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

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.