Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Keyboarding for the Christian School

I remember 2nd grade very well. It was a challenging year for me as I had a teacher who demanded excellence and relentlessly expected nothing less. For the first time in my life learning was a bit of a chore as I was introduced to the concept of homework to keep up with academic demands. I couldn't print well to save my life and I remember many tears as I practiced and practiced letters trying to print legibly. I finally conquered printing only to return to school after Christmas break to discover that it was time for the evil "cursive writing".

When I look back at those second grade memories I am grateful for the lessons they taught me but also struck by the changes technology has brought to the lives of children. No longer is it enough to have solid penmanship. Personal computers, use of the internet, even texting on phones require children to grasp the concept of keyboarding in order to keep up with our fast paced technology based world.

Keyboarding for the Christian School is a low budget solution to technology education in the home. Delivered to your home computer in e-book format, this course eliminates all the bells and whistles of computer driven or on-line courses yet manages to provide the necessary instruction to teach children, grades K-12, keyboarding skills. Author Leanne Beitel states on her website,, Keyboarding for the Christian School can be used along with a software-based program or online program to further enhance your students learning. Most of these programs are great for graphical use, but fall short of actual teaching in word processing skills”

Beitel, who holds her Masters in Instruction from Texas A & M University, noticed a need for Christian based material for computer courses during her time teaching in the private school sector. After researching for just such a curriculum and finding none she developed Keyboarding for the Christian School to meet State educational requirements and Biblical content desired by the private Christian school.

Beitel advises on her website that typing courses in e-book format actually benefit students versus the typical computer generated versions. “Think about the things you type. Are they readily available to copy from the screen or are they something that you are looking at on a piece of paper? Usually you are typing something from a rough draft. If the lessons are only available on the computer monitor; your student will not get the needed skill of transferring information from paper to the computer. A printable e-book allows you the preference of binding the whole book or just giving your student one page at a time. A printable e-book is portable and economical,” she says.

Keyboarding for the Christian School retails on Beitel’s website for $15.95. This 106-page e-book is:

* Printable
* Economical
* Designed for grades 6 and up

In addition the curriculum promises:

*Brief lessons

*Traditional typing drills

*Letters and Envelopes instruction

*APA and MLA reports


*Proofreader’s marks

*Creating Tables

*A Biblical Perspective

Keyboarding for the Christian School Elementary Version, designed for grades K-5, is available for $12.95, also in e-book format. This scaled down version of Keyboarding for Christian Schools teaches the basics of the keyboard while using a cute ladybug theme throughout.

Our family received both Keyboarding for Christian Schools and Keyboarding for the Christian School Elementary Version for free in exchange for this review. Since I have students in both age categories we decided to spend a few weeks testing the curriculum to see if it really is easy to use and effective.

I have a problem with e-books to be honest. I prefer not be my own publisher spending hours printing books, collating pages, and then binding them in some effective manner. I love the accessibility of e-books and the speed they are delivered to your inbox, but overall I am not a fan. That being said our family probably would have missed out on this delightful, extremely inexpensive homeschool resource had it not been offered to us for review.

I avoided the whole printing issue by keeping the courses on my computer. They arrived in PDF format by email, which I organized in a special file in Outlook. When my students needed to work on their keyboarding lessons they simply found the email, opened up the PDF and proceeded. Because I have a laptop MAC and a desktop PC I didn’t want to create a Word document on my desktop thus tying us down to home use only. Remembering the accessibility of Google Docs we created two separate Word documents on-line, one for each student, and were ready to begin our lessons.

At first we simply flipped back and forth from screen to screen, but quickly this method became tiresome. I determined my students were not getting the benefit of “ease of use” the product offered because of my stubbornness not to print and began cutting and pasting the instructions into each student’s Word document. I admit this method deters from the goal of teaching students to transfer information from paper to computer, but it worked for the busy and often multi-locations of our homeschool.

I sat beside my 2nd grade daughter, Sierra as she worked through the first 4 lessons of Keyboarding for the Christian School Elementary Version. I thought having the lesson begin with a Bible verse was a nice focus. The short lessons contained simple and straightforward directions. Sierra easily conquered each lesson in about 10 minutes with occasional directives from me like reminders to check finger placement. Although my constant presence would not be needed on a completely computer driven course, I found this simple basic format refreshing for my younger student. Ten years ago I would never had considered keyboarding skills a necessary element of a 2nd graders education, but today is a different story. I am glad to have found an inexpensive, user friendly product which addresses this need while remaining age appropriate to an 8 year old.

"I liked it. I like how you get to type on the computer", said Sierra. "The lesson on the computer can tell you what to do for directions so you won't forget. Learning to type makes me feel like I’m a big kid. I’m excited I am learning to type so I can type when I move on to older grades.”

My older student, Micah, a 7th grader, completed all of her lessons on her own. She reminded me that she had some typing experience by working a few years ago with a computer-based typing program and an online game. Still being able to benefit from instruction Micah used Keyboarding for the Christian School and easily worked through two lessons a day taking about 5-10 mins. each to complete. To date, she has worked through 11 of the 43 lessons.

“I think it’s a really easy to understand course. I am learning everything very easily. This makes it fun for me to complete. I really like the words at the end of each lesson, which makes me feel, like I’m actually typing something, not just letters. One thing that is a little bit of a negative is that the course can’t grade you. I guess if you have a teacher then they can check your work, but you have to wait for them and can’t find out right away”, commented Micah.

Keyboarding for the Christian School is one of many courses offered on the company website. Other courses include:

*Columns 2003 or Columns 2007 (using Microsoft Word) for $3.95 each

*Creating Tables: Tables 2003 or Tables 2007 for $5.95 each

*Teacher’s Tools for $14.95

*Lesson Plans (for Keyboarding for the Christian School) for $9.95

The company is currently offering a 2010 New Year’s Special when purchasing Keyboarding for the Christian School (revised edition) and Keyboarding for the Elementary School. The package is selling for $22.00! Check the website for details.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Worship Guitar

Available in English or Spanish, Worship Guitar Class DVDs offer students aged 10 and older guitar lessons in the home taught by Jean Welles, of Los Angeles, CA, professional guitarist and teacher for over 30 years. A student of the guitar herself, Welles holds a Master's degree in Guitar Performance from USC.

"One of the reasons I came to Christ is because at that time I didn't see a purpose in life. Now I have a purpose. It's to enjoy God and to help others know how great HE is!", states Welles in a letter provided with the Worship Guitar Class DVD.

I received Worship Guitar Class DVD-Volume 1 and separate student music book as a
member of TOS Review Crew to use in our homeschool in exchange for this review. According to literature provided with the DVD, Volume 1 promises:

  • Step by Step Instruction
  • The ability to learn to play the guitar at home
  • Easy enough for 1st day beginner to beginner/intermediate students
  • Instruction regarding creating a personal worship time
  • Instruction for learning to lead worship in a small group setting

Volume 1 consists of 7 lessons each designed to teach one worship song per lesson and the ability to master a dozen chords. Several strumming and picking patterns are presented in the lessons. Songs taught throughout volume one include:

  • He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
  • My All in All
  • More Precious than Silver
  • Take My Life
  • Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
  • This is the Day
  • I Love you Lord
Retailing for $24.95, Volume 1 is part of a 4 Volume set which can be purchased at the Worship Guitar Class website for $99.80. Once on the website,, I noted the student book included in each volume is also available for separate purchase for $5.95. When purchasing the 4 volume set, customers receive a $40.00 value bonus of 4 e-books titled:

  • Tips, Tricks & Exercises for Great Guitar Technique
  • Favorite Hymns For Guitar
  • 200 Chord Charts and Pictures and Much More
  • Chord Charts with Pictures for 5 Major Keys and How to Use This Guide Book
Welles offers a DVD course for the younger set, "Worship Guitar for Kids" designed for students ages 5-9. In addition to the DVD courses, customers will find guitars, gig bags, guitar stands, music stands, assorted guitar instructional books for further study, piano and drum curriculum and vocal CD's at the Worship Guitar Class website.

I was anxious to see Worship Guitar Class DVD in action based on my experience with children and music lessons. I grew up learning to play the piano, trumpet and french horn and have always valued the importance of music instruction in a child's education. When my older children were younger we were fortunate enough to find quality music lessons for them locally. They took piano, violin, voice and guitar lessons over several years, but unfortunately, great teachers seemed to move on to bigger and better opportunities. My younger children have missed individualized music instruction to date and thinking I could have a guitar instructor in our home at my disposal was a wonderful one.

I assigned my 12 year old daughter, Micah to the task of helping me with this review and she attempted the lessons with no previous guitar experience. We don't own an acoustic guitar, but she blew the dust off of her older brother's electric guitar, hooked it up to the amp and put the DVD in the player. I sat down beside her to watch the process and see if the DVD truly offered, "step by step instructions" simple enough to follow.

Jean Welles presents a professional demeanor and the set and video quality are of high standards pleasing to watch. Unfortunately, we found the instruction to move very quickly making Micah extremely frustrated even to tears within the first lesson.

The first lesson included specific instruction regarding proper holding technique of the guitar and two chords, A and E7. Students learn specific placement of fingers on strings in order to properly strum the chords both with visual demonstration and the use of a giant chord chart which Welles uses in her explanations. Micah had trouble from the beginning determining why her chords lacked musical quality when she played. Because I have no guitar experience, and Micah's hands might not have been placed exactly where they should have been, I could not help her with her frustration in finding just the right finger placement. We paused the DVD, repeated over and over the specific portion explaining the finger placement, but very quickly, Micah was frustrated and in tears over her lack of accomplishment.

I reminded Micah that "Rome wasn't built in a Day" and music like all great things takes lots of patience and practice for mastery. We wiped the tears and returned to the lesson with greater fortitude. Once Welles demonstrated finger placement of the two chords for lesson one she combined the chords to play the first song taught, "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands". I wanted to build a campfire when I heard the wonderful familiar and simple worship song, but instead of inspiring Micah this section of the DVD made her want to throw the guitar into the fire. Unfortunately, Welles, didn't explain verbally when to change chords while playing rather the instruction was provided through a close camera shot of Welles' hands strumming the guitar, making use of the chords A and E7. For a new student like Micah unfamiliar with the guitar and its elements this simplistic visual only instruction was very confusing.

"For the first lesson it would have been nice if she slowed down a little bit, just because I'm a beginner. I think something that should be added is explanation of which chords to do when she sings the songs, so you can play and sing along with her," said Micah.

I encouraged Micah to spend a week or so practicing chords A and E7 and become more familiar with holding the guitar before deciding to move on with the DVD lessons. After she practiced those skills, she decided to attempt lesson two of the video and felt much more positive about the experience.

"The second lesson was a little bit easier because I knew which fret to do and which string", she said.

When I asked Micah for a recommendation she added, "I think it would be easier to have a real instructor, but I still think I can learn a lot from this too. I think I'll keep up with the lessons and see how it goes."

A sample of lesson one of Volume 1 is available at Customers can sign up for a free newsletter on the website and Jean writes a blog that offers tips and lessons to encourage students at For more information regarding Worship Guitar Class visit the company website at,