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, April 29, 2011

Greek 'n' Stuff

Mom, are we doing Greek today? That is the question I have heard almost everyday since we began our review of "Hey Andrew, Teach Me Some Greek" some months ago. Now, I must tell you, that enthusiasm was not always there. In fact, before we ever heard of this curriculum, my eldest daughter in particular, was certain that she DID NOT want to learn a foreign language. She never could give me a reason, but she sure was adamant. I kept a positive attitude anyway, and we delved into our studies.

We were given the first book in the series to use, level one, along with the pronunciation CD, and the answer only key. Open up the book and you'll find 28 lessons, with the first 24 focusing on one of the Greek letters of the alphabet. Each letter/lesson has 4 pages of activities to learn the proper way to write and pronounce each letter. There are flashcards at the back of the book for practicing as you move through the lessons, and you may choose to use the CD as often as you need to. So, a typical lesson begins by learning the name of the letter(obviously), how it sounds, and how to write it. For the first two pages you get to practice printing, and then the last two pages are made up of fun exercises, matching games, and coloring activities.

We began by listening to the CD. This simply instructs you on the letters and sounds, all done by children. Basically, you have the material in front of you, and then just get to it. There were some lessons that we stretched out over the week, especially letters that took a little longer to get the hang of printing- I'm thinking of "zeta" in particular. Other times we breezed through and learned a couple per week. Each lesson builds on the previous one, and you'll find it rich in repetition. There are pages for every letter that will require searching for specific letters within various Greek words, as well as writing the letters of the Greek alphabet in order. So, all the while, as they continue to see these words over and over, it really aids in retaining the information they are taking in.

The last few lessons of level one teach some Greek words, so that by the last lesson, your student will write their own sentence in Greek.

Those are the basics, now for our family's opinion regarding "Hey Andrew, Teach Me Some Greek!"

Would you indulge my juvenile side while I say, this was so cool! I really love learning new languages, and to begin to learn Greek was a kick for me. I was very pleasantly surprised to see my kids not only warm up to it, but come to enjoy the lessons so much that they request it every day. What really astounded me though, was the speed at which my daughter's grasped the material. After all, we're talking about Greek, which of course, has completely different letters than our alphabet. To watch my girls easily(for the most part) print out these new letters in order was so fun for me to observe. I know it has stretched my own thinking.

I am happy to say that we will be continuing on with our Greek education as we move up to level 2 in the series. The girls cannot wait for more!

A few final thoughts...

This program is a good fit for those that do not need to have a step by step lesson plan. You choose the frequency of the lessons, and all of those little details that go with it. An aspect that I especially like about Greek 'n' Stuff is the flexibility in purchasing the separate levels. Purchase any resource individually-workbooks alone are $14.95. Should you prefer to buy the entire program at one time, there are several sets you may choose from, including starter sets beginning at $86.85, or a full set which has levels 1-8 beginning at $350.00. What are you waiting for? Get started with Greek!

*I received a free copy of "Hey Andrew, Teach Me Some Greek!" level one workbook and CD in exchange for my honest review of the product, with no additional compensation.

Greek 'n' Stuff

Ages: elementary and up

Price: workbooks $14.95- check website for full set prices

While you're at it, why don't you go check out TOS Homeschool Crew homepage and see what other people have to say about this and other great products.

Friday, April 22, 2011

See The Light

Okay, it's time to pull out your paintbrushes and dust off your easel, because we're delving into art today. These past couple of months, our family had the chance to try out the DVD, Art Class Volume 1, which covers the basics of art in 4 separate lessons.

Master Artist Pat Knepley is our teacher, and shows us a few elementary techniques, all while weaving Gods word throughout each lesson. So, here is what you may expect as you begin...

Lesson 1: Start by putting together your "toolkit" so you are ready to draw at a moment's notice. Pretty simple, nothing fancy here. A few drawing pencils, a sharpie, some charcoal sticks, kneadable eraser (this was the hands down favorite of my girls, they used it like playdough), a regular pink and white eraser, and colored pencils. Of course, we can't forget the drawing paper. After going over these items briefly, you'll get an overview of the drawing process.

Lesson 2 : I bet you've never considered the significance of the humble line ;) But, a line is not just a line. There are many different styles, and in this lesson, you'll learn how simply holding a pencil in a particular way will affects what kind of line you'll get, from a fine, faint line, to a bold, dark one. I found this to be a good lesson for me in not underestimating what your children are capable of. Initially, I wasn't sure m kids would be able to "get" these techniques. Guess what? They are quick studies. We learned how holding the pencil in various grasps affects the darkness of the line, among other things. My youngest in particular spent an extended length of time experimenting with this.

Lesson 3 : Let's illiterate with some contours and composition. Time for some fun, but hopefully not frustration, as you begin to learn how to follow the contour of an object as you keep your eyes on the object and off of your drawing. Tricky! After a bit of practice, Pat will give some tips about the composition of your pictures, and how to keep the look of your drawing interesting. We did this with apples, and the girls really got into it. They were a little discouraged at first, seeing what their pictures looked like when you look only at the object, but still, they were encouraging to each other, and to me as well :) This was where we first used our charcoal, and boy, was that a hit! They loved everything about that medium. "Wow Mom! This is charcoal? Like the backyard? Cool!" I can see we'll be using those quite a bit.

Lesson 4 : Now it's time for you to grab a shoe (or a boot, slipper, whatever ), and put what you've been learning to the test. Everything from the previous lessons comes together- lines, composition, so have some fun as you practice! One of the recurring statements from Pat is to draw what you see, rather than what you know. For example , if you're looking at a table, you realize that it has 4 legs, but you may only see 2. You know there are 4, but you only draw what you see. Pretty straightforward, right ;) Towards the end of each "class", Pat grabs her bible and connects the lesson with a verse or passage. I really liked that aspect of the course. For me, it was like a cool drink of water as I was reminded that God is in everything. Good stuff.

Who would find this resource a good fit for their families? My answer to that would be anyone who wants to add art to their studies, but doesn't necessarily have the time or ability to get into an actual class.

I really liked Pat's personable nature on camera. Often, with DVD classes, the teachers come across stiff and unnatural, but she has such a nice way about her as she teaches. It was almost like physically being in class with her.

My kids enjoyed the lessons immensely. Every day they have requested art. See The Light has a special something that the girls kind of clicked with. It worked great for me, as we could use it at our convenience, unlike a standard art class. I can happily and without hesitation recommend See The Light to any family.

As of this post, See The Light is changing up their website a little bit. But, for now, if you would be interested in purchasing these lessons, you may order a subscription for $99.99. This will get you a year's worth of lessons for your family, with 4 lessons per month. Please check the website for more information.

** I received the first 4 lessons of See The Light in exchange for my honest opinion of it.

See The Light

Ages: about 6 years and up

Price: Yearly subscription $99.99 - Check website for further information

Don't forget to stop by TOS Homeschool Crew homepage for more reviews of your favorite products!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Growing Healthy Homes

Nutrition. We are inundated with information as it relates to this topic. We read countless articles on the subject. We watch news clips that warn of what we, and our children are consuming, or not consuming. There is more information than ever before on nutrition.

But really, what do you know about it? Are you a label reader? Do you worry about high fructose corn syrup lurking within those baked goodies in your pantry? Are you diligent in making sure your family is eating the recommended servings of fruits and veggies?

Honestly, I have considered myself pretty good in the foods that I prepare for my family. Not perfect, but certainly adequate enough. The discovery of some food allergies in me prompted me to become a better label reader, but even so, I would not consider myself a health nut or anything. Having said all of that, I have felt a little nudging, if you will, within me, to improve the quality of my entire family's diet.

TOS Homeschool Crew came through once again as this review presented itself to me. We have been privileged to try out a nutritional resource in e-book form that goes way beyond your basic food pyramid.

Nutrition 101:Choose Life! is an incredible resource that takes an in depth look at the foods we eat, what they are made up of, and how they affect our bodies, for the positive and for the negative, all while keeping an eye on what scripture teaches. Now, when I say in depth, I mean in depth. Included here are 6 separate units focusing on a different system in the body, with 4 chapters within each unit.

Unit 1.) The Brain and Nervous System

Unit 2.) The Digestive System

Unit 3.) The Respiratory, Olfactory, Auditory, and Visual Systems

Unit 4.) The Muscular and Skeletal Systems

Unit 5.) The The Cardiovascular and Immune Systems

Unit 6.) The Endocrine System and Emotions

Perhaps at this point you're tuning out a little bit. You've seen it all, heard it all before. Okay, another nutrition book. Hey, that's great, yeah it's important, I'll get to it...

I get it, but stay tuned here. Have you noticed that, while we have a wealth of information available to us, we are heavier, and certain diseases are affecting the population earlier? It's true. What I like best about this book is that it doesn't just tell us to eat this, don't eat that, and stop there. The authors take us by the hand if you will, and teach us what a specific food does for our body, good or bad. And not just our body as a whole, but each specific body system.

Let's take a peek into Unit 3, Respiratory Health.

Are you a shallow or a deep breather? Why do we yawn? What do you know about allergies and asthma? You'll learn a lot about these and other facts and ailments of the lungs and airways. Did you know why vitamins A and C benefit this system? Were you aware that beta-cryptoxanthan foods protect lung health? Or that magnesium helps open the bronchial passages, and is found in broccoli, winter squash, and pumpkin seeds to name a few? Other foods that will keep you respirating properly include: cilantro, swiss chard, citrus fruits, watermelon, garlic, and onions. Now, it only stands to reason that if there are good foods for your respiratory system, there are also bad ones. These would include: dairy products (they cause excess mucous, eww), sugar, chocolate (gasp!), and other refined foods.

This specific unit has personal importance for me, as I have asthma and food allergies, so learning about the good and bad has been a big, and often surprising experience. I find myself wanting to write down all of that information here for you now, but, not only would that make this review way too long, it would also ruin the book for you. For those reasons, I will move on, although I will touch on a few more points included there.

Moving through the unit, you'll also learn about the ways the environment around you affects your breathing, and ways to improve the air quality in your home. The authors don't stop at the dispensing of the information, they have included recipes for meals, but also for homemade non toxic cleaning solutions. I like that they provide those options, because so often in various resources, while we are told what not to eat or use, we don't know where to find good alternatives, but this book presents them here. Now, this is just some of what you'll learn in this unit about respiratory health. There is so much more within this book covering all of the other systems in the body.

Also included at the end of each chapter are discussion questions and activities, and resources pertaining to each body system. Conveniently, there are 2 sets of activities- 1 for the elementary students, and another for the secondary students. I loved this part of the book, because they aren't the same old same old ones that are sometimes found in a regular textbook. Let me give you some examples from unit 3, chapter 2, which covers the sense of smell.

1.) Find 5 strongly scented items. Blindfold someone and have them guess what each item is. Try it with several people and see who has the best sense of smell.

2.) Take a field trip to the grocery store and write down all the smells you come across and then discuss the good and the bad.

3.) Research which animals have the best sense of smell. If you can, find an animal trainer, a vet, a zoologist who might be able to show the animal in action.

After you've done some of these activities, make the basil pesto recipe included in this chapter with the kids. Yum!

Okay, what else is in here? So much more! You and your family will learn so much in this e-book.

Instead of instructing the reader what to eat and vice versa, it tells you why. It teaches you what protein is, what minerals do for you, why a certain food is beneficial or not. That can only help us as we educate our children and make our way towards the goal of teaching them to make wise choices for their health.

Goodness! How could I forget? As you work through the book, you'll see the strong influence from the scriptures on every page. I love that each chapter begins with a verse. Such a good way to direct our focus back to the Creator of these bodies that we're seeking to take care of. I love that it flows so naturally, because as I teach my children, I want them to see God's hand throughout all of their education.

Well, let's talk about who will benefit from this book. Um, okay, everyone! Developed for elementary aged students and up, it really can be adapted for any age. And, this is a huge resource, with well over 400 pages.

Let's talk about prices. You have several options. You may purchase a CD-ROM for $79.95, the e-book for $99.95, or for $129.95 for the combo, which is both the CD-Rom and the book.

What a great class this could be for those of you in co-op's. There is more than enough material to take you through your class. But it also works great for individual families as well.

So, how did our family feel about Nutrition 101? LOVE IT! This is one of the best resources we have ever used! I just don't know that you'll find another book of this kind that contains everything that is in here. I mentioned before, that I love being able to instruct my kids on the why's and how's behind our nutritional choices, all while keeping the focus on God. Go check it out for yourself, and I'm sure you'll agree that it is a great addition to your homeschool.

*I received a free copy of the e-book Nutrition 101 in exchange for my honest review of it.

Growing Healthy Homes

Ages: Elementary and up, but adaptable for any age

Price: CD-Rom $79.95, e-book $99.95, Combo- CD-Rom and book $129.95

You might also want to check out TOS Homeschool Crew homepage, where you'll find more reviews and homeschool resources

Friday, April 8, 2011

Science Weekly

Hello scientists and future scientists alike. Are you looking for a great new supplement for your science curriculum? Are you looking for a resource that covers activities for your kindergartner as well as your older students? Would you prefer that it meet National Education Standards? How about lab work? Does your current resource include hands on experiments to reinforce the lesson?

Well then, you'll want to read on as I tell you about Science Weekly, a little newspaper of sorts designed to supplement your science program.

Our family received an issue which focused on learning all about the flu, but I'll go into that more a little further down. When you receive your copy, you'll find that each edition is written for six different grade levels- K-6. Is that a homeschooling parent's dream or what? It makes it a little easier to teach the subject to all of the kids at once. And, what a nice bonus if every age group gets their own personal copy, right?

You'll also notice that Science Weekly is not strictly science. Open up to the second page, and you'll find age appropriate vocabulary, math, and writing exercises. As you reach the last page, there is a final activity to complete- sequencing for the younger ones, and a brain teaser or puzzle for the older ones. An activity is featured at the bottom to be completed with a parent's assistance. For the older students, their copy may feature a bio of a scientist, or a riddle.

You'll also find it helpful that enclosed with each issue are a set of teaching notes, conveniently divided up according to the grade level.

So, we reviewed the "flu edition". Right now, we have the younger elementary students, so I used mainly levels A and B, with a little C thrown in for fun ;) Those handy little notes made it easy to lead the discussion on the who, what, where and how types of questions. We learned that we need to wash our hands for at least 30 seconds (we actually knew that already, as I am a bit of a germaphobe, but it's always a good reminder), and that if we sing the alphabet song twice, it takes about as long. Then we timed ourselves while we did just that. Our favorite part hands down, was definitely the hands on, lab time. We filled a spray bottle with water, and pretended to sneeze- our squirt bottle being the nose. We found out how important it is to cover our nose as we "sneezed" into the general population ;), and then as we did so in to our elbow. The results? Eww, but educational :).

So, our thoughts...

The kids definitely gave it a thumbs up. They love science, and most everything that goes along with it. The teaching notes make it a cinch to get the discussion going, and I really liked that it included levels for K-6. That feature allowed me to borrow from other levels to really customize the lesson for my family. While the older levels had information that was over my younger ones' head, they did were able to learn and enjoy the experiments from the older sections anyway.

As far as the pricing goes, the individual rate offers 15 issues for $19.95. But, if you can get your homeschool co-op on board, or just a group of other families, there is a classroom rate of 15 issues for $4.95 per student per year with at least 20 subscriptions. Check it out and, to quote Science Weekly, "put a little science in your week".

**I received a free issue of Science Weekly in return for my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.

Science Weekly

Phone: 1-800-4-weekly

Fax: 1-301-680-9240

Classroom Rate: $4.95 per student per year- 15 issues-minimum order 20 subscriptions

Individual Rate: $19.95 per student per year -15 issues- less than 20 subscriptions

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Raise your hands if you come from a musical family...okay, I see a few of you out there, hey, that's super. I, do not. I always wished that my parents had provided some kind of musical education, but well, it didn't happen.

My husband, on the other hand, comes from a very musical family. Everyone played an instrument, and they actually traveled somewhat extensively across the United States, and I think Canada as well, playing at various church venues.

Bringing us back to the subject at hand now, when our children approached school age, we (my husband and I) agreed that they should learn to play an instrument. We also agreed that we wanted to start them out on the piano.

A little time passed, and I began thinking more and more of adding this to our studies.

Enter TOS Homeschool Crew. I was given the wonderful opportunity to review an online musical program over the course of a few months.

KinderBach is a program designed to be used with children aged approximately 3-7 years old. Lessons are divided up into various levels, with about 12 weeks per level. Right now, there are 6 levels to work through, but there is a 7th one in the works. Within each week are 4 sessions. You choose how often you would like to use the sessions throughout the week. They are not very long, and we would frequently do several at a time. Let me tell you what you'll find in each lesson...

Allow me to introduce you to Miss Karri- aka Karri MacGregor, the founder and creator of KinderBach. With a background in musical education and visual arts, among other things, Karri does a really nice job presenting each session. She has a very natural way of communicating with children, speaking to them on their level, but not condescending to them. Miss Karri introduces us to some fun characters who assist the kids in learning their way around the keyboard. We meet Dodi, a sweet little donkey, who also lives on the 2 black keys of the piano, and Frisco, who is a nice little boy who shows us how to "walk" with a musical note. Then there are the beat bugs, who, naturally, teach us about the beats in the music. My favorite is Gracie the gorilla. There are many more, but I don't want to give everything away ;)

At this point, I want to mention that at first, I was expecting KinderBach to be a "Teach your child to play the piano in __ lessons" kind of program. Yes, they will learn, but it's more than that. KinderBach also provides a general musical foundation for children. Your children will learn ear training, aural discrimination, finger position, rhythm, and more! In addition to the songs and games that are a part of each session, there are printable worksheets that accompany many of them. These include song sheets that allow the child to follow along a bit better, matching and activity games, and crafts that go with the lesson.

This would be an appropriate time to stop and mention that KinderBach offers additional songbooks to purchase and use anytime throughout your music lessons. They are priced at $23.95. Some more extras to mention...

You'll love the coloring storybooks availailable on pdf for downloading. Each one features a character and reinforces a specific music concept. There are also several crafts and activity books you may purchase and download. You can even download a Dodi poster for free! Prices vary for the others, so you can check the website.

One of the best features of this program is that it accommodates many different learning styles. Rather than the student merely sitting in front of the computer or television and listening, Karri engages the children and encourages their active participation. So, whether you have a kinesthetic learner, a visual learner, a traditional worksheet loving kind of kid, you will find that KinderBach probably has something here for them.

Also good to mention is the research that has been put into this program. Apparently, young students achieve much more when they have studied music, particularly piano. To borrow a phrase from their website, playing the piano makes their brains smarter.

So, our family gave this a trial run online, and it worked out pretty well. We liked the convenience and portability of the computer, and it was easy to print out the accompanying worksheets. If this seems like an appealing option for your family, here is your pricing information. You can make a one time payment of $95.88, or you can opt for the monthly subscription which costs $19.95 per month.

Maybe you have an issue with slower internet. That's okay, there is another option. KinderBach also offers this program on DVD or Cd's! Buy one level at a time for $40.45, or check out their website for prices on bundles.

Let's talk about customer service for a moment. KinderBach wants you to be a happy customer, whether you choose the online or the DVD method. They are so confident in their product that they offer the first 2 weeks of lessons free for online users. They don't stop there though. All of their products have a 30 day money back guarantee if you aren't satisfied. Additionally, KinderBach has a lifetime replacement deal if the DVDs or Cd's get broken or damaged for any reason. Are you convinced yet?

Why don't I tell you how our children felt about it?

You know, initially, for some unknown reason, they were a little unsure about piano lessons in general. I couldn't tell you why. But... from the first lesson they were on board. Karri has that 'je ne sais quoi' kind of quality that just appeals to kids. They love the rhythm activities, the crafts, the characters, and of course, fiddling around on the keyboard. One of the characters in particular is a surfer dude kind of guy, and really just brings my girls to giggles every time. KinderBach has been a great resource that has them requesting it every day of the week. It's been a valuable addition, and I encourage you to try it out for yourself :)

** I received a free subscription to KinderBach in exchange for my honest opinion of it, with no additional compensation.


Ages: 3-7 years

Phone: 563-332-0587

Prices: Online subscription- one time payment of $95.88, or monthly subscription of $19.95 per month. DVDs, Cd's available beginning at $40.45

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lessons and Laundry

Wow. It feels like forever since I last posted. Life has been in a bit of a crazy state this past month. Lessons, laundry, dance lessons, bible studies, Awana, etc., etc.... So, speaking of laundry, that brings me to this weeks' topic for the blog cruise. How do YOU handle the daily responsibilities around the house while homeschooling? Handle them? I'm not sure that I am. As I type, there are piles of school materials scattered throughout the kitchen. The mail that I just brought in is on the kitchen table. The dining room table is dusty, and dog toys are littered here and there. The bathrooms could use a wipedown, and I'm almost positive that there really is a floor in the hobby room- I just haven't seen it in a while. And please! Do not ask me about dinner. I still have a doctor's appointment to get my oldest to, and then there's the promise I made to my youngest to go to Claire's for some earrings, and, oh yes, there's the endless pile of laundry waiting downstairs. I need a nap. Is it possible to balance both? Honestly? Well, it helps that in our family, my husband is a children first, school first kind of guy. The clutter doesn't bother him. In fact, I am the one who struggles with wanting the house to look a certain way, everything in its place and all of that, and usually I end up being the number one cause of my own stress! In truth, if you homeschool, you are going to have some stuff laying around. It's going to happen with everyone in the house together everyday. So, while we're not dirty, you know, the dishes are clean, the kids are clean, we do tend to have a house that looks very lived in. I am however, finding it a little easier as the kids get older, that they are increasing in their ability to pitch in with more of those chores. And you know what? They enjoy helping-mostly. I guess that in my opinion, while we should strive to keep general order in the house as we teach our children, we need to relax and not get so wrapped up in checking off your to do list, that we make our homes unpleasant and rigid. I'm speaking mostly to myself as I say to you, Make your home a place where your family and friends want to be!