Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets

Okay explorers, are you ready to take an exciting voyage into space? Are you looking for a family friendly, award winning, educational, entertaining website for your 4-12 year old- that also happens to be free? Well, then Tiny Planets may be just the site you're looking for.

So, what is it? Tiny Planets is a website designed to teach and entertain children mainly in the subject of science. Our guides are Bing and Bong, two cuddly aliens who navigate our journey throughout space on a big comfy sofa. Along the way, they also educate us in caring for our planet, social responsibility, even math and literacy.

Let's get started, shall we? To begin with, you must set up your parent account. Then you'll get your children signed up into their own accounts. They are then assigned their own space themed cadet name, and password. Now you're ready to have some fun.

When you get to the main page, there are seven planets displayed, each one representing a different area to check out and play in.

Tiny Planets Home- This is the main page where you may choose what you want to try out.

Tiny Planet's TV- Click here and you can watch a video from the tiny planet's collection. My children enjoyed the little written story that precedes the videos, and summarizes the plot. It was good reading practice for them. By the way, the video series was co created by Sesame Street Workshop. Not that I'm a name dropper or anything...

My Tiny Planets- With your little space cadet, your child will choose from a variety of fun space themed activities, including, but not limited to, space missions with Bing and Bong, a variety of games, adopt a planet, fly their own spaceship, and more.

Tiny Planets Fun- Your child will visit this planet and try puzzles, coloring pages, and comics.

Tiny Planets Books- One of our family's favorite parts of this website! Choose from a selection of interactive books to listen to, or have your child practice reading- which is what we did with our kids. We especially love the characters called the flockers-very unique, but cute little creatures.

Tiny Planet's Learning-This planet contains a wonderful surprise-a cache of learning activities for you, the teacher. It is chock full of lesson plans, which cover a variety of themes, including self, nature, technology, light and sound, and more. Each lesson plan is geared towards the 3-5 yr.old, and has as story, discussion questions, science experiments, and a video. You'll also find printable sheets for math and letter practice. And it's free!

Tiny Planet's Labs- Care to play a game? Then click here and see what the creators are cooking up. They test out new ideas on this page. My oldest daughter and I loved the hide and seek game where we had to find the flockers with a telescope.

The really cool aspect of this site is its affordability. Even if you have no budget, everyone can afford free! So, if that's where you're at, enjoy all of this for zero dollars. If however, there's a little to spare, you can purchase "keys" through your parent account, which you may then distribute to your little cadets for further fun. This would include enhancing your games, the ability to really deck out your planet with cool buildings and more. You might also want to purchase additional books and tv episodes.

Overall, we really had fun with Tiny Planet's. The space characters are fun, and we especially loved the interactive books and games. I do feel that I must say however, that at first, the site was a little tricky to work with. I had to be right there with my 6 year old because some of the games were slow in responding as far as clicking and dragging the mouse goes. Also, there was one game that would not allow us to get started at all. But, that may have been the fault of my computer, I'm still not positive what the cause was. More importantly, my girls were very pleased with it all, and it was geared towards them, so...thumbs up from our family.

**Note** In exchange for free access to Tiny Planet's, I agreed to provide my honest review.

Tiny Planet's

Ages: 4-12yrs. old

Price: Free for basic access to the website, "keys" available for additional purchase, optional- check website for exact pricing

Don't forget to head over to the TOS Crew page for other reviews and homeschool resources.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Apologia - Good Morning, God

I love bookstores. Whenever I have the rare opportunity to wile away the afternoon, I usually head to the nearest bookstore. Once I arrive, my first stop is the children's section. Oh, how I adore children's literature! All of it, from the very silly to the classics, all hold appeal for me.

As a homeschooling mom, I especially appreciate those books that include within them, or at least allow for, extra activities. Which brings me to a lovely book that I had the chance to read over the past few weeks, Good Morning God, by Davis Carmen.

Actually, I don't think that it's enough to say that we read through the book. Good Morning God is more than a story. Depending on the way that you choose to use it with your family, it could fill in as a week long bible curriculum, which is the route that we took.

Let me begin with a general overview of the story. Aimed at children ages 1 to 8 yrs. old, this story contains a lot of repetition within, which my daughters really liked, as they quickly caught on how each page would start out, and they would then join in with me. For example, the book goes through the days of the week, beginning with Sunday, and each day starts with " Today is... I wake up with lots of energy." Each day focuses on a different way that the child in the story learns how to worship God with his family, and then ends with "Good night , Sunday, good night God" - or whatever the day was.

One of the first aspects of this story that drew my girls in was the beautiful illustrations - so peaceful and lifelike. The illustrator - Alice Ratterree - created a nice contrast on each page by drawing one page in color, and the opposite page in black and white.

At the end of the book, there are bible passages and various activities and questions for each day. I found myself amazed at the doors these opened with my children. We had some very meaningful conversations about spiritual topics, and it was enlightening on my part, to say the least. I loved hearing their heart's thoughts about God and heaven. They really looked forward to each day's activities, and asked first thing each morning if we were reading "our book" that day.

We began first by reading the book in its entirety, and then each day, we would re-read that day's page, and complete the corresponding questions, scripture verses, etc.. To make it even more fun, , we decided to compile all of their work into a little keepsake book.

To sum up, this book is a very worthwhile addition to our library. Although geared for the kids, I was ministered to just as much as, if not more than they were through the scripture and questions. The illustrations are so pretty, we've looked through it quite a few times already, and I'm looking forward to delving into it again soon. Check it out!

**Note** I received a free copy of the book Good Morning, God by Davis Carmen, and in return, agreed to provide my honest review of it.

Good Morning, God


Ages: 1-8 yrs.

Apologia Educational Ministries

1106 Meridian Plaza, Suite 220

Anderson, In 46016

Toll Free: 888-524-4724
Phone: 765-608-3280

Don't forget to check out TOS Crew homepage for more reviews and resources too!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Smart Kids Productions- My Animal Family- Nanuq

Who doesn't love a good documentary? A valuable addition to any homeschool, they are a good way to enliven your studies. I find them as interesting as my daughters do, and with a narrator that is typically of the British variety, the information seems all the more important ;) .

This past month, our family had the chance to read through the book My Animal Family - Nanuq, by Smart Kid Productions. Geared towards children aged 4 yrs.up to about 8yrs., it's a sweet story about a young polar bear and his family, a documentary with a fresh twist - told from the perspective of Nanuq himself.

The book breaks away from a traditional documentary style, and teaches us about the life and habits of a polar bear in story form. We read how Nanuq and his brother Suka learn from their mother how to sniff the air in search of seals, how to break open the ice to get a drink of water, and how to stay safe from the walruses, among other things.

With beautifully life like illustrations, the story draws you in, right up to the end where Nanuq rescues his mischieveous brother, and we see a subtle growth in the bears' maturity.

Our whole family enjoyed reading the story.Its format kept my daughters engaged for the duration. It would have been enough in itself, but, to our delight, the fun doesn't end with the last page of the book.

Enclosed with the book is a dvd, which includes the story, some fun polar bear facts, and a song. We enjoyed the wonderful footage of the animals, and as is probably true of most children, the story, voiced by a child, held the attention of my own. As a parent, I appreciated the fact that, unlike other documentaries, the directors were careful to leave out some of the more frightening aspects of wildlife, keeping it kid friendly.

No sooner was the program over than they wanted to watch it again.

That says it all right there.

I think that you'll find it to be a bargain, at $12.99, you're getting both the book and dvd, and really good ones at that. Be sure to visit their website, as they have other book/dvd packages featuring different animals.

**Note** I received a free copy of My Animal Family-Nanuq and the dvd. In return, I agreed to provide my honest review, with no additional compensation.

Smart Family Publications-My Animal Family-Nanuq

Price: $12.99 per book/dvd combo

Ages: 4yrs.-8yrs.

**And, while you're at it, don't forget to check out The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew's homepage. You can check out other great products and reviews there!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Orange Rolls and Gumdrops

If you're like most people, you probably associate holidays with some particular yummy dish. That is certainly the case with me, and each holiday features a different, but cherished family recipe.

For example, when I think of Thanksgiving, it's my mom's stuffing that comes to mind, the best in the world - as far as I'm concerned anyway. Christmas is all about mom's Christmas cookie platters, homemade fried chicken fingers and cheesecake. Since I was married over 15 years ago, it also became about my mother in law's peach kuchen and gumdrop cookies - Christmas legends on my husband's side of the family. Easter always features ham and my dad's German potato salad, mmm! I can taste it now. The days immediately following Easter also mean homemade split pea soup, featuring the ham bone from that wonderful meal. We celebrate independence day by hosting a big cookout for the family that includes everything from brats and burgers to ice cream and brownies.

Yeah, there are quite a few good cooks in my family. Now, I must tell you, that while I prepare a few dishes pretty well, I have many miles to go before I could ever hope to attain to the status that other family members have achieved. However, when it comes to the dessert side of the meal, I'm not half bad. In fact, there is one recipe in my personal library that has become a "must have" at Thanksgiving. Before I tell you about it, allow me to provide you with a little background.

My husband comes from a family of campers, and so for him, summer memories include swimming at the lake, fishing, and s'mores around the campfire. I am NOT a camper. I could go into more detail, but that would be way too lengthy - maybe that could be a topic for a different post sometime. Anyway, as a young bride, I decided to give it a go, and we purchased a pop up trailer. It was during those weekends of camping with my in law's that we were introduced to a lovely restaurant just beside the Rock river in northwestern Illinois. Now, the whole meal is always wonderful, but it's the very last part of the meal that makes you want to jump up and down clapping.

Orange rolls, fresh and warm from the oven. Orange rolls, dripping with thick, sweet icing. Rolls so yummy that you carried the one remaining treat home as if it were made of gold, that is, if you were lucky enough to have the privilege of claiming the last one. These were one of the few aspects of camping that I found enjoyable.

Well, one day I came across a recipe for... rolls! They looked just as delightful, right down to the icing. I decided to try making them for Thanksgiving. I didn't mention that I was bringing them, just in case things didn't work out. Well... they were a huge hit! My mother in law even pronounced them BETTER than the ones at the restaurant. The ultimate compliment!

Well, I count it a privilege to have contributed to our family's holiday traditions. It is my hope that as my own children grow up, this will be one of the recipes that they will not only look forward to eating, but also one that will remind them of warmth and happy family gatherings. As we move into this years' holiday season, I pray that your own family celebrations will be just as sweet!

Orange Rolls
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water mixed with a pinch of sugar
1 cup scalded milk, cooled slightly
2 large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, a little more for dusting
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons orange juice

In a medium bowl, sprinkle yeast over sugar water-let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add milk, eggs, granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, half the zest, and shortening. Slowly add flour, mixing until shiny and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes. Coat bowl with cooking spray, place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Filling: In a small bowl, mix remaining zest, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, and butter. Set aside. On a well floured work surface, gently knead dough 3 to 4 times to release air pockets. Roll out dough to an 18 x 14 inch rectangle, dusting with flour as needed. Brush about 1/3 of the filling ove half of rectangle (9 x 14 inch ), fold other half over to enclose, bringing the 14 inch sides together. Brush entire top with another 1/3 of filling, and fold again to enclose, this time bringing the two 9 inch sides together. Let rest about 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough again, this time to a 16 x 10 inch rectangle. Brush half ( 8 x 10 inch ) with remaining filling, and fold other half over, bringing the two 10 inch sides together. Cut into 20 small squares ( about 2 inches ). Coat two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray. Place squares in tins, with exposed cut layers facing up. Let rise until almost doubled in size, 12 to 15 minutes.

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, let rest in tins 1 minute. Transfer rolls to cooling rack.

Make a thick icing by whisking together orange juice and remaining 2 cups confectioners' sugar. Drizzle over cooled rolls.
Makes 20

Friday, November 19, 2010

KB Teachers

What is the biggest advantage of homeschooling? Well, you could ask one, ten, a dozen, hey, even a hundred homeschooling parents that question and get just as many answers. I would venture to say though, that one of the top answers would be the ability to tailor the teaching style to each students' learning style. So, what's your style? I think I tend to lean towards the traditional schooling methods, although I "borrow" from the other styles as necessary to meet the learning needs of my children. When I think about traditional schooling, I often think of worksheets, which brings me to the subject of my review here.

KB Teachers, or Knowledge Bears, is an award winning teacher website founded by Christophe T. Popper. For $29 per year, or $49 for two years, you gain access to the site's premium worksheets, printable pages, and workbooks, suitable for students K-12. Now, I will be the first to admit that I am a bit of a geek when it comes to teacher resources. There is nothing that gets me going more than browsing through the local teacher stores and various websites. Ahh, there's nothing quite like the smell of a freshly printed worksheet. Mmmm....well, anyway, when I began exploring KB Teachers, I was like a little kid on Christmas morning. There is a LOT of great stuff here!

I'll start with my favorite section - seasonal printables and worksheets. Even before I was a homeschooling mom, as a preschool teacher I loved the beginning of each month, and all of the fresh activities and special events to plan for. If you share my enthusiasm for those things too, you're going to love this page. November is well under way now, and KB has some adorable Thanksgiving printables. There are turkey, pilgrim, and native american posters, stickers, and mazes, that can be used for all kinds of crafts, games,and whatever else you might think of. I love the turkey posters for Thanksgiving, in fact, I've customized some of them for our Awana program. So cute and festive!

Their fall section also features an assortment of autumn -themed worksheets to supplement your studies, whether the subject is math (count the falling leaves in the picture) or handwriting (trace the letters and words). As an added bonus, you have the option of printing your pages in color, or leave them black and white, which allows you to also use them as coloring pages. My daughters really love these and joyfully proclaimed that this was "the best way to do school ever!" Math happens to be our most challenging subject at the moment, so the colorful pages and the seasonal characters available for this area keep the interest up for my girls. Also, KB allows you to change up the numbers simply by clicking the "generate new numbers" icon, so I can generate a new set of problems for them to work on without spending a lot of time and effort.

You'll also find that KB features monthly web quests for various days of the month. Learn about a few famous people born during the current month, or jazz up your day by researching peanut butter fudge day, or parfait day. It was fun to discover that I share a birthday with Charles Schulz, founder of the famous Peanuts comic strip.

If that were all this website offered, it would be impressive. But there is so, so much more! As I just mentioned, the worksheets are programmable, so you can customize each one for your specific needs. Whether you need alphabet pages for your kindergartner, or you're older child needs practice writing an outline, you'll find it all here, taking you through each step. You'll find it helpful that each subject is categorized by grade level, so you can quickly get where you need to go.

How do you teach math? Does your child learn better by counting images? Does she need practice with word problems? Are you teaching them about counting money? It's all here, no searching all over the place, no waiting for your downloads, everything is but a click away.

I should also mention that KB is always creating fresh worksheets for you, and, if initially you don't find what you're looking for, contact them and they will either find it, or create it for you! A teachers dream!

KB offers the same awesome features for other subjects as well.

The science section features virtually everything you might think of, whether you're studying astronomy, marine biology, or the weather. You could even call it your one stop shop, because KB has done most of the work for you. This would be so valuable to a busy household with a wide range of grade levels. I mean, there are complete lessons and workbooks here! Incredible!

You'll find more of the same in the social studies section - outlines, tests, essays, yeah, it's all there.

The last section featured on the Knowledge Bears website is kind of a miscellaneous group of activities. Here are coloring pages and workbooks of dinosaurs, the four seasons, and for the little ones, various basic skills pages.

As if that weren't enough, there is a nice little collection of art project ideas, suitable for every student K-12, as simple as an egg carton caterpillar or as complex as ancestral self-portraits. We had fun crafting a version of the soda pop penguins, modifying it a bit to suit our available materials. So cute.

Be sure to browse through the clip art available for your lessons, presentations, to jazz up your various projects and crafts, or add them to your blog.

I'm confident that you'll be as pleased to have access to this resource as I am. You are given the opportunity to look through their library before you join. When you do become a member, you have 30 days to change your mind and get a refund - although I doubt you'll want one.

The website is updated frequently, so there are always fresh ideas waiting for your use. Now, get yourself over there and try it out today!

* Note * - KB Teachers gave me a free one year premium subscription to their website, and in exchange, I agreed to try it out and provide my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.

KB Teachers

Price: $29 one year subscription or $49 two year subscription

Ages: K-12

You can also check out the homepage for TOS Homeschool Crew. You'll find all kinds of reviews and great resources to look through and add to your homeschool. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hurry! Get Your Subscription Now! The Old Schoolhouse Magazine - 2 and 2 Promo

On Monday, November 15, the price for a one-year U.S. or Canadian print subscription to TOS Magazine is $10.
On Tuesday, November 16, the price goes to $12.
On Wednesday, November 17, the price is $14.
Each day we add $2 until Saturday and Sunday, when the price is $20. At midnight PST on Sunday, November 21, the price goes back to its regular level.
The earlier you shop in the week, the more you save.
Plus, every 12th customer to purchase a subscription gets a tote bag.
Every 14th customer to purchase a subscription gets a copy of the E-Book: The 2010-2011 Schoolhouse Planner.
Every 16th customer to purchase a subscription gets a $25 gift card to the Totally TOS category in the Schoolhouse Store.
This excludes Molly Green and Download N Go.
As an added bonus, the highest ticket of the day on Monday, November 15 through Wednesday November 17, will win a $200 gift card to the Schoolhouse Store.
This can be used for any company in the Store, except Download N Go.
So, put 2 and 2 together and shop early! The earlier you grab your one-year new or renewing subscription, the better the price you'll pay. Plus, you could receive one of the bonus gifts.
Or, you might be the highest ticket of the day!
If you are eligible for a bonus gift, you will receive an email from a member of the Schoolhouse Store team.
Click here for all of the details:

Corps Of Rediscovery - Cornhusk dolls kit

The opportunity to try out and subsequently review this cornhusk doll kit was timely for me. I love, love, love the fall season, with the cooler temps, falling leaves, yummy smells, and all of the delicious comfort food. What does that have to do with cornhusk dolls? Well, autumn is also the time that we typically recount the history of the pilgrims journey to America, and their early days here. So, as we revisit those much simpler times, having this little craft kit was a great addition to the colonial theme in our studies.

Corps of Rediscovery is a family owned business, providing a variety of early american pioneer based crafts, projects, and other related items. They actually have had the privilege of homeschooling their children and enjoyed the opportunity of traveling America with the entire family, giving them the chance to explore the historic trails and local culture of our great country. When you visit their website, I have no doubt that you will enjoy reading a bit more of their journeys.

Our family had the chance to try out the cornhusk dolls, which immediately piqued the interest of my daughters. Those girlies love their dollies! I mentioned before that this project fit in very nicely with this month's curriculum, as we've been reading and studying about the pilgrims and early colonial times. Quick history tidbit - the cornhusk dolls were also called faceless dolls, and introduced to us by the Iriquois indians. Even way back then, with the little resources available, they found ways to entertain the children! I took that opportunity to discuss the topic of contentment, materialism, etc. with my own kids - couldn't pass that up!

Getting back to our subject at hand though, there are two kits available, one for a boy doll or one for a girl doll. This time around, we made the girl, which comes with a couple of small bundles of dry cornhusks, some fabric, and kitchen string. You will also need to have a needle, some thread, and actually, probably some extra kitchen string. I found the amount in the package a little bit short for my needs. Now, for those of you who, like me, find your heart palpitating at the thought of having to sew, well, anything, never fear! You only need to do a running stitch to finish up the apron for your doll, and if even that puts you off, you have the option of letting your cornhusk doll go "au natural" as they say.

First step, prep! You will take all of those lovely little cornhusks and soak them in a bowl of water for one hour. I recommend doing this before you gather the troops around, especially if they are as impatient to craft as my little ones can be.

Okay, the hour is up, so now select six of the best and brightest of your husks- these are going to make up your a-maizing dolls skirt- sorry, it was inevitable to be a little corn-y, oops, last one, I promise! Put those six beauties aside for later. Choose a few of the remaining husks and gather them together at one end. You will then take your kitchen string and tie the husks together about 3/4 of an inch from the end. Next comes my daughters favorite part, peeling the husks back and pulling them over the part that you just tied, and then tie it together again, to make the dolls head.

Next, you form the waist, again, by tying with string.

We are now ready for the arms, which come together nicely by rolling up a couple of husks and tucking them under the dolls neck.

Now, to cover up some of the string, we'll drape husks in a crisscross over the chest, and prepare the skirt.

This is where you'll use those six husks that you put aside. Once again, they are gathered at one end and then peeled back to form a nice full skirt.

To keep the husks in place until they dry, you'll tie string around the skirt, and around the arms. Trim the bottom of the skirt to make it even and so you doll will stand easily on its own.

Once the doll is dry, you have the option of leaving it as it is, which is nice, or by finishing the doll with the fabric included in the kit. I have never been an avid seamstress, but even I can handle a simple running stitch, and the apron adds a nice little splash of color.

So, there's your basic overview, now , a few of my thoughts...

I liked completing this project with my kids. It was a good supplement for our theme, and I enjoyed sharing not only the crafty side of it, but the history as well. I also appreciate the fact that we now have a pretty decoration to display in the house.

My own children are 5 and 6 years old, and while they were enthusiastic about the project, there was quite a bit that they were not able to do on their own. It wasn't really a problem per say, but it would have been nice for it to be completely their project. I think this craft is suited best for an older child, maybe starting at 7 years old.

The only other issue, if it could even be called that, would be related to the instructions. They were basically fine, we got the job done, however, I tend to be a visual learner, and some actual photos of the doll as it was being put together would have been even more helpful in the assembly.

My final words - I would and will recommend corps of rediscovery kits. I apologize if I sound cliche, but I found this to be fun and informative and a great addition to your homeschool, or just for fun. I also need to mention that the price was very reasonable. Right now on the website, these kits have been marked down from $5.99 to $4.50. It would make a good christmas present, or craft for your church group. At that price go order both of them. I think I'll go do that now!

*In return for a Corps of Re-Discovery cornhusk doll kit, I agreed to provide my honest review of the product, with no additional compensation.

Corps of Re-Discovery

Cornhusk doll kits-$5.99 per kit

Ages:7 years and up

5329 N Lakewood Drive

Springfield MO 65803


Friday, November 5, 2010

Collectorz - Book Collector

We're all friends here, right? Good, because I have a confession to make. I am terrified of technology. There, I said it. Whew! I feel so much better now. Alright, perhaps I exaggerate a teensy bit, but in all seriousness, most of the time, when it comes to learning about some new software or gadget, I kind of freak out; in my head anyway. Why am I telling you this? Well, because, when I first took a look at this new software by Collectorz, I was a little intimidated. Give me a children's book, a piece of curriculum, a craft project, and I am in my element. But the other stuff kind of scares me ;). Anyway, when faced with this task, I did what I always try to do, face my fears, jump right in, and figure out how this product works. So, read along and I'll tell you about collectorz - book collector.

First of all, what is collectorz? The short answer is that it's a book cataloging system. This is accomplished by either entering the author and title of a book or by entering the ISBN code that is found on your books. Are you wondering what that code is, and where it's located? Good question. Okay, pick up a book and flip it over to the back cover. See that little barcode on the bottom there? That is the ISBN code. It may even say ISBN on it. See? You've already learned something new here. But that's not even the half of it. But I digress. Getting back to business, collectorz uses those little barcodes to keep track of your entire book collection. After a book has been added to the list, the software does a little search of its own and adds a picture of the book, the publisher, the date it came out, the list price, a summary, and even whether it is a paperback or a hardcover. It's almost like your own personal bookstore.

So we know what the purpose is, now, how do we get started? The book collectorz website allows you to take a few very short - and they really are very short! - video tutorials to learn how to navigate the system. You can click on any of the books and see it pulled up into a large picture in front of you. Take all the time that you need to make your way around the page until you feel comfortable with the way that it works. When you're all set with your stack of books, you'll click on the add books icon at the top left of your page. You then have a few options in cataloging your books. You may enter the author and title of each book. If you do this, the list will bring up the list it has of the different versions of that particular book. I never realized how many that could be, but when you consider all of the different publishers, and whether it is a paperback or a hardcover, some of those lists can be quite extensive. So that is one option in getting your books added, but I think you'll agree that it can be a tedious choice. Another way is to type in the books ISBN code. The great aspect of doing it this way is that you very quickly narrow down your list of books that pop up, so that you can select the one you want in short order. This was the option that I used most frequently.

I have to stop for a second and say that when I first began finding my way around collectorz, and started inputting my books, I was not very impressed. Adding all of these books was a lot of work, and at first, I didn't see the point of all of that tedium. "What does this system provide for me?", was my question. Other than having a list of all of my books in one spot, what's the value? Let's start with my first issue, the time consuming task of entering all of the titles, authors, and/or barcodes.

After a short time of typing all of the necessary information over and over, let me tell you, the glow wore off. Then, as I went through the website again, there it was - scanners! Talk about speeding up the process! It's just like checking out at the grocery store, scan the barcode, and the books data is in the system in an instant. There are several available for purchase, and range in price from $14.95 up to $109.95. Check the website to find the one that's best for you. That solved the first issue.

Now, my next point, where's the value? What do I need a detailed list of my book collection for? That's really for all of those super organized people, right? Nope. One obvious advantage is that this helps keep you from buying duplicates of the same book. That, however, is not usually a problem for me, at least with my personal collection. Having said that though, I found that really useful with my daughters book collection. They have a crazy amount of books, and it can be a challenge to remember what we own versus what we've merely checked out at the library. Now, I have a handy list of everything the girls own, whch helps not only me, but friends and relatives who are looking to purchase a book for my daughters.

Maybe you're saying, "Okay, that's great, but it's not exactly convenient to carry a huge list around with me should someone need that information". That might be an issue in some circumstances, but not here, because collectorz is available online, and as an i touch/i phone app. So, if you have access to any of those, - and in this day and age, most of us do, you can easily access your collection.

How about some fun features of collectorz? When you spend any amount of time playing around with the features, I'm quite certain it will win you over. It does so much more than just catalog your books, although the detail it provides in that is amazing. It separates your material according to subject matter and genres. You can open various folders and see how many books you own by a particular author, and this can be displayed through bar and pie charts - I really like those! You can add personal details to each book entry, such as the price you paid or other notes you want to remember. You might even use it to keep track of books your friends have borrowed.

Are you ready to give collectorz book collector a try yet? Do you need more convincing? Listen to this, collectorz offers a free 30 day trial run for up to 100 books. What's better than that? To coin a cheesy phrase, " This baby sells itself ! " I'm confident that you will be won over too.

Allow me to share a few final details. There are a couple of options to choose from. You may choose the standard option for $19.95, which covers all of your basic cataloging needs, or there is the pro option for $39.95, which adds such features like the loan list, the ability to export to the mobile app., and print customized lists. Bundles are also available, and include scanners. Go on and give it a try, you have nothing to lose!

Collectorz - Book Collector

Contact info:

Price: Standard Option - $19.95 Pro Option - $39.95 - Scanners available for additional purchase from $14.95-$109.95

* In return for a trial run of Collectorz Book Collector, I agreed to provide my honest review of the product, with no additional compensation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Talking Fingers, Inc.- Read, Write, and Type Learning Systems

*Spoiler alert* I'm going to tell you up front that I love this computer product! But please,don't let that stop you from reading on, because there is more information ahead :)
Learning how to type has come a long way since I was a schoolgirl. It was actually an uncle who taught me how to properly position my hands over the keys, and while, yes, it got the job done, so to speak, it was rather, ho hum on the fun scale. Fast forward to the present, to the Read, Write, and Type Learning Systems by Talking Fingers, Inc..I first approached this as another typing product. But what makes this one unique is that it doesn't begin and end with typing. It also tackles reading, phonics, spelling, and word processing!
First of all, I was soo delighted that the volume level on this product is loud enough that the user is not required to find the darkest, quietest, most isolated part of the house in order to hear the directions - which has been an issue on occasion with other programs. I could even run the dishwasher and still hear everything- oh glory!
Being that this particular system is geared towards the younger set, it has some really cute, engaging characters. The whole program is set up for the user in a way that reminds me of a superhero theme. We first meet the typing facilitators, which are the right hand and left hand. They introduce us to the characters on the keyboard, and where they are located. Each character has its own story. My favorite,(and my daughter's favorite too) is the evil computer virus. He steals all of the characters. So begins the task of freeing the letters from the virus, and putting them back where they belong on the keyboard.
How do they do that? Well, with a little help from the animated hands, they read, sound out words, identify their sounds, read, and then type those words in a series of increasingly challenging activities
My girls loved watching the virus get more and more mad, until he would finally melt, or blow away, or meet some other silly fate.
Whenever a mistake is made, as will happen, the computer comes in with a prompt of what needs to be typed. In the beginning, the directions are repeated often, and as the child progresses, the directions are not automatically repeated anymore, it is assumed that with the previous experience, the child knows what to do. We adjusted to that easily - or my daughters did - and the instructions may still be heard by clicking the question mark on the screen if they forget where they are in the lesson.
After completing four "letter" lessons, a certificate is earned, and may be printed out. My girls were very proud of each of these little milestones. There are also progress reports for the parent to view, with a chart tracking each students progress in each category - reading, spelling, etc., and where that student is in the program - the current level, how many are completed, how many left to complete.
Interestingly enough, after working through all of these lessons, I would not consider my daughters fluent typists. Not even close, actually. It may be that the small motor skills that typing requires as you keep your fingers over the same basic keys, while reaching out to the other ones, still needs fine tuning. However, as I mentioned above, we're not talking about Talking Fingers only as a typing tutor, but as a reading, phonics, and spelling guide as well. So, looking at it from that perspective, I like the foundation that my daughters are getting in their keyboarding skills. They are learning the positioning of each hand and finger on the keyboard, so I know they are on their way to grasping the typing skills, and that they are having those other areas reinforced as well. And, quite honestly, they love it. I have never had to coerce them to do their lessons. I have even found myself "helping" them on occasion, just so I could play too!
The prices vary, depending on how many students will be signed up. When you purchase this system, you're purchasing a license for a set amount of time, which you may choose. You should check their website for that information. Each license allows one user.
I really think you'll find this a welcome addition to your homeschooling curriculum. Really, even if you don't homeschool, it provides a great education in several subjects at once. A wonderful selection for us multitasking moms. Now go, and check it out for yourself!

* In return for this resource, I agreed to write up a review for Talking Fingers,Inc. with no additional compensation.

Talking Fingers, Inc. -Read, Write, and Type
830 Rincon Way
San Rafael, California
Phone: 415-472-3103
Toll Free: 1-800-674-9126
Age: 6-9 years old
Price: Varies according to amount of users and license duration. Check website for details.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I See Cards - Pyramath

Math is one of those subjects that automatically makes me break out in a sweat. I know that I'm not alone here. As a child, I had many different math teachers, some really good, some very bad. Unfortunately, I tend to remember the less than kind remarks other than the praise. Because of this, I've tried to be intentional about doing everything possible to make learning math a positive experience for my kids. Which brings me to this month's featured resource - Pyramath, from I See Cards.
In teaching math, I have enthusiastically added counters, file folder games, fun worksheets, etc. to make the subject more palatable for my girls. As with most people, we've had varying degrees of success with each one. Enter Pyramath cards, an intriguing card game for anyone, age K and up, and allows play for 1 person or an entire class.
This card game is so versatile. I was amazed at the seemingly endless ways to play the game. Let me start by saying that the object of the game is to be the first player to build your cards into a pyramid, thus the name... catchy, yes?
Okay, so whether you're working with 1 child, or 10, there is a game variation available. There's solitaire, my favorite, the basic 2 player standard, pyramid for a class, pyramath speed, and actually, quite a few more. You can check out the website for a complete list. No matter how many play, the stategy remains the same. How to begin? Glad you asked! The dealer shuffles the deck, and places 7 cards face up, side by side. The cards are numbered on each side so each player or team can see them. (Side note- each card also has the written word in addition to the numeral in several languages. Bonus learning feature! ) The remaining cards are placed in the middle. The first player chooses a card and sees if it can be played between any 2 of the cards lined up in the row. A card is played by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing. If the card is playable, the first player continues. Otherwise, the next player takes a turn. Play continues until someone completes their pyramid.
It's no secret in our family that our oldest is not exactly in love with math as a subject. However, all I had to say was math game, and her interest was piqued! My children love, love, love to play games! The best part for me is that you can play according to your child's ability. I love this card game for reviewing our current math facts. It's also great that it isn't necessary to wait for enough people to play, because no matter who's available, it's game time.
So, if you're in the kitchen preparing a meal and your child wants to play, she can. Or, if it's game night, and your family of six wants to play, divide into 2 teams and get started.
I feel that I must warn you, though, that pyramath has the potential to become very addicting!
I think you'll find that you're sharpening your own math skills as your kids are learning. Such a simple resource, such a great find. On top of everything else, it's among the most affordable products on the market. From my family to yours, two thumbs up all the way!

I See Cards - Pyramath
Price - $6.95 per deck
Age Range - K +

Friday, September 3, 2010

Time 4 Learning

I don't know about your children, but my daughters are always asking to play a game on the computer, so when I learned that we would be trying out the Time 4 Learning program, I knew that they would be pleased.

Let me begin by sharing a little bit about Time 4 learning. First of all, it is a computer based program for children in preschool up to 8th grade, and offers lessons in subjects like language arts, math, science and social studies, and includes various lesson extenders and games, not to mention the computer skills that will be learned along the way. You purchase a monthly subscription (prices occasionally change, so check the website for current information), that may be canceled at anytime, and they offer an initial 2 week money back guarantee if you are unsatisfied with the program.

Each child has his/her own password to log in, with the younger ones checking in to the lower level and the older ones checking in to the upper level.

One of the nicer aspects of this program is that it is customized to your child's level of ability. Prior to starting the lessons, you, the parent, will select the various skills that your child has mastered, and Time 4 Learning will then choose the appropriate level for them. Additionally, as your child begins to work, if you find that the subject matter is either too easy or too difficult, you have access to one level above or one level below the one you 're using. There is also the option of changing the level permanently should it become necessary.

Okay, so you've logged in, now what does a typical lesson look like? Well, you'll notice a little timer at the upper right side of the screen. For my kindergartener's level, it begins counting backward from 15 minutes. This will help you keep track of the length of your lessons. Your child may pick from the menu of subjects- and there are many to choose from! Highlighted arrows then guide your student through the sequence of events as they complete the lesson. Upon completion of certain subjects, you'll find that there is a quiz or a test to take.

It's easy to track improvement with the progress reports. The program allows you to either check in on the computer, or print them out for your portfolio. You can then see in what areas you need to review, if any, or perhaps increase the level of difficulty.

Some of you may be wondering how to figure out how many activities to include in your school day every week. Well, there are quite a few to choose from, but never fear! Once again, they've done the hard work for us. If you click on the tab for lesson planning, you'll find that by simply plugging in the number of activities per subject, you will easily be able to divide them up for each week.

I would guess that the favorite part of each lesson for your kids- if they're like my own, is the computer games. Time 4 Learning has included a playground section with a fun selection of games to play. A good incentive for them to complete their schoolwork.

Already you're probably agreeing that this resource offers so much, but there's still more! A parent forum is available to meet and share with other parents, ask questions, encourage each other, etc.. If you find that there is an issue or a problem that you simply cannot get an answer for, then Time 4 Learning is available by phone or e-mail to assist.

As with so much of the curriculum and various resources that homeschool parents use, there can be too much information to keep track of, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed or even just forget where to find specific information. To help with this, every time you log in, you'll see a tab called Getting Started. Everything you need to remember may be found here. Also very useful is the Hints and Help tab, for technical issues and program hints.

That should provide an adequate overview, now for perhaps the most important part of this review, our family's sentiments regarding this product.

I mentioned earlier that I knew that my children would enjoy reviewing this product, and did they ever! There has not been a day where they have not requested- many times- to take their turn on the computer. And why wouldn't they? Time 4 Learning offers colorful characters, fun games and songs, "painting pages", stories, all while learning concepts that might otherwise be on the mundane side of things. As for the success of the material, my youngest was spouting off her newfound knowledge of language arts as we shopped for groceries. It's been an effective educational tool for us!

My purpose in trying this out is to provide my honest opinion. So, in light of that, I do need to bring up a few aspects that made using this a challenge.

The programs were child friendly, allowing my kids to work mostly independently. But occasionally there would be a part of the lesson where the directions were unclear, and sometimes downright confusing for all of us. As a result, there were times where my daughter would get an answer wrong, although she did know the material.

Logging out presented another source of frustration. The program did not provide a way to exit without completely getting offline, which posed a challenge when it was the next child's turn, as I had to reboot everything.

I guess the question is, would I recommend Time 4 Learning? My answer would be yes, I would. The issues are minor, in my opinion, and the product has been effective in teaching my daughters material that might otherwise be a bit tedious to learn. Also, the kids have clamored to use it, and make a noise when their time is up, which isn't the worst thing in the world, you know what I mean?

Time 4 Learning

Phone: 954.771.0914

Age Range: Preschool - 8th Grade

Price: Monthly Subscription - prices occasionally change- check website for current information

Monday, August 30, 2010

Homeschooling is a Labor of Love

Our family's decision to homeschool was made even before our children were of school age. While I knew of a few friends, and even some family members, who homeschooled their children, I knew very little about the subject. So began my search throughout the library, bookstores, and other various booksales to gather as much information as I could to see if indeed, we were being called to embark upon this homeschooling journey. It was at one such bookstore where I happened to come across a copy of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. What? A magazine for homeschoolers? And it's Christ honoring? I was sold!

As I made my way through the pages of TOS, I found myself encouraged, admonished, inspired- what other adjectives can I use? I'm telling you, this magazine has everything a busy homeschooling parent is looking for; ideas for unit studies, encouragement in light of the issues specific to these parents, recipes, so much information on the best and latest curriculum and other resources, contests, and much, much more, and the best part is, that TOS puts its focus on our homeschooling families loving and serving Christ, and teaching our children to do the same.

Without fail, I have felt my spirit lift with each new subscription that I read, and I feel a connection to the other homeschoolers who are walking the same educational path that I am. Why am I telling you all of this? Well, read on...

We know how seriously homeschooling parents take their conviction to homeschool. Our "Labor of Love" subscription sale is a celebration of the committment to homeschool, and we want you to know all about it!

The Old Schoolhouse magazine is extending an extraordinary subscription offer to homeschooling families. Receive a one-year print subscription for just $7.95 or a one-year plus current issue subscription for $12.95. One-year subscriptions start with the winter issue. The one-year plus current issue starts with the fall issue. Only 5000 of these special subscriptions are available from August 31 through midnight on September 15. Once the 5000 are gone, they're gone! Hurry and grab this crazy price today!

* note* - I wrote this post with the intention of promoting The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. In return, I am receiving Fall Expo To Go for free.

Peterson Directed Handwriting

This past month, I was given a copy of the Peterson Directed Handwriting print step 1, 2, and 3, in exchange for my honest review of it. Up until learning about and using this product with my family, I had no idea how much research could go into teaching handwriting- what I assumed was a simple task. This program is not like most of the others available on the market. It goes way beyond providing pages of copywork and pencils or crayons and having the little ones trace away the day. Oh no! I have to admit though, that at first, I was skeptical.Why would going through all of these extra steps produce better results than the handwriting curriculum I had previously used? Well, let me tell you...

Peterson Directed Handwriting includes 4 objectives:

1.) Internalizing the sequence of movements for handwriting

2.) Learning to write smoothly

3.) Improve control

4.) Improve fluency

As I mentioned before, I was skeptical at first, and reluctant to put down my tracing pencil and try this method. Then, I checked out their website explaining the science of handwriting, not to mention all of the research that went into the planning of this program. I would encourage everyone to take a look at it too, before you make up your mind.

Moving on now, the main goal here is to produce within your child's writing, smooth, rhythmic movement. You are to begin this process by first "illustrating and describing" as the instructions put it. Print step 1 - and the others too- include color coded pages to demonstrate where to begin, and in what order the writing strokes should be made. So, you begin at the starting dot, and as you make the movement with your finger, you also say out loud the movement. For example, if I was teaching how to write number 5, I would say, "small down, roll around, slide" as I followed the lines with my finger.

The next step is air-writing. I think that is pretty self explanatory. Then comes finger tracing, and only after all of that does the child move on to actually writing the letter itself. You probably understand by now that this resource is more time consuming than a lot of the others out there, and it is. However, if the goal is to provide a strong foundation for the many years of writing ahead, then you may find it is well worth the effort.

I was convinced enough after viewing all of their information on the why's and how's to jump right in with my own daughters. How did it go? Well, quite honestly, I've had mixed results. We all know that kids are not cookie cutters, and what works for one may not for the other, etc... I tried it first with my youngest, who has just started kindergarten. She has been the most receptive of the two, mostly, I think, because she has had really no other instruction. I'm not discounting how her personality factors in to the equation though, because she is more physical and chatty, and therefore took to the verbal part of it all, and the air-writing,fairly enthusiastically. In fact, she really enjoyed the chanting aspect of the instruction, and it did seem to help her internalize what she needed to do when she actually began writing the letters and numbers.

My eldest daughter, on the other hand, was a little more challenged by this new method. Having learned how to write in what is probably the most traditional form, she repeatedly told me that she already new how to write, so why did she need to learn everything again? Well, I did not give up, and she has warmed up to it a little bit. We've used various silly voices as we say the directions out loud together, as well as air-write not only with our fingers, but our feet, noses, elbows, you get it, right? Initially, she wasn't thrilled about the out loud chanting of the instructions either. She tends to be a bit self conscious, but as long as I say it with her, most of the time she's receptive. Really, I think it's good for her to relearn some of this anyway. I appreciate the attention to detail as far as things like the paper position and pencil grip. They're just good exercises in the discipline.

My family has only worked with the print step 1, 2, and 3, but there are other resources available from this company to use in conjunction wh the program. These include pencil grips, sticky backed paper positioning guides and animated letter cards. You can check the website for the various prices.

What really impressed me as I went about learning how to implement these, was the excellent customer service. I cannot say enough good things about Rand Nelson, who created the program, and his willingness to do everything in his power to make this product work for you. He and his team are very accomodating to whatever your particular needs may be. In fact, when you first get on their website, you'll see that there are live meetings available pretty much whenever you need them. They want you to use their product, but more importantly, they want you to succeed in your teaching.

I've been back and forth as we've used this product, but overall, I like it and would recommend it, although I would say that I think it might be best for those children who have had no prior instruction in handwriting. Then you may save yourself the trouble of forgetting old ways of instruction, and learning the new ones. At the very least, I would advise anyone who is looking for a program like this to stop and take a look at Peterson's material, their research, and sit in on a web meeting. It's well worth the time.

Peterson Directed Handwriting

Print Step 1, Print Step 2, Print Step 3 - $19.95 each

Phone: 724.837.4900

Fax: 724.836.4110

315 S. Maple Ave.

Greensburg, PA 15601

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Join the Schoolhouse Expo!

It's back to homeschool time and registration is open for the online Schoolhouse Expo, October 4-8. It's 5 days of top homeschool speakers,fellowship, and fun door prizes.

Save $5 per ticket! Register between August 16 and midnight August 22, and you'll pay only $19.99. Plus you'll receive over $200 in free E-Books.

You'll be inspired by speakers including: Zan Tyler, Dr. Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright, Carol Barnier, Diana Waring, Todd Wilson, Davis Carman, Kim Kautzer, Lee Binz, and many more!

A special teen track is planned--the entire family will definitely want to listen to these special sessions. We've also planned a special focus on a topic that touches every homeschool--writing.Plus, an array of other topics that will inform and inspire you throughout your homeschooling years.

Don't forget, MP3 copies of each session comes with your live event ticket.

Two special preconference shows on August 24 and September 21 with Dr. Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright, and Kim Kautzer!

Register starting 12:01 a.m. on Monday, August 16.

The theme this fall is "Celebrate Homeschooling!" We're going to celebrate the unique blessings of homeschooling, the beginning of another school year, our families, and the freedom to tailor our children's education to best meet their needs.

If you cannot make the Live event, then the October Expo To Go is just your ticket! You'll reserve MP3's from all of the workshops. This week only, pay just $14.95!

You can visit either of these links to get more information.


* Note - I received Expo To Go free in exchange for promoting this event.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's Here! The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner

Note: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for the 2010-11 year, I have reviewed the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner with the intention to promote it.

It was one of those days. You know the kind I'm speaking of. From the moment you wake, you just sense a storm brewing in the day ahead. Actually, saying that I awoke suggests that I had been sleeping, when in fact, our youngest , (who, by the way, has felt from her birth that mommy never needs more than 3 hours of sleep at a time) had once again spent the night traipsing up and down the stairs between our rooms for various "emergencies"- can't sleep, a drink, bad dream, etc.. Anyway, I'd like to say that, as CeCe cheerfully bounced back into the room again at 6a.m., and my dear husband kissed me goodbye to go to work( the lucky duck), I enthusiastically greeted her, made the beds, prepared a delightful and healthy breakfast for both of my sweet angels, tidied the house, threw in a load of laundry, had a meaningful devotional time with them and then dove into an exciting day of learning- a well rounded curriculum including Spanish, history, art, math, reading, and science, with some P.E. thrown in. It's alright, I can wait until you're done laughing. I'm sure you've already figured out that my day DID NOT go that route. Here's how the morning actually played out; rewind to CeCe entering our room, AGAIN. The first thing I see as I open my very tired eyes is my youngest sweetie's smiling face, 1 inch from my nose, asking, "Are you getting up yet?" I mumble a grouchy yes, at which point the little darling launches into random conversation about, well, everything. I make the bed, make my way upstairs where I discover an accident needing cleaning up from our dog, toys strewn about the floor, and scattered bits of chewed up crayons, which aforementioned dog has enjoyed munching. Our oldest daughter sits at a table in her room, coloring. Seeing me, she offers a cheerful "hello Mommy". Walk into the kitchen, where a sinkful of dishes greet me, ( I really meant to take care of those last night). Complaints come my way fast and furious as I set the bowl of cereal ( which they could not get enough of the day before, but now sits untouched and rejected) before them. Hoping for 10 minutes of peace- and distraction- so I can get it together, I flip on the t.v. (for an educational program naturally). So begins the fight between my daughters over which show to watch. The voices get louder, mine included, my head is already pounding, and I look outside (longingly) at the passing schoolbus. Forget the kids, put me on the bus!

But then, the most wonderful thing happened. As I logged on to my computer, there it was, waiting for me, the solution to all of my homeschool challenges, hey the solution to all of my household needs! Oh joy, the new 2010 TOS Homeschool planner! It's here! It was like the heavens opened, and a great light shone into my lowly kitchen onto my computer! Can't you hear the angels singing? Alright, alright, so I'm a bit dramatic, but honestly, I did clap my hands together and squeal yaayy! I also may have jumped up and down, but anyway, let me share with you why this planner has me so excited.

Okay, so you already know that my purpose here is to plug the new 2010 Schoolhouse Planner, so it's a given that I'm going to rave about it. But seriously, it is such a wonderful tool, I promise you it lives up to the hype. Now, with over 500 pages, there simply is not nearly enough room here to share everything. Therefore, I'm picking out some of my favorites to talk about. The beginning is a good place to start, right? There are several years worth of calendars here, with ones that have year at a glance, and then broken down into weeks and days. It doesn't stop there though, because each month includes articles, recipes (including gluten free ones), organizational tips, seasonal activities, and various TOS resources.

Every family differs in the ages and stages of their children, and there are activities and information sheets to meet each specific area. If you have preschoolers, there are alphabet coloring pages, educational activities, and a place to record them. Likewise, if you have high schoolers, there are transcript pages, test score sheets, tracking logs, community service project logs, and extracurricular activities logs. For every age in between, there are bible reading schedules, journaling pages, field trip logs, report cards, progress reports, homeschool requirements for your specific state. That's a lot right there, isn't it? Let's add some more then, curriculum forms, yearly goals and planning, educational objectives - and there is so much more that hasn't been mentioned!

There are around 50 pages of miscellaneous educational info sheets for your printing pleasure. Just a few - 13 colonies, branches of the gov., cloud types, the miracles and parables of Jesus, letter writing tips, U.S. presidents, countries and capitals, various conversion charts. Do you belong to a co-op? The info and planning pages are right here. Going to several homeschool conventions? Here's a place to record all of your important stuff.

Are you sold yet? Wait there's more! (giggle) The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner has so many additional forms for ... everything! Bible memory work? Check. Library due dates list? Check. Attendance charts? It's all here. They've even included a ton of stuff for all of your home repair projects, finances, grocery planning, emergency information, and on and on. Whew!

One of the greatest aspects of this planner is that it allows the owner to customize it according to his/her specific needs. You can print the entire book out, or just those that you need. It even allows you to use it on the computer if your desire is to be paper free. As for me, I'm printing off 3 months at a time, enough for me to plan ahead a bit, plus a few of the daily/weekly schedules, the grocery and budget lists, and I've got my eye on a few of those yummy recipes for the next few weeks. I'm thinking Indonesian Pork, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Cheesy Burger Croissants!

So there you have it in a nutshell, but you really must pick one up for yourself and see why I'm so excited about the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner. The price is right, it's customizable, you simply won't find a better planner around. C'mon, get over to The Old Schoolhouse Store and get it now! Look forward to chatting again soon,

- Laurie

The 2010 Schoolhouse Planner
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine,LLC

Price: $39.00

Phone# 1-888-718-HOME

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TRAVEL KITS - A simple way to bless others

Hey again, glad you could join me over here. In case you missed it before, I have the awesome opportunity this school year to be a part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. That means that I will be receiving samples of homeschool resources from various vendors, and, in return, have agreed to review each product - without compensation- and pass that information on to you. So, if you're ready to hear about this month's product, let's go!

The product - TRAVEL KITS - A Simple Way To Bless Others

Price - $12.45

Vendor - TOS

Contact information -

Phone# - 1-888-718-HOME

Recommended ages - All Ages

Upon seeing the title of this product, I was onboard. My initial thought was, gift baskets! ( I love gift baskets, both making and receiving them.) While first glancing through this e-book, I was immediately drawn to the colorful pictures. Each kit is presented so beautifully, and there are seemingly endless ideas throughout the pages. After quickly paging through the material, I was ready for the details. Author Donna Rees has laid out the book in such a way that, depending on your learning style, you may either skim the entire thing and get down to making your own kits, or take your time and enjoy the details - which really is worth it, and for me is half the fun. But, there again, that will depend on your style, available time, etc...

Okay, so what's involved in putting together a travel kit? Well, Donna gives us 6 basic questions to ask, so let's start there.

1. WHO? Who is the kit for? There is no age limit on this one; a travel kit works as well for a grandparent as it does for a young child.

2. WHAT? What do you put in it? Anything and everything, that's what! The best thing about creating these kits is that there's no right or wrong way. You can be as fancy or budget conscious as you need to be.

3. WHEN? When is an appropriate time to use these? Long car trips definitely, but I tell you what, sometimes an afternoon of running various errands works very well for me too.

4. WHERE? This could really be combined with the 'when' question. Really, wherever these would occupy a restless child, whether a long family vacation, or a quick trip to a baseball game.

5. HOW? You'll be planning ahead as you create these goodies, but how detailed is up to you. Your only limit is your own creativity.

6. WHY? The best part (at least I think so), is because it's so fun making these, but seeing the delight of the ones on the receiving end is very cool too. Also, should you choose to involve your little ones, (and the bigger ones too,) you're teaching them the joy of giving and serving others. And as homeschooling moms, we're always looking for the teachable moments right?

Well we've got the basic intro going, now it's time for more details, or, as my husband occasionally says," put the cookies on the lower shelf ". You'll have to plan a bit, thinking about what will best fit the recipient as far as their family size, car size, the cost, boys or girls. I really love the creativity of travel kits myself. You can take it as far as your imagination allows.

I took away several fresh ideas for the presentation alone. Who would think of a flowerpot as a possible container? Or what about those little pillbox containers for each day of the week, filled with little treats? How about an upside down hat, or one of my favorites, an empty, washed out ice cream container from a local ice cream shop?

Okay, we have some containers, so let's fill these bad boys. Snacks, always a good choice. Think healthy, and think neat, meaning it's probably best to avoid sticky gooey stuff. ( Wet wipes would be appreciated with your gift too). There are endless dollar store items, bracelets,toy cars, crafty items, stickers, wikki sticks, and the list goes on.

Another of the ideas that jumped out at me was the section on books. Of course there's a wide range in this category, from story books to puzzle books, to tracing books. What about recording your own audiobooks? Love that idea! So much that you can do with that. Have several different people read aloud a chapter, or different stories. Who knows,you might end up with a cherished family heirloom!

I also liked that you could add little toys or activities that relate to a book theme - like purchasing little plastic farm animals for Charlotte's Web or other animal stories.

For me, one of the best aspects of this resource is the way it adapts to whatever you need it to. This works as well for a grandparent, new mom, or teenager as it does for your preschoolers. And you know, what mom do you know who wouldn't love to be on the receiving end of one of these?

The price is right too. At $12.45, you're not gonna break the bank on this one folks. I'll be referring back to it frequently, I'm quite sure.

The author concludes with a delightfully lengthy list of websites and resources to help you on your way. So now, the only thing left to do is check out this e-book, and make someone a travel kit today!

Thanks for hanging out with me here. Keep checking back for future reviews. Next month, I'll let you know about a cool new handwriting product our family is using. Until later,

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Well hey there! Welcome to Laurie's school days. You know, if anyone had told me even six months ago that I would be writing my own blog, I wouldn't have believed them. Most of my computer skills have consisted of turning the computer on and getting to my e-mail. However, as it became clear that our family was being called to homeschool, I realized that I needed to face my fear and do this thing! As it happened, a wonderful opportunity arose through my favorite homeschooling resource, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. This upcoming school year, I will be participating in their homeschool crew. What is that all about ? Well, I'm glad that you asked! I have the wonderful task of sampling and reviewing a variety of school materials, and then passing that info along to you!

Now, when it comes to all of this, I am definitely a newbie. But, one of the best things about the homeschooling journey is our own opportunity to learn along with our children.( Quite honestly, I know that I learned as much as, if not more, in my first year of homeschooling my kindergartener, now first grader!)So...with a few butterflies in my tummy, and a lot of positive anticipation, I am gearing up for a great year, and my hope is that you will join me in the fun. Later this week, I'll be posting my review for TOS travel kits. Trust me when I tell you that you're gonna love this one! Let's chat soon,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Molly's Money Saving Digest- January 2010

Molly, where have you been all my life? This week, I've been reading through Molly's moneysaving digest, January 2010.This is one resource that I will definitely be utilizing every month. There is so much great info to share, so I'll start at the beginning.

One of the first sections is called begin with the basics, and Molly must have had me in mind with that title. This month features homemade piecrusts, which, until now, have really intimidated me. The instructor, Mrs. Martha Greene shares eight pages of piecrust techniques as well as a few yummy recipes. Being the novice that I am, I tried out the beginner bakers buttery pressed crust. It really was easy for me, though I will say that when Mrs. Greene suggests a large pie pan, she means a large pie pan! If your pie dish is too small, you'll end up with a very thick crust. We made a pudding pie and it was pretty good.I'm inspired to try the other recipes very soon.

It's hard to pick a favorite section out of this digest, 'cause there is really so much great stuff in here, but one I like best is the tips and tools for organization. 2010 is going to be my year to finally get organized, I just know it! Along with a monthly calendar, there are printable forms for your bills, monthly budget, even a family clothing inventory list.All you need to do is fill it out. Love it.

Molly has also included a section called Feather Your Nest- Frugally. Who doesn't want to freshen up the house affordably, right? So, using your computer, you can print scripture verses and display them in inexpensive frames around the house. I like that it's easy to change them out monthly or seasonally.

If you're anything like me, it can be a challenge to keep out of the dinner rut, and within the digest are a week's worth of meals, plus a shopping list. Tonight, my family will be enjoying the zesty pork tenderloin that I've got marinating in the fridge. I also have my eye on the strawberry pretzel salad and peanut butter cookies. Time to eat yet?

The little ones have not been forgotten. The kids corner features a section for teaching good money habits, including a homemade piggy bank and practice forms for learning to write checks and keep a ledger.

I've got to tell you, I love this resource, and I can't wait to see what's coming in the future issues.Towards the end are several pages devoted to reader e-mails, links and other encouraging words. I've been thinking that this would be a great gift to print out and put in a binder for friends, moms, anyone really. Definitely a must have for your home.