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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Practice Monkeys (A Homeschool Crew Review)


One thing I always regretted as a child was that I never learned to play the flute.  There was a time in my life that I wanted to learn but was not allowed to because even a used flute was fairly expensive.  However, I have always believed that learning to play an instrument, any instrument, is beneficial.  Because of this, I was pretty excited to get the opportunity to review Family Subscription to Live Violin Classes from Practice Monkeys.  I thought the opportunity to learn to play the violin might be something my youngest would really enjoy.



About Practice Monkeys

Practice Monkeys is a browser based source for all ages to learn how to play the violin.  Using the
Suzuki method of learning, the classes are taught by 26 year veteran violin teacher Mrs Van Kleeck,. The website offers both Live group classes as well as recorded lessons that help students master their instrument and subscriptions allow students access to both live and recorded classes each week.  The live classes are streamed four times each week in early afternoons while the recorded classes are available from the website 24/7 and can be accessed at the students convenience.

The website is well organized and easy to navigate.  After enrolling and being granted access to the appropriate level lessons for your student, parents will find a treasure trove of information, mostly in the form of very concise videos, from how to tune the instrument before each practice, demonstrations of the skills the student will be working on, how the parents can help the student throughout the process and how often the student will need to work with the instrument.  Along with these videos, the weeks four previously recorded lessons are also accessible as well as PDF downloads for practice sheets and skills checkoff lists for the level your student is working at.



The subscription price is considered a family price and you pay for the instrument level rather than the student.  This means that if you have two students who are both at a Level 3 on the violin, you would only pay for the Level 3 violin lessons and both students could access the classes.  However, if one student is Level 2 and the other is at Level 3, both Levels would have to be purchased.  Also, Assessments for progression to the next level is a separate purchase and would be per student.

Live classes allow your child to interact in real time with Mrs Van Kleeck. By using the computers camera and microphone, Mrs Van Kleeck is able to see and listen to the students during the class time and make suggestions, corrections or praise the student during their class time.

Our Experience

Before showing my interest in this review, I asked my youngest, Ashleigh, if she would be interested in learning to play the violin and she was super excited.  We knew this was going to be a big investment requiring us to either rent or purchase an instrument and accessories in addition to the lessons we would receive so we wanted to make sure Ash was on board.  Her excitement gave us the green light to go ahead and make the necessary purchases and within a few days, we were ready to get started.

We went into this review knowing we weren't going to be using the live classes and instead would have to rely on the recorded classes from the previous week.  Being that we are on the west coast and on a schedule that is dictated by the Air Force, making the live classes weren't possible for us. Instead, we use the four recorded lessons that are updated each week that were recorded from the previous weeks live classes.  For our classes, at level 2, instruction was roughly 15 minutes per class.

Ashleigh was the one who was initially taking the classes.  And for a few weeks, we worked on her bow hold, bowing with the instrument, putting the instrument and bow in rest position, ect. She initially enjoyed taking the classes and was doing well with it.


Unfortunately, once the excitement of the new violin wore off, she quickly lost interest and getting her to take the class or practice got to a point where it was like pulling teeth.  Ash being the headstrong child that she is, if she doesn't want to do it, she won't so we hit a wall pretty hard. Gone went my dreams of one day seeing her play in Carnegie Hall.

That's when my son, the son who has never shown interest in anything such as music or arts, my son who doesn't like to watch TV or anything beyond playing Minecraft or playing with his construction set, told me he wanted to try.

I'm going to be honest. I figured he would take a class, get halfway through it and decide it wasn't for him and would say "no thank you" as he always does when we try to get him to try new things.  I figured that the pretty violin sitting in it's case caught his attention and once the "newness" wore off, just like Ashleigh, it would collect dust. He had tried the piano and the guitar and both he quickly lost interest in, but since he asked, I figured I would allow him to try it.


Garrett LOVED it!!! Within a few days, Mrs Van Kleeck had my son singing the pentascale.  First off, my son does NOT sing. My son barely speaks and getting him to hold a conversation with you is a task, but sure enough, my son was doing the hand signals and singing Do-Re-Mi  along with Mrs Van Kleeck.  Within a week, I no longer had to ask Garrett if he wanted to do the lessons each day, he would instead bring my phone and the violin case so that I could make sure the violin was properly tuned so he could practice.  Garrett typically practiced every night, accessing the four classes for each week as well as pulling out his instrument and practicing on his own.   Mrs Van Kleeck is very high energy and I think this had much to do with Garrett's enthusiasm with the classes. He responded very well to that energy and that is a huge factor in getting a special needs/autistic child to do anything new. LOL


We were placed in a Level 2 class for this review.  In the course of the class, Garrett (and originally Ashleigh) would have to master ten skills in order to advance to the next level class.  These skills consisted of things such as placing the instrument in both rest and ready positions properly, holding the bow properly, sliding fingers to harmonic, crossing the strings while playing the instrument, and playing the pentascale on the instrument. Parents/Students are given a check list that shows each of the ten skills that should be practices to prepare for the final one on one assessment with Ms Van Kleeck as well as sheets to mark off for each day of independent practice.


The fact that we didn't attend the live classes was probably to our advantage with Garrett.  Ashleigh probably would have enjoyed the live classes but Garrett doesn't like to talk to others all that much and doesn't like to be put on the spot.  The recorded classes worked perfectly for us as he didn't feel like he was being pressured to interact, we could rewind the video if he needed to see or hear something again and we could pause to allow him to work on what was being taught at his own speed.

We ran into a minor glitch, one that had nothing to do with the class itself but because I had bought a cheap violin with cheap pegs.  The peg for our E String would constantly slip and keeping it in tune even for a few minutes was nearly impossible.   This created a problem for us and held him back a bit in the class and was rather frustrating for him.  Luckily, we discovered a product that helps keep cheap pegs from slipping and once we had that we were again rocking and rolling with the class.

Here's a video of Garrett showing how he has progressed using only the pre-recorded lessons.  Again, we were not able to attend any of the live classes.


I've honestly been taken aback by how much Garrett has enjoyed these classes and he's been upset that our access to the classes is coming to an end.  The only thing we did not take advantage of with our subscription was the inclusion of the student assessment.  We were going to try to get an assessment as I do believe Garrett is ready, however, we lost a family member and with the government shutdown and so our focus shifted temporarily.  However, long before our access ended, I spoke with my husband in regards to possibly paying for 6 months/1 year of classes so that Garrett can continue as we both feel that violin has turned to be a very positive thing for our son.  While we could probably get lessons here on base, my son has responded very well to Mrs Van Kleeck as well as her method of teaching and I can't imagine switching him to someone else.   We'll also be taking Ms Van Kleeck's recommendation as to the purchase of a better quality instrument now that we know it's something Garrett will stick with.  We're looking forward to re-enrolling Garrett with Mrs Van Kleeck hopefully in February.

#hsreviews #violin #LiveViolinClasses  #practicemonkeys #onlineviolinlessons #onlinepianolessons

I highly recommend these classes, especially if you have a child that is interested in the violin.  However, Practice Monkeys is also offering Piano classes, also taught my Mrs Van Kleeck.  The website also offers a free class for you and your student to get a feel of how the classes are taught before committing to a subscription.   Also, if you subscribe now (before Feb 1st), you can get a $10 per month discount for the entire time you have classes with Practice Monkeys.  You can find out more information by clicking here ---- http://www.practicemonkeys.com/reviewcrewblogreaders.html

Find More information about Practice Monkeys by visiting their website.  You can also find them on the following social media platforms:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PracticeMonkeys/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7wOO7WqC5Yk-nID8fhVaiA

Practice Monkeys Discount Coupon Offer


Online Music Education for the Violin {Practice Monkeys Reviews}



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Meal Planning


OOH I hate long pay dates..  The month of January is always hard on us. First, money is usually tight following the holidays but the pay dates always fall funny and we usually have 2 1/2 weeks between each pay period.. Soooo, cheap meals are a must.. 

Because the pay period falls on Monday this time, it also means that I have to shop the commissary on base - something I absolutely HATE..  The commissary on base is not cheap. So, we will be eating quit a bit of meals that I have prepared and frozen to save money before we head to town on Saturday.

Sunday - Chicken and Corn Chowder
Monday - Italian veggie skillet over rice
Tuesday - Beef Nachos
Wednesday - Hot Dogs with Coney Sauce and Tots
Thursday - Broccoli and Cheese Baked Potatoes
Friday- Spaghetti with Salad and garlic bread
Saturday - Grocery Shopping Day - In-N-Out
Sunday - Farby's with Fries

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Meal Planning


Tuesday:  Ham, Collard Greens, Black Eyed Peas, and Cornbread

Wednesday:  Crack Chicken Casserole with Salad

Thursday:  Arroz Con Pollo with Salad

Friday: Eggs in Purgatory

Saturday:  Nashville Fried Chicken with French fries and coleslaw

Sunday:  To Be Decided (Couldn't find ingredient for meal originally planned)

Monday: Baked Ravioli with Sauce, Salad and Steamed Broccoli

Tuesday: Beef and Broccoli with Rice and Mandarin Oranges

Wednesday: Chicken Curry over Couscous

Thursday: Shepherd's Pie Baked Potato

Friday: Salisbury Meatballs with Mashed Potato

Saturday:  Ham and Cheese Stromboli with Salad and Fruit Cocktail

Sunday:  Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Picket Project


I cannot believe that it has been more than 6 months since I found a little furball of cuteness in the middle of the road. Today, we have a full grown jackrabbit who has made herself quite comfortable in our house, roaming about freely and enjoying our company (for the most part.. lol)


Christmas preparations have been a source of interest for her lately.  I mean, come on, there's a tree in the middle of my living room.  I'm sure from the mindset of a wild animal, she has to think that tree was placed there just for her.  She's heard the phrase "Picket, don't eat Christmas" quite a bit since Thanksgiving.  She's gotten better about it as time goes on but for the first few weeks after the tree went up, she was constantly trying to nibble on it. lol


While she does enjoy the tree, she was not too thrilled when Mom came home from PetCo with a Santa dress and decided to place it on Miss Picket. 


She looked very cute in it, I have to admit.  Getting it on her to start with was surprisingly easy. I small cherry tomato to keep her occupied while I gently laid it on her back and attached the velcro on the chest and voila.


However, I believe these will be the only photos of Picket's Christmas outfit as she got smart to what that red fabric is and will have nothing to do with it now.   Maybe if I try giving her a bit of banana, she might be willing to allow me one more opportunity (She'll do anything for banana lol) but I guess I'll just be happy with the photos I did get.. lol


For the most part, Picket just runs around, coming and going as she would like.   She still occasionally jumps on my lap for a small bit of petting and she loves to give me kisses when she's in her hutch before she goes to bed at night..  Our nights are often filled with laughter when she gets a hair up her bunny bun and starts her Binky 500s through the living room, making sure she hops right in front of us, demanding our attention.


She's also found a new favorite spot.  We keep a toyboy in our dining room, which Ashleigh fills with stuffed animals.  Picket can often be found hiding in the toyboy amid all the other warm furry animals. Other times, she pulls the animals out of the box, scatters them on the floor and hops down and "plays" with them.. Playing for Picket often involves grabbing them with her mouth and tossing or rearranging them as she sees fit.


Someone asked recently me about owning a hare as a pet. They said they liked the unique looks of them as opposed to the cute fluffy rabbit and was interested in having one as well and wanted my opinion in regards to having one as a pet.  My opinion on this matter is that, in my experience, a wild creature should never be kept as a pet just for the sake of having one as a pet.  Picket has adapted well for being inside, free roaming as she wants, and she seems happy enough.  But she does let us know that she is not a pet in any way, shape or form and should never be confused with a domesticated pet rabbit.  They are no where near the same creature.  For one, hares are very temperamental and will always hold on to their wild nature.  The other day, Picket attacked my leg because she couldn't see her food and assumed I did not feed her.  They are also very  high strung.  I'm fortunate that Picket bonded with me when she was tiny, so I can pick her up relatively easy (unless she's mad at me) and put her against my chest without too much risk of injury to myself (lol) and she will usually relax and snuggle with me but this is pretty unusual for hares.  And while she will interact with the rest of my family, they cannot handle her without risk of needing a trip to the ER for stitches.


There's not a day that goes by that I don't appreciate the creature that Picket is, but as said, she's NOT a pet by any means.  She cohabitates with us, she tolerates us, and I do believe that she loves us in her own way.  She has a safe home, even when she goes "as mad as a March hare", which I know will be starting in Feb/March next year.  But I am always reminded that she is a wild animal and will always be a wild animal and cannot expect her to be anything other than what she is.  Everything else is just a bonus :)


Until Next time :)


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weekend Meal Planning


Was the week before Christmas.. 
and here at my house... 
Easy meals were required.. 
Because Mom's an exhausted lil mouse..


Okay, so I'm not Clement Clark Moore in any way shape or form, but the my little verse still rings true.. Easy meals are the necessity of life this week because I am just too tired to think of anything else right now.. LOL



Sunday -  Smoked Sausage and Cheese soup

Monday- Patty Melts with Tater Tots

Tuesday - Pasta Carbonera with Salad and garlic bread

Wednesday - Chicken Cornbread Casserole

Thursday  - Lemon Chicken with Rice and Broccoli

Friday -  Meat Loaf with green beans and salad

Saturday - Moroccan Lentil Stew with Naan Bread (10)


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Weekend Meal Planning


We're in the last few weeks of 2018. Hard to believe that December is almost halfway over.  We've managed to get the majority of our Christmas shopping out of the way, except for what will go in the stockings, the tree is up and lit, and the Christmas decorations are outside. 

Only three more weeks of meals (and two extra days) to plan and we will be in 2019.   Christmas is easy - we've already decided to make homemade tamales this year, but the rest of the meals are always a ton of fun to try to figure out something that we haven't had a in a while.


Sunday   Black Pepper Chicken (4) Teriyaki Green Beans (3)

Monday  Chicken Pot Pie

Tuesday  One Pot Fajita Pasta (11)

Wednesday  Country Fried Steak with Gravy, green beans and mashed taters

Thursday  Sloppy Joe Potatoes

Friday  Southern Fried Pork Chops with gravy, au gratin potatoes and salad

Saturday  Shopping Day - Dinner at Chic-fil-a 


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