Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Elements of Faith, Vol I Book Review!

A Science Devotional - Elements of Faith
A Science Devotional
Shortly after Elements of Faith arrived at our house, it disappeared.  In some households, that's cause for alarm.  In this household it means the book is a "hit".  Numerous times I found my 12 year old, 9 year old and even my hubby smuggling this book off my shelf.  When I finally got my turn to read it, I could see why.  It's THAT good!

Cracking the book open, I was amazed to find a science devotional.  I've never seen anything like it!!

Elements of Faith - Volume I  covers the first 50 elements of the periodic table.  Richard Duncan does a great job blending the sections together over each two-page spread covering name, symbol, atomic number and weight with a corresponding scripture verse.

To read the rest of this review, please CLICK HERE.....

I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Week 3+ Wrap Up ---- Multi-cultural Medieval Fun!

Our third week of history/literature took on a life of its' own, lasting 2+ weeks in all.  We spent the time doing a study on birth of Islam and the 'Kingdoms' of India, China, Japan, and Australia during this time period.

(India) Preparing bowls of colored sand for sand 'paintings'
(India) Preparing bowls of colored sand for sand 'paintings'

(India) A beginners weaving loom
(India) A beginners weaving loom

(India) The finished product in camouflage colors!
(India) The finished product in camouflage colors!

(Middle East) Cardboard Scimitars w/metallic paints
(Middle East) Cardboard Scimitars w/metallic paints

(Middle East) A 'fierce' Ottoman Turk warrior w/Scimitar
(Middle East) A 'fierce' Ottoman Turk warrior w/Scimitar

(Middle East) Riding an Arabian horse
(Middle East) Riding an Arabian horse

(Middle East)  Colorful tiles/geometric art
(Middle East)  Colorful tiles/geometric art

(Japan) A 'stab' at Origami.  A Viking hat, penguin and tropical fish
(Japan) A 'stab' at Origami.  A Viking hat, penguin and tropical fish

For our 'visit' with Australia and New Zealand, we feasted on 'Moth mix' (translates into popcorn and peanuts covered with honey) and 'Bubbling mud' (hot cocoa).

On to the early middle ages!

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's Time for the Happy Dance! A Treasure Found!!

The day before Christmas, I received word that I had won a $100 shopping spree from Consumer Crafts.  If you aren't familiar with this company, you should definitely check them out.  They have all sorts of crafty items for little homeschooling projects up through jewelry making, scrapbooking and cake decorating.  Everything on their website is reasonably priced.

I first became acquainted with them last year when I ordered a bunch of their wood kits .  These are great for studying American History and they are super reasonable!

I had originally planned to stuff our craft cabinet to overflowing if I won the contest.  But, after further examination, I found something that I've been looking for for years to help with notebooking/nature journaling.  It's a nifty keep and carry case containing 12 colored pencils, an eraser, pencil sharpener and pad of paper. We had abandoned doing any sort of narration/notebooking out in the world because EACH child had a clipboard, 12 pencils and paper which were all LOOSE.  (You can just imagine the mess and chaos!!).  Now the problem is solved because each item has a secured place.

In addition, I was able to get crafty odds and ends AND a boat load of paint.  We go through an amazing amount of acrylic paint in this house!!!

Thank you Consumer Crafts, you made my day!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Homeschool Circus

1 Corinthians - Merry Christmas from The Circus
1 Corinthians
I received this reworking of 1 Corinthians from Jan, a fellow homeschool mom, bee keeper and friend.  It really touched me and I wanted to share it with you all.

Merry Christmas to my friends and family near and far!

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

LOVE stops cooking to hug my child.
LOVE stops the decorating to kiss my husband.
LOVE is kind, though harried and tired.
LOVE doesn't envy coordinated china and table linens.
LOVE doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.
LOVE doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Five Year Look Back on Cross-Country Move. Was it Worth it?

Was it the best move we ever made or the worst?

Both and neither!

Five years ago we sat in high expectation about what a cross-country move would mean for our lives and our future.  We were so hopeful and yet guarded about what may lay around the corner.  So, with the Lord's blessing we ventured into the unknown.

There have been pluses and minuses in almost every aspect.

While the employment didn't pan out exactly as we thought, Hubby does have the freedom he's always wanted in witnessing while at work.  He has shared the Gospel of Jesus to countless people - many of which have responded by giving their lives to Christ.  This is a blessing!

Our housing situation didn't turn out as we thought either.  Going from 3400 sq feet down to 1200 wasn't easy.  But it did show us what's really important and what you really need to live.  We now own what we live in outright.  This is a blessing!

We prayed fervently to move into an area that was strong in homeschooling.  We got that!  Nearly 5 years ago I walked into my first Mom's Night Out hosted by our church's support group at a local restaurant, found a large group of ladies, introduced myself and was welcomed into the fold despite my squirrely quirks.  Their children welcomed my children as well.  Now I did not wonder if we'd have the support to homeschool all the way through high school.  This is a blessing!

I have missed graduations, the birth of my first grand-nephew and the passing of my father.  I wonder if all of this is really worth my children's missing out on a relationship with their grandparents and the empty space that should be filled with extended family.  In this way, I have grown to have a greater appreciation for my family.  To cherish past memories and enjoy new ones to the fullest extent.  This is a blessing!

So --- which is it?  The best or worst decision we've ever made?  It depends on whether you choose to see the glass half-empty or half-full.  It depends on whether or not you choose to believe and rest in the will of God and the direction He has given you for your life!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Three Critical Thinking selections from Timberdoodle

"Jen told her friends that what she does for a living takes strength, skill, patience, determination and lots of guts.  What does she do?"

Curious to know the answer?????  Please read on.....

The following selections and more can be found at Timberdoodle.

Word Roots - Latin & Greek
Word Roots - Latin & Greek

Word Roots B1 Grades 7+
I love learning that is straight to the point.  Critical Thinking's Word Roots is just that for decoding words for vocabulary, spelling  and comprehension by teaching Latin and Greek prefixes, roots and suffixes.

The student is given Latin and Greek elements broken down into prefix, roots and suffix.
Each worksheet consists of the following:
1.  First identify the elements in the English words (decode)
2.  Match each given word to its' correct meaning (vocab)
3.  Select the correct word to complete an unfinished sentence.  (comprehension)

We started this series with my 7th grader last year with book A1 and A2.  He loves being able to work independently and joyfully does his Word Roots.  I love how straight forward it is and how much it has improved his spelling and ability to decode new and complex words!

Visual Perception Skills
Visual Perception Skills
Visual Perceptual Skill Building Book 2 Grades 2-4
One thing I love about The Critical Thinking Company is that they do include thorough directions with all their products.  First, in using Visual Perceptual Skill Building, administer the pretests for all 8 sections. (Which include:  Visual Motor Integration, Discrimination, Closure, Figure Ground, Form Constancy, Memory, Sequential Memory, and Spatial Relationships)  This sounds like a lot, but, it really goes quickly.  From there you score each section to see if additional work is needed within that section.  (If there is not, there's no need to complete that particular section)

From the book:
"The emphasis is on the development of visual perceptual skills necessary in today's world of academic learning, computers and early career skills".

Visual perception is among the last skills a child develops.  Abilities such as concentration and behavioral organization are an essential part of academic learning capacity.  Good neurological integration contributes to self-esteem, self-confidence and self-control.  None of the aforementioned functions develop at exclusively one age;  rather, the child works at each level of sensory integration throughout childhood."

I administered the pre-test to my 2nd and 4th graders.  My 4th grader needed just a wee-bit of help in two areas.  I wasn't too surprised to find that my 2nd grader needed a small bit of help in 4 areas.  But, I was surprised to see her outscore her brother on the Visual Sequential Memory!  The pretest also pointed out a slight problem in drawing matching geometric shapes.  Since the book gives VERY good guidance in pinpointing problems and how to proceed, I trust that after remedial work in only these trouble areas will produce success as will be shown in the post tests that are also provided.

Red Herring Mysteries
Red Herring Mysteries

Red Herring Mysteries Level 1 Grade 4-6
From the book:
"Designed to improve your child's problem solving skills and refine their ability to apply logical deductive reasoning."

In other words, these mysteries encourage your child to think outside the box while having a lot of fun!

The beginning of the book gives more details on the "how to" question process and also on the variety of venues where this book can be used.  The basic rules are simple - players phrase their questions so that the reader can answer with either a yes or no.  The reader may give hints to redirect thinking or stimulate new questions. 

In our home, we used it for dinnertime fun with Hubby, my 7th, 4th and 2nd graders present.  Don't let the grade level marked on the book fool you.  Some of the mysteries my 2nd grader got and some of them my Hubby got.  Simply put, based on the correlation between different uses of the same word -AND- the ability to follow a line of questioning can make all the difference in who solves each mystery.

This book was a hit!  I think it would make a great party/get-together game too.

Above selections and more can be found at Timberdoodle.

Last but not least, the initial quote of this posting is from the Red Herring Mysteries .  I thank you so very much for reading this far.  I'd love to tell you the answer, but first you need to ask me a question that I can answer with a "yes" or "no"....please submit your questions below and I will be sure to answer.

Come on, try it - it's a lot of fun!

I received these books free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 17, 2010

TOS Crew My Tiny Planets Review

My Tiny Planets
My Tiny Planets
Ages 4-12
The site is free.  'Keys' can be purchased starting at $1.95 for 10.

My Tiny Planets is a new online community and virtual world that combines social elements and gaming to create an engaging fictional outer-space exploration experience.  Children adopt and care for their own planet, solve galactic missions with Bing and Bong, sharpen their wits with fast-paced mini-games, navigate their spaceships and avoid wormholes, nurture exotic plants in a biodome, recycle and collect water during rainstorms, help keep neighboring planets clean, all the while racking up achievements and special badges for their accomplishments.

The Tiny Planets online content has won two BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards - Interactive Best Entertainment Website and Best Children's Interactive.

Also accessible is Tiny Planets TV where you can watch an episode from the series that was co-created with Sesame Workshop.  These episodes emphasize science education and early learning goals.

Tiny Planets Fun is filled with brainy puzzle games as well as coloring books and comics.

On Tiny Planet Books there are interactive story books for younger children.

Tiny Planets Learning is their site for parents, homeschoolers and educators.  There you'll find lesson plans that include educational activities and science experiments to do at home.

My oldest 3 children took a tour of this website with mixed results.  My 12 year old was not challenged by the content and after a short while found it boring.  My 9 year old enjoyed the website the most.  He spent his time souping up his spaceship, building his planet and playing the games.  My 7 year old enjoyed the interactive story books and playing a few of the games.

Definite pluses we found:  Ad-free with an interactive environment with no free-form chat.  Upon signing up with Tiny Planets, you child chooses a cadet name from an auto name generator.  So, their true identity is never revealed.  You can play for free or purchase 'keys' to unlock special features such as accessories for your space ship or special buildings for your planet in My Tiny Planets or special episodes on Tiny Planets TV.

Here's what other crew members are saying.

I received a free subscription in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Passport to the World Your A-Z Guided Language Tour Book Review

Passport to the World
Geography fun!

Even as a little girl I have enjoyed looking at maps and studying other cultures.  It's no wonder that Passport to the World caught my eye.  It's an informative, enjoyable read filled with geography facts and wonderful pictures of 26 language groups from Armenian (Armenia) to Zulu (Swaziland)

Each two-page spread is broken down into facts about the language, country, country fast facts, greeting from a friend, speaking the language, money, country proverb, traditional picture, "Did you know?", geographic picture, current picture and images that are specific to that country (Or as I call it, the fun icing on the cake!).

At the beginning of the book, an overview map is shown with with the languages represented highlighted and pages numbers for your reference along with your very own Passport to be filled with the supplied country stickers as you complete each country.

Next is a very well written history of languages from the Tower of Babel to the present day.

This really is a beautifully done book. My school aged children are 12, 9 and 7 years of age.  Each one of them enjoyed this book and picked up many interesting tid-bits along the way.  We especially enjoyed learning about places that have biblical significance (Mt. Ararat in Armenia, Cappadocia in Turkey for example) and learning how to say phrases in many different languages.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wrapping up week #2 - Byzantine Empire

Mosaics - Byzantine Empire
Mosaics .... can't get a shot w/out glare.

"Hey Mom, I finished reading Al-A-Deen."


"You know, Al-A-Deen.  The book you gave me to read."


"Here, this one."

"Oh, Aladdin <chuckling>"

We spent a few days reading some of Aladdin (my oldest read it on his own).  After a few stories, my middle and younger children decided unanimously that the stories were a bit too much for them and requested something with a more mild tone.  I happily complied.

Moving on...we discovered Attila the Hun (I don't know if this qualifies as more mild!), the Visigoth Kings and Justinian the Great Emperor of the Byzantines.  Afterwards we set to work studying architecture and art of this period.   Did you know that round halos around a subjects head meant they were holy figures that had already passed on...and if they had a square halo it meant that the subject was still alive when the picture was created. 

The resulting hands-on:  Justinian and Theodora, The Haggia Sofia and the above mosaics.

Justin and Theodora plus The Hagia Sofia
Justin and Theodora plus The Hagia Sofia
Justin and Theodora plus The Hagia Sofia

Next week we begin our study of Islam.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TOS Crew Good Morning God from Apologia Press Review

Good Morning God - Children's Devotional from Apologia

Good Morning God
Apologia Press
Ages 1-8

From the Website:

Good Morning, God is a story about a four-year-old boy as he goes through a week with his family. This book is designed for children age one to eight years old. Ideally, this book will help your child fall in love with our heavenly Father by thinking about Him from sunrise to sunset. The hope is that this book will introduce children to the simple and wonderful ways we can worship God daily and inspire them to enjoy the Lord with their entire being all through the day. The prayers for each day are meant to encourage your child to consider his or her relationship with Jesus and respond with childlike faith.

There are several ways this book can be used as a discipleship tool to accomplish these goals. The most basic is to simply read the book as a story. One can also read the book everyday, then read a short list of scriptures, discuss a few questions provided to help start a conversation, or do some activities that are given for each day of the week. Following this latter plan would result in reading the book eight straight days and would basically make the book a mini-curriculum and a literal application of Deuteronomy 6:6-7, where parents are told to impress these commands on their children's hearts and talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.

Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the time reading this beautifully illustrated, heart-warming, family-friendly, and God-centered story to your little ones.

I had the opportunity to read this with my 1 and 7 year olds.   My 7 year old enjoyed our reading and study time together.  Here is an example of the daily questions and activities:
What are some of the ways you can worship God?
What is the church?
Read Revelation 21:1-7
Imagine how things will be "new" in heaven.
Whom do you look forward to seeing again in heaven?
What do you want to know about heaven?
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
What do you think it will be like to meet the Lord in the air?

Reading this nicely illustrated book and doing the activities together inspired some good, quality discussion time about spiritual things and where she stands.  To get more out of this book, it is possible to break these questions up over several weeks.

Here's what other crew members are saying.

I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Blessings come FROM Wisconsin!!!!!

I love God's timing!

We forgot to get the mail yesterday.  Between yesterday night and this afternoon,  household havoc set in.  Nothing major, but, enough to warrant more purging of junk and rearranging to try and maximize our living space.

So, early afternoon I sent my oldest out for the mail.

God's timing is perfect and He knew I could use some motherhood/homeschooling encouragement.

In our mailbox was a wonderful blessing from my Tapestry of Grace Secret Sister, Sarah! 

Upon opening the box, I was greeted by a box of chocolates --- yummy!  I'll be saving those for later when there aren't so many mouths around :-)

Yum Chocolate!
Yum Chocolate!

Then a wonderful, well-thought out, encouraging, God-inspired letter followed.  It filled my heart with joy and made me cry too.  Sarah has been homeschooling longer than I have.  Her words really met me where I'm at right now  encouraging me in this homeschooling journey - one sister to another.  I am blessed to know she's been praying for me over the past weeks!!!

Next a homemade ornament made by quilling.  Sarah is very talented in a variety of crafts.  This one she made during a First Lego League competition.  I love it because I can hang this up on my mirror to remember her all year long.
Homemade Quilling Ornament
Homemade Quilling Ornament

A humorous Wisconsin ornament.  As a former resident of the Lake Erie snowbelt - I can relate!
Homemade Wisconsin Ceramic Ornament
Homemade Wisconsin Ceramic Ornament

Another handmade goodie - Christmas card.

Homemade Christmas Card
Homemade Christmas Card
 And, what every busy homeschooling mom needs ---- pretty paper to make those endless to-do lists
Pretty Paper Pad

Thank you Sarah for your kindness and your faithfulness to seek the Lord in all things.  You have blessed me beyond measure!!  Thank you for sharing more about yourself.  I look forward to getting to know you better!!

Now I have two special ornaments on my tree to remind me of two special ladies who are (and have been) my secret sisters.  Sarah from this year and Rose from last year.

Homemade & Handmade Ornaments!
Homemade & Handmade Ornaments!

I am blessed!!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Large Family Logistics Book Review

Large Family Logistics - Vision Forum
Reference for All Family Sizes
Large Family Logistics  
The Art and Science of Managing the Large Family
The Vision Forum

I have always been intrigued by big families.  Especially those that run like a fine tuned engine.  Smooth and without troubles.  Since it is my desire to have that sort of ease in my own smallish-large family, I was eager to read Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman.  Surely if this mother of 9  has it down pat there must be something I can glean from her expertise.

I set my eyes upon this book for the holiday weekend.  Thinking that I'd just skim its pages for "the really good stuff"'and take a few notes here and there.  I wound up reading for most of my available free time and my few notes quickly turned into 9 pages of type written nuggets of gold.  There was no skimming this book for me -- I had struck it rich with wisdom and encouragement!!

Large Family Logistics is 312 pages of unbelievably insightful, well written wealth of inspiration broken down into bite-sized topics.  As a busy homeschooling mom myself, I so appreciate Brenneman's straight forward approach without all the fancy, flowery monologue.

The preface starts out with the author telling how her life was with just one child and struggling to get it all done in a day.  I felt like she was telling my story!

The How to Use This Book section encourages the reader to skip to a particular topic or read the book from cover to cover.  If you are "in dire straits, then you will want to go to the two appendixes and start with a detailed strategy of how to bail out of a big mess."  If you chose this method, I do encourage you to go back and read the whole thing.  There's too much great information/inspiration to miss!

The first part of the book is an in depth study of Proverbs 31:10-31.  Normally, I feel pretty beat down after reading these verses.  But the author makes it a point to guide you in a practical, gentle (yet to the point) fashion encouraging you each step of the way to get your priorities lined up with the Word of God.  Areas such as:  your relationship with God and your husband, attitude, goals, redeeming time alone, internet use, meal planning and clothing are addressed. (This is by no means the whole list of topics!)

The second part of the book helps you make a Home Management Book for your family.  This will help to hold your plans/goals/schedule in place which in turn aids you in keeping your home neat and clean.  When life disrupts, it will help you get back on track.  In this section, the basics such as scheduling, laundry, cleaning, errands are covered in detail as are the how-to get your children to do these things.  You are essentially working yourself out of a job!  Also covered are practical ways to for paper management, gardening, toys, getting enough sleep, schooling with littles underfoot and setting up routines for yourself in order to maximize your waking hours.

Some of my favorite quotes from this book are:

"Inspect what you expect"

When teaching your children a new chore, make sure you allot the time and energy to inspect their work.   If it's not done properly, don't grumble and complain.   Teach them the correct way with a good attitude.

"Teach them to teach themselves"

Seems pretty straight forward.  One of our goals should be to raise children who are capable (and willing) to teach themselves without having a parental unit constantly hanging over them.

This book spoke to me on so many levels.  Spiritually it inspired me to set my priorities with the Lord always in mind.  Physically it inspired me to work to keep my body strong and able.  Emotionally it inspired me to watch my attitude because my children will mirror the same "tone".  Mentally it inspired me to pare down my time online to what is really necessary (and to avoid partaking in draining debates).  All with the goal of building healthy relationships with my children in the forefront.

It would be very easy for me to go on with more examples from this book.  I've just started our Home Management Book and I can honestly see a better plan for our family coming into fruition.  While there are some tips that are "Large family specific", smaller sized families will also benefit from this book.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TOS Crew The Master Angle Review!

Master Angle
Master Angle
Master Innovations
Master Angles
Workbook $15.95
Master Angle $5.95

Marvels of Measurement
Marvels of Measurement

Marvels of Measurement Poster

Master Innovations is a company that was started by faith in 1998.  The products are direct answer to prayer.  The objectives are to help students learn math concepts more easily, enjoy the subject and understand the importance of math in everyday life.  Today students of all ages and academic abilities are benefiting from these math tools.  Many concepts such as measurement (standard and metric), fractions:  recognition of, equivalence, simplification, converting mixed numbers to improper fractions, addition/subtraction of fractions with common and uncommon denominators, multiplication and division of fractions, telling time, geometry, circle, angles, decimals, percents and even trigonometry are easier to "see" and understand.

The Mastering the World of Angles Workbook is designed to accompany the Master Angle.  The activities are sequentially ordered to help students of all ages recognize and understand the basic elements of geometry.  The engaging hands-on activities enable students to:

*Recognize basic geometric concepts, shapes and their corresponding angles.

*Discover, measure and construct various angles such as acute, obtuse, right, reflect, straight, exterior, interior, etc.

*Connect geometric concepts to real life applications.

I reviewed Mastering the World of Angles with the Master Angle with my 2nd and 4th graders.

This workbook begins with an overview of angles.  Defines point, line (parallel, intersecting and perpendicular), line segment, ray and angles (right, acute, obtuse, straight, reflex).  A few exercises in identifying angles follow and then measurement with the Master Angle tool is introduced.

Master Angle - how it works (video)

From there its measuring and constructing angles, polygons, circumference and doing "real life" problems.

I thought the workbook was nicely done and the Master Angle tool itself very unique.  Unfortunately, this did not go over well in our household.  It was way over my 2nd grader's head and my 4th grader never seemed to quite get the hang of using the tool.

The Marvels of Measures poster is a wonderful visual tool to help remember length, capacity and weight using the English system.  My kids have used this quite a bit.

Here's what other crew members are saying.

I received these items free in exchange for an honest review.