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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dive Into Your Imagination - Who Lives In The Sea?

The current school year is quickly coming to a close for many homeschooling (and non homeschooling) families. Many of you are probably in the process of putting together your curriculum for next year. If that's the case for you, or even if you have it all selected, I have a terrific DVD series that our family has enjoyed a lot.

Creator Annie Crawley - a.k.a. "Ocean Annie", is an underwater photographer, dive instructor, and boat captain. Having fallen in love with the ocean and its many wonders, she now seeks to share her love with as many people as possible.

We had the privilege of receiving "Who Lives In The Sea?" for review. The DVD allows you to watch the entire program from start to finish, or select from the chapters, which include:

1.) Let's Go Swim With The Dolphins
2.) Playtime With Sea Lions
3.) Baby Birds And Their Families
4.) Dinosaurs Of The Sea: Marine Reptiles
5.) Eight Armed Animals
6.) Living Forever UnderThe Sea
7.) Nudi, Nudi, Nudibranchs
8.) Whale Sharks: World's Biggest Fish!

BONUS CHAPTER: The Ocean Alphabet

With images that easily rival those of National Geographic and/or The Discovery Channel, this DVD draws the viewer right in to the glorious world of the ocean. My daughters were glued to the screen as we enjoyed not only the awesome  and amazing information we learned, but the music as well. Enjoy a sample here:

As well as including options for listening to the narration in several languages, this DVD also allows you to select a music only feature.

In addition to the regular chapters there are also sections to meet Annie as well as Craig, who developed the music for this series. You'll also find a section on helping your kids love the water and overcome any fears they may have of it.,
As part of our review, we were delighted to also receive pdf downloads of study guides to go along with this DVD.
Using the guide for 1st - 3rd grade, it offers a large variety of activities to enhance the learning experience.
The guide corresponds with each chapter of the DVD, and provides discussion questions, vocabulary words, learning center ideas, book lists and more to stretch the lessons as you desire.
***The  guides are available as a printed version for $299 -for  the  whole set  - or   as individual  PDFs for $69.95.  Annie Crawley of Dive Into Your Imagination will gift you a set of PDFs with purchase of the DVDs. When you place your DVD order, just let her know in the notes that you are a Homeschool Parent.***

For the months of May and June, there will be free shiping placed at

Our family loved this DVD and would love to add the others to our personal collection. Appropriate for the whole family, this is a resource worth checking out.

See what other crewmates had to say about this and other titles in the series at

Dive Into Your Imagination
Who Lives In The Sea?
Price: $19.95
Ages: 3-8 years

*Disclaimer - I received a free copy of the DVD Who Lives In The Sea? and the accompanying pdf guides in exchange for my honest review, with no additional compensation.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heritage History - Young Readers

I come from a family of history lovers. We have books, books, and more books. We frequent the local IKEA in search of more bookcases to store our literary treasures. I'm pleased that my oldest daughter in particular has caught that same enthusiasm, and delights in anything relating to ancient history.

So, I was confident that our family would happily take to reviewing this Young Readers CD by Heritage History.

It was not long before the anticipated package arrived in the mail, and I wasted no time in opening it. Hmmm...a....CD...where's the rest of it? I's nice...and I'm sure we'll enjoy it and all, but...hmm...

Ohhh, it goes in the computer! Okay, okay I get it now. I mean, well, there could still be more, but okay.

And then...I put it in the computer. Oh my stars!!! You will not believe the amazing amount of material included in this CD alone. Over eighty volumes of the history of Western Civilization, written in an easy to read fashion for your younger learners. The intended audience begins somewhere around 3rd and fourth grade, but we're using it with 1st and 2nd graders, and it's going very well.

What are some of the volumes you'll find here? How about:

* American History

* Colonial Children

*European History

*Children's Heroes

* Ancient History

* Bible and Saint Stories
* Historical Anecdotes

* Legends and Folklore

* Twins of the World

* Our Little Cousin

That's quite a few titles right there alone, but there's even more than this. Each of these main titles include A LOT of stories and anecdotes that correspond to the theme. I opened up the library and it was like the heavens opened and a heavenly glow emerged along with the angels singing in the background. (Too much? Yeah, probably, sorry.) This resource just tickles me! It's all here in one CD.

And if that weren't good enough, there are introduction guides, study guides, maps, historical images, and so much more! I am so excited about this history curriculum :)

And it gets better, because...when you purchase the CD, you have the option of using it in the computer of course, but it also has a PDF format, and may also be downloaded to any e-reader! If attempting to do that intimidates you have no fear, because they even include directions for accomplishing that task. How beautiful is that?

At the price of $24.99 (which in our opinion is well worth it) you get an amazing treasury. To further sweeten the deal, in this format, you'll save a lot of cash because who needs bookcases now?

Please go check out Heritage History TODAY! I bet you'll love it too!
Read more reviews about this and other available volumes at the TOS Homeschool page by clicking here

Heritage History
Young Readers
Ages: elementary aged children, although this may be adapted up or down.
Price: $24.99 for the CD

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of  the Young Readers CD from Heritage History in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Write Shop

It wasn't until I was well into my adult years that I learned, really learned, how to write well. I can't offer a specific reason for this, whether it was lack of motivation on my part, or the manner in which I was taught, or that I simply slipped through the cracks of the school system.
It really matters little now I suppose, but I do hope to lead my daughters onto a different path as it relates to this subject.

Writing well is so important, and the curriculum I had the opportunity to review over the past few months has proven to me as well as to my children, that it can and should be, a creative and enjoyable experience.

We reviewed Book C, which is the third in a series. I'll mention here that each of the books may be used independently, we actually began with Book C. You'll probably want to take advantage of the company's assessment test to determine your child's placement.

The Schedule:

There are a few options in adding Write Shop to your studies. You might choose a 1, 2, or 3 week lesson plan schedule. The 3 week option is the most typical choice, and the plan we chose. Using it in this way will allow you to complete the book in one school year.
Each lesson is divided into activities, and there are 8 possible activities to complete. Divide them up into an days you want, as for us, we worked on our writing on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

The goal of Write Shop is to make the subject fun! The creators continually urge the teacher to keep the lesson time short- about 15-20 minutes. Writing should not become a tedious task, and this helps in that regard.

How the activities are divvied up:

Activity 1: Begin with an Activity Set Worksheet - There is one for each lesson, and they cover a variety of fun writing projects. The first one looks like this...

Activity 2: Guided writing practice- You will write as your child dictates ideas for a specific theme. For younger readers, this would be the place where you might read a picture book or play a game.

Activity 3: Brainstorming- You know what that is :)

Activity 4: The real writing begins here with the first draft of the lesson,

Activity 5: Editing the first draft.

Activity 6: Guided writing practice.

Activity 7: Final draft

Activity 8: Evaluate the project.

The teacher guide for Write Shop is fantastic! It breaks everything down so beautifully, and for every lesson, the activities are written as Activity 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and so on. You always know which activity you're working on.

There is a lot of guided writing practice involved, and while I didn't note it on all of the activity examples above, it is intended to be done most days. There are many reasons for this, with a prominent one aimed at teaching the student a variety of writing styles and ideas without frustrating a younger writer with more than she can handle.

I gave you the general schedule, now I'll show you what our first real lesson looked like.

Activity 1. We talked about "story ingredients" i.e Who? What? When? Where? How?, and  what is necessary in completing a good story. We completed a worksheet that put this information to use, which included coming up with a (very) short story.

Activity 2. Using a paper plate, we made a story ingredients wheel and referenced it as we looked at a cookbook, which showed us that, just as a recipe needs certain items to make a good product, a story also needs certain ingredients to make it interesting.

Then, we wrote a story featuring time- the lesson's theme, and talked about our Awana night, using the story wheel to help us along.

Activity 3. We wrote another story for guided writing practice, this time about an upcoming dance recital. We identified the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

Activity 4. Today was fun because we made paper magnifying glasses( see photo above) which were labeled with the story ingredients on each one, and allowed us to become "story detectives"...woo hoo!
We started brainstorming about possible story ideas. My daughters have some crazy and wonderful imaginations! Then the girls began to write.

Activity 5. More editing and revising. We made minor corrections, but the stories looked good.

Activity 6. We did little but review the main ideas of  a story, as this day was set aside to complete the worksheet if we had not already, and well, we had.

Activity 7: We made story puzzles :) I purchased some blank puzzles at the store and the girls drew a picture representing the story on it, and then had fun taking it apart and putting it together. Yo could do this by simply using a piece of paper or cardstock too.

Activity 8. Evaluation Day! Today we fine tuned it all, checking and rechecking.
We decided we liked our work and called it a day.

Our thoughts...

We loved it! I really had no expectations with this resource, but the girls have loved writing and brainstorming and doing all of the various activities. The creators encourage short lessons, but often the girls wanted to exceed that limit by quite a bit. I would encourage anyone to give this writing curriculum a try.

If this sounds like something you would like to check out, Write Shop is offering a 15% discount code good for Write Shop Primary and Junior products in the write shop store . Use coupon code  CREW15 when you check out. This offer s good through June 15, 2012.
See what other crew members thought of Write Shop here .

Write Shop
Primary Book C
Price: $32.95 Print Copy
Ages: Elementary

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Write Shop Primary Book C in exchange for my honest review, with no additional compensation.

Monday, May 14, 2012

CapJax Math Facts

Ahoy there mateys! I 've got a program to tell you about that will assist in getting your students to a mastery level in the four math operations.
And, it does this with very little teacher and/parent help. Are you ready to set sail? Alright then, off we go!

I'll start off by telling you that this is not a flashy program. It's actually quite simple in its graphics, but then again, flash isn't necessary to be effective is it?

After getting set up and signed in, you (or your student if she is able to do this part) will choose which operations she'll be focusing on for her lesson. I really like this aspect of the program, as so many others only allow one operation at a time. It's nice to have the option of mixing it up to challenge my girls.
After this, choose the number of math facts you want your student to complete. Another feature that appeals to me, because while my 8 year old likes to do a greater number of problems, my 6 year old becomes frustrated when it gets too long.

Now you'll set the time you want to allow for answering a problem. When we first started, I made the time a lot longer, because we were still working on our speed. As we've progressed, I've been able to slowly lower the length of time.

When you've done all of the above, you're ready to start. I mentioned before that there really is nothing too fancy about this program, and it's true. All you do now is answer the problems. That's essentially it. Alright, there's a little more. The program automatically adjusts to the speed with which your child answers, so that really helps keep the pressure and frustration down for my daughters. No buzzers or timers going off to announce time is running out, or to highlight a wrong answer. That was so great for my daughters, who really tend to get anxious if they have to beat the clock to finish a problem. When that occurs, there are tears every time!
On the contrary, the child takes as long as she needs. If however, a fact is answered within the set amount of time, it's marked as a "super" answer, and the computer keeps track of progress.

So speaking of progress, even without a lot of teacher help required, the program keeps a good record of your student's math scores. Progress reports and graphs are available whenever you want them.

What our family thought of CapJax Math Facts:

Upon the initial introduction, the girls were fairly positive about it all in general. It was a plus to have such a low pressure math program, where wrong answers were gently corrected and the time limit was so adjustable. It saved them (and mom) a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth!)
Unfortunately, they simply became bored fairly quickly, and it just didn't keep their attention for very long.
I could get them to do it, but they wanted to end the sessions soon after for lack of motivation.

This would be and is, a great program for a math phobic child who needs a lot of encouragement and gentle correction. At any rate, it's worth checking out for yourself. You can read what my crewmates thought of the program by clicking on  TOS Homeschool Crew

Price: $29.95 - download
Ages: 1st grade and up

*Disclaimer: I received a free download of CapJax Math Facts in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Voice - New Testament

Have you heard about the latest Bible translation from Thomas Nelson publishers? It's called The Voice, and I am LOVING this New Testament version. I was confident that this would be a good one when I saw that familiar Thomas Nelson name.
*Side note* Did you know that they offer a lifetime guarantee on the quality of this Bible? Pretty neat!

Anyway, I was blessed to receive not only a print version of this Bible, but also a downloadable e- version as well.

So, what is it all about? Well, most importantly, it's still the Word. The contributors stay true to the original text, while bringing in a fresh approach that has brought the Scriptures to life for me in a whole new way.

They accomplish this by laying it all out to read like a story; adding to each page small paragraphs and snippets of poetry, teaching and other helpful information relating to the text. It reminds me of a student Bible translation in a small way. But unlike that other version, where the study notes were on the bottom of the page and you had to hunt a bit for the passage you were looking for, The Voice has the information right alongside ( or above and below as it actually lays out) the verse and/or section it speaks to.

As I try to search for the right words to describe what it reminds me of, I'm thinking of the Keith Green song that goes "Rushing wind blow through this temple, blowing out the dust within..."
That's what it does for me spiritually in a way, blows out the dust of the same old same old. I am looking forward to reading my Bible in a way that I haven't in a long while.

Many of you will be pleased to discover that this is available as an ebook too. As I mentioned, I received that version also. I'm rather new to the world of Kindles and other ereaders, and it has taken a while for me to enjoy reading on those devices. As such, I have to be honest and mention that at first, I had a trick time maneuvering around with this on my Kindle. I didn't fully understand the layout of this version and found it a little confusing and hard to follow. After spending time reading the print copy, and knowing how it's made up though, I can say that as far as the ebook version is concerned, it's all good.

And in addition to the Bible itself, The Voice New Testament also features several different reading plans to correspond to special seasons throughout the year.

A great Bible translation worth checking out, here is the link for those interested in purchasing it.

And learn more about The Voice New Testament over here:

www.Hear The

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the The Voice New Testament print copy and the digital copy in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Library and Educational Services

I think that I've always enjoyed science. The hands on nature of the subject and all of the curiosities (is that word?) and possibilities are aspects that I love.
As a Christian, it can be a challenge for me to find a science curriculum or resource that not only generates an enthusiasm in my kids, but also stays true to our faith.

Library and Educational Services is a wholesale supply company that, for thirty years has sought to do just that. They offer a variety of dvd's, books, cd's and more to enhance your homeschool.

This time around, my family and I had the opportunity to review two of their science dvd's




Each of these dvd's is actually a collection of science experiment/presentations led by teacher Ben Roy.
Mr. Roy is a high energy kind of guy who knows how to engage his students and tv audience as he instructs them/us in a variety of fun, kid pleasing demonstrations.

Like what? Glad you asked! Volume 4 is the chemistry themed dvd. I have to be honest here- chemistry was never a favorite of mine, but maybe that's due to the fact that I never had someone like Ben Roy to make the subject come to life. These lessons are so cool!

We learned how different gases put into different ballons can cause them to pop loudly, explode, and do next to nothing.
We learned about flash paper, and how ashes are formed.
We learned about illuminescence, and the way we can mix different chemicals together to make them glow - we all picked that as a family favorite.

Mr. Roy emphasizes safety during these experiments, and mentions when it is and is not an activity that should be attempted at home.

The second dvd is great too! In Volume 5, the theme is Air and Flight.
 So we learned about the Bernoulli principle, and how even the big airplanes use this. This is one of the activities that was encoraged to be tried at home, using a funnel with a ping pong ball inside, which we were then told to try to blow up and out of the funnel-nnot necessarily as easy as it first sounds.
We also learned how a bottle can suck an egg into it, and how to callibrate a cartesian diver.

What I found to be a great feature of these science dvd's is the fact that each lesson is short and can easily be included into any school schedule to enhance a particular theme.
And getting back to the faith part of it all, I so appreciate the way Ben Roy takes an opportunity at the end of each demo to tie it in with the greatness of our God. He tells us that every science lesson is a chance to see His creativity. I really really like that!

There are quite a few other titles available, and this is where I direct you to the rest of the TOS Homeschool Crew to read about them right here.

I also want to mention the wonderful ease we had in placing our order. It was so delightfully easy, and shipping was so prompt!
It was a pleasure dealing with this company, and I hope you check them out today!

Library and Educational Services
Ages: 6-14 years
Price: $14.95 each

Disclaimer: I received free copies of the GO SCIENCE dvd's Volume's 4 and 5 in exchange for my honest review of them, with no additional compensation.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Real Marriage

"And they lived happily ever after." Those magical words heard in the fairy tales of our youth. Yet sadly, so often, our marriages end up anything but happy. That holds true even for those professing faith in Jesus Christ. What's happening? I'm sure no one walks down the aisle expecting to have marital struggles.
Sadly, I know of many more couples than I care to admit who are on the brink of marital disaster. Our throwaway, instant gratification society does little to help. There is often a lack of stick-to-it-ness when it comes to marriage. If you're not "happy" get out, because after all, you deserve to be happy.

Well, if you find yourself needing help in your relationship, here's a book that may offer some hope. Not worldly, temporal hope, no, this is biblically based, God centered book.

Real Marriage - The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together is not your grandmother's marriage book. It's not even your mother's marriage book.
This book by husband/pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace, blows the cobwebs off of this subject in a major way, addressing some very real (and painful) issues in marriages today.

Using their personal experiences, they address the relevant issues of our day, including, but not limited to, pre-marital sex, pornograhy, submission.

Reading this, I was glad to see the authors willingness to cast off the secrecy and shame that many times comes with these issues, and offering biblical hope.

Without revealing too much, and keeping the tone tasteful, they provide answers based not on human emotion, but on the only One who can bring the wholeness and health in a marriage- God.

If you're looking for a straightforward, very real and honest presentation of these common issues, you'll likely find this book worth the time.
Interested in buying the book? Here's the link:

**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Judah Bible Curriculum

I was pleased to have the chance to review Judah Bible Curriculum over the past month or so. I'm not always terribly confident in leading my children in this area, and I like trying out a variety of resources to see what style fits our family.

I have to say right off though, that the name is sort of misleading. You see, this isn't really a curriculum, but a teaching guide using the bible as THE textbook. In fact, the company itself states that one of its goals is to "break the dependency" that so many have with curriculum, always following a set guide and schedule. No, not here. Their hope is that you the teacher, will learn, and then in turn teach your children to extract the truths from the Scriptures and apply them to life.

I received the download version of Judah Bible, and I have to admit, I was a teeny bit overwhelmed with the amount of information provided to me.
First of all, there are the audio lectures for the teacher to listen to beforehand, and then use the information learned to put together the lessons for the students. Some have listened to all of them and then prepping, but for me that didn't work, there's just too much that I couldn't retain, so I find that listening before I teach a section is better.

The program is divided into 5 themes, and meant to be covered over a period of years, with the Old Testament being the focus of the first semester, and the New Testament in the second semester.
Knowing that it is meant to be spaced out helped ease my anxiety, I know we'll be revisiting themes, and it just won't get done all at once, nor does it need to.

Breaking it down a little further, there is one key topic to be studied each week, with various key sheets to be filled in by the student. Which brings me to the subject of writing. There is a lot of writing involved here, in fact, the student will create and keep her own notebook for the duration of the study. All tests are essay style as well.

This is great if you have enthusiastic writers, I was a little surprised (pleasantly) with the fun my girls have with their notebooks and the writing in general. Now, my daughters are still on the younger side of the grade spectrum, so there's no fancy stuff happening here, but they're learning as they go, and coming along well.

Now to go off on another brief tangent, if using this curriculum with younger students, you will need to expect to do a lot more oral work than written at first, and that's okay. I know that many people have also had success finding coloring sheets to correspond with the theme. A good way to keep up little ones' interest.

So what's the purpose of this style of teaching? Well, I like the way that their website puts it:

The purpose of the Judah Bible Curriculum is to make Bible Literacy the hallmark of the new generation of Christians. The Judah Bible Curriculum is designed to help you teach your student how to study and research the Bible, extract true understanding from it, and apply Biblical principles to his or her own life and character.
Who would find this study a great fit? I would say those who like a lot of flexibility in teaching, are skilled at putting together bible lessons without a guide (apart from the bible of course), and really enjoy writing, notebooking, and researching topics.
On the flip side, those who do best with a detailed manual and step by step directions might possibly feel lost with everything here.

Where our family stands on this resource:

Well, it's a lot. Learning this style is a challenge for me personally. I happen to fit in the second camp above. I tend to prefer a detailed lesson plan that helps me along. I can (and have) get easily overwhelmed and then want to get rid of the whole thing out of frustration. But I also think it's good to stretch myself and to better learn not to rely so much on another person's work. Which is the point of this curriculum anyway.

Are you confused yet? I am, a little bit. I think we'll keep using this, but in conjunction with what we've already been using. Enough to challenge without frustrating me. You'll want to check out what other crewmates had to say about their experience with Judah Bible, and you can read those reviews here .

Judah Bible Curriculum
Price: Download Version - $ 44.00
          Hard Copy - $ 69.00 plus $ 5.00 s&h
Ages: K and up

Disclaimer: I received a free download copy of this curriculum in exchange for my honest review of it, with no additional compensation.