Friday, May 30, 2014

Apologia: What on Earth Can I Do? (TOS Review Crew)

I was privileged to receive the 4th book in Apologia Educational Ministries' "What We Believe" series, What on Earth Can I Do?, for review along with some additional resources; a Notebooking Journal Junior Notebooking Journal, and Coloring Book.

The "What We Believe" series is a course in Apologetics for the younger elementary crowd. I have previously reviewed the first book in the series Who is God?, and the second book Who Am I?. These books answer basic but important questions about the character of God, and individual identity. The third book in the series (Who is my Neighbor?) was also reviewed by the TOS Review Crew, with an emphasis on being a servant, spreading salt and light..

This fourth book in the series, "What on Earth Can I Do?" emphasizes stewardship principles with the following chapters:

  1. Your Story or God's Story?
  2. Who Put You In Charge? 
  3. Will You Be Found Faithful? 
  4. Where Is Your Treasure? 
  5. Where Does Your Time Go? 
  6. Whose Life Is It Anyway? 
  7. Why Isn't It Easy Being Green? 
  8. What Will Happen When The Master Returns? 
Each Chapter in this book continues in the same format as the previous books, with a couple of changes: 

  • The Big Idea~ introduction and overview of the lesson
  • What You Will Do~ quickly explains objectives
  • Short Story~ incorporates in continuing story-form concepts that are taught through the rest of the lesson. This first half of this particular book's story is set in England during World War II. The second half is set in the African Serengeti. 
  • Think About It~ thought-provoking questions
  • Words You Need to Know~ vocabulary
  • Hide It in Your Heart~ memory verses
  • Integrated Learning~ articles that integrate the Biblical concepts presented with the fields of art, science, history, and more... (Because of the backdrop of World War II, you may wish to edit your reading of some of these articles if your children are on the younger side. Personally, I didn't feel my six year old was ready to deal with some of the specifics of Hitler and the holocaust. These topics can be tricky when writing for a wide age span.)
  • What Should I Do? ~ life application of Godly character traits
  • Prayer~ for those who appreciate a "Written prayer"
  • Parables of Jesus~ "Reimagined" writings based on the Parables of Jesus. These are retellings faithful to the original intent, fleshed out with names, places, historical facts and cultural details to help better understand what is going on in the parable. 
  • Going Deeper~ Discussion questions about the parables~ 
Notebooking Journals~ 
The Junior Notebooking Journal includes:

  • Blank Note-Taking Pages~ We didn't use these, as my son is only 6, and not really at the stage of taking notes, but if you have a prolific writer, this space is just begging to be used. 
  • Coloring pages from each chapter~ one that illustrates a part of the short story. Others relate to the Bible passage, "Steward focus,"  the parable, or a concept taught in the story. I had my son choose one of the pictures to color while he was listening to me read. He's not always extremely in to coloring, so the pictures often end up being half-done~ as in he's done when I'm done reading, whether the picture is fully colored or not. ;) 
  • Words to Know~ nice for kids who aren't writing much, they only have to fill in blanks with 3 words that are right there on the page, and the lines are large for those whose handwriting is still in the primary stage. 
  • Hide it In My Heart~ Bible verse Copy-work.
  • Make a Note of It ~ Space to draw answers to some of the questions about the lesson and life application.
  • Word Puzzles (Word Searches, and Crosswords) the sizes are great for young writers, and the word searches are strictly up and down/side to side, which makes for more successful searching at a younger age. 
  • Mini Books to be cut out, assembled, and pasted into the journal.
  • My Prayer page for the child to write or draw their own prayer to God.
  • Praise Report page to record how God is answering their prayers.
  • I Spy page to write about or draw something that has shown your child God's hand working, whether in nature or a circumstance.
  • Living Out Loud page to display photos of things that your child is doing to help others.
  • Find Out More is a list of activities, books, videos and songs that can help you find out more  about people and places learned about in the lessons.

The Notebooking Journal for the older children has the same pages, but on a higher level, with a couple of changes~ instead of the coloring pages there are 

  • Think About It questions about the story read during the lesson.
  • The Make a Note of it pages have spaces for the answers to the corresponding "Make a Note of it" Life application questions in the book.
  • Do You Remember is a review page for the entire lesson.
The coloring book includes the same coloring pages that are in the Junior Notebooking Journal, but there are additional pages to color for each chapter. Definitely enough for the younger child to have a page to color for most of the days that you use the lesson, even if it takes you 2 weeks to complete each one (which is a recommended pace). 


  • I really appreciate the Christian Worldview, and the stories that relate the Bible to everyday life, and young children's lives. 
  • The Parables of Jesus are interesting retellings that are also very relatable. 
  • The Notebooking Journals engage the child, kinesthetically and visually. 
  • The Coloring Book engages kinesthetically as well as auditorally, if the child is coloring while listening to you read. 
  • The Notebooking Journals include a "lesson plan" in the front so that you don't have to worry about how to pace the pages with the lesson. 
  • The Apologia website once again contains "Teacher Helps" for each lesson with additional discussion questions, and a separate document that guides the use of the coloring book~ showing which pictures correspond with which stories. 


  • Keeping in mind that these books are written for grades 1-6, there are definitely sections (as I mentioned above) that families may wish to pre-read and edit if using with younger and/or more sensitive children. 
  • If you tend to soften, or avoid some portions of the Bible, or Bible stories for your younger children, this book definitely requires a pre-read. For instance, I will edit the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife for my 6 year old~ maybe not as much for an 11 or 12 year old, but then again... 

  • The "Short Stories" are a little longer than I would regularly use for a family devotional, but they held my son's interest, and are well written.
  • I had to remind myself that some of the details in the parables weren't fact, but rather a possibility. ;)
  • There are definitely portions of the book where there are no punches pulled, and the stories are very plain-spoken. That can be a Pro for some families and a Con for others, so if you are concerned, definitely look this particular book over. 

I think that these Apologia materials are very worthwhile, even if I feel the need to edit them for sensitivities upon occasion. They help build a solid foundation of understanding what our role is in this world, even from a very young age. If you would like to see examples and samples, be sure to visit the Apologia pages linked below.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can find Apologia on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest.
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.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Trident Kraken AMS Case for the iPad2, 3, 4 (TOS Review Crew) Made in the USA!

Sometimes the TOS Review Crew gets something other than curriculum to review. These items are always interesting, and a nice change of pace.  This latest review item is from Trident Case the Kraken A.M.S. Case for Apple iPad  2/3/4 (other TOS Review Crew members received cases for other Apple, Kindle, and Samsung products, so if you don't have an iPad, make sure to check out their reviews as well!).

The Kraken case is available with a variety of accent colors~ black, blue, pink, red, lime green, purple, orange, and maroon.

I chose the purple case.

I felt kind of funny requesting the iPad case, as my iPad is... shall we say NOT in the best condition... In the photos below you can easily see the cracks that it acquired a year + after purchase. The case I had at the time didn't cover the corners, so it wasn't protected from the 1st drop, even though it was in its case. The case also wasn't very convenient for the 5 yo to use, so we would remove the iPad from the case and let him play with it on its own, hence the 2nd drop, and the 3rd drop happened while it was in the case, but the cover was open...

However, I was very hopeful that a GOOD case would help to protect my iPad from any further cracking, and be much safer for general use. You can bet that if I ever manage to upgrade to a 64G (or more) iPad, this case is going on pronto!

When the Kraken Case arrived I put it on, and found it quite easy to assemble and use. The middle silicone "Colorful" portion of the case fits snuggly around the iPad, and then locks securely into the hardened polycarbonate back shell and front frame. To help safeguard from dust and light water damage, every device control and port is protected with the flexible silicone plugs that are an integral part of the silicone layer. The case is Military Tough, and meets or exceeds Military standard MIL-STD-810F. If you don't know what that means, like I didn't, the specifics regarding wind, rain, dust, vibration, etc... can be found directly on the Kraken information page, but it seems like it should hold up to most of the abuse that a 6 year old might accidentally put it through. :)

Shortly after putting the case on, I was in the waiting room at my daughter's dance class, where I can be found 2-3 times per week. One of the other moms who is also regularly there, and very familiar with all the cracks it has acquired over the past couple of years saw my iPad as soon as I pulled it out and exclaimed "Oh! You got a new iPad?!" With the included screen protector (part of the top frame), the cracks were camouflaged, and much more difficult to see. I replied of course, that I did NOT get a new iPad, but I did get this fantastic new case! :) 

So far I have found the case to be protective, and haven't run into any problems using the controls. It has made me worry less when my 6 year old is walking with it or using it in various settings that aren't as safe as on the couch. Given that I already have damage, I'm not willing run any tests with it, but I can say that I browsed a bunch of the test videos for various cases on the Trident YouTube channel, and well... I'm pretty impressed! Here's their test on the iPad... with a bat! Other cases had doors slammed on them, and huge planks or wood dropped on them, among other extremes.

A few points of interest (pros/cons/sometimes both): 
  1. PRO~ It is made in the USA! Hurray! 
  2. CON~ I don't find it quite as easy to plug the charger into the power port as when it isn't in the case, but it certainly isn't a deal breaker~ PRO especially when it covers the port so nicely so that dust and debris don't get into it. 
  3. CON I wish that there was some sort of a thin flap/cover to protect the included screen protector on the front from scratches when the ipad is in my bag~ I tend to carry it with me most places. 
  4. My final CON (see photo below) is simply that this case isn't available for older Apple products~ we have ipods from 2nd to 5th generation, and have had a terrible time finding protective cases for the older ipods that do all the things the Trident cases do... 
    • PRO cover ports (So that foil from candy wrappers don't get into the headphone port when the ipod is in your son's pocket...)
    • PRO have dust/water-proof cases with included screen protectors~ because they don't bubble or peel off like applied screen protectors, and are easy to clean
    • PRO have shock protectors on the corners, as the corners seem to be the most frequent point of impact. 
*Note~ there *is* a case available for the ipod 4... but nothing for the 2nd or 5th... Aegis Series

As you can tell, I'm pretty delighted with our new Trident Kraken Case, and can fairly whole-heartedly recommend Trident Case if you are looking for an ultra-protective case for your electronic device.

You can find Trident Case on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Vine, and YouTube.

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.


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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Micro Business for Teens (TOS Review Crew)

If you've been in the homeschooling community for very long, you may be familiar with Carol Topp, and her company Micro Business for Teens. Carol is a CPA, and a frequent speaker at homeschool conventions, online events, podcasts, and webinars. I have heard her speak a time or two, and have been intrigued by her Micro Business for Teens Curriculum. It is composed of 2 books Starting a Micro Business Running a Micro Business  and a workbook Micro Business for Teens Workbook (Some Crew members received print versions, we were in the group that received the ebook versions).

My two oldest children have varying skills and interests. Eldest is a crafter/artist, Middlest is a creative thinker. They both have things they'd like to purchase, but currently neither has a job (they are already out of the house more nights than they are in~ time is at a premium), so the advice given in these books is very appropriate and enlightening.

The information is presented in such a way that it is easily accessible to my 13 year old son as well as his almost 17 year old sister. Carol Topp takes them step by step through the process of brainstorming micro business ideas, as well as how to set a business up, and more.

                                Table of contents for Starting a Micro Business: 

  • What is a Micro Business? 
  • Getting an Idea: A Collection of Micro Business Ideas Best for Teenagers
  • Problems and Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
  • Plan it First: Writing a Business Plan
  • Financing your Business Without Breaking the Bank
  • Taking Care of Business: Extra Information to Get You Started
  • Encouragement: Final Words to Motivate You
Table of contents for Running a Micro Business

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Bookkeeping Basics
  • Using Software
  • Legal Names and Numbers
  • Reducing Risk
  • Time Management

Reading through the books, and starting to work through the workbook, both of my teens are brainstorming business ideas, and trying to figure out whether their ideas will work in our setting or not. 

Middlest really liked the "real world" aspect of the information~ the concept of planning things out, and how to avoid common problems. He also enjoyed reading the stories of the teens who had successful businesses that were used as examples. 

The workbook was very helpful to him, as it encouraged him put his ideas down in black and white, so that he could work on the viability of his plan. 

Eldest is looking forward to putting the principles into practice as she hopes to begin a crafting business this summer. She has a prototype of at least one product, and a niche market. She is considering marketing fancy beaded hair ornaments, custom made to match solo Irish Dance Dresses. She would also offer hair ornaments to the general public. 

Eldest is also considering the possibility of marketing her artwork (drawings and photography) in a variety of ways, and Starting a Micro Business and Running a Micro Business will help her to be more successful in that endeavor

Carol Topp was the host of a PBS production: Starting A Micro Business For Teens. You can view the first few minutes below, and the full hour PBS production is found at this YouTube link.

Carol Topp offers a free 40 page pdf teacher's guide that offers lesson plans and discussion questions. We did not utilize this in our family during the review period, but I am inclined to complete the curriculum with both children (using portions of the teacher's guide), as using the Micro Business for Teens curriculum should earn 1/2 credit of high school credit (business, I presume?) and running the business can be another 1/2 to a full credit (I found this information on Carol's blog, which can be reached from her website as well).

If like mine, your teens have more "wants" than "wherewithal" then they may find Starting a Micro Business to be beneficial. Running a Micro Business should help them to be successful, and completing the course, can help them with their transcript. It's a winning proposition all around.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Micro Business for Teens on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

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.


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Saturday, May 17, 2014

"C" is for Commitment (Charlotte Mason Inspiration #9)

*Although the quote doesn't directly say 'Commitment', it does imply the parent's commitment to their children through the use of the word 'Duty.'

Linking up with 
Ben and Me

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ozeri 8" Green Earth Pan (Review)

Do you use non-stick pans? Are you concerned with flaking, etc...?
I have had a number of "non-stick" pans through the years, and inexpensive or pricey, they have all ended up having issues with the teflon coating coming off, so I was very excited to be offered an 8" Ozeri Green Earth Textured Ceramic Non-stick Frying Pan for review.

The Ozeri Pan utilizes GREBLON which is a safe ceramic coating from Germany, over a heavy-gauge, die-cast aluminum base. GREBLON is 100%PTFE and PFOA free.

That all sounds great, but what really matters is how it performs. Now, I haven't had the pan long enough to know how long the coating holds up (Some of my other brand pans lasted a long time, others not so much...), but I *can* tell you how it is performing right now.

I figured that one of the best tests for non-stick pans is frying eggs: Score!
And then I tried some pancakes (Made with cottage cheese, so a little sticky, normally)~ See how clean the pan ended up?  No... I didn't wipe it out between photos, these were all taken during the cooking process... I'm pretty happy with it~ just wish it was bigger!

The pan is a snap to wipe out, and I haven't run into any snafus so far.
I don't use it daily, as it is a much smaller pan than I normally use, so my review is not based on heavy use. I use a small amount of olive oil in the bottom, and then I am careful to use only plastic untensils, and hand-wash as recommended.

Ozeri offers a limited life-time warranty, so assuming that I continue to care for the pan as recommended, I should be happy, whether I run into any problems or not.

The fresh green coloring on the outside of the pan makes me smile, and is a bonus for those who like to serve directly from the pan at table.

You can purchase your Ozeri pan from Amazon. The price is currently $25.95 for the 8", $29.66 for the 10".


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Logic of English (Essentials Complete Set) TOS Review

Last fall the TOS Review Crew used and reviewed a number of products from Logic of English (I reviewed their Rhythm of Handwriting: Cursive course). This spring the Crew is once again reviewing their products, and this time around I received the Essentials: Logic of English, Complete Set and the Phonics with Phonograms App.

Essentials is a systematic phonics based reading, writing, spelling, and grammar program, available with either a cursive or manuscript workbook. I chose to use the manuscript workbook with my almost 7 year old. The teacher's manual includes sample schedules for struggling readers and spellers (8 years-adult), struggling spellers (9 years-adult), emerging readers and spellers (6-7 year olds,) young emerging readers (5-6 year olds), and ESL students of any age.

The Complete Set includes:

  • Essentials Teacher's Manual
  • Essentials Student Workbook (In either Cursive or Manuscript)
  • Spelling Journal 
  • Basic Phonogram Flash Cards
  • Spelling Rule Flash Cards
  • Grammar Rule Flash Cards
  • Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
  • Game Book
  • Game Card decks
  • Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference Chart

Some of the items (like the Quick Reference Chart) will be useful later on, and would be more practical for older students.

I was very interested in the remedial aspect of the beginning of the manual, and we actually spent a fair amount of time (a couple of weeks) in the "before you begin" section that covers Phonemic Awareness. My youngest is not the clear speaker that his siblings were at early ages, and I found the section on developing a Kinesthetic Awareness of Sounds to be very helpful in getting him to say the sounds correctly by watching my mouth and lips, and feeling his own mouth, lips and voicebox.

We then spent about a week going over the basic phonograms, and DRILLING the vowel phonograms with the Phonics with Phonograms App. For a child who spoke mostly in vowels when he was a 2 year old,  I find it interesting that Youngest has had a difficult time including vowels ever since he started learning to read, so the app has been very useful in quizzing him on them. I made use of the "custom level builder" to include only those sounds that he was having trouble with. While he still gets tripped up from time to time, usually he'll remember the order from most common to least common when I remind him.

Back to the Main program...
After the introductory/before you begin/ section of the manual, there is a unit on "Teaching the lessons" that details how to walk through the three parts of each lesson~

Part 1: phonograms, sounds and spelling rules
Part 2: spelling dictation and analysis, and spelling markings
Part 3: grammar, dictation, composition, vocabulary

Followed by Teacher resources that include the spelling lists, phonograms, spelling rules, and grammar: parts of speech, sentences and clauses, punctuation, etc...

Once I felt that his foundation was fairly strengthened we moved on to the lessons, going through about 1.5 every two weeks (somewhere between the recommended 1 lesson/week - 2 weeks/lesson).
clockwise from top right~ teacher's manual, game book
phonogram flash cards, workbook, and spelling rule cards
The Lessons are fairly detailed in the teacher's manual, and the workbook pages and activities are clearly marked. You can download Sample pages from the Teacher's manual and Workbook at the Logic of English website.

So far most of my impression has been fairly positive, but there is one thing I found that is worth mentioning.

The first lesson is fairly straight forward, reviewing the a-z phonograms, and introducing /qu/. Consonants and vowels are covered, as are nouns and plurals. The second lesson, however, jumped into words using four *new* double letter phonograms. This isn't really so bad (particularly when going at a one lesson/2 week pace), but only one of the phonograms was emphasized through the first part of the lesson, which meant that we didn't actively review or work on the other three once I introduced them as directed. As a result, when we got to part 2 of the lesson (The spelling test) there was some confusion. I think it would be helpful if the phonograms received equal emphasis (or at least some activity) in the lesson and workbook, in order to relieve the frustration of not "getting it" by the time the student is asked to spell new words.

Moving right along...
The lessons do incorporate games, whether a phonogram bingo game, or a card game from the Phonogram & Spelling Game Book, which has games to suit a variety of ages and abilities.

One of my son's favorite activities to date is making new words with the phonogram cards laid out on the rug~ We started with a specific ending (in this lesson using /ck/ as directed in the manual), and a single vowel (/a/). Youngest then chose letters to put in front of the /a/ to make words. He built pack, sack, whack, back, jack, black, tacks, tack, and hack. Before I could even suggest it, he decided to replace the /a/ with /e/ so that he could make the word neck. This is definitely a game that we will be playing again, as we add new phonograms to our repertoire.
In addition to card games there are gross motor games that incorporate hopping and stepping, drills, sensory/tactile ideas and more. The Phonogram and Spelling Game Book is a great resource, and would be particularly useful in a larger family, where there would be more children to play. :)

From my look ahead, I think that Essentials could be a very good buy, particularly for families who can use it with younger as well as struggling readers. And if it's already in your home library when your kids hit high school it might be useful to pull out and have them do a little review before starting all those college assessment tests, and/or let them use it to help tutor an ESL student as part of a volunteer project.

While this is not my son's favorite subject, I have felt it to be a worthwhile use of time, as he is being introduced to grammar, doing more spelling, and for us, learning to speak more clearly (A happy byproduct of the Essentials introductory material).

Essentials is not a fun and games curriculum, more of a down to business literacy program, but with some very worthwhile information and straightforward, systematic lessons. If your children are younger, and it seems too academic(?) for them, then you might want to check out the TOS Reviews of the Logic of English's Foundations Sets which are much more colorful, and geared for ages 4-7 (follow the link at the bottom of this review).

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.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

"B" is for Buds (Charlotte Mason Inspiration #8)

"B" is for Buds

bud photos by my eldest from around our yard and neighborhood
Just as each different kind of bud packs its leaves in a unique package, 
so each child is a unique package~ 
bursting forth and unfolding 
at the rate that is specific 
to the singular character and temperament. 
It is up to us as parents and educators 
to nurture our little buds 
so that with proper care 
they will unfurl into a thing of beauty and life. 


Linking up with Marcy at Ben & Me



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