Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Melissa & Doug Giveaway~ Winner!

 Thank you for all of your entries!

I waited to announce the winner until I heard back from her. 

Congratulations to Ashley S. for her winning entry~ 
a tweet about the giveaway.

Keep your eyes open for another review/giveaway soon! :)


Saturday, November 24, 2012

IF you are shopping~ Some good Homeschool and "Natural" goods sales

I didn't do ANY Black Friday Shopping (although I did do a lot of online browsing...;D ), but I DO intend to go out today and support a couple of local Small Businesses for Small Business Saturday.

In that vein, there are a couple of "Small Businesses" that are offering some great deals for homeschoolers and those interested in more "organic" type items, so I thought I'd write up a quick post for them. :) (disclosure~ I am an affiliate for some of these companies, and I do appreciate your purchases through my links~ Bills need to get paid!).

    compass classroom black friday sale
First, one of our favorite Latin programs is on sale through Monday. Not only the Latin program but ALL of the curriculum and products at the Compass Classroom are on sale. I haven't checked out the economics program yet, but I've heard good things. The American History and Film Making curricula are both brand new products, so you might want to check them out! Click the Banner to visit! :) 
One of the products I reviewed recently, Activity Bags, is running a sale through Sunday, the 25th: 

EVERYTHING IS 1/2 off!!!
Use Coupon Code: happy at checkout!
Sale ends November 25th, 2012
Preschool Activities in a Bag

Science Experiments in a Bag

Math Games in a Bag

Reading Games in a Bag

Travel Games in a Binder

Daily Activity Journal  

I'm a new affiliate with a company, Abe's Market, that offers natural and organic goods. I purchased a few things from them this last spring and was very happy with the quality of the items. 
They are having a 25% off sale on select items through Monday. They are also planning a Cyber Monday Sale, so keep your eyes open for that banner (Heads up, the deal is Spend $50, save $15).

I was just offered the chance to pick out some product for free. In my quest for a really good, all natural deodorant, I chose a few different ones to try (Look for a post in a few weeks). However, I can say that I have found one so far that I am very impressed with. Looks like the inventory is running low for this particular fragrance, but there are other options.
All Natural Lavender Deodorant Cream - $12.00
from: Abe's Market


One more~ If you are in the market for a live Balsam Christmas Wreath, please consider checking out Wreath's of Maine. Here is her "Spiel" It's that time of year again!!! Christmas is in a month and a half, and "Decorating" begins even sooner! IF you are going to purchase a fresh wreath for your front door, please consider supporting me by purchasing a "Wreaths of Maine" wreath, using my seller ID # 4547 at checkout. I am raising money to help fund my New Irish Dance Dress, and I appreciate every bit. Thanks =) Our Wreath Collection - only $3.95 shipping per item! 

OK, now I'm off to go visit some local small businesses before they close this afternoon!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Voice Lessons (From the Comfort of Your Own Home)

PSA:  This is my last review for the TOS Review Crew for the 2012 year (I'll be back in 2013 with a whole new batch of interesting products to share)~ Now on with the review!

I had hoped to finally get my children involved in a local Homeschool Chorus, as this was the first year that the practices were on a day we had open. However, that was the ONLY day we weren't already out of the house for one reason or another, AND given that my kids had a horrible cough/virus that lasted for weeks and weeks, it was determined that this wasn't the year for us. What a blessing to be on the review for Vocal Coach ~ an opportunity for me to prepare my children for the possibility of entering a choir NEXT year! :D

Crew members were sent either Vocal Coach Singer (Download MP3 version or physical CDs) or Teaching Kids to Sing (Physical CDs). I was blessed to receive the CD collection for Vocal Coach Singer that you see pictured below. This is quite the thorough series of "coached lessons" produced by one of the top Vocal Coaching teams around, and it is suitable for teen and adult use.

Some background information on Vocal Coach creators, Chris & Carole Beatty, that I have found on the Vocal Coach website, as well as a couple of others when I was looking them up. "Chris and Carole have taught and coached thousands of singers, young and old. They have taken the best of Vocal Coach around the world through workshops, in private session and now Online. With over a million products sold world wide, Vocal Coach training has been instrumental in developing and preserving the voices of all categories of singers from beginners, to award-winning touring artists and speakers like Dan Hazeltine of Jars of Clay, Caedmon's Call, Country singer Pam Tillis, Cheri Keaggy, Pastor Jack Hayford, Steve Green, Twila Paris, Dallas Holm, Kim Hill, Tony Vincent, The Second Chapter of Acts, Steve Archer, The Continental Singers and many others." 

It is apparent that they are highly qualified and sought out as instructors and vocal coaches, so to have this resource to use in our own home is rather amazing.

The Vocal Coach Singer includes:

7 Training CDs:

  • Getting Started
  • Complete Breathing
  • Complete Warm-Up
  • Complete Tone
  • Complete Expanding Your Range
  • Complete Diction
  • Complete Performance

4 Workout CDs:

  • Daily Workout High Voice 1 & 2
  • Daily Workout Medium/Low Voice 1 & 2

Plus these great educational tools:

  • Guidebook – Full-size Instructional Guidebook to Ensure Success
  • Printable Lead Sheets – each exercise in our course, plus track lists
  • Personal Singer's Journal (Getting Started Journal & Workout Journal) to Track Your Progress
  • Vocal Coach Song Evaluation – Evaluation form to enable you to make more intelligent song selections

From their Teaching Style and Method page: “So What does Vocal Coach teach?” you may be wondering. Good voice technique based on the knowledge that the voice is a physical, mechanical and acoustical instrument and that good foundations will equip you to sing any style you can honestly relate to.

Some of the highlights that I'd like to mention~ 
The foundational lessons included in the first 3 instructional CDs are sure to become a regular part of the serious student's daily practice time.  Even the less serious student (like my children at this point in time) will benefit from learning the practical information on these CD's. There are a few catch-phrases that I can just mention, and their posture changes (for a little while, at any rate!), as well as their tone.  The lessons on each CD are inter-related with the others, as there is a definite cross-over among breathing, warm-ups and tone. 

Complete Breathing  teaches correct breathing and posture with some physical as well as vocal exercises. This really brings out how PHYSICAL singing and speaking really are!  
Complete Warm-up  talks about warming up and cooling down your voice, just like any other athlete warms up and cools down their muscles as well. Again, a focus on just how physical vocal work is with more about Breathing and Posture, in addition to a variety of other tips and hints on things that can help or hinder.
Complete Tone~ Discover and use your best vocal sound~ some interesting information on the science behind tone, as well how tone feels.

Each of these CD's includes a number of vocal exercises to reinforce the lessons being taught. The rest of the training CD's follow a similar style~ learning specifics about the topic, followed by exercises. 

The Workout CDs are filled with vocal exercises in the appropriate range.
"Two of Carole Beatty’s favorite phrases really apply here. Practice Makes Permanent and Muscles Have Memory. In other words, if you start replacing bad habits with good ones the good ones will start to take over. As you apply Vocal Coach training your muscles will start to automatically become more efficient. It just happens. And that’s when things get really exciting. And, it’s not magic. It’s just good training."

There are a couple of things that I think could be improved upon~
  • The tracks on the CDs are titled on the front of the CDs, but when I play them (in itunes, specifically), they are only listed by number. It would be much easier to choose specific exercises if they showed up titled on my computer as they are on the CD itself. 
  • Regarding the exercises themselves, although there may be a perfectly good reason for them to be in the order given, we found that there were frequently more difficult exercises right away that were just too hard for my kids to follow. I even had difficulty with some of them, and I had years of choral vocal exercise type stuff. I don't have an issue with the "Difficulty" itself, just the order in which they exercises are given. *The lead sheets for the exercises are helpful here for those who can read music, but less so for fresh beginners. They are a great resource to grow into.
Speaking of those vocal exercises, here's a little light-hearted experience for you. Anyone familiar with choral singing, or vocal warm ups is acquainted with "mee-may-mah-moe-moo, "hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee," and the like. I am VERY grateful that my children's first adventures with those and many of the other exercises took place in the privacy of their own home. Oh my! The tears (of laughter!!!)!!! Keeping a straight face was impossible, and would have created quite the disturbance in a choral or other group setting. :) Once they became more comfortable with the exercises the hysteria faded, but it was rather amusing!

Finally another quick word or two about  Chris and Carole Beatty and their website.
They are homeschool friendly, and have a great homeschool page with suggestions on how to implement their courses in your homeschool as well as some Q&A.
They offer a Free Singing Resource Page, which also links to their Blog. The Blog offers numerous articles and even more Q&A. Very much an excellent resource to check out if you or anyone in your family is interested in improving your vocal quality.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, November 12, 2012

IEW (PAL Reading and Writing) for grades K-2

We really enjoyed our experience with Institute for Excellence in Writing's teaching Writing with Structure and Style and Student Writing Intensive a couple of years ago with my oldest (you can read that review here).

What a joy to discover that IEW has an early elementary Reading and Writing program ~ Primary Arts of Language or PAL.
This is a fantastic program, and I hope that I am able to give you a reasonably adequate picture of what it is, and how it is working in our family. However, if you have about 12 minutes, Andrew Pudewa gives a much better introduction than I could to the entire program in this video:

The first component is the Reading Program~ It comes packaged (complete with all that you see pictured below), or individually, but I really recommend the package! The philosophy here is a blend of phonics and whole words used by Anna Ingham in  Blended Sound-Sight System of Learning.  The major items in this program are:
  • Primary Arts of Language: Reading Teacher’s Manual  The manual is well laid out, so that anyone can use it. The various pieces of each lesson are laid out for the teacher, so that nothing is forgotten. Each lesson includes a poem (That is repeated for many lessons, with a different emphasis each time) as well as a number of Phonetic games in each lesson and a new sticker or two to add to the Phonetic Farm sticker board.
  • Primary Arts of Language: Reading DVD-ROM  Contains an Instructional Video by Jill Pike, a number of MP3 Audios by Andrew Pudewa and Anna Ingham as well as the PAL Reading Student Book (which is a PDF e-book~ all of the pages required by the student can be printed from this disc) You can check out this video by Jill Pike to get a good feel for some of the specifics (When I was researching this prior to receiving the program via the TOS Review Crew my youngest wandered by, and watched for a minute or two. He turned to me and asked "Mommy, can we get this?" He was particularly interested in the Phonetic Farm, as well as the games.... ;D ):
  • Primary Arts of Language: Phonetic Games The games used throughout the lessons in  the teacher's guide are an integral part of the program. The Phonetic Games book includes all of the playing pieces, printed on cardstock and the "Game Boards" which are to be cut out (Sometimes) and pasted into manila folders. Because my son likes a bit of color I copied some of the game boards onto colored paper, keeping the game pieces plain. ***Just a quick note here... I glued envelopes onto the back of each folder to hold the game pieces, and in the MUGS game featured in the above video I just made sure to place the envelope right behind Mugs' mouth, so that when the bones are fed, they end up in the envelope~ no clean up required! :D 
  • Primary Arts of Language: Phonetic Farm folder with Stickers This is a favorite piece of the program, and because I have the tools... I laminated the "Stickers" and used clear velcro "dots" for each piece. That way we can "Review" the phenomes, and the stickers are "Reusable" which is a nice bonus (even if this is my last student~ nice to do things up for him sometimes like I did his older siblings).  You can't see the clear velcro on the white back of the farmer (er) sticker, but it's there (You can kind of see the little circle of velcro on the silhouette "Template" space where it goes, and some of the half-circles on the 'o' silo for future stickers).

One of the main "Beginning Tools" are the "Letter Stories." I am really impressed with the way the letter sounds are presented~ Letters which start with similar strokes are presented together, so the first three letters (and sounds) learned are 'a,' 'c,' and 'o.'  If you check out the video below you'll get a taste of the Letter Stories (that portion starts at about the 3 minute mark), and find out why 'c' is happy and 'a' is angry. :) 

Now that I've segued into the Writing Program...  let me quickly mention that the writing portion covers letter formation, copywork, spelling and composition.  The items pictured below include:
  • Primary Arts of Language: Writing Teacher’s Manual Again, everything is pretty much spelled out in the manual for those who need that~ it's fairly easy to pick up and go, once copies are made of the student pages... The lesson starts with writing in a journal (I tend to take dictation, since my guy is still working on letter formation), Printing (Yup... that "just mentioned" letter formation), Reading a story with comprehension (Starting to learn the concepts of character description, setting, plot, crisis, climax, and then moving into "What might have happened after?" and a "clincher" or moral to the story). Finally a Spelling Test can be given "at the whiteboard" covering the sounds learned thus far.
  • Primary Arts of Language: Writing DVD-ROM Includes another Instructional Video by Jill Pike (like the one seen above), more MP3 Audios by Andrew Pudewa and one by Adam Andrews(!),  Bonus MP3s  by Shirley George and Richelle Palmer, as well as the PDF Writing Student e-Books.
  • All About Spelling Basic Interactive Kit and  All About Spelling Level 1 (Teacher’s Manual and One Student Material Packet) By Marie Rippel (My littlest isn't at this point yet, but you can read my review of All About Spelling from 2009, when it was pretty much brand new).   
Before I go any further, there is one thing on which I must be absolutely clear~ there is a bit of prep work involved with this program. The Phonics games and the pieces are all included, but they must be assembled... this will take a little bit of time. All About Spelling is also fairly teacher-time intensive, but I feel it is extremely worthwhile.

That being said~ I'll tell you a little bit more about how this is working in our home.

Youngest LOVES doing the Journal. I am perhaps not the most consistent with it (I've never been able to keep a diary or journal of my own, so this is not terribly surprising), but we manage to fill it out 2-4 days a week. He gets a big kick out of "his book" and he has even been "sharing" it with the neighbor kids. It will be fun to see how it changes throughout the year (especially as he begins to write in it himself). He enjoys the games, and asks to "feed Mugs" on a semi-regular basis.

When learning to write his letters, we've been utilizing the "whiteboard" app on my iPad, which has been very useful, and fun (As well as kind of pretty!) You can see partial screen shots of 4 of his practice sessions here:

The letter stories have helped youngest to recall not only the sounds (He knows that the angry letter says "aaaaa" (with a short 'a' sound) because somebody pulled her hair, and that 'u' says "uh" because it wants UP!), but also some of the letter formation. Remembering that 'd' is a dog, and 'b' is a bouncing bomb or ball has made all the difference in which direction he writes them!

I think at the moment his least favorite thing is practicing some of the letters on his worksheets (he's a perfectionist, so I have to prod him to "move on, and just do the next one, don't worry about erasing." I think the iPad whiteboard is an excellent tool!) , and reading the poem is just starting to draw him in... it took awhile. Take that as encouragement not to "give up" if something doesn't seem to click right away, because it may just take some getting used to. Oh, and BTW, there isn't anything that he hates or is mulish about, these were just his least favorite. He asks when he can do his reading, so he definitely likes it, he just has an occasional frustration (like trying to get the top "leg" on 'k' to kick on a sharper angle than his wont).

Finally, the Student books include other "Activity pages" that are used to reinforce each day's lesson. If you have a cut and paste kid, there are often pages that require just that, so rejoice! If your child is glue-phobic... you could paste them in (yup... I've had one or more of each) for him/her.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Final thoughts~ 
I know that we have been working on reading readiness a fair amount over the past year (because my littlest showed interest), and I have seen him taking pieces of the things we've covered in PAL Reading and Writing, and use them in his daily life. I also know that we haven't even covered the tip of the iceberg in the PAL program, so this is rather exciting!  Please do be sure to click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say, especially if you have a 1st or 2nd grader, as there are reviewers whose children are older and further along than mine who will have more information to share on the more advanced portions of the program.

As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Your Child's Profession of Faith (Book review)

TOS Review Crew members were sent a selection of books to review from Grace & Truth Books books. There were 10 books or sets of books, fictional selections as well as a number of "relational" and "parenting" helps ~ a large variety, so be sure to check them ALL out (click the banner at the bottom of my post to see more)!

I received a book for parents: Your Child's Profession of Faith by Dennis Gundersen. "If a small child tells us he thinks he's saved, do we take his words at face value? How do we test his profession, especially without seeming to doubt the child and discourage him?"

As a very young "Convert" myself (Preacher's kid) married to another young convert (also a Preacher's Kid), raising our children in church, with AWANA and various Bible studies, and stories for the younger ages (and seeing young conversions in our children), I didn't know what to expect from this book, but was curious to see where Pastor Gundersen would go with this.

The first chapter ends by summing up the intent of the book: "This book is all about taking time, in their younger, tender years, to cultivate their profession of faith into something mature and well-founded that they will not later look back on with doubts and fears, wondering if it was genuine after all. Or worse: having a disingenuous profession which they never doubt at all."

Throughout the rest of the book I felt like I was reading something of a mixed message~ "Yes, young children can come to a pure profession of faith in Jesus and a confession of Salvation." BUT "Children coming to faith is never directly mentioned in the New Testament." AND "Jesus uses terms to describe commitment to him that children cannot understand, and therefore cannot commit to" (I'm paraphrasing a bit on that). My perception is that regardless of age, a commitment is made on the level the person is at, and it grows as their understanding grows.

Given the title of the book, and even the description, I was taken by surprise as I read. The majority of the chapters (3-9) focused on the appropriateness of child baptism after a confession of faith.  Chapters 3-6 were recommendations not to baptize a child prematurely, and Chapters 7-9 dealt more with determining whether a child has really committed, and at what point baptism is appropriate.

While I agree with much of what was written, I found it somewhat troubling that there seemed to be such a great emphasis on the changeableness and instability of children, with numerous Scriptures quoted to back that up, but I didn't see a balance of the Scriptures that speak of the child-like faith,  or mention of Timothy, who was taught as a child, and a reminder that "For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven," or even the fact that God called Samuel to serve Him at a very young age.

I think there are a number of very good points presented, that are worth considering (especially if you are concerned about peer pressure, or in the case of a pastor, parent pressure). I particularly thought the last bit of the book was useful~ it has some very helpful "Interview" questions that help to nail down exactly where a child stands and whether a child is ready for baptism. It finishes with the first 3 chapters of Andrew Murray's book from the 19th Century "The Children for Christ."

Final analysis~ most helpful for those who work with children in larger churches or groups who might run into overzealous parents, or see children who are more likely to suffer from peer pressure.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this, or one of the other 9 products reviewed from Grace and Truth Books. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thankful~ Days 3-8 (catching up!)

Whoops! Got a little behind! 

Day 3 ~ Thankful for my steady, loving sweetheart

Day 4 ~ This lovely young lady

Day 5 ~ Charming lad (everyone's Best Friend!)

Day 6 ~ One who brings laughter to our lives 

Day 7 ~ The group of them together that just make me smile! 
So grateful that homeschooling means 
I get to spend every day with them!
Day 8 ~  No photo for this one~ although I am not happy about the outcome of the election, I AM thankful that I have grown up in a country that has a history of protecting our freedom to worship God as we see fit, to share our faith, and to have a say in our government.


Melissa & Doug "Terrific Twenty List" and Giveaway

Yes~ it *IS* that time of year~ time to be thinking ahead, and picking up some fun things for the children in your life (Or for Toys For Tots, or some other such good cause)

If you are not familiar with Melissa & Doug, they have been providers of quality children's gifts and toys since 1988 (and I have been purchasing their products pretty much from the start~ first as a nanny, and then as a mother :).
Many of the toys are "heirloom" wooden toys. My kids have all loved "cutting" the wooden bread and fruit and veggies, and my youngest, more recently has enjoyed "cooking" cupcakes and sugar cookies. They have expanded the line beyond wood to other Terrific Gifts like the tea set and cuddly lion you see pictured to the left. 

To help you with your shopping, Melissa & Doug has just published their list of the "Terrific Twenty"~ some great gifts to consider! To celebrate they are having a “20 Days of Terrific Twenty” Giveaway on their Facebook page! Every day (starting November 6they'll be giving away one item from their Terrific Twenty list to at least one of their Facebook fans! So go visit Melissa & Doug on facebook to enter to win a gift every day (Until my birthday! Imagine that! :D)  from the Terrific Twenty list. 
In addition to Melissa and Doug's Facebook giveaway, they are offering me the opportunity to give away one item from the Terrific  Twenty list here on my blog! I have chosen to give away the "My Own Mailbox" pretend play set, as it follows the great Melissa & Doug tradition of open-ended, re-useable pretend play. This is also the toy my 15 year old thought I should give away~ seeing that the children in our neighborhood have over the years (Starting with her) been obsessed with playing post-office, and sending each other mail~ she thought it would have been fun to have this, as opposed to a shoe box!

From the website:
Everyone likes getting letters! Sending and receiving "mail" is even more fun with this toy mailbox, complete with a bright red flag. The sturdy wooden box comes with letter and number stickers so kids can decorate it with their name, address or a special message. The hinged door opens to make room for two postcards and a ruled letter and envelope, all reusable with the wipe-clean crayons that come with the set. Need even more inspiration? Drawing activities and play ideas are included to keep this letter box filled with creative correspondence and lots of fun!
My Own Mailbox Classic Toy
Item # : 4089
Price: $19.99
Dimensions: 7.87" x 7" x 4" Assembled
Recommended Ages: 4+ years

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received an item of my choice for free as a thank you for getting the word out for Melissa & Doug. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Apologia Journeys of Faithfulness

One of my all-time favorite Homeschool "how-to"/"inspiration" books is "Educating the Whole-Hearted Child" by Clay and Sally Clarkson (I reviewed the updated version of this last fall, which you can read by clicking the link). However, I had not read any of the books written by their daughter Sarah, so I was pleased to be given the chance to review her devotional book for young ladies, Journeys of Faithfulness, published by Apologia.

The goal of Journeys of Faithfulness is to use accounts from the lives of Mary and Martha, Mary the mother of Jesus, Esther, and Ruth to encourage our daughters in their walk with Christ. The style and format is a little different from what we are used to.

Each chapter starts with a "Historical Fiction" account from the Bible~ Sarah takes the Scripture, and fleshes out conversations and emotions as they might have been, reading between the lines.

From there Sarah shares a personal account~ painting a word picture of how she came to see a Spiritual Truth, and allow God to work in her life.

Following that is a short Bible Study that directs the reader to 3-4 Scriptures followed by personal application questions.

The last bit of each chapter contains a few blank pages for journaling.

Our take~
While "Biblical Fiction" is something that my daughter has enjoyed in the past, she didn't feel that it worked very well in this devotional book~ She felt that the selections were a little too long for a "Daily reading" that wasn't actually Scripture.

The personal account section is headlined as a "devotional," but I have a hard time using that term for  a 2-3 page story. To me a devotional is short and to the point, while emphasizing scripture. I felt that these would be more reasonably considered slightly chatty (which I like) "Inspirational applications," but not devotionals.

The Bible Study portions are probably my daughter's least favorite aspect~ she is a black and white "What does the Bible Say?" sort of girl, who doesn't like to answer the "What do you think this means for your life?" sort of questions. However, her best friend would probably love that aspect!  Hmmmm~ we need to work a little more on application! ;)

I do have to say that it was a little difficult to figure out how to approach each chapter~ My suggestion was: The Longish Historical Fiction reading on day 1, The "Devotional" on Day 2, and spend Days 3+ on the Scriptures and questions (With journaling, if so desired~ not a regular occurrence in our home). We never got into a good "flow" with it, but that is most likely a personal method issue.

At the moment, I think that we have determined that this sort of study is not Eldest's favorite style, but perhaps we'll give it a try again sometime down the road, because the content is good! I'd also like to see Sarah try her hand at a Biblical Novel, and a stand-alone book of "Inspirational Stories" from her life, as I think those would work well. :)

You can download the Table of Contents, and a Sample Chapter to see if this might be a good fit for your family~

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, November 5, 2012

K-8 Science labs (In bags?) and a Travel Binder!

A few years ago I participated in a "Preschool Activities in a Bag" swap with about 20 other homeschooling families. Does that sound familiar? Have you heard of Activity Bags ?

Let me tell you a little bit about the swap process. The basic gist is this: A main coordinator sent out instructions for each participant to put together 20 copies of the same activity, each in a gallon zip-loc bag. The bags were then sent to the coordinator who assembled them into boxes with 20 different activities for each person and sent them back out.When the box came back, there were many activities to help keep my preschooler busy while his siblings worked on their school-work with me. Sometimes they became a ready-to-go activity to pull out and use with him on a regular basis, and a few were good options to bring with us in the car when heading out to visit his grandfather.

Well, the ladies of Activity Bags have moved beyond the preschool crowd, and have some new offerings for children aged K-8th grade. The TOS Review Crew received a variety of products to review. I was sent the all 3 Science Experiments in a Bag ebooks (You can click on each image to be brought to their product page) as well as the  Travel Activities in a Binder ebook.

Now there are a couple of ways to approach these activities. One is to organize a swap with local families (saves on shipping) OR with cyber-friends. The other is just to put the activities together on your own.

Benefits to the Swap~ 
  • ONE shopping trip, with a short list!  
  • You pull together a large quantity of the same items for ONE project (It's kind of the same concept as "Freezer cooking" ~ cheaper to buy "in bulk"... ;)  )
  • Simpler to produce one activity "Assembly Line" style.
  • Fun to get mail
  • Sense of "community"
  • A bunch of activities all prepped and ready to go, with minimal labor (Because of the assembly -line nature of the swap)
  • Mostly ready for kids to "Grab and Go"
Benefits to putting the activities together on your own~ 
  • If space is an issue, it is useful to just use these as "Resource" books, and do each activity as they fit into your studies~ Pick and choose
  • No deadline for a swap
  • No postage
Cons (In comparison to the Swap)
  • No deadline for a swap ;) (deadlines help things get done!)
  • No set "All ready" to go bags, unless you choose to spend a day putting everything together yourself (Which is something I would do if I had more space...)
  • More items to purchase and pull together~ takes more time
  • Might be more costly when not purchasing in larger quantities
You might have guessed how we are approaching the Science Activities in a Bag at this point in time~ more as a resource to use with my Middlest's Science Activities, with Littlest tagging along, as usual (And since these are intended for ages K-8th grade, this is perfect!). The main reason is that I currently don't have a space for a bunch of pre-made science experiments in bags in a box. However, as soon as I can carve out a spot (Because, honestly, they don't take up THAT much space!), I will be assembling a few of these puppies, and letting Middlest take control of which labs he's doing for each lesson, rather than just pulling them up one at a time.

On with my method of the moment~ I printed up the page for each book that categorizes the experiments (Indoor/Outdoor, Biology, General Science, or Chemistry in Book 1,  Indoor/Outdoor, Chemistry, Human Body, General Science in Book 2, and Indoor/Best Outside for Book 3 which is all Chemstry) as well as the "Experiments at a Glance" for each book. I printed these "4 to a page" so that I pretty much have just one sheet/book. This makes it easy for me to find an appropriate experiment for my son's Chemistry lessons this year.

We're coordinating these with the Creek Edge Press science cards that the Crew reviewed last fall (I purchased Chemistry for this year, so that Middlest and Eldest would be studying the same branch of science in 2013... :) ), which works out well. The cards generally include instructions to "do a lab" that relates to the topic, but the labs aren't prepared or even really suggested~ it's up to the student (or teacher) to find the labs. These experiments are... labs! :) They are fun, and they are easily done with household items.

Some of the experiments are tried and true, you'll be familiar with them (volcano, anyone?), and others are less common (I had never thought of making a garbage viewer so that the composting process is visible, but that one is right up my 5 year old's alley~ however, I'm waiting for spring to try that one!). 

Which reminds me~ The beauty of a swap (or having a dedicated science box with the bags prepared) with the Science Experiments in a Bag is that the majority of the materials required will already be pulled together for you~ so there is no excuse for not getting that science done! :D

I have an idea for the experiments that we don't use in our Chemistry study this year~ I think they would make a great "Idea box" for summer activities~ pull the bags together, and have a ready-to-go activity for the summer (That indoor/outdoor chart is very helpful here as well). Might make a pretty awesome present as well, presented in a nice sturdy plastic box for the science-loving child in your life!

Now for the other ebook that I was sent, Travel Activities in a Binder ebook.
This book is a little different in that the activities are all printed pages to be put in sheet protectors, and then in a 1 inch binder with a pencil pouch and dry-erase markers.  Activities are included that all ages can play together: From Tic-Tac-Toe to Connect-the-Dots and Hangman (We're changing ours to a "Ladybug" game, as my children object to Hangman....), Scavenger Hunts and "Mad-Libs" style pages, Geography-type games, "Travel Bingo" games, a variety of mazes (For a variety of abililities) and more.

I love doing this one on my own because each child can have a personalized binder of their own, with pages that are appropriate for their ages and interests. When we take long car trips my kids have always enjoyed participating in  creative travel games, but we're always rummaging for paper for whatever activity they choose to do, not to mention pencils and pens. I love the fact that with Travel Activities In A Binder, everything is reusable (For instance, I can't tell you how many "Dot game boards" or Tic-Tac-Toe boards I've drawn by hand....and then thrown away when the game was finished... How nice to have ONE in each book... pre-made and REUSABLE!!!)

We haven't actually USED them in the car as of yet, because we haven't been on any trips in the past few weeks (or even reasonably long car rides...), but I anticipate that this will help to keep those back-of-seat car pockets a little more organized (With pencil pouches in the notebooks.... pens and pencils shouldn't drift to the bottom of the seat pocket, and random sheets of paper won't be getting crunched), as well as providing some non-electronic, good old-fashioned fun and entertainment for our next road trip! If that road trip happens to be to visit family without younger kids, the binders may go into the house to help occupy the littlest, at any rate, and/or help him to engage with his older relatives!

I love that Travel Activities in a Binder is a more convenient and less wasteful version of what we were already doing a little bit, with more variety added in.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thanksgiving~ Day 2

Well..... I'm going to share more than just one thing I'm thankful for today~

The fact that although we still haven't turned on the furnace (And it's getting chilly up here in the North East!), we can bundle up with cozy slippers and sweaters and fingerless gloves, and unlike some of my friends just to the south, we have electricity that can run a space heater in the living room if we want, an oven that can help heat the house if I'm baking something, and a refrigerator that isn't in danger of thawing and spoiling. Not to mention the fact that I can sit here with my computer plugged in, and still reach out to the rest of the world online (We don't have smart phones, so no electricity means no outside communication).  I'm thankful for electricity (and the linemen who restore it as quickly as humanly possible), so I can easily enjoy a cup of hot coffee, among so many other things.

Of course, because it is still so new and amazing to us that the missing-for-4-months-dress has appeared, it is still towards the front of our minds as well. I wrote a quick note on various Irish Dance Forums (ones that I had posted to about the dress in early October), and was blessed by the response of one person (who has no clue who we are.... they live somewhere in "Mid-America" I think): I was having a really rough day, but reading this happy ending was quite uplifting. I'm so happy things have worked out for you! (NT) -- the little things, for today.

So often we only post or speak up when things are wrong~ made me really glad that I took the time to let people (Even those who I don't know, and likely will never meet) know the good news~ it made a difference in someone's day, and their response made a difference in mine! I'm thankful for people who take time to show appreciation, and make a quick, positive comment.
Taking time to share the good news today leads me really, to what I am always the most thankful for, day in and day out~
The Gospel~ translated literally, The Good News

Although "Life is tough" , "God *is* Good." The One who created us and loves us wants to be in a right relationship with us. As we look towards the Joy and Excitement of Advent and Christmas, may we never forget that the reason the Child was born, was to become the Man who would make a way to reconcile us to His Father forever~ Everlasting Joy!

Embedding has been disabled, but here's the song by Randy Stonehill that I was thinking of as I started this last bit ~ Life is Tough, God is Good ~ you have to listen to the whole thing, tho', to get to the Good News. ;)




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