Monday, December 22, 2008

Let's Make a Web Page! from Motherboard Books

Links, text, graphics, sounds, colors, and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Websites are designed using these components. Do you know how to put them together to build your own? Could you teach your children how to create a website? Phyllis Wheeler from Motherboard Books has created a step-by-step E-book to walk kids through the process of building a web page.

Let's Make a Web Page! is a 60-page E-book that, together with a free trial of CoffeeCup HTML Editor, enables you to make a web page that contains an original write-up (an interview), a photo, animation, a background design, sound, active links, and finally instructions for how to upload the final product to the Internet.

My final verdict: Kudos to Phyllis Wheeler! Let's Make a Web Page! is a great introduction to HTML and web page design. Each step is illustrated using a screenshot, a picture demonstrating the written instructions, so it is extremely easy to follow. My husband sat down with our Kindergartner one afternoon, and the two of them had a great time putting the web page together. My daughter chose to do a Christmas theme for her page. She picked the background, some animated graphics, included a favorite Bible verse, and created links to her favorite websites (my blog made the cut!). My husband is computer savvy, but he agrees that the tutorial is well done and very user friendly so that a novice can successfully and easily follow the steps. This E-book is recommended for ages 8-12 to do mostly on their own. Parental supervision is suggested when the tutorial takes the student onto the Internet to search for animated pictures.

Let's Make a Web Page! is a fun and easy way to unlock the secrets of web page design for both children and parents. It is available at Motherboard Books for the great introductory price of $19.99 (regular price will be $29.99). It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee! Check out Motherboard Books, and sign up for the email newsletter to receive a free download of The Internet Scavenger Hunt--a fun way for kids to practice using the Internet for research!


Homeschooling families know that each of their children learns differently. Some enjoy workbooks, some need a demonstration, while others work best with a hands-on activity to retain a lesson. Parents learn to be creative in teaching their children, and one 'handy' resource to use (forgive the pun) is a puppet. Puppetools is a website where teachers can discuss ideas for using puppets in the learning process. Creator Jeffrey Peyton provides a pattern for a special hinge fold--the framework for a successful paper hand puppet. There are also 37 downloadable patterns for a variety of insect, animal, and object parts and pieces that you can print and attach to the base to create a finished puppet. For individual access to the website for 60 days, the cost is $20. For an annual subscription for up to 30 different users, the prices is $99.

My final verdict: I like puppets. My children like puppets. I think puppets can be a very effective tool to aid in teaching a whole range of subjects. But, I would not pay $99 to join a forum to discuss puppets and their uses. After checking out the Puppetools website, listening to and watching the provided videos, and looking for opportunities to use puppets during our homeschooling day, I have determined I can get the same kind of information and patterns using the local library, bookstores, my own ingenuity, and my child's own imagination. For some families, though, $20 for 60 days may be a worthwhile investment. Take a look at Puppetools for yourself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crayola Art Studio by Core Learning

Fun with crayons, markers, and paint is no longer confined to a physical piece of paper or canvas. Crayola has developed Art Studio, a powerful piece of software that enables kids of all ages (and even adults!) to experiment and create all sorts of digital artwork with all sorts of tools.

An animated Quick Start Tour will get you going in less than ten minutes with a nice overview of Art Studio's key features. You'll start off learning how to customize your work area, and then it's on to a thorough explanation of the toolbar. There are 12 different Crayola digital art supplies you can choose from including marker, paint, colored pencil, spray paint, crayon, charcoal, and oil pastel. A really cool feature of the art tools is that they respond on the digital canvas like they would in real life. So, for example, you'll see that paint bleeds a bit and blends with other colors as they 'mix' on the work area. You can choose to draw freehand or use shape tools to create lines, circles, or polygons. You are able to change color, mix color on a palette to make your own, or use a color chooser for even more color options. You can even change the hue, shade, or transparency of color. Crayola has included a large stamp library with a collection of hundreds of images to add to your artwork. Images can be resized and altered in appearance. There is a nifty cut picture feature where you can cut out a silhouette of an object and a fill tool to color in closed space with either solid color or patterned motifs. Fortunately there is an undo tool and a redo tool to fix mistakes and a clear picture option to clear the canvas totally and start all over again. Digital creations have the option of being saved in numerous formats, including JPeg, GIF, and Windows Bitmap among others. A 47-page User Manual and a 31-page Activity Guide are also provided in PDF format. The User Manual reveals even more features than the Quick Start Tour, and the Activity Guide gives a great introduction to using the software to practice art techniques such as proportion, using color, perspective, and drawing the human figure and face.

My final verdict: It is amazing just how powerful a piece of software this is! Drawing with digital crayons may seem like child's play, and believe me my 5-year-old loves it, but with the tools that are provided it is possible to create complex and sophisticated pieces of art! I like to tweak around with Illustrator and Photoshop, but those would be extremely intimidating, too complicated, and ultimately frustrating for my young daughter to try to handle. Art Studio is wonderful because it has the ability to work for both the younger and older child, the art beginner and the more advanced. My husband and I both enjoyed using the software to make some interesting creations. I would highly, highly recommend Crayola Art Studio! The price is right--just $24.95--available at Core Learning as a Windows download or a physical product shipped to you. Check out the entire Quick Start Tour and then download a Demo!

Monday, December 15, 2008

All About Spelling

Marie Rippel has put together a comprehensive spelling program called All About Spelling that utilizes three methods of learning: auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), and kinesthetic (touching). There are four levels available. Each level is sold in a set that includes a teacher's manual and a student material packet. Letter tiles and magnets need to be purchased separately.

My final verdict: Absolutely wonderful! This program is thorough, well laid out, easy to teach, and fun with no distracting fluff. I have gone through Level One with my kindergartner, and it's been a delight! Each session includes teaching reinforced by flashcards (provided in the student material packet), spelling by the student with magnetized letter tiles on a magnetic board (2'x3' board easily obtained at WalMart or office supply store), and a small spelling test and dictation written out by students on paper. My daughter has so much fun using the tiles to spell out words on the magnetic board, and we are both excited that she can write down three and four word phrases of dictation correctly! We tracked her progress through each of the 24 sessions using an included progress sheet (with a cute beehive theme) which we laminated and used stickers on. As long as you don't have more than one student going through the same level at the same time, you need only one student material packet per level. AND, the entire All About Spelling course is non-consumable so you can use it with siblings year after year.

I highly recommend All About Spelling! It is a no-nonsense, effective program for children to learn phonograms (letter sounds...phonics), to understand the rules for spelling in the English language, and to gain confidence in pronouncing and spelling unfamiliar words. Check out the products. Currently there are four levels available. Levels five and six are in the works. All About Spelling is just what I'm looking for to help my children become strong spellers and confident readers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Alphabet Alley

Don't you love when someone comes up with new improvements on old ideas that turn good products into great products?! Alphabet Alley does just that with their versions of some familiar kids' toys and games.

Noah's Ark Go Fish Card Game: You'll find Noah, the ark, and oh-so-cute (and I do mean CUTE!) animals on these laminated (so they wipe clean and have some durability!) cards. Rules are the same as the game you know and love, though you could play to match sets of numbers, colors, or animals to switch things up a bit. These cards are nice and big...much larger than regular playing cards.This would be excellent for preschool kids (no reading is required to play) through early readers as a party favor, stocking stuffer, gift topper, or travel game! Pick up a set for only $5.99.

Two By Two Matching Game: Watch out...Noah, the ark, and his crew of cute animals are back. Matching games are great for testing and improving memory, and this game is perfect with its 2" x 2", nicely laminated, VERY thick tiles...much heftier than the sets you'll normally find.This set of 24 tiles (12 matching pairs) would be great for 3 and up and no reading is required to play. Purchase a set for a special wee one for $10.99.

My final verdict: I recommend both of these products. They are very well done for what they are--durable, fun, classic toys for kids. You need to see what other great looking products Alphabet Alley offers. They've got different versions of both Go Fish and the Matching Game as well as magnetic play sets, stacking blocks, wooden toys, puzzles, and stickers!


Homeschool families have more curriculum options today than ever before. Some families use textbooks, some use literature, and some even use videos or DVDs for instruction. An additional option now available is to use the Internet for teaching and learning.

Time4Learning is an online education program that touts itself as a fully automated, fun, and complete curriculum for PreK-8th grades with lessons that are self-paced and correlate to all 50 State Standards. It covers four major school subjects: Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Over the last couple of months our family has been given the opportunity to try Time4Learning for ourselves.

Our final verdict: What she liked: Let me say right away that my daughter (a Kindergartner) loved Time4Learning. And why wouldn't she? It is a large collection of learning games filled with bright colors, animation, sound effects, and music. She thought they were fun and they built her confidence in a lot of the skills we are working on with other curricula. What she did not like: She had a bit of difficulty with clicking and dragging to play some games as she is still learning how to use a computer mouse. A few games were too intense for her--ones that had a beat-the-clock element. It was stressful for her, and she would ask to skip those. Sometimes she needed the directions reexplained and demonstrated a few times which would frustrate her. Overall, though, she enjoyed the games and would frequently ask to be allowed to log-on to Time4Learning.

And me? What I liked: Time4Learning has a ton--a TON--of stuff for the parents: lists of scope and sequence, lesson plans, answer keys, and extra printable materials to reinforce the online learning. I have the ability to log in to my daughter's account and see what activities she did, the date and time she did them, how she scored, and even how much total time she spent on the section. I can print all that information for record keeping purposes. I can customize the grade level she works at to match her abilities in each subject. I can set the minimum time she needs to spend on lessons and the maximum time she can spend playing games in the 'playground' area. What I did not like: I like technology as much as the next person (maybe even more), but I did not like the idea of my Kindergartner spending so much time on the computer. Some of the games were a bit loud for my taste and some seemed to be 'fluff'--more for the fun than for the learning.

As a primary source for teaching and learning, I would pass on Time4Learning, especially for someone so young, like my daughter. I prefer interaction, discussion, and conversation with her rather than having her stare at a computer screen clicking in answers for everything. I also cringe at the thought of delivering core subjects wrapped up in loud, flashy entertainment. As an occasional treat for fun, yes, Time4Learning has a lot of neat games that my daughter really enjoyed playing. As is the case with any curriculum, every family and every child has their unique needs. Time4Learning does help parents to keep a good record of what the child is doing within its online program and provides extra printable material for continuing learning offline. Children find it fun. And while it's not a great fit for our family, it may be for yours. Check out Time4Learning for yourself. The monthly fee is $19.95 for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child. There is a 14-day money-back guarantee so you can try it out risk free!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Let's Be Scientists

The December module of the Old Schoolhouse Planner features Let's Be Scientists. This 54-page e-book is just right for your budding chemist, astronomer, meteorologist, human anatomist, or just good-old-fashioned curious kid.
--Interested in the weather? Follow one of the included links to learn how to make your own weather station that includes a barometer, hygrometer, rain gauge, weather vane, and compass!
--Want to know more about the solar system? Follow another link to a really cool site where you can watch the planets orbit the sun and see the path of a comet!
--Into recycling household objects to make something new? There's a link to the classic recycled object bird feeder...much appreciated by the neighborhood, feathered friends especially in the wintertime!
--Is chemistry your passion? You'll have a blast making slime (yikes!), crystal snowflakes (cool!), invisible ink (ooooh!), homemade ice cream (yum!), jello that glows (whoa!), and a substance that will change from a solid to a liquid with a squeeze of your hand (no way!).
--Fascinated by the human body? Follow one of the many links to find out interesting facts about your body like: the average adult human has at least 25 feet of intestines!
Also included is a section on 'grossology' (I must admit I don't like that someone has decided to fix this name to this topic), which is apparently the study of 'gross', yet natural things that occur in the human body or with animals, and a section on the five amazing senses God has blessed us with. There are also recipes, quizzes, coloring pages, and word searches. The module wraps up with 25 pages of Biblical copy work from the book of Genesis. How wonderful it is to see God acknowledged as the creator of all the things scientists study: the earth, light, air, the oceans, plants, animals, and human beings! This module is brimming with science fun for only $7.95! Head over to The Old Schoolhouse Store to purchase Let's Be Scientists or to check out a sample!

Trigger Memory Systems

I've been able to view and try out two products from Trigger Memory Systems. Both are worth checking out! See my blog entries on:

1. Times Tales: A fun and easy, mnemonic-based program that really works! My 5-year-old learned the 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 upper times tables with ease! Really!

2. Clean 'N' Flip charts: Effective, easy-to-follow charts that walk kids through cleaning house. Simple steps with illustrations makes easy work of a messy room!

Trigger Memory Systems: Clean 'N' Flip

Trigger Memory Systems wants to help you help your kids learn how to help clean house! They have put together three Clean 'N' Flip charts:

1. Zone Cleaning For Kids: Concentrates on the common areas: living room, kitchen, and bathroom. A nicely laminated, easy-to-use system that allows the parent to assign zones (rooms) and tasks. It even allows for specifying different times during a day that the tasks should be completed.

2. Bedroom Cleaning For Kids: Teaches kids how to tackle messes in their own rooms. The kids will begin at the door and work their way around the room sorting, organizing, and putting away items in a highly systematic fashion that is easy to follow...voila, clean bedroom!

3. Laundry For Kids: This is the newest Clean 'N' Flip chart. It takes kids through a parent-customized checklist of simple steps to learn the basics of handling dirty laundry all by themselves.

My final verdict: I really like Zone Cleaning and Bedroom Cleaning. Zone Cleaning is simple and well thought out. I like the lamination which allows for quick assignment and reassignment of rooms and tasks to different members of the family. Bedroom Cleaning is not laminated but does not need to be as the chart is intended to be used by a single person in one room. It could be easily modified if necessary (for example one child does the first three steps and another child can take care of the remaining five). I like both because they, again, have simple steps with simple illustrations and follow an effective, well planned system.

I am not a big fan of the Laundry For Kids chart. It is written with the same easy-to-follow steps and illustrations, but the steps are so general that I don't find it particularly useful. It's almost not the fault of the product though. Every household is going to have a different kind of washer and dryer. A lot of them function radically different. It would be impossible to write a simple chart to correctly use them all. In these days of top load or side load, high efficiency machines, special detergents, liquid fabric softeners, fashion fabrics, etc. each home has to have its own formula for properly sorting, washing, and drying the laundry.

Each Clean 'N' Flip cart is available separately or can be purchased in money-saving sets. Check out Trigger Memory Systems to see page samples and prices.

Trigger Memory Systems: Times Tales

Trigger Memory Systems has a product called Times Tales. This is what their website says about it:

Times Tales is a creative, innovative mnemonic-based program that makes it fun and easy to memorize the upper multiplication facts. Times Tales uses cute, simple stories to provide students with a "memory peg", allowing them to quickly recall otherwise abstract facts.

And this is what it does: Covers the most difficult to memorize times tables: 3x6, 3x7, 3x8, 3x9, 4x6, 4x7, 4x8, 4x9, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 7x7, 7x8, 7x9, 8x8, 8x9, 9x9

My oldest is in Kindergarten. She has a fabulous memory and a wild imagination. She is currently doing addition and subtraction with sums and differences less than 20. Would this work with her? Could she actually learn her times tables? The product's developers think so. And so the experiment begins...

Day 1: My 5-year-old daughter and I sit down across from each other at the kitchen table. I have looked over the instruction manual about 15 minutes prior to get a feeling for how I'm supposed to conduct this learning session for Part 1 (the 3 and 4 upper times tables). I begin the first step: introducing the number symbols (the little pictures and characters), and we quickly move on to Step 2: reading and discussing the eight stories. Step 3 is where my daughter tells each story back to me, and then we're on to Step 4...the Trigger Memory flashcards. And finally Step 5 is regular flashcards. My daughter is giving me the correct answers to the 3 and 4 upper times tables, and it's been about 25 minutes since we started the session. I am not kidding!! It's been less than 30 minutes after we first sat down, and she can tell me that 4x9=36! She impresses Dad when he comes home from work this evening by going through the flashcards correctly with him.

The next week: I have not talked much about Times Tales since Day 1. I hand her a crossword puzzle. To solve it she has to remember details from the stories. She does well. I give her the practice test...perfect score!

The very next day: I complete Part 1 by finishing Step 6. She completes the final test with another perfect score! It has been just over one week since we first began Times Tales, and she knows her 3 and 4 upper times tables.

We repeated the same process with Part 2--the stories for 6, 7, 8, and 9. We got the same results in the same kind of time...correct answers to flashcards and perfect test scores!

My final verdict: I'm a believer! Times Tales works! No, my Kindergartner does not understand how to do multiplication, but I do believe that since she now knows the correct answers to the more difficult-to-memorize times table facts that multiplication will make more sense to her in less time when we do get around to learning about it. For children that are actually doing multiplication (2nd or 3rd grade?) this would be an excellent help! The stories are fun and easy to remember (just like they said they'd be!), and the program is non-consumable so I can use it with my other children (yay!). Times Tales is available from Trigger Memory Systems for $29.95 and comes with:
  • 2 Part Story Flipchart
  • Trigger Memory & Regular Flashcards (multiplication & division)
  • Roll 'Em Cube Game
  • Easy Instruction Manual
  • Memory Story Discussion Guide
  • Various Tests & Challenges

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Little Man in the Map

Could you and your children find Nebraska quickly and with confidence on an unlabeled map of the United States? How about Ohio? New Hampshire? Alabama? No? Would you like to be able? The Little Man in the Map by Andrew Martonyi is a book created to help you correctly locate all 50 of the United States from memory. The book is written entirely in rhyme and introduces the reader to MIM (the little Man In the Map). MIM is made up of five states head to toe: Minnesota is his hat, Iowa is his face, Missouri is his shirt, Arkansas is his pants, and Louisiana is his boot. The book breaks down the United States into five different regions and MIM acts as a guide, taking the reader through each as well as the District of Columbia.

My final verdict: I can definitely see MIM when I look at a U.S. map--there he stands with a funny hat and one boot. But once the book introduces the individual regions, the picture clues are not always so obvious. The five regions are: Midwestern, South Central, Southeastern, Northeastern, and Western. Midwestern was good--I will always picture Illinois as honking on Iowa's nose, South Central was ok. Southeastern was a bit of a reach with the picture clues for Maryland and Delaware, but it was very helpful with the MAGS acronym to stand for the order of states from Mississippi to South Carolina. Where I had a real problem was the New England states listed in the Northeastern region. The picture clues for Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were not very helpful...even a bit confusing as I could not really visualize the clues as the 'boots' they were supposed to resemble. On the positive side, I thought the clues for New York and Lake Ontario were excellent. Finally the Western region had both hits and misses. The acronym for the states that make up Four Corners was good as well as the color coding clues for California and Nevada. On the other hand, Washington and Oregon are introduced at the same time and no real differentiation is made between the two with the picture clue.

As a stand alone product, I would say 'no' to The Little Man in the Map. The rhymes are, at many times, too forced and have too much detail to be easily remembered. The picture clues are, also at times, too much of a stretch of the imagination to be helpful. BUT, I would definitely say 'yes' to MIM if he is used as a supplement. Some of the acronyms and picture clues are very helpful and fun and would be excellent at reinforcing rote memory or other forms of learning U.S. geography.

The Little Man in the Map is a nicely hardbound book published by Schoolside Press. Priced at $19.95, copies can be autographed by the author for no additional charge. A large, laminated The Little Man in the Map wall map is also available for purchase as well as FREE coloring pages from the book. If you find you like this book, keep checking the Schoolside Press website. They will be releasing another MIM book to help learn the state capitals. Want to keep up with the book's author? Check out Andrew Martonyi's blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Contest winner!

Congratulations, once again, to Jill! She won the latest drawing for a very nice brown and pink homeschool tote from The Old Schoolhouse (with some goodies tucked inside!). Thank you to her and to one of my other faithful visitors, Susanne! I really appreciate your visits, encouraging words, and support!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Salem Ridge Press

Since November 2005 Salem Ridge Press has had the mission of publishing quality children's books of the 1800's and early 1900's. Their book categories include:
  • Historical Fiction (broken down into three subcategories: Church, World, and American History)
  • Adventure
  • Allegory
  • and books for Young Readers

I have now read three books republished by Salem Ridge Press and have absolutely loved each one! Please see my book reviews by clicking on the following individual links:

  • Mary Jane - Her Book : recommended for ages 6-10, but it was perfect for my 5-year-old daughter.
  • The American Twins of the Revolution : recommended for ages 8-adult. My 5-year old enjoyed it but obviously did not fully understand the historical context yet. It is based on a TRUE story! I loved it and was sad when I came to the story's end.
  • Glaucia the Greek Slave : recommended for ages 10-adult. A more challenging fictional read but an excellent book to see the early Christian church at work in ancient Rome and Greece.

Salem Ridge Press offers most of their books in both hard and softcover. These are the types of books that will be favorites to be handed down in the family or to be happily purchased and given as gifts! Take a look, and while you're there sign up for their quarterly e-mail newsletter for a chance to win a free, newly-released book!

Book review: Glaucia the Greek Slave

Read of mighty Rome and learned Greece. Read of the majestic, prolific gods of the times like Apollo, Pallas Athene, Venus, Furtuna, and Neptune. Read of a time of magnificent wealth and distinguished philosophers. And then read of the humble beginnings of a small and despised sect of blasphemers...the Nazarenes.

Emma Leslie's book, Glaucia the Greek Slave, is set in Rome and Greece of approximately 59-64 A.D. Glaucia and Laon are to be sold as slaves in Rome to pay off their dead father's debts. Glaucia becomes the property of a Roman philosopher's family while Laon is desperate to earn the money to redeem his sister from a life of slavery. They both hold a secret about their missing and shamed mother that no one will speak to them of. Meanwhile, the Nazarenes, the name given to early Christians as Jesus was known as "the Nazarene," are spreading their unpopular message of one true, all-powerful God...a God for both the freeman and the slave, the aristocrat and the lowly, the powerful and the weak.

My final verdict: The beautiful reality of God's Living Word is that it speaks today just as it has from before time. Glaucia the Greek Slave was originally published in 1874, but it brings the message of God's redemption through Jesus Christ that is just as relevant now as it was then! The same worship of idols occurs today as described in the book. Though you won't see many images of Lares and Penates or statues of Pan or Pomona in the modern home, you will still see the same self-worship, self-indulgence, and superstition that rule people's hearts. This book, recommended for ages 10-adult, is a great fictional read to better understand the moral and spirtual attitudes of ancient Rome and Greece and to see the early Christian response to it. May we be as bold and courageous in our modern Christian walk! Glaucia the Greek Slave is available in both hard and softcover from Salem Ridge Press. Read the entire first chapter of Glaucia the Greek Slave.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spears Art Studio K-8

Question: What do you call a homeschool-compatible, comprehensive art curriculum that is taught with a Biblical worldview?
Answer: A rare find!

Diane Spears has put together just such a program called Spears Art Studio K-8 Christian Art Curriculum. It is contained on one CD-ROM on which is a teacher's manual that includes all the necessary information, instruction, and project details to teach children from Kindergarten all the way through grade 8 in the subject of fine arts.
The program comes with an invaluable introduction guide to start with. It answers basic questions like: What is art? and Why does art exist? It goes on to cover the main components of art which include elements of art (such things as line, shape, and color) and principles of design (such things as repetition, contrast, and balance). There are suggestions for how to present the lessons which use different types of materials and different types of media. Steps on how to analyze and critique artwork are also covered. Finally, there is even a researched article (authored by Diane) about the benefits of incorporating fine arts in your child's studies.
The art instruction part of the program is broken down by grade level (K-8). Within each grade level, the program is divided by month (Sept-May). And finally, within each month the instruction is further divided into 4 weekly lessons. A scope and sequence table is provided for each grade level to make quick work of getting an overview of monthly activities. Each weekly lesson begins with a theme objective and theme scripture. New vocabulary is introduced, any necessary teacher preparation is listed, lesson focus is reviewed, and a project material list is provided as well as step-by-step activity instructions. Art history is presented for certain lessons with suggested images (paintings, photographs, drawings) to acquire from other sources (such as the library or the Internet).

My final verdict: This Biblically based art program to teach from home is a delightful find! I can see how this comprehensive curriculum might be a little intimidating at first glance because it is so thorough, but do not be discouraged! After a few days of familiarizing myself with the provided materials I could teach the lessons with confidence. I did find it necessary to print out a lot of the material on the CD-ROM (I prefer to page through paper rather than read from a computer screen) but found it very worth having a hard copy (for those not wishing to put their printer and ink cartridges through the works, Diane has made a B&W, 3-ring bound hard copy available for purchase). Spears Art Studio covers a wide and interesting variety of projects using readily obtained materials: self-portrait, sewing cards, still life, collage, and weaving, and I am thrilled that the author of this program supports the idea of using art in all its forms to honor God.
It is a great course to use to give your children a discerning eye when making or evaluating art. Diane writes, "...high standards in art require three criteria: excellence in the execution of the art principles, excellence in the use of the materials, and excellence in the expression of a morally acceptable idea." I agree and wish for my children to develop all three skills. I believe Spears Art Studio K-8 Art Curriculum to be a worthy component for our family's homeschool, and I am so glad to have it!
For $39.95 (that includes shipping!) it's a tremendous deal as you get all the curriculum you'll need to teach art well into junior high. See an overview of the K-8 art themes listed by week, and be sure to check out the Spears Art Studio website where Diane has posted free art lessons from the K-8 course. Other products are available including a high school art curriculum, a calligraphy course, and a variety of children's literature comprehension guides.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book review: The American Twins of the Revolution

It is September 1777. General George Washington and his war-weary troops, located just north of Philadelphia, are in desperate need of supplies, food, and money. Unfortunately the British are aware of the Continental Army's plight and are determined to bring them to their demise. Lucy Fitch Perkins' book, The American Twins of the Revolution is based on a TRUE story of danger, hardship, and heroism during the Revolutionary days.

My final verdict: This is a thrilling book! It has spies and soldiers. It has treasure and bribery. It has threats and honor. It has escapes and arson and determination and bravery. The twins, Sally and Roger Priestly, are of the author's creation, but General and Mrs. Priestly are real-life characters. The underlying story is very much true (the author's preface gives a nice explanation) and knowing so makes the account even more wonderful to ponder as you read through it. The cover recommends this book for ages 10-adult, but my 5-year-old daughter and I enjoyed the entire, exciting story together. It was hard to read just one or two chapters at a time, and I was sorry to see it end. Some parts are written in a slave English dialect and take a couple tries at getting the pronunciation and meaning correct, but it is well worth it to really get a genuine feel for the characters and time period in American history. This story touches on both good and bad realities of this fallen world, past and present, and provides opportunity to discuss those topics in both a historical and moral context. Excellent book--I highly recommend it! The American Twins of the Revolution can be purchased from Salem Ridge Press in both hard and softcover. Read the entire first chapter of The American Twins of the Revolution.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book review: Mary Jane - Her Book

Sweet, slower-paced, simpler times...the reasons Mary Jane - Her Book is so enjoyable. My 5-year-old daughter and I read this together and thought it was wonderful! The story opens with 4-year-old Mary Jane standing speechless as her cherished doll lay irreparably damaged in the middle of the street. Poor Marie Georgianna! From there you witness Mary Jane's daily discoveries and adventures. She learns that her doll has a twin (with a funny name!), she tries to help the baby robins in her backyard get a drink, her dad plans a secret for her, she shows her little friend Junior the "water from the sky in the house", her mother teaches her to sew, and much more! The book wraps up with a birthday party, a letter, and a train trip. The adventures are continued in Mary Jane - Her Visit when her journey on the train brings her to her great-grandmother's farm in the country.

My final verdict: It's a very sweet book and very fun, easy reading for the little ones to listen to and even read for themselves (the book cover suggests ages 6-10). First published in 1918, Mary Jane - Her Book is a great change in pace from more modern children's literature. The family members are loving, the children are respectful and obedient, the adventures are wholesome. My daughter and I both enjoyed reading about Mary Jane, her family, and her friends and hope to get our hands on the sequel, Mary Jane - Her Visit, soon! Both books are available from Salem Ridge Press in either hard or softcover. Read the entire first chapter of Mary Jane - Her Book.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rime To Read

Lime, time, rime! No, that's not misspelled...r-i-m-e is correct. Rimes sound alike and are spelled alike (cat and bat) while rhymes sound alike but are not necessarily spelled alike (hair and share). Rime To Read is a program that does just what its name suggests: uses word families (rimes) to teach children to read.
The Rime To Read method to start beginning readers on a road to successful reading consists of:
  1. The use of word families (rimes)
  2. A unique color coding system where rimes are assigned different colors
  3. A structured, progressive approach where each additional book builds on the ones before it

Books can be printed and read in hard copy or can be viewed online. One feature of the online books is that rimes can be read to the child at the click of a mouse when he or she wishes to have assistance sounding out words. The books are designed to be read in order. Characters, rimes, and sight words learned in earlier books appear in later ones, with the goal being to have the child recognize and remember the already familiar words. Each of the five vowels gets four books to learn and practice its short vowel sound. Each 4-book set can be purchased for $9.99 a set or the entire lot of 20 is priced at $44.99. Either way, the price includes lifetime access to the online book and the ability to print a hard copy.

My final verdict: The printable books are nicely done with simple line drawings and pleasant color coding. The online books are still undergoing some debugging as I noticed that the voice that pronounces the rimes still has a few quirks and not all of the 20 books are fully functional as yet. The folks at Rime To Read are hard at work to correct this. My 5-year-old is already a strong reader, and so I was not able to measure the effectiveness of the Rime To Read method with her. A friend of mine agreed to try out Rime To Read with one of her daughters. This is what she emailed me after using the printed books:

I can’t think of one bad thing to say about the Rime To Read books. My daughter is doing very well with them. The length of each book is perfect for her short attention span, and she loves that she can read a whole book all by herself! She also enjoys finding characters from previous stories in the new ones, and it keeps her excited about reading more. It did take her a few books to pick up on the spelling patterns, even though they were color coded, but once she did there was no stopping her! The sight words are also helpful, and even follow along with some other reading programs that she has been doing. I wouldn’t use these books by themselves, but they are a great supplementary reading program.

I do not understand what combination of wonderful things goes on inside a child's head that makes everything 'click' for them. I do understand that it is different things for different children. For some, Rime To Read's method of word patterns, color coding, and structure may be the very key that unlocks the world of reading for them. Try out book 1 for FREE!

Book review: And Then Mama Said...It Takes Time to Learn to Read

Slow and steady wins the race. Anyone who has read the Aesop fable of the Tortoise and the Hare has heard this before. It's a good lesson to learn and one that can be applied to many a situation in life. Gena Suarez's latest book, And Then Mama Said...It Takes Time to Learn to Read, stresses the importance of patiently plodding on to reach a goal.

The story follows a young frog named Splish who is rather discouraged because he does not know how to read. His older brother, Sam, knows how to read. His younger sister, Susi, knows how to read. His assorted animal friends know how to read--in fact, reading seems to come so easy to them. Why can't he learn? Page after page Mama Frog calmly encourages Splish to be patient, keep trying, and remember that someday the letters will make sense. While following Splish along his journey to reading, you'll also learn a bit about the animal world. A vocabulary list at the end of the book briefly explains such concepts as camouflage, hibernation, and metamorphosis. With purchase of the physical book you will also receive a link for an activity E-book. This 36-page book includes copywork, coloring pages, and an alphabet maze starring Splish and his family and friends. Also included are copywork and fill-in-the-blank diagrams about their real counterparts in the natural world. Learn about frogs, raccoons, ants, turtles, and bees.

My final verdict: It's a good story and would be especially encouraging for a youngster who happens to be struggling with reading. There are many important messages conveyed, for both child and parent: to nurture a love for learning, to have patience while waiting for change and to work hard to achieve that change, to understand that people have different abilities and learn at different paces, and to encourage obedience in children to their parents. The illustrations were not my favorite, but my 5-year-old enjoyed them. Also, the provided ruled space for copywork is a bit too small for a Kindergartner. Overall, though, it's a wonderful book because of the multiple, worthy messages for the discouraged, struggling reader and parents. Splish is available from The Old Schoolhouse Store, and $9.95 buys you the 23-page softbound book autographed by the author and made out personally to the recipient, the 36-page companion activity E-book, and FREE shipping! Great deal--would make a great personalized gift!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Contest winner!

Congratulations to Jill on being chosen to receive the Tales of Glory Nativity Set from one2believe. I hope your family enjoys it! More contests are in the works so keep stopping by to see what's new, and thanks to everyone who continues to support my blog!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Update on HSLB

I wanted to make sure to give an update about my experience with actually ordering from Homeschool Library Builder. I placed my order on a Sunday evening and my order arrived the following Tuesday evening...2 days!! The books were in the expected condition (excellent!), and they even wrote me a little, personal note on the included receipt thanking me for my business. Great service, great prices...I'm sold! I encourage you to go browse their selection of books and give Homeschool Library Builder a try!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Amusing Mathematics

The November module of The Schoolhouse Planner features Amusing Mathematics. It's a 48-page e-book with a nice mix of mathematical subjects ranging from tanagrams, pattern blocks, and coloring pages for the preK and Kindergarten groups to Sudoku, multiplication tables 1-12, and time telling practice for an older bunch. For chuckles, the module begins with instructions on how to mathematically "guess" what your friends are thinking, their phone numbers, and even birthdays! And once you've amazed them with those cool tricks you can make them laugh with sum math jokes (ha, ha...get it, sum math jokes?!). Ok, that was terrible. The ones included with the module are much better, I promise, and you'll also get some neat mind bender riddles to really get the kids thinking. There are even a couple hearty recipes included (one beef crockpot and one chicken with spaghetti) to practice with fractions and measuring. My absolute favorite part of the entire module is the 14-page copywork section! It consists of neat, sweet, and useful rhymes and poetry to help kids (and an adult or two!) remember odd, even, and prime numbers, American coinage, the number of days in each month, days of the week, liquid measure, telling time, and finally how to the write numbers 0-9. Some of the rhymes are familiar, but not all, and I've never seen them put together in a collection like this. It makes for an awesome set of copywork! This section, alone, makes it very worth the $7.95! Check it out!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Book review: The Missing Link: Found!

I have had a love for reading for as long as I have had the ability. I remember practically living at the library during the summer breaks from school. I would sit on the floor in the stacks reading parts of my small mountain of checked out books. Some of my favorites, I'd say at around age 9 or 10, were books from the Nancy Drew mystery series. They were such page-turners!! Each story centered around three close friends sharing adventures together while they used their smarts to solve some mystery in which they became involved. Are there modern day fiction books for the preteen/teen audience with the same kind of draw?

The Missing Link: Found!, written by Christina and Felice Gerwitz (a daughter-and-mother team) and published by Media Angels, is the first of three books in The Truth Seekers Mystery Series. The story begins with the Murphy family on a boat enjoying a bit of deep sea fishing. By the fifth page adventure erupts as the charter fishing boat is boarded by armed FBI agents from a helicopter hovering overhead! After a high speed boat chase, an exchange of bullets, and an explosion, Dr. Jack Murphy receives a strange email from his brother Mike. The troublesome message leads the teenage Murphy's, Christian and Anna, and their father to an archaeological dig. A 30-year-old mystery of stolen treasure is retold, and someone goes missing. Why are certain individuals coming down with a mysterious illness, and has the first real transitional form skeleton been unearthed--giving support to the theory of evolution?

My final verdict: Should I be embarrassed to say that I really, really like this book? I'm nowhere near the age group for which it was written, but the book drew me in because, just like the Nancy Drew books from summer times long ago, it has great action, mystery, and suspense from beginning to end! The added bonus is that it is about a Christian family! Throughout the story the Murphy's demonstrate their love for the Lord and acknowledge His hand in the events in their lives. The father has chosen his family over pursuing a self-absorbed career. The Murphy's pray together frequently, both in thanksgiving to God and for help in times of need. The teenagers wish to see others come to Christ and desire to be good witnesses for Jesus. The main topic of the book, evident by the title, is the discussion between those who believe in Biblical Creation and those who believe in Evolution. The dialogue is calm and is presented as rational and balanced conversation between Dr. Murphy and his children on the side of Creationism, and Cousin David and an archaeologist at the dig site on the side of Evolution. Both sides bring in science to support their points of view: Carbon-14 age dating, site chronology, and fossilization. In the back of the book is a Letter From the Editor explaining that even though the book is fiction, facts were used to write the majority of the story, and a helpful Glossary is also included to define scientific terms used. Without giving away any of the details, God's Truth is the winner at the end of the book! This is great fiction reading for the preteen/teen--though be advised the action sometimes includes a bit of violence (but no gore): guns (used by good guys and by not-so-good guys), shooting (resulting in one person getting hit), and an explosion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I like to consider myself pretty proficient at researching topics online...a Queen of Google if you will. Ok maybe that's an exaggeration, but I've always had confidence in my abilities to find something I'm looking for within a few minutes and a few Google inquiries. I've never thought I'd need someone else to do it for me. is a website, though, that does just that--essentially your own personal Googler.
HelpMe2Teach provides its subscribers with a Table of Contents listing of available subjects (you can also do your own site search by topic) that have been researched. As of this writing, there are 33 different main subject listings, each with a variety of sublistings. For example Social Studies, Science, and Holidays had well over 20 and 30 subcategories each. Clicking on a category will direct you to a list of appropriate websites which are individually coded to indicate the site's most appropriate audience(s):
  • P- Primary (preK-grade 2)
  • E- Elementary (grades 2-5)
  • S- Secondary (grades 6-12)
  • T- Teacher is updated daily and provides a quarterly email newsletter with a paid subscription. Subscription choices are as follows:

  • 3-day trial: $4.95
  • 1-month: $9.95
  • 3-month: $15.95
  • 1-year: $29.95

The annual membership also includes free research by the staff of HelpMe2Teach.

My final verdict: At first I was not enthusiastic about this website...Pay for someone to Google things for me? Why? But after having used HelpMe2Teach for the last 2 months, I've had a change of heart. Right now I have only a Kindergartener that I formally homeschool, but as time goes by I see that I have less and less time to practice reigning as Google Queen. When I turn on my computer to research something, time is precious and finding a good resource sooner is better! I like that the websites have already been researched, filtered for content, categorized, and coded. It definitely saves me having to weed through endless Google results. Did I always find everything I needed? Honestly, no, the site did not have what I wanted every time. A bummer yes, BUT remember with an annual subscription HelpMe2Teach will research a topic for me...for FREE! I need only to email them and ask. This site would be beneficial to the homeschooling family looking for free or low cost online resources and schooling aids. It's a definite asset to those homeschoolers who wish to bypass the fruitless hours of websurfing looking for just the right sites. It would also be good for the student just learning how to do online research as there is less chance of inappropriate content at these pre-researched sites rather than those that result from general online searches. I think if your family budget will allow for it, HelpMe2Teach can be a worthwhile resource: Site updated daily, quarterly newsletter, safer and relevant websites, links coded by grade/audience, and free research with annual membership. To sweeten the deal, if you purchase a one year subscription between now and December 31, 2008 for $29.95, you will get an additional year for free using code: TOS.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Contest winner!

Congratulations to Chantelle for winning a copy of Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter! Thank you for supporting my blog...enjoy the fabulous E-Book! More contests coming so be sure to stop by again very soon!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

FREE SHIPPING at Homeschool Library Builder!

Head on over to Homeschool Library Builder to take a look at their great selection of new and used books. I've found some really great deals (less than prices!), and right now they have an unbeatable offer: FREE shipping from now through November 6th. While you're at their website, sign up for their newsletter to get email notifications on sales and specials AND sign up for their free membership to earn money off on future purchases.

HSLB has a wide variety of book categories: from crafts to classics, history to holidays, reference to science, and much more! They've got their new arrivals listed separately and a clearance section too. Need seasonal homeschool ideas/help? Spotlight on the Season lists scripture references, websites, worksheets, lesson plans, and much more in one convenient spot. Have a "homegrown" product you've developed and would like to market to homeschoolers? HSLB can help you advertise for free...yes, free! Check out HSLB Marketplace. Would your organization like to fundraise? HSLB can help with this as well with their Fundraising Opportunities.

My final verdict: Great book prices, very cool site. I just placed my first order tonight. I will post an update on the experience once my order arrives. Remember: FREE shipping between now and November 6th! Be sure to check them out!

Tales of Glory Nativity Set from one2believe

A favorite Christmas tradition in our home is the annual setting up of the nativity scene. For those with small children the challenge is to find a set that is not only functional as a helpful tool but durable under the heavy-handed play of little ones over many years.

The Christian ministry one2believe has developed a line of Christian themed toys put out under their division. has a new line of toys, Tales of Glory, that features The Nativity.

The 17-piece set comes very securely packaged and includes Mary and Joseph, Baby Jesus and the manger, two shepherds, three kings, two angels (unique-- as I’ve seen only one angel in other nativities), a male and female sheep, a camel, a donkey, a palm tree, a bale of hay, and finally the stable. Also included are a simple mini-storybook about the birth of Jesus (printed in English, French, and Spanish) and a leaflet about stages of spiritual development (also in 3 languages).

My five-year-old and 18-month-old daughters were excited when the nativity arrived and have enjoyed playing with the set from the time it was unpackaged about two weeks ago. The box gives a warning that the toy is intended for children 3 and up. The pieces have endured heavy play (again, for over two weeks now) without any breakage. There is a hard plastic, pointed star on the top edge of the stable (could possibly be broken off during rough play) and the figurines are made with PVC, so caution may be in order if you have a child who is teething or likes to put non-food items in their mouth.

I am not as impressed by this nativity set as my girls. The figures, both human and animal, are too cartoony for my liking. And maybe what bothers me most is that they don’t seem to have a nice consistency within the set—it’s as if different artists designed different figurines. Our Joseph figure does not stand on his own as his feet have a slight backward slant. He must be leaned up against something to participate in the scene. I am still a bit confused by the inclusion of two angels instead of just one. Finally, the accompanying mini-storybook gives a weak explanation of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus and makes no mention of the wise men.

My final verdict: As a pure toy and a very early introduction to the birth of Christ, I’d say this nativity set is adequate. Both of my daughters like to play with the pieces. I have watched my 5-year-old enjoy reenacting the account of the birth of Jesus as well as stories of her own design. As a teaching tool about the Christian faith, it is adequate. It contains the necessary elements to retell the Christmas story…as long as you have your Bible. The mini-storybook is just not enough. The leaflet, however, is a very useful outline for understanding "Spritual Stepping Stones" -- the general stages of how children mature spiritually. As a holiday treasure to be passed on to grown children, it falls short. Sadly, the design and craft of the figures are lacking in style and beauty, elements which I believe are very achievable in children’s toys and would add tremendously to its long-term appeal.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Totes are gone...but catch this NEW special!

Still waiting to subscribe to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine? They are running a NEW special (the tote bags are all sold out) so take a close look NOW...this special ends midnight, Oct 31st!

From The Old Schoolhouse Magazine:

Did you ever dream of getting a horse for Christmas? You can get a sneak peek of our Fall issue and see Nancy Carter's first horse! Oh, and she's not the only one sharing her childhood pictures. You'll see photos from the 50's through the 80's. But, you'll need the Fall issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine to go on this walk down memory lane.
Plus, do you like to create holiday memories? The brand new TOS holiday E-Book can be yours, too. It's all about the fall and winter holidays - mainly Thanksgiving and Christmas. But it's not even for sale yet. This is your chance to get it first - for FREE ($12.45 value)! Check out a review of the E-Book here.
Normally when a person subscribes, their subscription starts with the upcoming issue which can take a while. But, TOS thought about that when they planned their Fall Special. If you subscribe now with their Fall Special you'll get almost 50% off the cover price for 2 years, the current Fall issue as soon as it is ready, 6 Bonus gifts, 12 months of Teacher's Toolbox (which contains a FREE E-Book every month!), PLUS the new E-Book, Homespun Holidays for FREE! This is over $250 worth of product for only $39!! CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE NOW!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Magazine subscription UPDATE

If you are considering subscribing to The Old Schoolhouse magazine and want to take advantage of the Fall Special, now is the time! I just received an email this morning--they are expecting to run out of the pink and brown homeschool tote in the next three days. This is a great subscription deal for yourself or as a gift for a homeschooling friend! Don't miss it!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

E-Book Review: Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter

The days are getting shorter, and the air is starting to feel pleasantly crisp...ah, Fall is here and the holiday season is nigh. This REALLY IS my absolute favorite time of year. I enjoy the cooler weather, the breeze with a bit of a bite, and layering the cozy clothes.

The Old Schoolhouse has published an E-Book that is just right for the season: Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter. It's a hearty e-book, 88 printable pages, with nicely coordinated graphics, fonts, color scheme, and personal photos used throughout. Echoing the title, the book is organized into two main sections: Fall and Winter. The table of contents quickly shows that the main sections are both subdivided into Fun and Food (simple and to the point!). Under Fun: poems, stories of memories from seasons past, decorating tips and crafts for all ages (for inside and outside the house), family traditions, travel activities, book recommendations, gifts to sew, and suggestions for making and keeping the holiday season meaningful. As for Food: a generous selection of gastronomic goodness! Of course there are pies, cookies, and cakes (no holiday would be complete without them!), but delightfully there are also soups, casseroles, drinks, and popcorn goodies! The holiday e-book finishes up with two nice features: first, a section for the contributors to write a little about themselves, and finally, the recipes are all offered in a printer friendly (no graphics), easily readable format.

My final verdict: Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter is a very welcome addition to my growing list of e-books. I think it has a wonderful variety of ideas on how to celebrate the fall and winter seasons. I am looking forward to putting some of the recipes to the test. The ingredients for Pumpkin Pie Squares are sitting on my kitchen table as I type (will blog about the results soon!). [UPDATE on Oct. 31st: I have now made the Pumpkin Pie Squares on four separate occassions, and they were a HUGE hit each time! Excellent recipe!] I have my eyes on Autumn Soup, Lentil Soup, Gingerbread Pancakes, and Caramel Corn. I am interested in incorporating a Jesse Tree in our Christmas celebrations this year. I had never heard about this idea before and am very excited about it! A trash bag wreath (I know it may not sound like much, but I assure you it's a really cool project!) will be on our list of things 'to do' this year too. Funny, I made something similar with tissue paper when I was a child! My absolute favorite feature of the e-book: the personal accounts from the contributors on the majority of the pages. What a nice touch! An explanation of how or why a tradition got started, the origins of favorite family recipes, the memories shared...wonderful, wonderful!!

I have great childhood memories of this time of year: raking leaves, the smell of bonfires, bicycle rides, hot chocolate, grilled cheese sandwiches and creamy tomato it! As I'm being a helpmate to my husband and raising my children I want a home atmosphere that will create great memories for my entire family. In Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter I've found a number of ideas to start new traditions and hopefully make meaningful memories that my husband and my children will cherish.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Old Schoolhouse magazine subscription deal!

I was introduced to The Old Schoolhouse magazine last spring while I was researching curricula for my oldest daughter's first homeschool year. What a great resource! There are articles for homeschool rookies (like myself), for those who've been at it for a few years, and for well seasoned homeschool families who are entering new stages, like graduation and beyond. I like it because it gives me information for my present situation (as I'm just getting my feet wet) and a preview of things to anticipate in the future. It's an extremely useful Christian homeschool resource to get exposure to different ways of teaching, different ways of learning, and some great companies that are available to provide a wide array of products that will interest homeschooling families. For a more complete review of the magazine (in its digital form), read my August 15, 2008 blog entry. Be sure to take a look at a digital back issue for FREE!

So if you're interested in subscribing to the print copy of the magazine, check out this current offer...

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Fall Special. You can get two years of the magazine, 6 fabulous physical gifts (no downloads!) worth over $120, plus the current issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine that is full of ideas for the new school year, so you start receiving your magazine in a flash! It really is one of their best deals ever, and you don't want to miss out. In fact, they've got a sharp looking Homeschooling with Heart tote bag (valued at $13.95) for the first 1000 to subscribe. About half of them are gone, but you should still be able to get one if you hurry! (They will remove the info from the subscription page when the bags are all gone.) The total value is over $212, but you receive it all for only $39 - 50% off of cover price! Plus subscribers get their online monthly Teacher's Toolbox which focuses on a different topic each month, giving you words of encouragement, hands-on teaching ideas, book recommendations, field trip ideas, and a bonus download item.

This is a GREAT deal - 2 years of the magazine, 6 gifts, the current issue sent right away, a tote bag, the Teacher's Toolbox with bonus download item...a really great deal!! Bottom line, it's a homeschool magazine you will really read...and reread. Useful, encouraging, informative - a great value for the homeschooling family!

Friday, September 26, 2008


I found out yesterday that I have been chosen to review homeschool products for The Old Schoolhouse! Very exciting! Thank you to everyone who supports me by stopping by and reading my blog! I have some reviews to write up for products that I have personally chosen to use this year. I hope to have some of those up in the next week or so.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lightbulb moments

One of the joys of teaching my kids at home is that I get to witness so many of the "lightbulb moments." You know, the moment when you see them grasp a new concept for the first time (and the lightbulb goes on!). We had another one today. I started working with Gabby last week on the concept of grouping amounts and then adding them together, and she seemed to understand. Well today I could almost here the 'click' when the lightbulb turned on! The task was to group items (first we worked with pictures of strawberries, then with just plain dots) and add them together (sums ranged from 1-10). She understood perfectly! Not only that, she understood when I went on to explain how you write the equation...both horizontally and vertically! I was so excited! I showed her five examples, and then she did five more on her own...addend + addend = sum.
What beautiful moments lightbulb moments are...exciting and filled with wonder. I'm so thankful that I'll get to experience lots of these with my children as I teach them at home!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thankful for the freedom to homeschool in America

Ah, just when you think things are gloomy in America, there is still ALWAYS much to thank God for! And right now I'm thankful that I live in a country where I still have the freedom to teach my children in my home. Take a look at this video clip, and when you have a moment of quiet please pray for homeschooling Christians in Germany!

Reviews: The Schoolhouse Planner and digital subscription to The Old Schoolhouse magazine

As a mom just starting out with homeschooling sometimes I feel that I don't know what I don't know. And sometimes I feel like I'm stumbling about without much of an idea of what's out there to choose from. Help from a trusted source is appreciated, and so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review two products available from The Old Schoolhouse.

The first is a complete download of The Schoolhouse Planner. Wow, what a variety of planning pages! There is one for all the things I expected to see: monthly calendar, curriculum planner, test score record. BUT, the real treat came with the pages that I didn't expect or had never thought of (remember that feeling of, "don't know what I don't know" mentioned earlier?): field trip log, Bible verse memorization, nature journal, discipleship recording, unit study, website and vendors log, prayer journal, loaned and borrowed list. This is a resource for moms of varied teaching styles whether it be eclectic, formal curriculum, unit study, or unschooling. It also will suit a household with children of all ages...the little ones starting out with chores all the way up to recording high school hours. Under monthly headings are listed some fun and interesting topics with a list of hyperlinks to direct you right to websites to supplement the learning...AWESOME! There are also recipes, tables and charts for reference (periodic table, list of presidents, states and capitals, and SO much more), documents from the National Archives, explanations of the importance of teaching certain subjects, and household tips. Pages reproduce beautifully whether I choose to print in color or in grayscale. I have a ready-made planner that I purchased for about one third of the price of this downloadable planner from The Old Schoolhouse, BUT it does not have nearly the amount of variety of planning pages and is not customizeable. I'm already finding myself supplementing the ready-made planner with pages from The Schoolhouse Planner.

My final verdict: It saves me time. The great variety of planning pages means I don't have to fiddle with computer software to sit and make my own from scratch. Provides lots of tables and charts and lists and documents with useful reference material all in one place. It saves me money. I would consider it a frugal investment as I can print as many pages as I need for as many years as I need. It saves me a headache. No more searching around looking for the perfect record keeping book. The Schoolhouse Planner is limitless when it comes to customizing my planning and record keeping for the schoolyear and household. I believe this to be a wise investment, especially for the new homeschooling family.

Bonus: Free sneak peek at the first 31 pages of The Schoolhouse Planner

The second product I am reviewing is the digital subscription to The Old Schoolhouse. I have never seen an actual copy of The Old Schoolhouse in print so this was a real delight. My first impression: Beautifully easy with immediate results! The digital subscription is cheaper than receiving the actual magazine and is a breeze to complete online. No waiting for my magazine in the mail. I was able to start reading the current issue right away. This magazine is no lightweight...over 180 pages of information. We're not talking fluff here folks! The magazine articles are wonderful, and they cover such a wide range of topics of interest to homeschoolers! There are articles on homeschooling through to high school graduation, homeschooling special needs children, foreign adoption, stateside adoption, the current homeschool legal climate, the science of flight, the Charlotte Mason method, Intelligent Design, learning while enjoying nature, keeping your focus on God, and so, so much more! In fact, it took me over a week to read it all. As a homeschooling newbie I really enjoyed how the articles covered topics that pertain to my little K and preK ones (like finding the teachable moments of everyday life) and gave me information on things to look forward to in the coming years (like exploring the amazing physics of flight). I liked the convenience of being able to print articles or email them to friends and family. I even enjoyed the advertisements. Yes, that probably sounds cheesy, but let me explain. When an ad interests me I am able to click on the active hyperlinks and GO DIRECTLY TO THE CORRESPONDING WEBSITE! What a time more ripping out magazine pages or dog-earring the corner with the hope of coming back to it later so that I can try to find time to look up a curriculum or advertised special. I really, REALLY like this feature. Some of the authors also have links within their articles too! One thing I will say about my personal preferences--I enjoy good old fashioned books and magazines...the feel of the paper, the ability to flip back and forth through the pages quickly and easily, to be able to throw it in my diaper bag and take it on the go, to pick it up and read it in a few precious moments of "free time" (read: bathroom break...either the kid's or my own...hahaha!). You obviously don't get that with the digital magazine.

My final verdict: I really like the digital magazine. The articles are definitely worth reading. I love the hyperlinks throughout articles and advertisments. But, I have to wait until I can get to my laptop to be able to enjoy reading. This usually means having to wait until after the children are asleep, and I am already pretty worn out by then. So this may sound wishy washy but the ideal situation would be to have them BOTH. Maybe The Old Schoolhouse could offer a nice package of getting both a paper and a digital subscription for a great deal. Overall, I am enjoying my subscription. Now, if only I could read it during my "free time!"

Bonus: Free digital Summer '07 Back Issue