Friday, July 31, 2015

Heirloom Audio Productions~ With Lee in Virginia

Ready to hear about another high quality telling of a G.A. Henty book by Heirloom Audio Productions? Their latest production (And my latest review) is With Lee in Virginia, with a look at the Civil War from the viewpoint of a young Southern boy/man.

You may recall my review of In Freedom's Cause this winter. With Lee in Virginia follows the high standard of Heirloom Audio Productions' previous works, with high quality acting, music and overall production.

This particular story tells the tale of Vincent Wingfield, heir to a plantation in Richmond, Virginia. Vincent is a compassionate young man of 15, who cares about those who work for him, and hates to see others mistreated. He truly seems to offer an example of one who sees the right thing to do, and then does it ~ a quality that is more rare today than one might wish. Even when things don't go according to the plan or desires of his heart, Vincent sees and believes the wise counsel of others.

This is a high quality recording, with award winning actors voicing many of the characters. One of my favorite behind the scenes bits is the fact that Kirk Cameron and his son James both act in this drama. It is always interesting to me when well known Christians, celebrities, and homeschoolers are involved in things like this. :)

My middlest son enjoyed the story (Although he *did* prefer the Scottish Accents of In Freedom's Cause), and the look into the Southern side of the Civil War. It is always good to see and understand that there are two sides to every story, and that there often are righteous people on opposite sides of most any discussion.

Because it *is* Summer-time, we did not use the study guide/discussion starter, but I can assure you that it is of the same high quality of the study for In Freedom's Cause. There are character profiles, questions to determine comprehension (Listening Well), promote discussion (Thinking Further), and general vocabulary knowledge (Defining Words).  There are maps, recipes, photographs and illustrations to enhance your child's listening time.

Audio Productions are a step above books, in that they engage your sense of hearing.
This can be both a pro or a con, depending on your child and their temperament, as stories accompanied by audio are more easily retained when accompanied by audio/visual...

Audio books are phenomenal tools for those who don't enjoy reading but like the stories, they can be entertaining to listen to, and require the use of the imagination to provide the visual to go along with the audio. This is a great exercise in creativity, and something which recent generations have lost with the proliferation of highly graphic media. It harkens back to a simpler time as well, when families would gather around the radio together to hear weekly broadcasts.

Really, the only con I find in these productions would hold true for anything beyond a book. There are those who prefer to read their stories so that they can skim over more emotional or volatile passages. Once audio is added it brings the story to another dimension which makes it more immediate and memorable and visual is yet another step beyond that. When *I* read historical information and/or novels, I often prefer to skim over some portions as they tend to make my blood pressure drop (empathy?). I tend to find the audible portions in With Lee in Virginia that portray the treatment of some slaves, battle, etc... to be for a more mature audience than the recommended age of 6.

If Audio books, particularly of the adventure bent, are your style, you might want to visit
Heirloom Audio Productions Social Media Pages to get more information:
Facebook, Google+ , Twitter, and
With Lee In Virginia:

This is one of the most professional *shiny* audio productions I have heard yet. Kudos to Heirloom Audio Productions!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Heirloom Audio Productions
  • Product:With Lee in Virginia
  • Ages: Recommended 6-adult (my recommendation is probably at least 10+ - adult, depending on the child)
  • Price: 
    • $29.97 + S&H (2 CD set, and MP3 download)
    • $19.97 (MP3 download)
    • $99.97 (4-pack of the 2 CD set)
    • Each set comes with bonus materials, including the Study Guide and Discussion Starter. You can find the details on this purchase page.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Concert Fan Art~ The Harper Sisters... :)


It's our first evening of "vacation" (AKA, Daddy doesn't have to go to work), and I wanted to share a few things with you~ I'm a little late in posting this because we had a VERY busy weekend, and weren't home long enough to think straight, much less post anything...

I'll start off by featuring my Eldest's latest Fan Artwork~

She has been waiting for *three years* to see Jamie Grace (Ever since she had to cancel a performance at SoulFest in NH in 2012), so she REALLLLY wanted to make the trip to Burlington, VT when she found out that Jamie Grace would be appearing there~ 3+hours being the closest that Jamie Grace has come since 2012. Great excitement when we gave her 2 VIP tickets to the concert for her birthday in June! So pleased that the reality lived up to the hope. :)

This is what she came up with for her Jamie Grace concert fan art:

She completed the Jamie Grace artwork before we left for the concert, so she was able to make a copy on cardstock to give Jamie Grace (you can see it on the steps behind Jamie Grace in the collage at the top  :) ).

Here's one of Jamie's songs with a positive message that we really enjoy~

We were also delighted to hear Jamie Grace's older sister, Morgan Harper Nichols, who recently signed with Gotee Records. She has a new album out  (we bought ours at the concert), and can't tell you which song is our favorite~ they are ALL *that* good! We listened to the CD over and over on our 3+ hour ride home from VT, and still weren't tired of the songs!

Here's one of our fav's though, and it features both sisters singing together...

This is the artwork that Eldest drew in the car on the way to the concert~ (No copy to give to Morgan.. :(  ). Pretty nice piece of work...

Love, Love, Love, the heart of these sisters and their mission-minded parents~ hearts to serve, love, and tell the story of the Good News to everyone. So real, and so ready to share their talents and gifts with us.

This particular tour was very "mission-minded"~ they only booked at venues that seated 250-500 people (Or if a larger venue, only sold up to 500 tickets). They also went "bare bones," no tour bus, fancy lighting system, or people to operate such things. Some of the proceeds were pumped back into the local church/school/community hosting the event, and other portions are being used to help build a 24 hour youth center in their hometown in Georgia~ where the divorce and high school drop-out rates are through the roof. Definitely something to admire and emulate there! So glad that these girls are among my daughter's favorite role models.

Just for the fun of it I'm going to post the video of Eldest Irish Step Dancing (Reel and Treble Reel) to Jamie Grace's "Do Life Big"

We also enjoyed our first listen to the opening "guy band," Mission 6 from Indiana~ (See photo at the top of the post) #Berea~ they would be great for some of your Deep Freeze dates!

Going to post this now, so that I can get enjoy a full day with family and friends!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Home School in the Woods: Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt

Home School in the Woods is synonymous with gorgeous, detailed artwork, most frequently mentioned in reference to Amy Pak's History Through the Ages Timeline Figures, which I have appreciated from a distance for years. Up close and personal I have enjoyed being on the Great Empires Review in spring 2013, Olde World Style Maps in winter 2010, and one of my favorites, the New Testament Activity Pak in Spring 2009 (I am anxious to do this with my youngest when he's ready for it... maybe this year!).

Yep, I've been doing this review thing for quite some time, and guess what? Amy Pak keeps coming out with new products to enhance your history studies. While her timeline figures can be used with any history curriculum, the Project Passport World History Study: Ancient Egypt (One of three currently available units reviewed by the Homeschool Review Crew) are stand-alone, activity based studies.

Technical Details:

  • For the purposes of review the TOS Review Crew received the download version of this study. I don't know how it works on a Windows machine, but on my MAC the files were accessed via the Safari Browser. I tended to open up the main page, and then open the lesson Text, the Travel Itinerary (Teacher's guide), and the various pages to print for each project. 

Note the tabs across the top.... ;)
  • A Printer and a variety of paper and cardstock are required to print the various files and graphics. 
  • Colored Pencils, glue sticks and double stick tape will also become staples when completing a Project Passport study. 
  • There are a few projects that might require something you don't already have in your home, but sometimes there are also alternative materials given (Or you can adjust like we did, and use what you have...). 
Organizing the Project Passport can take a variety of forms. You can print EVERY last file before starting, you can print the pages required for each Itinerary Stop (Lesson) all at once, or as you go. A virtual trophy to the first person who guesses which way I choose to organize. ;) 

One of the best ways for you to get a feel for the scope of what is involved in a Project Passport is to watch this very thorough video produced by Home School in the Woods:

Because my guy is on the very youngest edge of the recommended age range (Grades 3-8), we have definitely been picking and choosing what we do.

For every Itinerary stop
  • I read the text aloud
  • If there is map-work or timeline figures he adds those in. *Side note for the timeline~ I printed the teacher's key, cut out the provided names and he finds them on the key, then glues them on his timeline. 
  • If there is a postcard, Youngest illustrates it with something that has to do with the message on the other side. 
  • The rest of the activities depend on his level, interest, and what is going on in life as we speed through summer activities as a family. There are a few hands-on projects that didn't jive with our schedule (or the weather, depending...) that he would like to attempt at some time, so we may have an end of unit project week... :)  

This is one young lad that likes that big Egyptian "BLiNg" for the Boys! :) 

Once we started doing this unit my Youngest pulled out some young reading material on Egypt (And he knew the answers to some questions before I even asked them, thanks to that reading...), and decided that he wants to build an Egyptian world on MineCraft~
I'll have to get back to you on that.... ;)

A couple more notes~

  • If your kids hate using scissors and glue, they might not enjoy this as much, but if they like to watch *you* use scissors and glue, they can still get a lot out of it. 
  • If your kids *love* scissors and glue and tape, and all things constructive, they'll probably enjoy this, but they might get frustrated (Depending on age) with some of the fine detail~ mom or dad might just have to step in and help once in awhile. 
  • By and large, the majority of the projects are *not* overwhelmingly difficult. 
  • The quality of the product is fantastic, from the graphics to the content to the audio, and the instructions~ just amazing! 
  • One minor constructive criticism~ I wish that some of the project files were offered as continuous page pdf's as well as singly, so that I could choose to use my duplex printing capabilities when the project calls for double-sided pages... I find that option much easier. However, I'll deal with removing, flipping, and printing if I have to. ;) 
  • Whenever my kids do a hands on project from Amy Pak and Home School in the Woods, the materials stick with them (And I *don't* mean the glue sticks!). They remember them for years. :) 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit the following Home School in the Woods Social Media pages: 

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fantastic Friday! (Beautiful Day for Baseball!)

Beautiful Evening for Baseball
Even better with a win! :) 
a combination of
Bats that were swinging,
Great defense in the field, and 
a few of these....


Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Planner for your WORLD! Homeschool Planet Planner

Some of you may find this graphic somewhat familiar, but possibly not the name. That is because the Homeschool Planet Planner is a new product by the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. I have been a huge fan of Homeschool Buyers Co-op and their group buys for years, so was interested to see how their online planner would work out for us. 
I can verify that the Homeschool Planet  Planner offers a WORLD of planning opportunities, useful for home AND school. 

Create (and sync) a calendar for everyone, view, share, or print the full calendar, individual calendars, or individual portions of any and/or all calendars. 
Each individual's calendar can have their daily homeschool assignments, chores, church activities, medical appointments, etc... pretty much ANYTHING that needs to be scheduled CAN be scheduled here. 
Calendar View
If that's too much for you to look at all at once, you can use the "Planner View" which shows what needs to be done in a more simplified list format. Super flexible (And for some people like me, a little overwhelming with all of the possibilities)! 

Each student is given their own log-in so that they can access their assignments and check them off when they are done. Great idea! Accountability!

Each family member with entries on the calendar is sent a daily digest with their schedule, assignments, and chores so they know what's going on that day. If your family is really techie, you can also schedule in reminders for events or assignments to be delivered via text message or email to any family member (we're not quite that techie here just yet...) 

By now it should be apparent that this is a much different animal than the calendar that came on your computer, whichever model you have (PC/MAC). 

One of the main differences comes in with the homeschool assignment scheduling~ You can enter in detailed daily assignments, including web links and notes, if you need something more than chapter and page. When life happens and you don't get to an assignment one day you can reschedule the assignment. 

Here's a screenshot of the Homeschool Planet Planner open to the "Rescheduling Helper" on a sample calendar. 

And here is a screenshot of the rescheduling tool in detail so you can see all of the options you have for moving things around. 

Attendance Chart for each Profile
For states where attendance is required, the Homeschool Planet Planner includes an attendance chart for each student... and a transcript form that I would suggest is filled out at the end of each high school year, to help streamline the transcript process.  You can also set up grading categories and scales for each class, allowing you to enter grades for each assignment, if you choose to use grades. *Note: when your student reaches high school you may want to consider some sort of grading scale for use in calculating grades/GPA on their transcript.

Create a Transcript

Beyond the homeschool planning aspects, the planner includes widgets that you can add to your dashboard for Shopping Lists (you can create one for each store if you like), To-Do lists for general household/life tasks, Daily Quotes, Daily Bible verses, Look Up (you can choose where you want to look, for each type of information; reference, shopping or web search), a Weather Widget, and a Messaging widget.

At this point it should be clear that there is an enormous amount of flexibility with many tools available, and you may wish to take advantage of the 30 day free trial (Or if you're quick, a 3 month free trial... see below) so you can play with the Homeschool Planet Planner and see if it will work well for you.

Some folks are all about the electronics when it comes to planning, and others just need to use a pencil and paper... if you like the ability to utilize all of the features that the electronic offers, but want to have a paper copy, you can print any or all of the assignments, schedules, calendars etc, and have it both ways. Personally I'm more of a paper and pen sort of gal for the most part, but as I have time, I am going to play with this a bit more (When I have a full schedule to put in, vs the summer homeschool light that we have right now), and we shall see how it goes.

You can visit Homeschool Buyers Co-op via Social Media on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+  and I highly recommend watching the 4 minute video on the Homeschool Planet Planner page (linked below) to see a live demonstration on how to use the planner. Sometimes seeing it in action is the best way to see what is offered.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Homeschool Buyers Co-op
  • Product: Homeschool Planet Planner (Link to 30 day free trial, no credit card required)
    • If you act fast, you can try it for 3 months free, thanks to Homeschool Giveaways , but this offer ends Friday, July 17 at 11:59pm EST
    • If you use either of the free trials and decide to purchase, all of your information will transfer over! 
  • Ages: For Mom/Dad to organize all ages! :) 
  • Price: $65/year or $6.95/month
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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Logical Handwriting course? CursiveLogic Workbook

One of my least favorite "subjects" in grade school was penmanship~ Because mine was never great, and almost always received an average grade of "C." As a result, I never pushed penmanship on my older two children, particularly when they were younger, and as long as I could read their work (which was sometimes a mix of manuscript and cursive). However, as time goes by, and they have needed to know how to write in cursive for at least some specific uses (like signing their name...), I have determined that they need to improve on what I have allowed. Very handy that CursiveLogic offered the CursiveLogic Workbook for review, just in time for my 14 year old to work on his handwriting. 

Yes, I know, I'm a little bit of an odd duck with my penmanship baggage, so I was pleased to see this workbook, which is fairly no-frills from a "cute" point of view, which is important when improving a teen boy's handwriting. It is also reasonably simple, so easy to use with a younger writer as well! 

The workbook is a combined teacher/student manual, with instructions and direction (Making it great for a self-directed teen). The first portion gives direction on preparing to write cursive (Grip, posture, etc...) that may very possibly be familiar. The rest of the beginning instructions discuss the philosophy and methods used by CursiveLogic. 

Two key features to the CursiveLogic method  

1.The letters are grouped by shape: Four basic shapes make up the entire alphabet. CursiveLogic teaches all of the similar letters in one lesson, greatly simplifying the learning process. This allows the student to reinforce the strokes that they have learned with each letter in the lesson. 

2.  Letter strings: Rather than teaching letters individually, CursiveLogic teaches all of the letters that share a common shape in a connected string. This allows the letters to reinforce each other and means students are writing in cursive from the very beginning.

Visual learners will find Color coding useful: Each letter string has a theme color that helps students remember the shape. The upper case letters are also grouped according to shape and stroke. 

And Auditory learners will benefit from the Catch phrases: CursiveLogic uses “verbal task analysis,” or saying an action verbally as it is performed manually, to aid the development of muscle memory and to give students a mnemonic they can return to over and over.

• Real words: Because CursiveLogic teaches a group of letters in a single lesson, students can write real words at the end of the first lesson. 
For some students, this immediate success is a huge motivator.

While my son, being older, didn't require the "hands-on" instruction, or the immediate success of writing 3-4 letter words, it was still very useful for him to have the tracing practice and the writing practice for each set of letters. 

The thought of writing his signature is no longer a terrifying thought, and if I can just get him to keep his writing to a scale that is readable (aka NOT ant-sized...), then this will have been a successful venture into the world of cursive. 

Oh, one more thing that is pretty nifty~ for practice purposes, there are some dry erase-ready pages at the back of the book for practice purposes, which may be VERY useful to the younger crowd. 

CursiveLogic is also making available to TOS Review Crew readers some free practice pages using Psalms and Government quotes. Check them out! :) Of course, they will work best after having learned all of the letters in logical order, via the CursiveLogic Workbook. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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