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.