Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: Hearbuilder: Childhood is a Once in a Lifetime Event- Don't Make Children Wait to Learn

An educational steal of a deal- a Super Duper Steal!

WHAT: HearBuilder (Following Directions, Phonological Awareness, Auditory Memory, Sequencing) by Super Duper Publications  

  1. Assists a child in building a stronger foundation for his/her language skills = better reading and writing and listening and talking 
  2. Helps a parent/educator figure out exactly where a child is having trouble.  ie. WH- questions and translates those trouble spots into IEP-language!
  3. Shows you how learning aligns with Common Core
INVEST:  Per Program CD $69.99; All Four Programs on one CD: $199.00; Professional CD editions and online subscriptions are also available

Pre-K to eighth grade (I used it with 2 children
(7 and 10 year old) whose skills vary from above grade level to below grade level depending on the skill. Both have language delays but theme and content was fun and appropriate for both and that's no small thing for two kids who play nothing but Minecraft when it comes to screen time privileges.

Ever feel like your child's education is a bit like managed care?  The "System" is constantly chipping away at their benefits year after year and the only way to fight back is through legal action?

This post is a review of a product so I won't get into some long thing here but I will say that this is what I observe to be the issue for many parents today. Usually it is a good thing to be very involved in your kid's education but it is no fun if you are involved as a problem-solver/preventor, a micro-manager writing those "follow-up" emails or making those phone calls to people who do not really work for you. Pretty soon you are hiring a tutor or a therapist and your child has even less playtime on top of the hours of homework. It's madness and it's maddening to put up with it.

I do not praise them on acing it.  I praise them on trying their best.  They don't realize that their progress report tells me generally tells me how much time they spent on something but they are proud of themselves when they go head-to-head with HearBuilder.  I think this timer is more for them than it is for me.

Meanwhile... Time is Passing... 

A charismatic principal once said to me, "Childhood is a once in a lifetime event." We can spend our time fighting or we can spend our time teaching them things while their brains are still in its spongey stages. 

But I'm not a teacher and I am never ever ever going back to school and my sons' tutor can not move in with us so I am going to need help. I can't do it alone. Thus, if I can't pay for more human teacher/therapist time then I have no choice but to do what I do best:

I am going to buy something.

I love that there are strategy "briefcases" here for the "spies" to use to help memorize things.  Why didn't those SAT Prep Books teach us that??

Can You Fit a Teacher in a Box?

I decided to buy my kids a teacher in a box. We've been doing it all the time. Everytime we buy an arts and crafts kit or even a box of LEGO like the Master Builder Academy, we are buying a teacher (a teacher's curriculum really) in a box. And of course, education in a box is still in something boxed and thus, unlike a human teacher, there is little room for on-the-spot thoughtfulness, monitoring, and even pats on the back but a boxed teacher has one very reliable and important asset.

There are no surprises.  You will get what you expect.  It will not have a bad mood one day.  There will be no substitute teacher. Basically, unless my computer is in poor health, I can rely on it to do what I want it to do like it did yesterday.  To me, that is a tool!

So I went ahead about bought the HearBuilder Phonological Awareness CD.  I think there was a big sale for 25% at the time but still, even at 25% off of $69.95, I dislike parting with my money.  But I pay my kids' tutor more than that in one day so I figure it was worth a try.

Lesson #1: Work Can Be Fun

It didn't take long for me to pat myself on the back. I watched them play.  I wondered how long I could let them think this was a "treat" or a "video game." But all of us discovered quickly that this is really WORK but what they needed to understand that it was a treat to have WORK be FUN and makes me think that it is money well spent.

Not long afterwards, I had an opportunity to review all four games for the readers here.  Now it was all on one CD!  If your goals for your child include skills like the ones below then stay awhile, I hope this will be of use to you:

LISTENING - I mean, really listening and getting fully what someone has said.
SPEAKING - No, the computer does not hear you speak but improved listening leads to better speaking.
READING- understanding sounds, sounding out, rhyming words, syllables, all that good stuff
WRITING - Don't worry, no pencils here but believe me, writing can't be easy if the above skills need lots of work.

How Useful Is It?

Before I had the 4-in-1 big HearBuilder CD sent to me, I decided to see how I could test its efficacy. For $199, it needs to be worth your money, right?  I am one of those kids that owned five or six SAT prep books. (BTW, those people should give me my money back!)  What I remembered from those books is that they all had a little practice test that you could use as a diagnostic exam and then you could see where you are shoddy, study it via the book, and then take the practice test at the end and see how many more SAT books you needed to buy until you can have a good practice test score. Then you could feel somewhat comfortable about taking that mean ol' test.

I love that he can "study" in bed.

The HearBuilder programs do not have such a test but they actually have a strength in another area that I found extremely useful.  In short, it empowers me.  I understand my child, I know where he is okay and where he is not, and this is the crazy part: If I go back to the HearBuilder site, I can figure out how to say what my kid's troubles are in the language used by Speech Pathologist and Teachers and 'tis the same language used on IEPs.

Don't believe me?  I have proof! No before and after practice tests necessary.

This is a progress report from a short session on the Auditory Memory Program.  As you can see, he did well and then he got really stumped and then he brought himself back up.  You can show them this at the end.  In fact, my kids always print out their progress reports.  They are very proud! 

What's hot? What's not? It's all here.
 And here is the crazy part!  Look, the same activities are restated for you in Educational-ese on the Super Duper website!  Thus, I can say at school, IEP meeting... etc, "He can answer 1 WH-question given 2 sentences with repetitions but no background noise, however, my son has trouble when he can not have the information repeated. So, how about us tackling this as an IEP goal?"

Do you speak Educationalese?   This and more can be found in the Learning Objectives of EACH Program!  Yes!

I didn't feel the need to chart it but they liked it. I also needed an excuse for them to get a big toy even though their birthdays and holidays have past.

 Yes, But Can HearBuilder Speak Common Core-lish?

Keep in mind that by me mentioning Common Core anything, I am not saying that I like this system.  I haven't done enough research and as I said before, time is passing us by and their childhood won't last forever.   Thus while people squabble things out, I just like to know if the lessons provided by HearBuilder is touching upon or actually teaching what our government expects our children to be learning. 

So I looked at the Common Core website and found out that there are some seriously well-made matches here.  Below are things that I found what I think relates to what my son was doing (see  above photos -WH-Info in Auditory Memory Program)

ELA Standards:

Kindergarten Comprehension and Collaboration:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.2 Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.3 Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.
First Grade Comprehension and Collaboration:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.2 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.
Second Grade Comprehension and Collaboration:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.2 Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.3 Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to clarify comprehension, gather additional information, or deepen understanding of a topic or issue.
Third Grade Comprehension and Collaboration:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.2 Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.3 Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
Funny thing is:  I didn't have to because Super Duper saved all of us the trip. Actually, I had seen this but I just had to look it all up on my own... FOR YOU.  I haven't checked everything but I like what I see so far. They outlined the Common Core Standards as it relates to their HearBuilder programs just the way I did above -but theirs is neater.  Each of the four programs has their own Common Core info page as well as their own Learning Objectives page (the page that looks like a speech and language pathologist wrote it).

More at the Super Duper site.

Can I Walk Away When They "Play"?

One of the things that is nice about something done on a computer is that a parent or teacher can walk away. I do agree that you can walk away but I wouldn't suggest that you be very absent. Here are times when I think it's good to stay/ supervise:
  1. When your child is trying a new section within one of the programs.
  2. When you child is reaching a tough point. You may notice it on paper first so the next time, go back to the same point in the program and sit down with him.  Your praise is still better than the computer's praise.
  3. When you see that your child has overcome a struggle, ask them to tell you how they overcame it.  A lot of this is about using strategies, figuring out how you learn faster, listen better, etc.  If kids were born with instructions, the kids would want to read them too.  We all take a long time to find out how we best absorb things. HearBuilder will help your kids learn about themselves better. 
  4. Treat it like they are taking an online college class. Be consistent with the schedule.  They will value it more.
Super Duper Knows: Childhood is a Once in a Lifetime Event

I have to say thank you to the Super Duper company for sending me this program.  I feel like this is a gift to me and my kids that will keep on giving. I think the CDs are great and the online subscriptions would be quite awesome too since you can play them on an iPad.  I like the idea of not using a mouse so much anyway.  For example, my little guy kept messing up on the real games part which is arcade-like (a reward for working so hard).  He is better now.

It is hard to make learning fun nowadays.  Let Kim and Joey help.  No, it's not Minecraft but these two are very cute.

But more importantly, for what it does for me and my children, HearBuilder is definitely worth the money. Not only is the educational science sooooooo friendly to civilians like me, but they make it really easy for the kids to use.  And as I said before, when we have problems with learning (or if schools have problems teaching), we need solutions and we need them fast.  While I try my best to advocate for my child, all those meetings, emails, the volley of words back and forth on the phone... it all takes so much time and children should not have to wait to learn. That just makes no sense!

HearBuilder  makes me feel like I've hired a really great second tutor.  And I love that the tuition is all paid for because you just purchase the CD once and it's yours forever! Imagine hiring a tutor for a one-time flat rate and having her until you don't need her anymore. Thanks Super Duper, HearBuilder is awesome!
I think my little one is super proud of his Super Duper program performance.  I like to have it hanging up in a nice thick pile so that he can see how much he's done. Really, this is such a gift. 

Please grant me and families like mine a giant favor and join me as a fellow fan of Super Duper Publications!  Try one or all of the ways to connect with them!

Check out all their goodies on their website and go to the bottom of the page to sign up for emails! I have save lots of money this way. I also recommend getting their catalog.  I really like taking my time and reading it. 
Go Like the company on Facebook
Follow their Blue Bird on Twitter 
Subscribe on Youtube 
Be inspired by their Pinterest pins.

My other super duper finds from Super Duper

Review on Yogarilla and Super Fun Deck of 500 Stems, Suffixes, and Prefixes

The back of the card is even better than the front!  Yogarilla is a superstar!
These words might be connected to what they learned in school or on television... but dissecting and connecting makes for a fun new way to build vocabulary.

My super duper picks that included many skill-building games in my Selfish Parents' Guide to Gift Giving to Schools

Pirate Talk
Word Joggers
Sign Language Bingo
Go for the Dough

Disclosure:  Toys are Tools was not compensated by the manufacturers of anything mentioned here for the publication of this review.  The reviewed items were provided to Toys are Tools to facilitate a review.  Reviews are never promised. 


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