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, May 27, 2011

Apologia - Read For The Heart

I am a book lover. To me, there is nothing more nourishing to my spirit than a quiet afternoon alone in a bookstore. From the time that I was a young girl, my father and my grandmother provided a wide assortment  of books for my reading pleasure. They varied in subject and style, and I loved them. Now, as a mom, I like to think that I'm passing that enthusiasm along to my daughters as well. Our home is overflowing with books. The bookcases are filled to their capacity, baskets and shelves in our bedrooms are bursting, yet still, we can't resist those bookstores, library book sales, garage sales. Books. They call to us.
You may or may not be of the same mind when it comes to reading. Or, you may be a book worm, but struggle to get your own children on board. Whatever the situation is for you, I truly believe that the book that I have had the opportunity to review over the past few months will become a treasured resource for you and your family.
Read For The Heart is what I would say, a must have book for your library. Author Sarah Clarkson, has provided for us a great selection of literature that would benefit every family. Now, don't zone out on me, this book is anything but dry! I suppose the beginning is as good a place to start as any, so here we go.
The first several chapters begin with the unsettling statistics that reveal our society's decline in reading, and the increase in television viewing and recreational technology. As I read through these pages, I can't say that I was surprised, but what did catch my attention was the amazing effects that reading causes in our brains. As you read, your brain is processing the words, their letters, their meanings, even the sounds of the letters, although you're only reading silently!
Clarkson also reminds us of the way good literature builds our character. It has the ability to stir our hearts, reinforce what is good and beautiful, and as Clarkson says herself, to strengthen the mind.
Those first chapters were so inspiring for me, and I was ready for more. The next part of the book contains the book lists, and conveniently, they are divided in sections according to topic. You might expect that at this point in Read For The Heart, while the information is useful, a book of lists is, well, boring. Not so! Within each of these sections, the author weaves in tales from her childhood, facts about various book awards ( The Caldecott is one example ) and how they are given out. She gives reasons why a particular topic is important in a child's intellectual development.
I would also like to mention that when I say book lists, I don't mean to imply that it is title only. For each book, there is a nice little summary of the plot, characters, appropriate age, and any other pertinent information for parents. Are you beginning to see what a gem this book is? I hope so!
At the very end of Read For The Heart is an extensive appendix for you to page through. Here you'll find all of the included books that have been chosen to receive various awards, and you'll also find that Clarkson has kindly created a few lists for boys' interest, girls' interest, etc..
I can't say enough positive words about this book. My hope is that, after reading this review, you'll be motivated to pick up a copy for yourself :)

* I received a free copy of Read For The Heart in return for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Apologia - Read For The Heart
Ages: Parent/Family resource
Price: $17.00

While you're at it, why don't you stop by TOS Homeschool Crew homepage and take a peek at more reviews and resources :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pearson - enVision Math - 1st grade

There are some subjects that just make you want to run and hide, and for me, that subject would be mathematics. In previous posts, I mentioned that I believe this is because of a few really poor experiences with my teachers back when I was in school. When we decided to home educate our children, I determined that I would do everything that I could to make math a positive experience for our kids. We have, and continue to, try out all kinds of manipulatives, programs, games and more to enhance our learning. As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I was pleased to introduce enVision Math over the past couple of months.
We were given a VERY LARGE workbook geared towards the 1st grade set. Now, I will mention up front, that as I first began paging through this book, that it became clear that this is meant to be used along side other manipulatives, as well as with an online site. It also seems to have been put together with the public school system in mind, so we'll give you a homeschooler's perspective. We were given access to neither, so for the purpose of this review, I will be telling you about our experience with the book alone. Let's get started!
I said before that this is a huge book, and my girls were immediately interested. Open it up and you are greeted with a slew of lovely colorful pages. One of the first aspects that I noticed set enVision Math apart from other textbooks/workbooks, is that each lesson is meant to be pulled out of the book, and then folded into a mini booklet. Now it's time to do the lesson! There are numbers to trace, objects to count, patterns to create, and of course, the adding and subtracting that one would expect to find within a math lesson.
This workbook is great for visual learners, and my 1st grader was no exception. The pages are so colorful and inviting. It also helps that my daughter also loves worksheets!
Having said that, I do have to tell you that there were parts of every lesson that we had to skip, guess what we were supposed to do, or simply wing it. Again, this was due to the fact that we only had the workbook itself. Should you decide to add this to your studies, you will definitely want to get at least the teacher's manual to guide you.
How did we like it? Well, what we did have was well received by my daughter, and my kindergartener was very interested as well. She was eager to do the pages every day, and frequently remarked about the "pretty pictures". And for our family, my 1st grader specifically, getting them excited to do math is half the battle ;)
If this sounds like it might be a good fit for your family, go check them out!

* I received a copy of  the enVision Math Grade 1 workbook in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.
Scott Foresman Addison Wesley enVision Math Grade 1
Age: 1st Grade
Price: Student edition alone: $35.00
Check their website for prices of related resources
Remember to drop by TOS Homeschool Crew homepage for more reviews and resources :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I've had fitness on my mind over the past few months. There are several reasons for this. First of all, it's finally spring, which means warm weather (yay!), more time spent outside, and, well let's face it, shorts and swimsuits. (The latter may make you happy or unhappy ;) ) Another reason that actually relates to my first one, is that this is the time of year where I have to face the results of my winter eating and exercise habits, good or bad. My final reason is that I seem to have been reviewing quite a few resources on this subject.

Now, here I am to tell you about one of these resources that my family has had the privilege of trying out.

GoTrybe is an online fitness program created for kids in kindergarten and up that also includes daily nutrition, wellness, and general motivational information through the use of video clips, quizzes, and more. When your child signs up, they will be assigned to a class, which is grouped according to age. We were in the zoodoos, which includes kids k-2nd grade. Now comes the fun part- creating an avatar to represent your child. They'll have a blast customizing it any way they want, including crazy hairstyles and accessories, even pets. My girls love this part, and actually change their avatar's complete look at least twice a week :) Now this is fun, but of course the main idea is the actual fitness aspect of the program, so let's talk about the way it works.

One of the best ways to get and keep kids interested in exercise and all around fitness is to make it fun. GoTrybe does a very nice job here. Each level has a variety of mini exercise routines to choose from, divided into warm up's, cardio, strength, and flexibility, with a length of roughly 5 minutes each. All you need to do is choose which ones you want to do, and get going! If you have 30-45 minutes, go for it. If you only have 15 minutes, that's okay too. I really like that part of the program, because each clip is short, you may customize it to accomodate any schedule. So we did more on the days that we had more time, and then did only 20 minutes on others. Next question, what are the activities like?

Okay, I mentioned that we were in the zoodoos group, so there are several different instructors that teach the classes, depending on which section that's being taught- warm up, cardio, flexilbility, etc.. Each exercise clip features the teacher, along with one or more children (that always seems to help keep the appeal with kids it would seem, at least it does with my own). The class begins, and the "Trybal Athlete" as they are called, leads us. The workouts are fun and kid friendly. I should mention that before you begin, you get to choose each workout by clicking on a small image of the clip and "dragging it to the appropriate section (warm up, cardio, etc.). When you have finished your selections, click on 'begin the workout', and start exercising!
Each workout features fun dance moves, relay races, 'tag' types of games that feature animals and sea creatures, colors and shapes. I have to say, they really get your heart pumping! The first few times that my daughters worked out, they slept really well that night!

So, it's a fun way to work out, but GoTrybe doesn't end it there. I briefly talked earlier about several components that make up this entire program, and I want to touch on them again for a second. Under the daily activity heading are the titles fitness, motivation, nutrition, and wellness. For each section that is completed each day, your little health nut receives points. The motivation, nutrition, and wellness sections include a true/false quiz, video clip, and other health information. They are short (a minute or two), and change daily, so these may only be completed once a day. Do as much of the actual exercise as you and your family like though, because the more you do, the more points will accumulate! What do you do with all of those points? Well, they may be spent fixing up your avatar with fun clothes, accessories, pets. I was a little surprised how much that motivated my kids to complete each section, but wow, does it ever! The points also serve as a way to rank your progress against other "trybers", and earn you badges as well.

What does our family think of GoTrybe? I have to be honest, I have been pleasantly surprised at the level of enthusiasm that the girls have shown for this program. They LOVE it! They request it daily. The avatar has them truly motivated. The fun games and dance moves delight them, and these are kids that will sit on the couch and just WATCH me exercise under normal circumstances. So, I would say that as far as our family is concerned, GoTrybe is a resource worth checking out.

A few details to mention...

This program also has a social network side of it involved. You may invite other "Trybers" to be your "friend", and send messages and shout outs. We did not use these parts of the program. Our kids are on the younger side, and the other features were enough to encourage them to keep going, and this is purely optional, so you can decide if you want to access that part of GoTrybe.

Now the pricing...

Give GoTrybe a try for a few weeks for free using the GETFIT promotional code on their site. If you find that this program is a good fit for your family, you may purchase a year's subscription for $19.95.

There you have it. You have nothing to lose (except some extra weight perhaps ;) )by taking advantage of the free trial period, so why not head over to their site and sign up today?

**I received free access to the GoTrybe fitness program in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.


Ages: K and up

Price: free trial period, purchase a year's subscription for $19.95

Get yourself over to TOS HomeschoolCrew homepage and see what others are saying about GoTrybe and more! http://http//

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kregel - Circle C Beginnings - Andi's Scary School Days

Many of you will be familiar with Susan K. Marlow, author of the Circle C Adventures series featuring Andrea Carter. Perhaps you and your 9-14 year olds have enjoyed reading these together. Well, here's some great news, Susan has written a whole new series specifically for 6-8 year olds.

Introduce your young reader to 6 year old Andi Carter and her family in these fresh new "first" chapter books, set in 1874, and titled Circle C Beginnings.

We received the third book in this series, "Andi's Scary School Days" to preview with our family. The first thing that I noticed when opening the book was the list of new words that we would come across in this book. Really helpful idea, especially when I thought about the many times that my children have interrupted me to ask the meaning of a word. Okay, let's keep going...

As we begin the first chapter, Andi is doing her best to hide, in an attempt to avoid her biggest fear- her first day of school. My daughters and I were quickly drawn into this charming story of a little girl entering her school years.

We felt like we were right there in the old pioneer days with Andi as she meets her new teacher and struggles to figure out if she's a nice old lady, or a mean one. And why in the world are there so many rules in school anyway? What about that boy Cory? He throws dead flies at her, and then brings a scaly surprise into class that ends up causing quite a commotion.

Scattered throughout the pages are lovely black and white illustrations that really captured the attention of my girls. Being first chapter books, the length of the chapters and of the whole book are just the right length.

Our girls happen to be book lovers and fairly good readers, and we enjoyed taking turns reading chapters aloud.

In the very last pages we read about what life was like in 1874. We learned about the many rules that were in place for students then, songs that they sang, and what kind of discipline was implemented. These were only a couple of pages in length, which was perfect for the attention span of the kids.

We fell in love with this series with the reading of Andi's Scary School Days. From the delightful young characters, the pretty illustrations, and the history, every element worked together to create a great read for young readers. Even better, author Susan K. Marlow has provided additional story stretchers to delight and entertain. Here's the best part...they're free!! Yes, you heard correctly. Choose a book that you're reading with your student and head over to , and click on the free activities icon. Choose the activities that correspond to the book you're reading, and download your free activity pack. That's it!! You'll get 20 pages of great coloring sheets, puzzles, history, and a lot more. You will absolutely LOVE the coloring pages. Such beautiful illustrations right from the stories.

Let's talk about prices. The books are available for purchase for $4.99 each(plus $2.00 shipping and handling), but purchase more than one and save money. Books 1 and 2 are available together for $9.98 (plus $2.00 shipping and handling). Or purchase books 3 and 4 together for the same price. Or, purchase the first 4 books for $15.96(plus $3.00 shipping and handling).

More information you might be interested in...

Go check out one or all of the books in this series. If you find that you would like to share it with other homeschool families, co-ops, etc., e-mail the author at . She even has bookmarks for you to hand out.

Also, check out this very cute book trailer

I hope this has whet your appetite for these stories. Go pick one up today. Your family will be delighted. :)

* I received a free copy of Andi's Scary School Days in exchange for my honest review of the book, with no additional compensation.

Kregel Publications

Circle C Beginnings series

Ages: 6-8 years old


Price: $4.99 each + $2.00 s&h, or purchase 2 for $9.98 + $2.00 s&h, or buy the 1st 4 books for $15.96 +$3.00 s&h

Don't forget to stop over at TOS Homeschool Crew homepage and check out more great reviews and products.