Tag Archives: T.O.S. Review

ABeCeDarian . . . My Review

I’ve mentioned before, and my home-schooling friends know, that our youngest boys, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” have long struggled with reading. They came into our family at the age of 8, unable to read, and given all of the other issues they had, instruction in reading never went very well. But recently, I was given the chance to review a reading program from the ABeCeDarian Company for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


The ABeCeDarian Reading Program is different from any other reading program we have tried in the past. This program features (from the website):

•Explicit, comprehensive, multisensory phonics instruction
•Sound blending and segmenting explicitly taught and practiced
•Letter/Sound correspondences taught in the context of reading and spelling words
•Letter sounds taught before letter names
•Code knowledge organized by sounds with engaging sorting activities
•No rules!
•Precise practice routines and error correction procedures
•Integrated handwriting and spelling instruction
•Expert oral reading fluency practice

The teacher’s manual instructed me to read a lot of material which was meant to teach me how to use this program. At first, it seemed a bit overwhelming going through it all, but eventually it began to make sense. Our past experience had me teaching consonant and vowel sounds first, and then moving on to putting them together.

I used a combination of having them do the free placement assessment, along with having them try to read the initial story books for Level A to decide where in the program they should begin. Now, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” have, apparently, gotten a lot further along in reading than I expected, because we were able to zip right through all of the story books for levels A1 and A2.

Using these two things together helped me to see that they needed to begin with Level B1.

With ABeCeDarian, we started right in with decoding specific sounds. For example, in Level B1, we jumped right in with learning the “o” sound, and sorting words according to the different ways the “o” sound is spelled. I did have to keep stressing for the boys that each word in this section had the “O” sound, but that there were six different ways to spell that sound. From there, we moved on to breaking the words apart, and underlining each separate sound in the word. Basically, this program is set up in such a way that letters are presented in an organized way, according to sound. The idea is that your child will practice this material not just to mastery, but become a fluent reader.

Here is “The Puzzler”, reading “The Quest” which is storybook number 10 . . .

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. . . and here is “Mr. Loquacious” reading the same book.

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In level B1 there are 12 units, which are completed in 24 lessons. Among the many things covered in this level are the following:

Sorting words, special instructions for recording words with o-e, breaking words apart, word reading practice, reading chains (a list of words in which one letter has been changed in each word to make it into a different word), completing sentences, completing the storybook “The Quest”, key words and letter sound practice, reading multi-syllable words, and reading all of the fables in the ABeCeDarian Aesop book.

The teacher’s manual is spiral bound, so I can keep it flat. It is completely scripted, which would be very helpful for the new home-school mom, or any home-school mom who is not comfortable going “off book” and doing her own thing. The instructional material in the beginning of the teacher’s manual will teach you how to properly correct your child’s errors.

There are things that you WON’T be doing in this program, which are part of the reason it took me a little while of reading and re-reading the instructional material, given that my only experience was with a phonics based program, just as it was with my children.

There is no teaching of long and short vowels, sight words, or silent letters. It did take some time for me to get used to that, and for a while I had to constantly correct myself, as I would automatically go to those things.

Because their earlier experience with reading instruction was all strictly phonics based, the decoding process was confusing for “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler” at first. When working on the word sorting activities, “The Puzzler”, who actually reads better than his brother, had a lot of problems at first, and told me it was very confusing and hard to do. However, “Mr. Loquacious” caught on to the decoding idea right away. I think this just shows that it is true that children learn in different ways, and that perhaps “The Puzzler” simply has an easier time learning with a phonics based program. In fact, when I think back to when we were working with phonics, “The Puzzler” was “getting it”, while “Mr. Loquacious” was not.

The student workbook is very nice, there are no distracting colors or pictures, which is a big plus in our family, since our children have extremely short attention spans. The lessons are fairly short, which is also helpful with distractable children. The lines for copying words and sentences are nicely spaced, with plenty of room for them to print. The workbook is spiral bound, which I like, as it lays nice and flat. It is in landscape format, which I think is easier for my kids to write in.

We received the following items for review:

Student Workbook A1, $12.25


Teacher’s Manual A1, $28.50


Student Workbook A2, $12.25


Teacher’s Manual A2, $28.50


Set of 10 Storybooks, $21.50

Student Workbook B1, $10.25


Teacher’s Manual B1, $25.50


ABeCeDarian Aesop, $2.50


I think that ABeCeDarian is turning out to be a good fit, at least for “Mr. Loquacious”. I’m not so sure it will work as well for “The Puzzler”, but we do intend to keep going and see how well they both do. I would recommend this program, especially if you have a struggling reader.

Be sure to click below and read what other crew members thought of ABeCeDarian!


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Adventus MusIQ – T.O.S. Review

We have had a lovely time over the past few weeks, learning with the MusIQ Homeschool program from Adventus!

The MusIQ Homeschool program is simply wonderful!

We were (sadly!) hindered by the massive snowstorm that hit a large part of the country during February, because we were waiting for our keyboard to arrive so that we could begin using this material. Of course, this delay was in no way the fault of Adventus, in fact, shipping was affected all over the country, from what I understand. Even though we live in the desert (New Mexico), I-40 was closed from part way into our city all the way into Texas for several days! Because we did not have a midi capable keyboard already, we needed to wait until ours arrived before we could begin our Children’s Music Journey!

As I am admittedly NOT technologically savvy, my husband’s help was needed when it came to installing the software and getting us going, however, when even HE had to call for tech support at Advantus, I didn’t feel quite as technologically dumb as I usually do! The person my husband spoke with on the phone was very patient, and took plenty of time to help him get the program up and running. We did need to attach a small external speaker to the keyboard, because for some reason the sound was not coming through at all. Fortunately, my husband had a little ipod speaker he had won during a give away at his job, because we’ve used it in this, and at least one other review, as well! 🙂

Before I get into what my boys have been doing with this program, let me tell you what you get with your subscription to Adventus MusIQ Homeschool:

◾unlimited, full-feature access to all the MusIQ HomeSchool software titles (over $450 retail value)
◾a discount on MIDI piano keyboards

This means that for the low subscription cost of $10.95 per month, you would receive access to ALL levels of the Advantus MusIQ Homeschool curricula, which is a phenomenal value, especially if you have multiple family members wanting to learn, even though they may be at different levels. This is a seven-year program, and you can have multiple student log ins, allowing for even large families to benefit from computer based piano lessons without paying separate lesson fees for each of them.

Here is an overview of the program from the subscription page of Advantus:

Early Curriculum (ages 4-10)

Children’s Music Journey Vol. 1

Year 2:
Children’s Music Journey Vol. 2

Year 3:
Children’s Music Journey Vol. 3

Multi-level Curriculum (ages 10+)
Piano Suite Premier

Year 2: term 4, 5, 6
Piano Suite Premier
Ear Training Coach 1

Year 3: term 7, 8, 9
Piano Suite Premier
Ear Training Coach 1&2
Ear Training Coach 3&4

Year 4: term 10, 11, 12
Piano Suite Premier
Ear Training Coach 1&2
Ear Training Coach 3&4
MusIQ Challenger Game

Your computer system requirements for Adventus MusIQ Homeschool are:

◾Early Curriculum: Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000 or Macintosh OSX and an internet connection.
◾Multi-level Curriculum: Windows 7/Vista/XP/2000 and an internet connection.

You will also need a MIDI Keyboard. If you do not already have one, Advantus carries a very nice one here, and your subscription includes a discount on the purchase of the keyboard.

The subscription is really budget friendly, because it is, as I said, a monthly cost of $10.95, and can be used by multiple students, at several different levels. However, there are other options for purchasing the software outright, listed on the Adventus website, including packages which would include a keyboard along with the purchase.

Now, to what has been going on in our house, in just the short time we have had Adventus MusIQ Homeschool! I especially wanted to focus primarily on having my twins use this program, as they have had no piano training whatsoever, and I wanted to see just how well it would really work for them. They do have some developmental disabilities, so even though they are almost 12 years old, I put them into Children’s Musical Journey 1, which is actually recommended for ages 4 – 10.

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Here is “The Puzzler”, watching a lesson given by Mr. Beethoven, in animated form.

Your children will enjoy the lessons, as they are very short (which works well with my boys), and taught in an engaging way by many famous composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Joplin, Mendelssohn & Villa-Lobos. My boys finished the first five lessons, and are excited that when they go on for more today, they move on to a new teacher!

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“Mr. Loquacious” is having HIS lesson

In fact, even my oldest son, “The Batman”, decided to give this a whirl . . .

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As you can see, even his Batman action figure (seated in front of the keyboard) is being introduced to Mr. Beethoven! 🙂

The Children’s Music Journey is set up to be fun for the kids. After their short lesson with a famous composer, they can go into different areas, such as the practice room with “Miss Melody”.

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After viewing the lesson, here is “The Puzzler” at another time, in the practice room.

They can go into the game room, where various games will be unlocked, depending upon which levels the child has completed. My children, of course, LOVE the game room!

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“The Batman”, in the game room, with his own Batman action figure in his hand to help him play!

Although “The Artist” said he was not interested in participating in this particular review, as you can see here . . .

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. . . even he came in to watch and see what was giving the others so much enjoyment!

Included in the downloadable lesson plans are coloring pages and worksheets, to reinforce what the children are learning during each lesson.

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Here, “The Batman” and “Mr. Loquacious” are doing some of the pages.

In addition to the lesson room, the practice room, and the game room, there is also the improvisational room, where children may compose their own pieces using a variety of instruments and background music, and the library, where the student may review previous lessons, listen to music composed by the teacher they have already been working with, listen to music they themselves recorded in the improvisation room, or learn more about musical history.

In the edition of Children’s Music Journey 1 that we have, they have apparently changed Miss Melody’s appearance, because she looks more old-fashioned, with different hair and a long dress, which we like, it seems to fit better with the era of the composer we are currently on. Of course, I don’t know, her appearance may be different in different levels, depending upon what time period the composer/teacher is. I guess we’ll have to wait to find out! 🙂

Adventus has also provided additional materials for parents and teachers in the MusIQ Library, which include the following:

How to Insert Links Into Blogs: Have your students download their homework! How to insert links into your class blog

Certificates: Instructions for printing and distributing Certificates (all levels)

Blank Keyboards & Staffs: A collection of blank staffs and keyboard templates of various

GAME: Grand Staff Ladder: Fun for students of many ages and abilities!

MY children are really enjoying this program, especially my twins, “Mr. Loquacious” and “The Puzzler”. As I sit here writing this review, “The Puzzler has been in here no less than five times asking if I will go set the keyboard and laptop, up so he can do his next lesson “NOW, please?”, LOL! Now, THAT’S the sort of response I love to get when it comes to educational products, because it means they are learning with fun, not with drudgery. As my husband likes to call it, it’s “stealth” education!

We are enjoying Adventus MusIQ Homeschool, and I think you will, too!

To read what other crew members think of Children’s Musical Journey level 1 and other levels of MusIQ Homeschool, please click on the banner below:



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