Thursday, December 30, 2010

Organization.... how you elude me!

Ever look around your house and see piles?

Piles that are sub-classified?  Piles that should be charged rent?  Piles that require their own zip code?

Piles, that by looking at them, you know what is IN them?

yeah... me too....

Looking around my house I have an unsettled, antsy feeling...  as if there is much work to do, and none of it is getting done.  A large part of that, is me.  I let some of the disciplines that we use as a family, to keep focused, fall by the way side.  It has resulted in me expecting the kids to continue with their chores without being told, and the kids not doing anything because no one told them.....  lack of communication much?

So, being determined to get back on top of things..... I walked over to the pile by my desk and pulled out my chore binder.  It has all the basic areas of the house listed, and what is required to keep it clean.  We divide up the areas between us all, and that is your job for 2 weeks.

I put the areas on 3x5 cards.... and made some up for the extra work we can do on Fridays to be ready for the weekend.
Everyone gets a calendar for the chores that aren't on the cards.  Like dishes, and feeding the varmints, practicing the musical instrument you are paying to take lessons of.... these such things  :)

They refer back to the binder, which is rather detailed, to see how they need to clean their spot.

Here is the envelopes that will keep track of the chores, so if there is an area that is falling behind, we ( mommy and daddy) can look and see who needs extra encouragement.

I will keep you posted on how it works, or how badly it is rebelled against....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

These precious angels belong to a dear, dear friend. 
Don't you just LOVE what happens when you are just click, click clickin away....
This just makes me smile!

Character over Christmas

Last week  I talked about building Character Qualities into the lives of our children.

I wanted to give you an update on how this last week went.  Since Christmas can be a hiccup for the best made plans,  I am happy to report the week went well.

I was able to praise both younger boys for their Attentiveness, and avoid disciplining them for Unconcern
It is defined as : Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions. 

They were praised for their attentiveness when they came when they were called.... the FIRST time...  and on Christmas day when they were busy in the middle of fun... is certainly praiseworthy.

So you don't think I suddenly have perfect children or something... there was plenty of Unconcern to be addressed as well.  Usually because someone wanted to play something and not share....  it's ok we are a work in progress.  When this happened, we would pull the boys aside.  Ask them how they could choose to show kindness to the other person.  We would give them time to answer and then discuss their response. After discussion we asked them if they needed to ask forgiveness from the person they were unkind to.  Usually they quickly said yes, and went to do it.  When they delay or refuse to ask for forgiveness, there is more discussion or sometimes alone time to think about the problem at hand and their response to it. Unconcern shows up in a multitude of Selfish behaviors, so this one crept up lots with our new presents :)

With Obedience being defined as :  Freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely appointed authority.

Here we just had many reminders.  There was little discipline this week for lack of obedience.  They actually weren't too willful.  Many years ago, when Evan and Tayler were still in school they had a speaker during chapel that taught the phrase, " When you Obey, you have a great day!"  to all the children.  This phrase has been a powerful reminder tool for all of our children.  We use this phrase when they don't come the first time they are called, or if they dawdle completing a task they were asked to do.

Lastly we come to Self Control.  Is it really even possible to attain with boys?  There are days I feel it is impossible!
My husband and I attack this issue from slightly different perspectives.  I am sure it has something to do with me being from an all girl family and he being a little boy once.  :)  I think that it is perfectly fine to ask a young boy of 8 to sit still for a short amount of time.  Big Daddy, he thinks boys will be boys... and they need to run. 
The place we do meet on the issue is at church.  Neither of us want the boys running wild through out the building unattended and needing to be chased down so we can get in the car to go home.  Ah, common ground!   SO.... our target spot to work on Self Control is at church. The sticking point is Hunter's tendency to bolt out of the car and run around in the building, to leave the pew and be lost in a nano second and have to be hunted down in the hallways, to leave his chimes practice and completely turn into a screaming banchee running around and inciting other children to do the same.  Yeah....  sigh.........

I will have to get back with you on how this one is going....  at the moment.... and for awhile... it hasn't gone so good.

So that's where we are after week one....
How is it going at your house?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gratituesday: Christmas Blessings

I just found this Meme today, and well, I liked the name.  I think Gratitude is something often overlooked in our ME oriented society.

I am extremely grateful for Christmas this year.  Not because of gifts, not because of all the food, but because we were home.  Our year this year has been BUSY!  International travel, cross state drives, cross country flights.... It has been a wonderful whirlwind, and as December is winding to a close, we are finally slowing down and settling in for the winter.

Christmas this year meant that we had an extra family member with us.  For the first time in over 10 years, my older children were able to spend Christmas with both of their parents.  Their dad flew out and stayed with us in our guest room.  It has been a relaxing visit.  Full of movies, late night conversations, laughter, and today when we take him to the airport, I am sure there will be tears.  His visit has truly been a blessing.

Take some time to reflect during this week between Christmas and the New Year.  Ask yourself what things you are thankful for.

To see what other mom's are thankful for hop on over to HeavenlyHomemakers and visit the other people who have linked up to share their stories of Gratitude.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Building Character

People often have different reasons for choosing to educate at home.  It makes homeschooling a sort of melting pot of ideas and approaches.  Many people think that parents keep their child home to shelter them from the 'real' world.  In my home, we do our best to not shelter our children, the world out there is big, and heartless, and someday you are going to have to function in it.  We see our job as parents to give them as much teaching and training as we can, urging them to incorporate good character qualities into their lives.  Those characteristics is what they will draw from as they interact with all those around them 

As we approach the new year, I was thinking that it might be nice to share with you all how we do that here.  Sort of a Good, Bad, and the Ugly report....  let you see the reality of what we are learning, how we apply it, and the struggle within the process.

Just so you don't get the idea that I am some amazing mom, who thought all of this up on her own....  I want to full give credit for where I found this character quality list.  You can get your own copy, and follow along with us by heading over to the Duggar Family Website.  No other list I have seen, provides the opposite quality, as well as a working definition of the characteristic you are working on.  I remember the first time I saw this list...  I was so excited that it was clear and easy to understand!

I think based on the attitudes and actions that I have been seeing in our home, we will be working on reinforcing a few key qualities in these next two weeks. 

Our list for now is:
Attentiveness, Self Control, and Obedience.

I will strive to meet the misbehavior of the boys with a calm voice, and ask them to think of ways they could be implementing the positive characteristic, praising them greatly when they show Initiative and exhibit the Characteristics without prompting.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Gifts!

I have told you all, time and time again that you NEED this magazine.  If you are a homeschool parent, or if you are even still just thinking about homeschooling, you need to have a subscription to this magazine.

Right now you can get 4 issues, a FULL year, for only $7.95!  That is the cost of a Venti Latte and a half.... for a year of encouragement, ideas, and information.

They have some great freebies for you too.  Click on the magazines and see which gift is perfect for you!

Lunar Eclipse

I must admit, I am no longer a night owl.  My batteries give out around 8 pm.... and I usually slog around the house puttering slowly till bed time around 11 or 12, depending on when Big Daddy goes to bed. 
Last night was a Lunar Eclipse, and as much as I would have liked to see it,  I was watching TV and made the mistake of crawling under the covers to stay warm....  and passed clean out, fully dressed, in all my clothes.....  oooppppsss :)

So I missed it.  I do remember Evan coming in and saying, "Mom? there is a Lunar Eclipse tonight."  To which I replied, " Yup, I know."  He just stood there waiting, as if by some sort of mind meld I was supposed to hear him ask without words for permission to stay up and see it.  I heard is non-word asking and replied, " I don't care if you stay up to see it."  He walked triumphantly out of the room to bundle up and go moon gazing.

This morning my husband told me that he saw it also.  He and Tayler were out at a late night Wally World run, so that she could purchase some stocking gifts for people.  They watched for a while from the parking lot, and through the misty veil of clouds.

I suppose it is a success when 50% of the family was able to view it.  It was just me and the little boys that were snoring through all the excitement.

In case you missed it.  Here is a neat video of it over Florida.

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets

Tiny Planets is a website designed to enhance learning for children ages 4-12.  They join Bing and Bong on their adventures through the Universe of Tiny Planets.  The website states: "With Bing and Bong, children are encouraged to think for themselves, assume social responsibility, take care of our planet and learn about the mysteries of space."
The website is free and available to anyone.  It is full of interactive games, books, and TV programs.  The primary user of Tiny Planets in our home was Hunter, my 8 year old son.  He loved it.  He was always asking to play "the thing."....."you know Mom, the one with the fuzzy guys." We used this website primarily as a reward for completing our more intense school tasks.  He easily could and would stay on the site for hours!

As TOS Homeschool Crew Reviewers, Tiny Planets gave us the option to access KEYs, to unlock the TV episodes, Books, and some of the game portions of the My Tiny Planets interactive community.  The access to these KEYs was completely up to us.  Since these KEYs are an item that would normally have to be purchased, I opted not to use the keys for my review.  I know that not everyone can afford to purchase extras for websites, so I wanted my review to be based on the free aspects of the site.

We were able to access one TV episode, two Books, all of the Labs ( games ), and all of the PDF downloadable Learning Pages.  We could also play the Tiny Planets and Moon Explorer games, but without the KEYs we didn't have access to 'better' ships.  My son did ask how he could earn KEYs to unlock certain features, and maybe in the future that will be an option, but for now I explained that those were something people needed to buy, and he didn't seem to miss the things that he didn't have.  His absolute favorite Lab to date is The Case of the Incredibly Large Diamond.  It is a sequential puzzle game that helped him think both critically and logically, and use his observation skills to find the Diamond.

As a free website, Tiny Planets is a great tool to use in your homeschool as a reward for a job well done.  It is entertaining, and the learning that happens sneaks right up on the kids, because it is disguised as FUN!
I do know that other TOS Homeschool Review Members did access the KEYs that were made available by the company, head on over to the Homeschool Crew Website to read what their experiences were like.

I recommend that you give Tiny Planets a try.  It even sucked in my high schoolers as they helped their younger brother play some games.  My 3 year old sat watching his older brother play with rapt attention every single time he played.  He loved to listen to his brother read the stories from the book section.

There is no information on the Tiny Planets website regarding the cost of purchasing the KEYs.  I did email  the company directly and here is their pricing break down :
10 KEYs $ 1.95
25 KEYs $ 3.95
85 KEYs $ 9.95
250 KEYs $25.95
600 KEYs $49.95

With a Parent Account, you can purchase the KEYs at your discretion, and again they are not a requirement to enjoy the site.  It is important to note that the KEYs can NOT be split up amongst family members.  They are only good for one child/ Cadet account.  You can NOT buy 600 Keys, and share them among your six kids. 

*** As a Member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was asked to create a free Cadet Account and explore the Tiny Planets website for the purpose of this review.  We were offered access to free KEYs to enhance our reviewing experience.  No other compensation was given.***

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blog Walk Week 11

The blog walk had taken a break...  That is why you haven't seen any new lists of blogs to check out in a while. 
This list is some of the First Mates from our TOS Homeschool Crew.  What is a First Mate?  I am so glad you asked.  They are uber amazing homeschool parents who are on either their second or third year as a TOS Homeschool Crew members.  They each have a few new crew members that they mentor and help during their first year.

Take some time and visit these great blogs by some interesting and experienced people!

1. 1 of 100 plus 25 TOS Crew Reviews ~ Homeschooling Mom of 4 has homeschooled for 17 years, and on the Crew for 3... there is some amazing stuff on this blog.
2. Homeschooling Hearts and Minds ~ Homeschooling Mom of 4, loads of free homeschool sources.
3. Homeschooling Drewper~ Homeschool Mom of one, and she is so fun!  I love her energy!
4. Burkherts Brigade ~ Homeschool Mom of many.  There isn't an about me part of her blog so it is hard to tell.  She does however live in my favorite state.
5. Families Again ~ Homeschool Dad of at least 3 by the pictures on the header.  He's a hoot!
6. Homeschool and Family ~ Homeschooling mom of 7 (ACK!) with 6 that are still in school.  You got to have tips when you are teaching 6...  I will be back to learn her secrets!
7. The Sunny Patch~ Homeschooling mom of 1... up in the frozen north! I like her teachers desk posts :)
8. Life on the Hilltop ~ Homeschooling mom of 4 ( are you seeing a pattern here? )  I will be back to read this one, she had me in tears with her family photo picture post. That happens in our house too!
9. Our Busy Homeschool ~ Homeschooling mom of 6.  just go read the post about homeschooling with #6, you'll be hooked.
10. Homeschooling Blessings ~ Homeschooling mom, of a child with special needs.  Lots of good stuff to read here!

There is years of wisdom in the above links...  Take some time to check them out!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Landry Academy Newsletter

Just in case anyone is looking for an online option in Science, this home school dad has a great set up.

Here is the Newsletter I received from them today...  Take a look at the freebie!

Today, Tuesday, December 14,2010 is the last day to

register for online classes and summer camps at
the current early registration discounts.

Fall Online Classes - Big Early Registration Discount

Registration for fall 2011 online classes is open
with a big early registration discount through
today, Tuesday, December 14..
- Math
- Architecture
- Grammar
- Foreign Languages
- Literature
- Art
- Composition
- Science
- Music
- Bible
- History
- Computer
Changes for the Fall 2011 Semester:
- Enhanced classroom
- Reduced tuition structure
- Larger early registration discounts
- Video teacher view
- Longer classes
- Enhanced testing / assignment structure
Details are here..
Summer 2011 Camps - Big Early Registration Discount

Students have attended our Christ-centered
summer camps from every U.S. state and seven
Big early registration discounts through today,
Tuesday, December 14..

- Camp Theatre
- Camps Strings (violin, Cello, viola, bass)
- Camp Christian Music Jam
- Camp Computer
- Camp Math
- Camp Journalism / Creative Writing
- Camp Anatomy and Physiology
- Camp Law
- Camp Biology
- Camp Chemistry
- Camp Physics
- Camp Broadcast
- Camp Politics
- Camp Spanish
- Camp Biology
- Camp Chemistry
- Camp Physics
- Camp French
- Camp German
- Camp Architecture / Drafting
- Camp Criminal Justice
- Camp Missions
- Camp Photography
- Camp Draw
- Camp Voice
- Camp Civil War

Details are here..
This Issue's Freebie..
$100 Amazon gift card.

We'll send this freebie to the one person whose
email message we receive closest to exactly
9:27:00 pm eastern time today.
To be eligible, you must follow these instructions:
- at exactly 9:27:00 pm eastern time today, send
email to:

subject line should be: "I Love Books"
- in the body of the message: your name, age,
mailing address, city / state.
- please email us ONE time only
- If you're under 18, please get your parent's
permission before emailing us
- The one person whose email message we receive
closest to exactly 9:27:00 pm eastern time today
will be the winner.
We'll notify the winner via email. :)

If you have questions, don't hesitate to call or
email me: or by phone
In His Grip,

Greg Landry, M.S.
office: 828-265-4101

Monday, December 13, 2010


Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

Once again, I am amazed at the products that I am privileged to review as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Last month we were asked to access a one month free trial of ALEKS an online math curriculum.  ALEKS is not a game site, here is the company's description:

What is ALEKS?
Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and your child may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:
  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • No Textbook Required
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
  • Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
  • Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
  • Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction
I had three students that I enrolled in the 1 month free trial.  I had a son who was enrolled in Level 3 math with Quick Tables, my daughter, in Algebra, and another son,  in Algebra II.  For the purpose of the review the older children completely stopped doing their current textbook curriculum and moved over to the ALEKS system.  My third grader used the program far less. (He is just less computer savvy that his siblings.)

I was very impressed with the assessment that each child was given.  It was a very accurate portrayal of what they already had mastered in each subject. I was pleasantly surprised at how much of Grade 3 math my youngest had already mastered so early in the school year.   I also enjoyed how the curriculum gave them surprise assessments, prompted review questions, and gave instantaneous feedback to them.  The quiz feature is great, and very easy for parents to use, and assign.  The progress reports are easy to read and understand and print out for your personal record keeping.  I think one of my favorite features was being able to create worksheets for your child to use away from the computer.  If you are traveling, and will not have computer access, this is so helpful to keep them current in their work.

My son, who used the Algebra II curriculum says that he found the ALEKS system "not as daunting as a textbook" .  He was easily able to see the progress he needed to make to master a certain area of study with his pie chart.
He also added that he felt like the program was very individualized.  He liked that he could work at his own pace, and change courses at anytime.  If he had mastered all of Algebra II he could move on, and not have to wait until the next textbook arrived.  He has asked to continue with the ALEKS Math system.

My daughter who used the Algebra curriculum echoed her brother in her feelings about this system.  She also has requested to continue using this program for her Math for the remainder of High School.  She likes the hyperlinked text that shows how to solve problems various ways. 

Both of the older children, stated that even if they had a shortened amount of time to spend on Math that day, they always felt a sense of accomplishment by completing one or two topics.  With a traditional textbook they felt always like they needed to complete an entire lesson, and some days, that just felt too hard.  They also enjoyed the lack of repetition that the program provides.  They always felt like they were moving forward.  Yes, the program repeats concepts with new assessments to assure that the child has mastered the concept, but, my children really liked the fact that 80% of their learning was NEW information, and not repeating the lesson before.

For children in the lower grades, I recommend that they practice their keyboarding and number pad skills, prior to using Quick Tables.  My youngest never got past entering random numbers in as his skill.  The program must require they meet a certain speed before they can enter the answer to math problems.  Even though that was what he was given every time he wanted to play, he still enjoyed it very much and always wanted to do Quick Tables.

ALEKS is a subscription based program.  You can pay monthly for $19.95 per child.  You can pay for 6 months, at $99.95.  A year subscription is $179.95, for one child.  They do offer a family discount, and for my two high schoolers it would be $305.90 for a year, a 36% savings.  To see how much your family can save click here.  In comparison, ALEKS would save me about $5 per child over the math curriculum that we currently use, and with a family discount, it would save me $32 per child, a more substantial savings!

Please take the time to use their 30 day free trial.  Test it out with your children and see if it is a fit for your family. 
Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

Other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed this product, click here to see how it worked for them.

*** Disclaimer***  I received a one month free trial of the ALEKS Math system free of charge just like anyone else in the whole wide world can.  I was asked to blog about my experience with their curriculum, as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  No other compensation was received. ***

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good Morning God ~ Book Review


This is an absolutely adorable book.  Written by Davis Carmen, and published by Apologia Press, this book will make a wonderful addition to any family library.  Grandma, Grandpa, this book would make a great Christmas gift!! ( hint, hint..)  The book costs $14 and also had an available coloring book for $4.  It is available for purchase directly from the Apologia website, and it written for children between the ages of one and eight. ( Don't tell anyone, but my High Schoolers liked to read it too! )

This sturdy hard bound book is beautifully illustrated book, contains the story of a 4 year old boy who learns about God through out his week.  I so enjoyed the portrayal of the family together during the day, and how the parents teach the child through the normal things he does.  He is taught about God through his running, and jumping, and playing. 

In addition to being a great read, this book can be used as a devotional.  In the back of the book, the author has provided Scripture references and questions to help you teach and train your own child. We enjoyed using the book both ways. 

Again, if you are looking for a book for a Baby Shower gift, a Birthday, or for Christmas this year, consider Good Morning God, by Davis Carman.

***  I received a copy of this book from Apologia, as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, in exchange for my honest opinion of their book and how it worked in my homeschool.  No other compensation has been provided.***

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bah Hum-bug

It's that time of year again... Christmas.
I don't know why, but I have a harder time, year after year, getting excited about this holiday.  To me it is so over commercialized.  Everyone around me seems to have been bitten by the same bug, and are now suffering from the hideous disease of Stuff-itis.

We are supposed to be celebrating something so amazing and wonderful.  Instead, everywhere you look, it is all trees and lights, candy and cookies, men in red suits and large antlered animals that fly.

How scared must Mary have been to be told she would bear the Saviour.  How brave she and Joseph needed to be, her pregnancy brought them ridicule and shame, for no one understood what was happening.  How strong a faith was evidenced by them as they walked down a road no one had ever been.  How amazing was that moment when Mary looked into her baby son's eyes for the first time....  She held her Saviour.  What did she see in his eyes?  There must have been a kindness there, a compassion, a love that knew no bounds.  What was the struggle within a mothers heart as she watched her Jesus with other children?  She knew his perfection.  How it must have pained her to see how deceitful the hearts of other children could be.
The gift of Christmas is really the gift of the Cross.  It is Jesus, come in flesh to die, so that I might live. His gift of life to me is freedom.  Freedom to live as He shows me in His Word.

That is what excites me about this holiday. 

What do you teach your children about Christmas?  What activities do you do as a family that help prevent stuff-itis?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Smart Kids Productions ~ Nanuq


Nanuq is a 31 page full color book that is from Smart Kid Publications.  The book retails for $12.99, but is available on their website for $10.39, and it comes with a Live Animal DVD full of information for the kids about Polar Bears in the wild.  You also get a passcode to register your book and play online games.

These products are geared toward children ages 4-8.  Both my 3 year old and 8 year old enjoyed the book and the DVD.  The video has provided them with a great amount of trivia about Polar bears, and they have shared these facts with other family over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  They were little trivia kings....

The website was less interesting for the boys.  They didn't seem to have an easy time navigating the games, nor were they allowed to access many of the items, because they needed to acquire 4000 points to purchase items that allowed them to even participate in several of the activities in the habitat.  My 8 year old found it frustrating that it took so long to earn points.

Another drawback is that you only have access to the website for 14 days after you register,  you need to purchase additional memberships to extend the access to the website.  You can purchase these memberships for 1 month, 6 months, or one year.  While this would not be an option for my family, it was fun to play on the website for a few days.  I could see the book along with a website membership as a nice gift for grandparents looking to give a gift of learning for Christmas.

All things considered, I feel that with the cost of the book, and the included video, make this product a worthwhile purchase for a young child that is learning about animals, and the world around them.

Head on over to their website and take a look around that the books and the DVD preview video.  You can find them at My Animal Family dot com.

Other members of the Homeschool Review crew also reviewed this product.  Click here to see what they had to say.

I received a copy of the book Nanuq  and a DVD from Smart Kids Productions for the purpose of this review.  No other compensation was given.  All of the above opinions are my own.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Coin Pouch ~ Corps of Re-Discovery ~ Product Review

This is an adorable product!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a Coin Pouch Kit from Corps of Re-Discovery to review.

We had fun putting it together.  The directions were clear and easy to understand.  It was not hard to sew.

The Coin Pouch Kit sells for $4.99 from their website.  It is one of the many crafts and projects they provide.  When we were sewing together our Coin Pouch, we had a chance to discuss what materials you would need if you would have to make this piece back in the days of westward expansion. He have been listening to the Little House series and Hunter said that if he were Pa, he would maybe use prairie grass to sew his together.  He enjoyed the craft and had lots of ideas to share about if and when he was ever on the wild frontier.
Stop by Corps of Re-Discovery to see what you may be able to incorporate into your studies about American Indians, PioneersThe Colonial period, and Frontiersmen.  They also have kits to enhance the hands on learning of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Look for them on their facebook fan page. Make sure you "like" them,  it is where they will be offering special coupons and discounts!

Corps of Re-Discovery is a home-based family business, and all of their products are manufactured by their employees here in the United States.  Click on any of the links above to access their website directly or you can write to them at:
5329 N. Lakewood Drive
Springfield, MO 65803
or by phone at:

My fellow crew members reviewed other products by this company. Don't forget to stop by the Homeschool Review blog page to see what they have to say.

It was easy to sew even with a cast!

Our finished product!

** I received this product in exchange for this review, and my honest opinion.  No other compensation was received**

Friday, November 12, 2010

Field Trip to the Oregon Coast

We love to camp.  We haven't camped in a few years, actually since 2005 I think.  We have a favorite spot on the Oregon Coast where we go, about 25 miles north of Coos Bay/ North Bend, OR. 

Big Daddy grew up there, so it is fun to hear the stories of what it was like when he lived there.  The beauty that is the Oregon Coast can not be experienced through description, one must go, see, smell, experience it in person.

We explored the tide pools at Sunset Beach, looking at all the fish that were trapped till the next tide.  We found tons of Hermit Crabs, and thousands of sea anemones. 

At the end of the bay out near the breakwater, we came across this guy, nestled in the rocks.  Nearly gave the ones who were up ahead a heart attack when he sat up. He was tolerant of our being there and let me snap quite a few pictures.  We tried to see if he was hurt, but we couldn't tell.  Hope he made it out on the next tide.

We went to Bandon, OR.  Walked along the wharf, had fish and chips that are really a must do if you are ever there. 

We learned the history of the area, and about is ecosystem.

we went to the docks where men were crabbing, and there were about 4 harbor seals that were swimming around raiding the crab pots from below, and waiting for the men to throw back the ones that were too small to keep.

Our campground, at Umpqua Lighthouse is amazing.  We have stayed there every time we go.

Free Holiday Magazine

My favorite magazine has a free Holiday Supplement for you!

Click here:  and get your copy!

2010 Holiday Digital Supplement/Idea Book

Friday, October 29, 2010

Buckets-O-Fun Review: Ick, Ack and Gack!

Buckets-O-FunWhen I saw that I was going to be reviewing something from Buckets-O-Fun, I could only begin to imagine what it might be.  You see, I prefer to wait until the product arrives before I go and search out the website.  I like the little surprises that arrive in the mail.

I must say that the name of this company did not disappoint my vivid imagination.  I have lots of boys and I could just guess it would be something fun to play with.  In my manila envelope was a small but powerful sample of deliciously gross goo.  The boys were nearly vibrating with anticipation at the thought of getting to run their fingers through the various forms of slime that were pictured on the brochure.  Not a one of the items that were sent were a disappointment, they all provided afternoons of sloshing and slushing, digging and squishing. The "Yuck" products are most assuredly and item geared to the Kinetic learner!

The first item to try was the Chunky Yuck
chunky It starts out small...  dry, it reminds me of large Kosher Salt, or perhaps Sea Salt Crystals...  it swells when you add water to the size of ice cube machine cubes.  I don't think I can describe to you the strangeness that happens when you see what looks like ice in a bowl, and plunge in your hands, and it isn't super cold...  it is just room temperature.  It kinda freaks you out a little bit.   Then you want to touch it more.  You want to hide things in it, you try to squeeze it,  you breathe on it wondering if it will melt.  It kept the boys totally enthralled for over an hour.
Chunky Yuck sells for $16.00 a pound, and makes about 35-60 gallons.

Then there was Snowy Yuck.
snowy  This was another one that throws your brain for a loop. It really looks like SNOW!  You can play with it frostbite free!  This one didn't keep the boys entertained as long as the chunky, but they still had lots of fun playing with it.
Snowy Yuck sells for $20.00 a pound, and makes 25-50 gallons.

There was Saucy Yuck.
saucy This one feels like clear no sugar, applesauce.  This Yuck begs to be shot out of things at people. It calls out to you " Put me in a balloon, and throw me" , "Squirt me out of a rocket.... Lay me on a slip and slide..."  This Yuck would be PERFECT for what our youth group calls "water" day.    My boys enjoyed the consistency of this Yuck.  They wanted to do the water balloon thing, but the part of me that knew I would be the one cleaning up all the mess, just couldn't let them do it.  I told my husband if we get some more of this one, I will have to leave the house and let them go for it....  I just can't watch it.  I will come back when it is all cleaned up!
Saucy Yuck sells for $18.00 a pound, and makes 35-60 gallons.

The last Yuck was the Sticky Yuck.
sticky I must be honest.  This Yuck is still in the bag.  I didn't make this one.  I haven't been able to bring myself to concoct this sticky, snot-like substance.  I know my boys will love it.  I however, cringe at the very thought.  So in the bag it has stayed.  I am sure that one day Dad will bring it out and be the hero of the house.  I however, will be somewhere else, when that day comes.
Sticky Yuck sells for $20.00 a pound, and makes 5-10 gallons of snot.

Now these products were fun to try, and the kids really had a great time playing with them.  In the literature that was sent to us, there was a brochure to incorporate the Yuck into a Science Experiment.  We did all the observations that were listed and it did make for interesting lessons.  It was helpful to gain a hands on experience with polymers.  We were able to discuss what types of natural polymers were at work in our own bodies and helped to hold them together.  All of the fun aside,  I am not sure that the Yuck is really cost effective for the average homeschooler.  If I were to purchase all of the Yucks that were provided in my sample review pack, I would have paid $74.00 before any shipping and handling costs.  The four pounds of dry Yuck would have made, 100-108 GALLONS of Yuck.  While perfect quantities for larger groups, such as a homeschool co-op or youth group, it seems like a bit much for an average homeschool family of say, 4 kids.  I wonder if it might be a good idea to market a smaller value pack for homeschoolers, of say a 1/4 pound of each Yuck, for $20.00.  I think that homeschool families would be more inclined to use this product to reinforce their science curriculum if it were available to them in more manageable quantities.

Really though, this stuff was F-U-N!!!  Everyone enjoyed playing with it immensely.  If you are looking for a great hands on way to learn more about molecules, polymers, and cellular structure, this stuff is a great tool.  I would recommend going to their website, Buckets-O-Fun, and asking them to send you a free sample.
They also sell lots of different items that are great for use in a co-op, a church organization like Awana or Master Clubs, or for Youth Group activities.

To see what other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew have to say about this product, click here!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent a sample package of Yuck products from Buckets-O-Fun, for the purpose of reviewing their product and providing my honest opinion of it.  No other compensation was given.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key~ Product Review


This is an amazing little piece of hardware, you never knew you needed, (well maybe you did...) and in this day and age, will not want to live without.
PhotobucketLet me introduce you to the PGKey.  The Keyware Corp in Arizona, has managed to provide an amazing piece of monitoring hardware for your computer, it is easy to use, and requires NO annual or monthly fees.
When this product arrived for review.... I read the box....  and then I started to get excited...  I started to feel like Jane Bond.... my inner spy was completely enthralled with the claims this product was making........The box made some amazing claims.  I was looking forward to putting this baby to the test.

  • Have you ever wished you could "see" what the kids actually were doing on the computer... not just the web history in your browser? This product provided a DVD like playback system where you can view all the places a protected user has been.
  • Have you ever wished that you had a monitoring system that would disable your computer if they tried to pull it out? You decide when to allow access to the computer.  If you take the PGKey out, the computer can not be accessed without the key and your password.  If someone attempts to take it out while in use.  It will freeze access, and be disabled till you return with the password.
  • Do you long for Internet searches without the risk of stumbling onto offensive photos, or websites? In partnership with Google, PGKey has created a filtered search engine that automatically blocks undesired content from ever showing up.
  • Worried about cyber-bullying?  Wish you could record BOTH sides of chat conversations? Do your kids keep changing their passwords, in an attempt to hide things from you?  Just another one of the benefits of the DVD playback.  You can see emails, chats, anything that was viewed by that user.  No need to have their password.  If they view it, you can too.
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, the PGKey will be worth the investment.  It costs $49.99 and if you purchase direct from the website they charge $8.95 shipping, for a total of $58.94.  It is also available through Amazon, and this month will be available in an Office Max store near you.  They even have a free trial offer!

My PGKey experience:
The very next morning after receiving this little package of love, I was up and at the computer before the kids.... I plugged in the PGKey into the USB port... and picked a password.... and that was it.  Installation began.  It took me maybe 30 Minutes to pick out the websites I wanted to block, add our favorites list to the Key, and set my email notifications up.  I played around with the DVD like video play back and saw my activity setting up the key right on a little screen.... it was really cool.
I was feeling really, really proud of my sneaky little self.
Later that same day, I had to leave the house for an appointment. I had tested the PGKey... it had sent me and email notifying me that I had used the blocked words in a search.  I knew I had picked a website that my son loves to go to, I was confidant I was going to get an email alerting me he was playing on the computer when he should have been doing school.  See, in my house.... when momma cat is away.... the mice play... I knew I had laid the perfect trap!
When I got home there was no email.  I was feeling very proud of my children for being obedient and not playing games on the computer..........  Alas, my joy was short lived.....  my oldest came in and snitched on himself.  He asked me why the computer wouldn't let him go to his game site.  This got me thinking.... He admitted trying to go there, but I didn't get an email..... hmmmmmmm. 
The product worked.  It blocked his access.  He could not get on that site, no matter how many times he tried.  The play back option the product provides, indeed captured him typing in the game site into the secure web browser.... but no email... weird.
I figured my happy lil spy self messed something up, so I sent an email to the company's customer service department to ask for help.  They replied very promptly, and were very patient with my questions. Turns out, I did not add every possible choice of words to my blocked list....  that was part of it... I had Addicting Games.... I should have added addictinggames to my blocked words list also....  The second cause for the lack of email notification was the dreaded drop down menu on search engines.  If my son were to type "add" into the search engine... it was likely addictinggames would drop down as a choice.  If he never finished typing the word and clicked the drop down choice.... I wouldn't get the notification.
Needless to say.... this was just a minor glitch in my opinion..... the main components of the PGKey worked like a charm.  He was never allowed access to the website I blocked, and the playback feature caught every move he made.  I watched lots of YouTube clips of his favorite video games... (sigh).   I also told him to go ahead and try to hack his way around the safety features....  He was unable to get around them.  My daughter liked the fact that if she searched for something through the PGKey safe search, she didn't have to be bombarded with unwanted images, or vulgar websites.   When my son, a night owl, wants to be on the computer late into the night, I can go to bed knowing he is protected.  The next day, I can open a screen and see exactly what he did.  I don't have to wonder what places he may have visited, the emails he may have sent, or who he chatted with.  It is all visible with a click and a password.
I wholeheartedly recommend this product to absolutely everyone.  It should be used by everyone with a child, not just homeschoolers.  It is incredibly easy to use, and the peace of mind you are able to have for only $50, is well worth every penny. 
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was sent a PGKey by Keyware Corp. free of charge.  This unit was provided in exchange for my opinion of their product.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Harvest Party ideas

Halloween isn't a holiday I am really into.  Mostly I see it as a waste of money. I don't want to spend time and money on costumes, nor am I really thrilled with the whole going door to door and begging for candy that will raise my dental costs..... not to mention that for the next 6 months I will be telling my kids they can't eat the candy....  So I really opt out on this one.

I like to decorate for the fall, and I like to celebrate Thanksgiving...... So you will see pumpkin on the porch in October, and around the house, they just don't have faces on them, that way I can use them from September thru November.

This morning my Living on a Dime newsletter arrived with some Halloween Alternatives....  lots of these listed could have the Halloween taken out of them and be replaces with a more Harvest type theme.  I could see incorporating it into church activities or homeschool co-op activities....

Here they are....

Halloween Hunt:

Using the same idea as an Easter Egg Hunt, hide little bags of candy corn, or other fun candy around the back yard. Set the kids loose and let them find the candy. Be sure to keep back some of the candy in case someone does poorly. That way you can give them a few more and keep it fun for everyone!
For another fun twist on this idea, hide mini pumpkins instead of candy. Let the kids find and decorate them with craft paint. Let small children attach construction paper cut-outs with glue sticks.

Guess How Many:
Fill a jar with candy corn or candy pumpkins and have guests guess how many are in the jar. (Don't forget to count as you put them in the jar!) Place the jar near the door and hand each guest a 3x5 card to put their name, their guess and their favorite Halloween candy. Halfway through the party read them all off and announce the winner.

Halloween Memory Game:
Place a few theme items such as a candy corn, apple, mini pumpkin etc. on a tray. Show the tray to the guests for a few seconds, then have them write down (or call out) as many items as they remember.

How Many Words:
Hand each person a sheet of paper printed out with a Halloween word or phrase such as Haunted House, Trick or Treat, or Scarecrow. Do these on the computer so you can include some small Halloween Graphics. Ask each person to make as many words as they can out of the letters in the phrase or word you've given them!

Now if it were me... all the Halloween elements would be removed and I would use more Harvest words, I do know that lots of people don't see Halloween the way I do.... So I left the ideas as they were written by Tawra.  Check out her website if you are interested in her Trick or Treating Alternatives.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Soli Deo Gloria Resources~ William Tyndale Unit Study Review

In September I was sent this lovely unit study from Solio Deo Gloria Resources to review, as a part of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  We worked on this unit study with all the children. The unit study stated that it was designed for use by all grades, K-12; and I am happy to report we had a great response from the Junior, the Sophomore, and the 3rd grader.

William Tyndale: God's Smuggler is a unit study that is greatly enriched by several key resources.  At the beginning of the study there is a list of videos, and books for you to choose from.  Without using these resources, I believe the study would fall flat, and lose some of its interest.  Kim, the author of these unit studies, offers suggestions on how to obtain the videos at little or no cost.  We were able to use 2 of the videos from the list and one book.  The videos were in my church library, and the book was at my local public library.
The video on the left is from Answers in Genesis, the book is historical fiction, and the video on the right a cartoon story produced by Torchlighters.  In combination, they gave us a very good perspective on the life of William Tyndale.  My older children really enjoyed the Answers in Genesis film... it was a lecture/sermon, and was full of information.  We watched it on the last day of our study and it helped tie everything together well.

There were many activities to work on.  We enjoyed the timeline, it was interesting to see who was alive when William was.  We also enjoyed the translation, and printing press activities.

Another way we made the materials 'come alive' was to lapbook some of the things we learned.  While this was not a listed activity, we just thought it would be a fun way to collect and see the things we were learning.  Here are two of our lapbooks.
 the 3rd grader's
the Sophomore's

If you have never done a unit study before, this would be a great first time study to use.  The price is very affordable at $8.00.  The format is PDF (or E-book), so you receive it for download right away, and can print as many copies as you need. 

Hop on over to Soli Deo Gloria Resources and browse their affordable and fun products.

Remember to stop by the TOS Homeschool Crew page to see what other families had to say about Soli Deo Gloria's products. 

as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received the above named unit study, free of charge, in exchange for my opinion of how this product worked in my homeschool setting.  No other compensation was received.
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