Thursday, December 13, 2007

Discovery Slide and Shoot Digital Camera

When Parent Bloggers sent our girls the Discovery Slide and Shoot Digital Camera there was a small war in my kitchen.

Who would be the first to use it? Who would get to take it to school? Who was the better photographer?

We all absolutely loved this camera. First, it's adorable. It's pink and white and you can wear it around your neck with an attachment that comes with it. My fifth grader loved that. Second, it's easy to use. The software installed in no time at all, and my girls were able to take pictures, upload them, and tweak them using the Discovery software literally within hours of opening the package.

Third, it's durable. It's a wonderful camera for kids who may not be ready for a grown-up digital camera, but who genuinely want to learn how to take, store, print, and edit photos. With it's low price of $39.95 it is a good transition camera for your children to learn with.

At first, we were dismayed by the fuzzy screen on the camera that shows you your picture. It appears as if all the pictures have a really bad resolution. Once you upload the picture you will see that this isn't the case, although be warned that this picture works really well in bright outdoor light with objects that are sitting still. Action shots taken inside of a fifth grade classroom are not the best subject matter.

On Halloween, my big girl camera broke and I used the Discovery camera to take their picture. I liked it so much I posted it on my website. The other shots you see are evidence of my girls learning the concept of subject, light, and composition.

We just adored this camera and even got one for my friend's daughter. It makes a great gift!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Day Runner

I am a piler. My office has piles, the piles have piles, and it gets a little hairy at times when it is time for me to locate something I need.

As the Chief Operating Officer of this family, I am the one to whom the fliers for school activities come, the bills, the junk mail, and the miscellaneous pieces of paper that life somehow manages to distribute to me on a daily basis.

I was beyond desperate when the Parent Bloggers Network announced they would be reviewing a Day Runner family organization program. I would have begged to review this, but luckily I didn't have to.

The organization pack comes with a large wipe on wipe/off calendar, a day planner (for 2008, so I haven't used it but it is tucked into my diaper bag, waiting), five mini dry erase boards for door handles, and cardboard filing units with color-coded file folders.

The color coding is for each member of your family. Because I am a breeder and have more people in my family than Day Runner has colors, I chose to use the family plan for my office. I hope that isn't cheating, because if it is, it felt really good.

Now, I have taken my PTA, my misc. volunteer, my bills, and my various writing projects and they are no longer in piles. Each category of my life has a color, and when there is something coming up in my life, like a review for example, I don't have to do anything more than lift my eyes from the computer and see my huge dry erase poster I've placed in my office for the answer. The cardboard filing units are neatly arranged near my desk, and I am now reminded of what the surface area of my desk looks like. It has transformed the way I conduct my personal business, and significantly reduced my time spent doing so as I now spend a lot less time searching for papers.

The one thing I did use for my family was the mini dry erase boards that hook onto each person's door handle. Because only two of the kids are reading, I write their chores, or that someone called for them, or a reminder on their board and place it on their door knob. It saves me a lot of yelling.

I do the same for my five year-old, only I use pictures, and it makes him feel like a big kid and prepares him for when he really is reading to look at his door for a message.

If only Day Runner made housekeepers, my life would be complete.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jump Starting Jacob

I am not a fan of video games. My kids will likely never own a Wii (I just can't get my mind around simulated activities like bowling. Go bowling.), they think a playstation is their desk, and I have only let my older two get on the internet a handful of times. Yeah, I admire the Amish a little too much.

But the concept of a "video" game (it's for your PC) that enables your young one to garner skills while "playing?" It really appealed to me when I thought of my five and a half year-old, Jacob. He was late to talk, late for a lot of things, actually, and I liked the concept of Jump Starting anything.

He's currently in a kindergarten that doesn't focus a lot on academics, instead lasering in on things like self-confidence, art, music, and the creativity of the child. We love it, but it also kind of freaks us out a little. Because I like to push the envelope, I had the good people at Parent Bloggers Network send me the Jump Start for first grade. Sort of a litmus test to see how far behind we were.

After loading the game (time consuming, but not terribly so) I sat Jacob on my lap. I showed him how to maneuver the mouse and to my surprise he picked it up in a few minutes and we were off.

He was hooked from the get-go. When he saw his name on the computer screen (I plugged it in as a part of the loading process) and got to pick his character, he was entranced.

Within ten minutes he was collecting "jewels" in a math game that had him clicking on the area that had "more than eight" or "more than four" with ease. He navigated a ship through treacherous waters in an attempt to crash into icebergs that all had three, seven, nine, (you get the point, no?) objects on them, or the actual number itself.

After an initial struggle with the arrow keys on the keyboard, I was stunned to see the hand-eye coordination pick up each minute, and the grin on his face grow larger with each success. The game is really good about positive encouragement, and when he successfully completed a segment of the game, the voice telling him that he did a great job and that he had mastered a level was like an air pump: I watched his little chest puff out with pride.

Two items that are great about this prouct: if your child is struggling somewhat, the game paces itself to your child's progress. When Jacob took a while to master a concept, he never felt left behind or like he was slow. And when he got something right, the praise and encouragement from the game (and me, I should add) spurred him on to want to go to the next level.

I've heard that games are very expensive, but for only $19.95 you can jump start your own K, 1 or 2nd grade child.

I can't recommend this product enough. Want a free download? Go, now, and watch your kid do something productive in front of the computer.