomplished to see the skill levels light up and get crossed off.

 

Bytes of Learning

Each lesson consists of working with a new group of letters starting with home row and moving out.  After practicing those individual letters, you move on to words and phrases.  I liked the variation in each practice session.

Bytes of Learning

After passing a skill check, I moved on to a typing test.  The tests let you choose the topic, paragraph length, and time length before starting.  You can also redo the test if you don’t do well.  I was surprised to see the ‘redo’ button, and so I pushed it.  I got the above message after trying again.  I love the encouraging messages that Ultrakey gives whenever you do well!

Bytes of Learning

After taking a skill check, you can view progress reports.  I love the simplicity of the bar graphs and the color coding of the charts – the teacher in me loves color coding!  

Both of my kids have made great progress in only a few weeks of using Ultrakey by Bytes of Learning.  They enjoy logging in and practicing their keyboarding, and the website is simple enough that they can do it all on their own.  I can applaud their progress when they cheer for themselves and track their progress in the form of charts, graphs, and real numerical data whenever it’s convenient for me.

I love seeing how well they’re doing with their typing, and it’s even better that they love using Ultrakey by Bytes of Learning so very much.  I can’t wait to see how fast they’ll be after a few months!

UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}
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Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – February 21, 2018

Welcome to Encouraging Hearts & Home!

 

The Encouraging Hearts & Home Bloggers

Join your Encouraging Hearts & Home Co-Hosts each week for encouragement and support for your heart & your home. We hope to provide a space that builds each other up and lends a helping hand along the way. With all the negativity in the world, let’s shine a positive light!

Anne at Learning TableLinda at Apron Strings & Other Things

Amy at A Nest in the Rocks

 

The most clicked post from last week’s Blog Hop was:

10 Ways to Have a More Productive Homeschool Day

 

***Each week, our co-hosts will each choose 10 of our favorite links, along with the most clicked link, and pin them to our Encouraging Hearts & Home Pinterest board.

 

Join us each Thursday! Link up your family-friendly blog posts and find encouragement for your heart & home!

How to Link Up

  • Use the form below to share your posts this week, and maybe you’ll discover some new ideas from all the fabulous links!
  • Please share only your family friendly posts with us!
  • Please only link up images that you have the rights to use.
  • By linking up, you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs, we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post.

Other nice things you can do

  • Follow and/or subscribe to your host’s blog.
  • Visit a few other bloggers and show them your support. We all love getting comments, and who knows what inspiration you may find? Be sure to share the love–that’s what a blog hop is all about!
  • If you are interested in co-hosting, contact Anne at anne@mylearningtable.com

 


“Wulf The Saxon” by Heirloom Audio Productions Review

Our family loves to listen to books in the car when we travel – and since we live 45 minutes from our library and just about everything else, we do a lot of listening!  So when we were offered the chance to try out Wulf the Saxon by G.A. Henty, an audio drama by Heirloom Audio Productions,  we were excited – it sounded perfect for us.

Wulf the Saxon
Turns out that we were right.  Listening to the audio drama Wulf completely spoiled us for regular book listening.  The sound effects are amazing!  They add much more than I expected to the story, and the further in we got, the more I found myself looking forward to more cool sounds.  The sound effects and the cast of experienced actors really bring the story alive.  The story takes place over two CDs and is about 2 1/2 hours long – perfect for traveling while listening!

The sound effects aren’t the only plus to the audio drama format.  The voices are done by different actors, not just a single reader who can change up his or her voice.  We’ve listened to myriads of stories over the years, and the best ones are read by readers who can really change up their voices and accents – and the worst sound robotic, with little change for characterization at all.  You won’t find any of that here – the actors have all worked on at least one other major, famous project with a name you’ll recognize.  The level of talent is impressive!  Their voices are easily distinguishable and, with the sound effects, you could close your eyes and think that you’re listening to a movie.

I enjoyed the progression of Wulf’s character.  Without spoiling the plot, he had definitely not reached maturity in the beginning, but over the course of the drama, his selflessness, generosity, and work ethic all improve greatly.  He is a wonderful role model in the end, and there are many actions from which could spring lively family discussions.

There are several villains whose actions are despicable, and they, too would make great conversations, but even better are the actions of the King Harold Godwinson and his love.  Both choose to sacrifice their heart’s desire for the sake of the greater good, and these choices could be greatly debated – and turned into dating and marriage conversations.  As you follow these characters through the rest of the drama, more consequences come into play that will make the earlier decisions even more debateable.  Can you see how hard I’m trying to be clear but not spoil anything should you give this a listen?  And you should – it’s really good – but these characters had me wanting to yell at them in the car, because, really, were they really going to choose that?  I could see it … it made sense …. but, NO!  The personal pain!  The agony!  The sacrifice!  The romance!  I could see using these as a springboard for serious discussions about sacrifice, love, and loyalty.  It would be interesting, as well, to have each person look up scripture relating to each theme as you discuss them.  You could also talk about the differences that the culture of the day made in people’s actions, the changes in political climate, and more.

The story Wulf the Saxon itself is deep and complex.  It’s set in Europe in 1065, and the politics of the day play a pivotal role in the story.  It’s been a few years since we studied this time period, and a few times we had trouble following who was friends with whom and who the enemies were.

I really liked the way that the story began with an explanation of royalty and how the landowner system worked.  I really didn’t know the order of the ranks, and this explanation helped me tremendously.  My Big Helper expressed trouble partway through the story, however, saying that she was still a bit confused about the ranking order.  

Heirloom Audio

That didn’t stop us from being excited about the story.  Every time we re-entered the car, My Little Man would start yelling, “Please, Mommy, can we listen to Wulf?”  He loves that we own the CDs and that he can listen to the story over and over – and I love that he’s listening to a story with such strong, moral characters.

Heirloom Audio Productions
Wulf the Saxon would be an incredible addition to a study of this time period, but it’s wonderful for family discussion and general entertainment, too.  We loved Wulf the SaxonGive Heirloom Audio Productions’ audio dramas a try!

 

Wulf the Saxon {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
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Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – February 14, 2018

Welcome to Encouraging Hearts & Home!

 

The Encouraging Hearts & Home Bloggers

Join your Encouraging Hearts & Home Co-Hosts each week for encouragement and support for your heart & your home. We hope to provide a space that builds each other up and lends a helping hand along the way. With all the negativity in the world, let’s shine a positive light!

Anne at Learning TableLinda at Apron Strings & Other Things

Amy at A Nest in the Rocks

 

The most clicked post from last week’s Blog Hop was:

14 Real Food Soup Recipes To Warm You Up This Winter

***Each week, our co-hosts will each choose 10 of our favorite links, along with the most clicked link, and pin them to our Encouraging Hearts & Home Pinterest board.

 

Join us each Thursday! Link up your family-friendly blog posts and find encouragement for your heart & home!

How to Link Up

  • Use the form below to share your posts this week, and maybe you’ll discover some new ideas from all the fabulous links!
  • Please share only your family friendly posts with us!
  • Please only link up images that you have the rights to use.
  • By linking up, you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs, we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post.

Other nice things you can do

  • Follow and/or subscribe to your host’s blog.
  • Visit a few other bloggers and show them your support. We all love getting comments, and who knows what inspiration you may find? Be sure to share the love–that’s what a blog hop is all about!
  • If you are interested in co-hosting, contact Anne at anne@mylearningtable.com


Book Club with the Boys: “The Way of the Warrior”

Disclosure Pic

I was intrigued when I first saw The Way of the Warrior on the new-book shelf at the library.

I was hesitant when I saw the simple line drawings dotting the page – because I was looking for a middle-school book club pick and wanted something real and fun but meaty.  Worthy of the time I’d put into reading it and planning the event.

I kept going, though, because of the synopsis – a kids’ book written by a former SEAL, to teach you to be tough?

I’m so glad I did.

In this first book of an illustrated middle grade series by a #1 New York Times-bestselling author, Marc learns to become a Warrior Kid after his uncle Jake, a Navy SEAL, comes to stay for the summer.

Fifth grade was the worst year of Marc’s life. He stunk at gym class, math was too hard for him, the school lunch was horrible, and his class field trip was ruined because he couldn’t swim. And the most awful thing about fifth grade? Kenny Williamson, the class bully, who calls himself the King of the Jungle Gym.
When Marc’s mother tells him that his uncle Jake is coming to stay for the whole summer, Marc can’t wait. Uncle Jake is a for-real, super-cool Navy SEAL. And Uncle Jake has a plan.He’s going to turn Marc into a warrior.

Becoming a warrior isn’t easy. It involves a lot of pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, squats, swimming, eating right, and studying harder than ever before! Can Marc transform himself into a warrior before school starts in the fall – and finally stand up to the King of the Jungle Gym?

Find out in Jocko Willink’s Way of the Warrior Kid.

Warrior Kid

I loved this book initially because of the anti-bullying stance that it takes because I’ve seen that issue among the kids I work with, and I hate to see people excluding others.  I love the way that author Willink handles it in Way of the Warrior Kid, and I had high hopes that it could help quell any uncertainty we might have in this group.  It’s great on so many other levels, though, and I knew just the guy who could stand in for Willink:  local martial arts master Earl Fuller.

Mr. Fuller worked with a group of my kids in the past, and he was fantastic.  He was even more impressive this time.

Warrior Kid

Mr. Fuller began by sitting down and talking with the boys about his story.  He shared his testimony, his personal experiences with stuttering and being bullied, and with his reasons for turning to martial arts – as well as the incredible success he found down that path.

He didn’t stop there, though.  I don’t know if Mr. Fuller read the book, but he nailed every theme Willink write into the story: healthy eating, personal discipline, respect for authority, goal setting, etc.  He spoke slowly, kindly, and you could tell he really cared about these boys.

Warrior Kid

Then they got to work.  After doing some basic calisthenics and talking about the importance of being strong and physically fit, he taught them basic self-defense moves.  They were the kind of thing to remember if you’re being mugged or attacked by a bully and can’t get away: the sort of thing that you can use to protect yourself.

He showed them how to put their arms up to protect their heads, and then how to use that position to block blows to the head.  He had them practice blocking – isn’t My Little Man into this in the picture above?

Warrior Kid

Mr. Fuller taught them several other kinds of blocks, get-away moves, or ways to distract an attacker long enough to get away.  They practiced a few holds and getting out of them, as well as hot spots to target if they were able to get a blow in themselves – all not to engage someone in a fight, but to get out of one.

Warrior Kid

After Mr. Fuller left, we picnicked while talking about Way of the Warrior Kid. The group agreed that it was their favorite book pick of the year!

Then we moved on to other aspects of the book.  Inside, Uncle Jake asks Marc to write his own warrior code, and so I asked the kids to split into groups and do the same.  They were excited to do so and listed some really good ideas.

Warrior Kid

Last, we watched a video I found online of a reporter challenging Willink to a grappling match so the kids could see what sort of results discipline could lead to – and then we tried the baseline tests that Uncle Jake gave to Marc at the beginning of the summer.  We timed how many push-ups and sit-ups each kid could do in two minutes.  Then we tried out the other exercises that Marc did daily – like burpees, diamond push-ups, star jumps, etc.  They were really hard!

My Little Man came home with a new appreciation for discipline and ideas for ways that he could add some of these exercises into his daily routine.  I love that Willink wanted to inspire kids to set goals and improve themselves, and Mr. Fuller did a great job of bringing that message home in person.  

If you’re looking for a book for your book club, class, or young reader, give Way of the Warrior a read.  It’s definitely worth it.

What are your kids reading this week?

 

Warrior Kid

 

This post was shared with:  the Homeschool Review Crew.

Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – February 7, 2018

Welcome to Encouraging Hearts & Home!

 

The Encouraging Hearts & Home Bloggers

Join your Encouraging Hearts & Home Co-Hosts each week for encouragement and support for your heart & your home. We hope to provide a space that builds each other up and lends a helping hand along the way. With all the negativity in the world, let’s shine a positive light!

Anne at Learning TableLinda at Apron Strings & Other Things

Amy at A Nest in the Rocks

 

The most clicked post from last week’s Blog Hop was:

How to Make Your Own Rag Rug.

***Each week, our co-hosts will each choose 10 of our favorite links, along with the most clicked link, and pin them to our Encouraging Hearts & Home Pinterest board.

 

Join us each Thursday! Link up your family-friendly blog posts and find encouragement for your heart & home!

How to Link Up

  • Use the form below to share your posts this week, and maybe you’ll discover some new ideas from all the fabulous links!
  • Please share only your family friendly posts with us!
  • Please only link up images that you have the rights to use.
  • By linking up, you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs, we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post.

Other nice things you can do

  • Follow and/or subscribe to your host’s blog.
  • Visit a few other bloggers and show them your support. We all love getting comments, and who knows what inspiration you may find? Be sure to share the love–that’s what a blog hop is all about!
  • If you are interested in co-hosting, contact Anne at anne@mylearningtable.com


“Kill Shot” by Susan Sleeman

Disclosure Pic

As the ballistics and weapon’s expert for the FBI’s special task force nicknamed the White Knights, Rick Cannon has known the Department of Defense was developing self-steering bullets. Rick feared these smart bullets–which have one hundred percent accuracy that can turn even a novice into a lethal sniper–would eventually end up in the hands of the wrong people. But since the ammunition was still in the development stage, he figured they had plenty of time before that happened. He was wrong. Dead wrong.

Until they become reality.

When a homeless vet is killed with a smart bullet, it’s clear that the ammunition has been stolen, and the Knights are called in to find the thief and stop the killings. But they aren’t the only ones desperate to find the killer. Therapist Olivia Dobbs is well known for her success in counseling military veterans with PTSD. When she discovers one of her clients moments after he is murdered, she becomes both the FBI’s prime witness, and suspect.

Despite the mutual attraction that immediately sparks between them, Rick can’t–no he won’t–let Olivia interfere with his investigation. But when the sniper trains his rifle on her, Rick must recall all the skills he learned as a Marine sniper to make sure the next bullet fired isn’t a kill shot that takes Olivia out.

Susan Sleeman

Kill Shot is an exciting story with military intensity!  Sleeman writes her newest novel with a touch of sci fi – at least, I hope that self-steering bullets aren’t reality – and lots of drama.  You’ll cheer on Olivia as she bravely battles obstacle after obstacle, trying both to keep her family safe and to figure out Rick Cannon.  She’s a fun heroine – she’s both smart and pretty, and while she doesn’t have experience with the kind of violence that she faces in this story, she learns quickly and fights with her eyes open.

Rick Cannon is a pretty great hero, too.  He’s also crazy smart, at least where crime solving is concerned, and he does whatever it takes to find the bad guys – even when it comes at great personal expense.  He’s my favorite kind of hero – he’s tough and smart, but he’s vulnerable, too.  He’s willing to put those he cares about ahead of his own comfort.

That’s really my favorite aspect of this book – that all of the main characters are smart.  I have little patience for the weepy, fainting, does-he-like-me-or-not kind of characters, but you won’t find any here.  They’re too busy watching each other’s backs and hunting down clues, and I love the fast pace of it all.

I couldn’t figure it out, either – not before the author wanted me to.  Even when I thought I could see what was coming, as the action was rising to the climax and the suspense was building, no – Sleeman still threw in a few loops.  Isn’t it Shakespeare who said that there’s nothing new under the sun?  Sometimes it feels like it – but this storyline was new to me.

If fast-paced adventure is your cup of tea, then hightail it to your nearest book source and get Kill Shot.  You won’t be sorry.

I received a free copy of this book.  All opinions are my own.

 

This post was shared with:

Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop

 

 

Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop – January 31, 2018

The Encouraging Hearts & Home Bloggers

Join your Encouraging Hearts & Home Co-Hosts each week for encouragement and support for your heart & your home. We hope to provide a space that builds each other up and lends a helping hand along the way. With all the negativity in the world, let’s shine a positive light!

Anne at Learning TableLinda at Apron Strings & Other Things

Amy at A Nest in the Rocks

***Each week, our co-hosts will each choose 10 of our favorite links, along with the most clicked link, and pin them to our Encouraging Hearts & Home Pinterest board.

 

The most clicked post from last week’s Blog Hop was:

Let’s Get It Started – Gardening, That Is!

 

Join us each Thursday! Link up your family-friendly blog posts and find encouragement for your heart & home!

How to Link Up

  • Use the form below to share your posts this week, and maybe you’ll discover some new ideas from all the fabulous links!
  • Please share only your family friendly posts with us!
  • Please only link up images that you have the rights to use.
  • By linking up, you agree that if your blog post is selected to be featured on any of our hosts’ blogs, we can use an image from your post with a link back to your post.

Other nice things you can do

  • Follow and/or subscribe to your host’s blog.
  • Visit a few other bloggers and show them your support. We all love getting comments, and who knows what inspiration you may find? Be sure to share the love–that’s what a blog hop is all about!
  • If you are interested in co-hosting, contact Anne at anne@mylearningtable.com

 


Hunting for Bigfoot with “Lemons”

Disclosure Pic

I love that our local library gets lots of new books – and many of those are books by debut authors.  One of those books turned out to be a fantastic book club pick with loads of possibilities.  It’s called Lemons by Melissa Savage.

Melissa Savage

Savage’s book is a wonderful story of grief, healing, friendship centered around the search for Bigfoot.  It’s sad and funny and poignant all at once, and the possibilities for learning with this book are endless.

In the story, main characters Lem and Tobin take several overnight wilderness expeditions to search for Bigfoot, and when I read this story, I knew our book clubbers needed to do the same.

Hunting for Bigfoot with Lemons

 

We made arrangements to rent a cabin in a local park.  The girls came for the first night, and the boys for the second.  We had t-shirts made especially for this event to match, as much as possible, Tobin’s Bigfoot Detective Agency, LLC’s, shirts.  We also wore sturdy clothes and adventure hats.

DSCN7062

 

After settling into the cabin and setting up camp, the girls found sticks for cooking and whittled the ends.  Since Lemonade and her grandfather ate hot dogs and tater tots every night, we chose to do the same, campfire style.  We also cooked baked beans and made s’mores.

DSCN7069

When our cooking preparations were complete, we headed off to the lake.

DSCN7085

Boating doesn’t actually feature in Lemons at all, but since we were camping within sight of the water, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up.  We rented canoes and kayaks and spent some time exploring the nearby shoreline.  After a while, several of the girls choose to tie their boats together and just bob around in the cove, talking and laughing.  It was sweet!

DSCN7147

Then we headed back to shore to begin our Bigfoot exams.  Just like Tobin required Lemonade to take an oath before joining the Bigfoot Detective Agency, LLC, the kids showed off their Bigfoot knowledge.  First, we talked about the ways that Bigfoot varies from humans – the stride, physiological differences, etc.

 

DSCN7204

Next, we did the Yeti Spaghetti test.  The kids had to dig through a basin filled with cold, oily spaghetti noodles to pick up the Gummi worms.  Each book clubber had to find 3.  

DSCN7234

Then, they did the Toe Jam test.  Each book clubber had to find five Gummi bears in tubs of cold oatmeal, blindfolded.  They found this quite easy to do, but the gross factor was high, and the rest of us were in stitches the whole time.

DSCN7153

After passing all three parts, the book clubbers took the same oath that Tobin required of Lem in order to join the Bigfoot Detective, LLC.

DSCN7252

After that, we built the fire and talked about the book while the fire grew.  When the coals were ready, we cooked our dinner.  We had mixed success with that – while the kids downed the hot dogs and beans, our experiment of spearing Tater tots to cook was less than successful.  The second night, the group just wrapped them in foil and threw them in the fire.  That worked much better, although it wasn’t as fun.

All told, the entire experience was quite the trip, and everyone got plenty to eat.

After dinner, when it was dark (and pictures weren’t easy to take), we gathered our flashlights and our Bigfoot detective kits.  We got magnifying glasses, bags full of plaster of Paris, water bottles and the like, and we headed off into the woods.  

We took a trail around a peninsula-like piece of land and looked for footprints.  With the temperature dropping and the dark of night full-on, it wasn’t easy – and neither group was able to find any.  The girls were more excited about this than the boys, and neither one found anything worthy of breaking out the plaster – but it was a fun hike, nonetheless.

DSCN7163

The next morning, after a breakfast of muffins and fruit, we headed off into the woods to play “Capture the Flag” like Lem and her new friends.  

All too soon, it was time for parents to come and get their kids.

We had a great time talking about the themes of this book and enjoying the great outdoors, just like Lem and Tobin.  Although we didn’t find Bigfoot, we made lots of memories.

What are your kids reading this month?

 

This post has been shared with:

Encouraging Hearts & Home

The Melody of the Soul by Liz Tolsma Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Facebook Live

Travel back in time to 1943 and meet Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian and concert violinist whose career is ended because of Nazi occupation in Prague. Don’t miss the new historical novel, The Melody of the Soul, by Liz Tolsma. Though musical instruments have been declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to play the violin. But Officer Horst Engel, quartered in Anna’s flat and dissatisfied with German ideology, enjoys her soothing music. When Anna and her grandmother face deportation, Horst risks everything to protect them.

Join Liz Tolsma and other bookworms for a Facebook Live event on February 6, plus enter to win Liz’s prize pack giveaway!

 

One grand prize winner will receive:

 

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 6. The winner will be announced at Liz’s Facebook Live Party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Liz and other readers, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

RSVP today and spread the word-tell your friends about the giveaway and Facebook Live party via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 6th!