Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shopping, Searching, Surveys, and... Free Gift Cards?

I don't often post about Swagbucks, but they have a promotion going on right now that can enable you to earn a 400 SB bonus~ which is mighty close to a $5 gift card, and since I'm all about finding those nuggets of small change that add up, I thought I should make sure you knew about this one! :)
It's time for another round of SWAGO! What is SWAGO you ask? It's a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities (I use Swagbucks as my default search engine, and randomly earn SB as I complete searches in the normal course of the day~ you can also shop through SB, take surveys, and more). You can redeem those SB for free gift cards. (I'm currently headed for a $25 Amazon or Paypal GC~ haven't decided just yet). If you've never used Swagbucks, participating in SWAGO is a great introduction to the site. Plus, if you have to buy holiday gifts, might as well get an extra SB bonus for yourself, right?
Here’s what you need to know to get your 400 SB Bonus, (and don’t worry, you don’t have to make a purchase to complete a pattern):
  • Shop Swago will begin on Tuesday, November 29th 9am PDT/12pm EDT, make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items. Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Friday, December 2nd at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.
I hope you get your 400 SB Bonus points! I'm heading over to see what I can do right now, myself.


Friday, November 25, 2016

November Nuggets (including some time sensitive Black Friday Freebies/Deals)

Hi All,

Hope that you had a marvelous Thanksgiving! So many things to be thankful for in spite of any external circumstances that might be worrisome. God is Good.

Here's a Christmas Medley (2015) from Anthem Lights to whet your appetite for their newly released EP:

Wanted to share some nuggets that I've found, as well as some Black Friday Freebies and Deals that you might be interested in.

Because the Black Friday Deals have deadlines, I'll list them first.

Homeschool Freebies is offering $160 in downloadable resources for free! There are some great things in here!
Chemistry, Musicals, Nomenclature, Planners, and more.

Music Deals from some of my favorite Christian Artists:
Jonny Diaz~ 2 newest CD's for $5 each
Unspoken~ CD's for $5 each and some nifty bundles that would make a sweet gift for your music lover.

Now for some non- Black Friday nuggets:
A really cute "new" Winnie-the-Pooh ebook you can download. A story about Winnie-the-Pooh and the Queen's Birthday. This is a sweet addition to the lore of Pooh, even if it isn't Milne.

SuperColoring ~ Some really great coloring pages~ if you're doing any state studies, you'll find plenty of material here, in addition to famous people and celebrations.

Advent Coloring Pages ~ I've used these sweet coloring pages in the past.

Printable 24 Christmas Story Countdown Advent Cards ~ These are nicely done as well~ Focus on the reason for the Season!

And one more from Anthem Lights, this one IS from their newly released (today!) EP:


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wordless Wednesday (Simple Thanksgiving)

There is a time for everything...

He has made everything beautiful in its time...

He has also set eternity in the human heart; 
yet no one can fathom 
what God has done from beginning to end.

I know that there is nothing better for people 
than to be happy and to do good while they live.

That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil - this is the gift of God. 

Excerpts from Ecclesiates Chapter 3

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The 101 Series ~ Chemistry 101 ~ a PReview (Parent Review)

High school science can be a tricky subject for many homeschoolers and their parents, wouldn't you agree? There are solid textbook curricula, which I used for my eldest, but textbooks aren't always the best answer for different types of learners. I am grateful to have been given the chance to preview Chemistry 101, one of three DVD courses offered by The 101 Series 

My Middlest is doing Biology this year, so this was a chance for ME to check out an alternative Chemistry course for his use next year. I did not take Chemistry in high school, so this is also a good way for me to get a handle on what he'll be learning.

A short back-story~ my Eldest used a more traditional Chemistry curriculum. As I have been watching the lessons on our TV, she has been "listening along" as she works on a piece of art, and expressed the feeling that Chemistry 101 would have been much more interesting for her. 

The video production is excellent, which isn't surprising when you realize that Wes Olson has 15 years of corporate film production experience. Each lesson is very well done, with excellent "lecture" set in in visually interesting backgrounds (fields, streams, libraries, the home, etc...) interspersed with narrated multi-media presentations.

The "lessons" definitely caught my Eldest's attention, as well as my Youngest's (Middlest was elsewhere doing his schoolwork, which is fine, because he'll be seeing this next year :). That is another point in Westfield Studio's favor~ the videos are geared towards the high schooler, but as the producers are homeschoolers themselves, with a variety of ages, they made great effort (in my opinion) to ensure that the videos were family friendly and appropriate for most ages. As I am writing my review, and watching a portion of a lesson again to catch some details, my Youngest is sitting beside me asking if we can finish watching the lesson that included "The Grand K." If that isn't an endorsement to the engaging quality of the DVD portion of the course I don't know what is!

I am sure that this will be an engaging course for my "Techie" Middlest, who greatly prefers to watch and listen versus read. 

Included on the last DVD in the case is a pdf Guidebook, which is essentially the text book for the course. It includes and expands on the material presented in the DVD lessons. There are interesting side bars, discussion questions, and multiple choice quizzes.
I appreciate all of the above, although I might wish that there were some slightly more rigorous testing options for portfolio purposes. However, in true homeschool form, and following my favorite methodology, much of the assessment of your student's comprehension comes in during times of discussion, so I can't complain too loudly. :)
Schedule and Course Accreditation
Speaking of High School portfolios and credits, there is also a file on the DVD that gives a comprehensive schedule, with estimates on the time spent for the course, and places to record actual time spent if this is how you assess credit hours. I know that this schedule is going to come in handy with my Middlest, as he does well when his requirements are clearly spelled out. 
I am very impressed with what I've seen so far, and believe this will be a good fit for my family. Be sure to check out the other reviews which will include more reviews on Chemistry 101, as well as Physics 101 and Biology 101

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit The 101 Series 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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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chara Games ~ Commissioned ~ Cooperative Historical Strategy Board Game for Teens+

Does your family enjoy board games and family game nights?  The TOS Homeschool Review Crew was recently sent a game (that could end up on some gift lists for your older children?) for review. Commissioned is a cooperative, historical strategy game by Chara Games, intended for ages 14+ (Although younger siblings/children can be included in the play).

Top of box
Commissioned is a strategy game following actual experiences of the Apostles, where the players grow their faith (cards) and the church, (small white blocks), while overcoming trials and collecting the Canon of the New Testament.  
Board set up for play
The set-up is a little more involved than my mostly card game, word game, and  physical logic game playing family is used to, but should be fairly familiar for those who play more involved board games.  There are Faith Cards (with point values 1-4) and Apostle Cards (I didn’t realize they were in the same package, so it took a while before I figured that one out the first time playing), Trial cards, Church Member Blocks, Apostle Pawns, and Meeple Missionaries. There are also blocking tokens and other tokens that increase the complexity of play.
Close up of Apostle board, faith cards and apostle cards (Which all have the same back)
Each player chooses an Apostle “Board” and receives their 6 Apostle Cards, and two 2-point Faith Cards. From here the players choose one of 5 Game scenarios to play (some are more difficult than others, and we’ve only played the basic Acts of the Apostles so far), and choose a difficulty level for the trials (Disciple or Martyr level).
We found the instructions to be a little confusing, even after watching the half-hour introductory video, but I think that we have finally started to get the hang of it. There were also a few Faith Cards that we couldn’t really figure out, in spite of the extremely detailed Rulebook. However, instead of letting that interfere with our play, we just removed them from the deck, and put them back in the box.

Close up of tokens and board after some time playing
It is interesting to watch my kids play, as they are all quite competitive in their own ways, so playing a cooperative game was a new experience for them. My Youngest enjoyed being part of the game play, even if he didn’t totally understand it all. My Middlest found it the most interesting, and likened it to playing Risk, but with cooperation instead of competition, and a lot more strategy involved with the inclusion of the trial cards (the instructions suggest that this is a one hour game, but we found that it took us longer than that, although with more play there may be a reduction in time). 

My Eldest, who is very much a word game, fast-paced card game, strategy game with simple set up type of player would probably not choose on her own to play Commissioned, but could possibly be more interested in a new game which Chara Games has just released after a successful Kickstarter campaign, 3 Seeds. Some of the Crew members will be reviewing soon, so keep your eyes out on the Crew Blog for those reviews. It looks like it could be a nice option for a stocking stuffer if you do those, or even a shared family gift.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Chara Games
  • Product: 
    • Commissioned Ages 14+, $44.00
    • 3 Seeds (I don't have the information for this game yet, so check back for the Crew Reviews later)
You can visit Chara Games on Facebook and Twitter

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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Friday, November 11, 2016

Be Responsible! Be Kind! (Quit it with the temper tantrums and bullying already!)

Folks~ One of the first "Rules" children learn, One of the first "Rules" that has shown up in every society, in every time period in history, is casually being tossed aside by many of our fellow countrymen, on BOTH sides of the discussion.

It isn't cool, people... and it's unAmerican to boot! One of the great characteristics and strengths of our country is the fact that it is a great melting pot. Don't minimize, undermine, and destroy that greatness!

No matter which candidate won, we would be stuck with an imperfect President who appears to have prejudices towards a variety of people. HIlary and Donald have both said and done awful things, but that doesn't mean it's OK to attack the supporters of either one. Their behaviors do not legitimize your bad behavior.

Back to that "Rule" I mentioned above~ I *hope* people are still familiar with it... it's been around in written word since the time of the Ancient Greeks and before.

Remember "The Golden Rule" ? ~ the core of common courtesy, decency, and civilization...?

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."

I assume we all would like to be treated kindly, and with respect

It doesn't say be kind and respectful to those who agree with you
It doesn't say be kind and respectful to those with the same color skin, eyes, or hair
It doesn't say be kind and respectful to those who speak the same language
It doesn't say be kind and respectful to those who have the same faith

There is no category that isn't included
"Others" = everyone that isn't you!

Trump Voters~ come on already!

One of the things I attribute to the Saul Alinsky principles we have seen put into play over the past 8 years has been the increase in distrust and hatred between many demographics and labels. I had hoped that this was one of the things you voted against... that you wanted to see the citizens of this country as AMERICANS, and an end to the hate and violence.

And while I'm seeing (mostly) GRACE and LOVE on *my* FB newsfeed, I understand that many others have newsfeeds that look far different. That makes me incredibly sad, and appalled. Be an example! Do Good! Speak Kindness! Show Love!

Trump Haters~ Stop it!

If you want change you have to *be* the change. If you are angered by slurs and abuse, don't you think it's hypocritical to engage in it yourselves?

I have another saying for you (That I hope your parents taught you)

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

The great men and women of history (of all colors), the heroes of the past, were people of character and dignity. Be like them!

Looting, Rioting, Beating up those who aren't "like you" is not any way to solve problems.

Ask any mother you happen to see~ the behavior from the extreme sides of both the Right and the Left is that of a toddler having a tantrum, and/or a bully. (And sadly, we saw that behavior exhibited by BOTH candidates on the campaign trail, so I can't say look up to their good examples~ be better than they are!)

TIME OUT! Be Responsible!!!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Critical Thinking Co.™ (Do You Diagram?) (Review)

The Critical Thinking Co.™ has long been a favorite provider of mine. They offer a variety of supplements and curriculum, including Critical Thinking/Logic, of course, but also a variety of Language Arts and Math, typically presented in a clear and engaging format. I mean really, who wouldn't be interested in a workbook entitled "Dr. DooRiddles" or "MindBenders."

I have both reviewed (2010, 2012, 2015) and purchased an assortment of their products, and been pretty happy with all of them, so was pleased to be offered the chance to review another book, Sentence Diagramming: Beginning Grades 3-12+.

I don't know what your public or other school education looked like, but I don't actually recall learning how to diagram sentences. It's possible that we did, but I truly do not have a clear recollection of diagramming, which is interesting, as I was a student who enjoyed my English Language classes (perhaps the personalities of my teachers overshadowed what they were teaching? Mr. Harrington's ability to throw a small bouncy ball caroming off the ceiling and the blackboard to hit a dozing student on the back of the head was somewhat legendary...).

I digress. Coming back to Sentence Diagramming: Beginning, I decided to use it with both my 4th grader and and my 10th grader, as it clearly wasn't something that we had done before. My 4th grader has been enjoying doing these "puzzles" and is possibly "competing" a little with his older brother.

Because we are working on it together, I am having them do most of their work in a notebook. The Critical Thinking Co.™does allow limited duplication within a home setting, but our ink supply needs replenished, so this works for us. Makes for a little more work for the boys, since they are drawing their own lines, but I figure that is good practice!

So, I sit on the couch with the book, one boy on either side with their notebooks, and we go through the lessons.

Each of the 12 lessons has 4 main parts, following the new concept explanation.
  1. Find the errors and diagram correctly - sometimes it's a little tricky, others less so, but "finding the errors" is a great tool for learning. 
  2. Fill in the diagram - using the provided sentence~ good practice
  3. Write a sentence to match the diagram - This is a page that I do print, just because it makes life easier ~ worth the ink even when it's in short supply. ;) 
  4. Diagram each sentence without the predrawn lines - mastering the technique

I really like the building block progression of each part, from finding tiny errors to diagramming with no assistance.

The diagrams go from simple + construction to multi-forked builds in the later lessons. Again, a building block progression, from simple to complicated, so that it makes perfect sense. I can see that this is a fantastic way to learn grammar, especially if you have a visual learner, and I'm quite surprised that more curricula don't utilize this, from the very beginning, as it shows very concretely what each word is, and how it relates to the other words in the sentence. It also turns grammar into a puzzle, which is much more exciting than  exercises like "find the noun____ " or "label the adjectives."

Lesson 1: Simple Subject and Main Verb
Lesson 2: Direct Object
Lesson 3: Adjectives
Lesson 4: Adverbs Modifying Verbs
Lesson 5: Predicate Adjectives
Lesson 6: Predicate Nouns
Lesson 7: Prepositional Phrases (Adjectival)
Lesson 8: Prepositional Phrases (Adverbial)
Lesson 9: Compound Subjects
Lesson 10: Compound Predicates
Lesson 11: Compound Direct Objects
Lesson 12: Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns

The book includes a review/test at the end that covers each lesson, and for those who aren't sure about their answers, there is an Answer Key at the back. I found this helpful, as I wasn't sure what to do with "the" and "a" when they showed up (makes perfect sense that they are diagrammed as adjectives, which is the way I understand it, because they describe that there is only "one" of the object. If I'm wrong in that assessment, feel free to explain it to me. ;) ).

I think this is also a helpful review for older students, which may come in handy if they have to break down sentences on their standardized tests ~ it's a comprehensive but gentle Charlotte Mason-ish approach also~ short lessons that encourage rather than overwhelm. :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit The Critical Thinking Co.™ on their social media pages:
Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest


Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other titles reviewed: Language Smarts Level E (Which is a full 4th Grade Language Arts curriculum), and a variety of software downloads for Toddler/PreK to Grade 2 (Alphabet Song Game, Letter Sounds Song and Game, Vowel Sounds Song and Game, and Fun-Time Phonics). FYI, the Software is not MAC compatible, one of my few pet peeves for The Critical Thinking Co.™ , as I am a MAC girl.  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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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

After the Elections are over... Saving money with Groupon

A quick little sponsored post before all the holiday craziness kicks in (you know, once election day is over, the merchandising will begin, right? Because that is the way it goes in America…). All views and opinions expressed are my own.

I can often be found scouring the ‘Net for the best deals that will stretch my pennies the farthest. I have found a few really good coupons on Groupon for stores and activities in our area, but there is more to Groupon than that. Have you noticed Groupon Goods? There are some great items being sold at discounted rates, in many different categories, and I have used them for a few years to pick up some Christmas gifts that otherwise wouldn’t have been in my budget.

One of these speakers was great for my Irish Step Dancer
Fit into her warm up jacket, and gave her good quality tunes to practice to.
I was surprised recently to discover that there are more items available than just techie gifts and things. For instance, if you are redoing your bathroom, this might be a good place to shop around for a little more variety than the local home goods store. If I had a great tub, this would be on my wishlist! :)

I saw some amazing shower heads and nifty sink faucets at reduced prices.

I was browsing through the rest of the site again and saw a lot of cute winter boots and rain boots for 60% to 70%+ off regular prices. Woot! 

Their tech department is the one I’ve been most familiar with and they still have some nice offerings. I saw a refurbished flexible fitbit for a price that is more in my budget... wonder if it would be motivating...? ;) 

As with any store, there are some great bargains to be had, so when you’re shopping at home with your feet in your slippers, grateful to not be reading any more election posts and memes, Groupon is one place to check out. 




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