Friday, October 29, 2010

TOS Crew Buckets of Fun Review "YUCK, YUCK and more YUCK"!

$16-$20/pound (yields between 25-60 gallons!)

That's Chunky Yuck, Snowy Yuck, Sticky Yuck and Saucy Yuck
That's Chunky Yuck, Snowy Yuck, Sticky Yuck and Saucy Yuck  to be exact!

What is Yuck you ask?

 Polymers.....which are very large molecules, formed by repeated patterns of chemical units strung together.  Or in kid terms - lots 'o fun!

Chunky Yuck!
Chunky Yuck!
Chunky Yuck - looks like rock salt when dry and hydrates to the size of machine ice cubes.  It's great for wrestling and games where items are hidden in it. 

Buckets of Yuck!
More Chunky Yuck!

Saucy Yuck!
Saucy Yuck!

Saucy Yuck - starts out as a powder and when hydrated has the consistency of applesauce.

Snowy Yuck!
Snowy Yuck!
Snowy Yuck - When dry this has the consistency of sugar.  Just add water and you've got Slushy Snow.  Great for a Christmas in July party.  It can be formed, but not hard packed.  (Snow in Florida??????  Gotta love it!)
Snowy Yuck!
Snow in this Heat?  Yes!

Sticky Yuck
Fun with Polymers!

Sticky Yuck - Sticky, sticky, sticky!  Use your imagination!

Sticky Yuck

The company Buckets-O-Fun has been around for about 4 years.  They've been providing fun and unique products for social events.  (They even provide a game sheet to use their Yuck products in carnivals, parties, camps, and more).  They have teamed up with a veteran science teacher and will be bringing affordable, easy to use projects for the classroom and home in the months to come.

I do have to say that 'Yuck' is rather messy and is best made and used outside.  We enjoyed the science experiment aspect of it....but, I do admit that I'm not brave enough to use it in any sort of games.  I think that's best left to party coordinators!!

Here's what other crew members are saying.

I received samples of Yuck free of charge in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

TOS Crew Institute for Excellence in Writing Review

“Even students with little writing experience can immediately enjoy Andrew’s humor and realize the process is not so overwhelming as they learn techniques to create a more enjoyable finished composition.  Their concept of writing as being “too hard” changes; they now have the tools for success!”

Institute for Excellence in Writing products discussed in this review:

Institute for Excellence in Writing - Teaching Structure and Style
Structure and Style Overview DVD
Levels A,B,C

Student Writing Intensive Level B

Student Writing Intensive Level B
• Four DVDs recorded live
• A binder with dividers
• A packet with the teacher’s notes, handouts, and checklists (about 100 pages in all)
Grades 6-8 OR for multi-level households
Price: $99.00

Institute for Excellence in Writing - Writing Wall

Portable Walls
Levels A-C
Useful reference for completing writing assignments.  It's a single-pocket folder with an extra page, creating a tri-fold wall packed with all the Unit Models, several word lists including prepositions, substitutes for "said," and more.

To understand how this program helps, let me first explain a little of our writing history:
My school aged children are currently in 7th, 4th, and 2nd grades.  When my oldest was finishing 3rd grade, I remember giving him a writing assignment that was 8 sentences long.  He burst into tears.  I shortened the assignment - the tears continued.  I shortened it again and the tears still flowed.  Finally, out of desperation, I asked my logically minded, black-n-white thinking son to write me just ONE creative sentence.  Through many tears, he could not!

As time went on, we did mange to find a program that worked for him.  Soon his writing improved with only occasional tears, but his assignments took FOREVER to complete.

Enter child #2 who is the complete opposite.  He is charming, charismatic and a budding comedian.  He has no problem expressing himself verbally or on paper.  He oozes with ability.  He can make a trip to the grocery store seem like a visit to the Brazilian Rain Forest.  Ok, I’m exaggerating a little bit, but, you get the point.

So now, I have two kids using two different levels of the same writing curriculum  --- which means they are writing two different genres and topics each time. 

Enter child #3 who will start 'formal' creative writing this year.  She's very expressive, colorful and has no problems putting her thoughts together.  BUT, that means in the very near future I will have three children using three different levels, writing three different genres, over three different topics!

Did I mention there’s also a rambunctious toddler in this mix?

Our experience with Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW):
So now that you can envision me pulling my hair out, let me tell you about our experience with IEW.

For about four years, I've heard how wonderful this program is, but kept it at arms length due to the expense.  I am therefore grateful for the opportunity to finally review this program for myself with my 7th and 4th graders.

After watching the Structure and Style Overview DVD, I felt confident enough to begin the program with my children.

From this DVD, I learned some important tips about using this program and what sets it apart from other writing programs, such as:

*If you learn to write, then you’ll learn to think.

* Most writing program start with ‘creative writing’ but don’t teach students HOW to think.

*Andrew Pudewa gives an example of learning how to play an instrument.  When you are learning, you don’t just hand an instrument to a child and tell them to ‘have at it’.  You provide them with materials composed by someone else who knows how to play that instrument.  That’s the way it should be with writing.

*In regards to marking and editing:

     -Don’t give a lecture on paper.

     -Correct spelling only.

     -All good writers have an editor. Children shouldn’t be their           own editor.

Some of the examples of the techniques (aka Dress Ups) your child will learn are:

     -Who/which clause
     -“ly” word (adverb)
    - Because clause
    - Strong verb
     -When, while, where, since, as, if although

Using the ‘One a Month’ Schedule, your writing year would look something like this:

September - Note Making and Outlines and Summarizing from notes
October - Summarizing Narrative Stories
November- Summarizing a Reference
December/January - Writing from Pictures
February - Library Research Report
March - Creative Writing with Structure
April/May - Formal Essay
May/June - Formal Critique

In using the actual Writing Intensive Course, Lessons 1-9 (covering approximately 20 weeks) are mostly summarizing an existing paragraph by learning how to outline it using 3 key words per sentence.  Then the paragraph is rewritten from this outline using various required dress ups.  The amount of dress-ups and paragraphs increase with each lesson.  

Both boys did very well and managed without much struggle, producing nicely written paragraphs.  As a bonus, child #1 cut down on his writing time significantly !!!

I was beginning to wonder if this program was going to really be beneficial.  Then, we hit Lesson 10!  This time they would be writing a familiar story from memory or a vignette from a recent reader.  Now I was going to see if this program was really working.

There were some sighs and some groans and a wee bit of eye rolling too.  In the end,   Child #1 produced a wonderful story on Iwo Jima that did not need any editing on my part!  W-O-W!  I was speechless!

Child  #2 produced a chip-chop story on life in Amsterdam pre-WWI.  He didn't quite grasp the whole concept, so, we sat down to brain storm his outline together.  I was actually glad to see him being challenged in order to build some writer's muscle.   With his new outline in hand, he produced three wonderful paragraphs in no time.    I would imagine that this is how you would do Level B with an average 4th grade writer.

In Lesson 11 the student learns how to summarize reference materials and gets excellent instruction in taking notes by really focusing in on key words.  This is where we are currently in our IEW journey.

I love how the Teacher's Book breaks everything down for you in bite-sized daily bits.  You can choose to go as fast or as slow as your student(s) need.  Each lesson can take 1-2 weeks to complete.  So, the program can last you 15-30 weeks depending how quickly you work through the materials.

I have to admit, that it was very nice to pop in the DVD and have Andrew Pudewa give my 2 oldest their own private writing seminar explaining writing techniques and giving them their assignments.  He also takes the time on the DVD to read some of his students' finished work, which was very helpful to my boys.

My boys enjoyed IEW even when it got "tough".  Andrew Pudewa has a natural teaching style that puts the student at ease.  The boys liked the DVDs and the composition checklists that accompany each writing assignment because it told them EXACTLY what was expected of them.

I liked the check lists as well because it took the 'emotional' aspect of grading writing assignments away enabling me to concentrate on the 'nuts and bolts' of style and technique.  Using this method kept everyone cool, calm and collected!

Another aspect of this program I like is that it can easily be used for writing any genre for any number of children.  No longer will I be juggling two or more different writing assignments over multiple topics.  From now on, there can be just one assignment for all, but geared towards each child’s ability. 

After being skeptical, I have to say, “I am sold!”

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

Here’s what other crew members are saying

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Our 2010-2011 Curriculum (Better late than never!)

After being asked repeatedly what we are using this year, I'm finally getting around to making it a permanent part of my blog.

This year, my children are ages 11, 8, 6 and 12 months.......

Here's what we are using:

11 year old
Math-U-See   Pre-Algebra
Analytical Grammar
Apologia General Science
MCP Map Skills Book G
Stack the Deck Writing System - Open the Deck
Critical Thinking - Word Roots
Mavis Beacon Typing (although he's enjoying doing Read, Write and Type more!)
Beautiful Feet Geography Unit Study
Tapestry of Grace

8 year old
Math-U-See   Delta
First Language Lessons (playing catch up from previous years' (yep, that's 'years' not 'year'!) work that did not stick!  I'm happy to say, it's working!!)
Sequential Spelling
Handwriting without Tears
Read, Write and Type (to learn typing)
Stack the Deck Writing System - Flip the Deck
MCP Map Skills - Book D
Beautiful Feet Geography Unit Study
Tapestry of Grace

6 year old
Math-U-See   Beta
First Language Lessons (love this!!)
Ordinary Parents Teach Reading (excellent for my kinestetic learner.  I had to change reading curriculum with this child.  Best of all, she is reading with confidence more and more each day!)
Sequential Spelling
Handwriting without Tears
Read, Write and Type
Beautiful Feet Geography Unit Study
Tapestry of Grace

Friday, October 22, 2010

TOS Crew BrillKids Little Reader Review

Little Reader
6 months-3 years
$149.99 for 6 month semester.  
$199.99 for a full year

According to the Brill Kids website, 2 Myths Prevail:

That babies cannot learn to read;

That babies do not enjoy being taught to read and would need to be forced in order to learn.
Read more about it at Brill Kids' testimonials page, or simply search for ‘baby reading’ on YouTube.

To read more about the topic of teaching babies to read:

So what is Little Reader?  Ideal for babies and young children, Little Reader is the most effective learning system for teaching your baby or young child to read.

At the heart of Little Reader is a revolutionary software system that delivers lessons in ways never before possible, making learning ENGAGING for your child, and EASY for you.

The Little Reader is a one year curriculum which gradually leads your child from learning single words, to couplets, phrases, sentences and finally full stories.

I had the opportunity to review this program with my 12 month old son.   Each days' lessons are conveniently located in a folder.  Each day consists of two 5 minute sessions.  Preferably one in the morning and the other in the evening.  Recommended to be done 5 days a week.

Lesson types include:
WORD FLASH - Introduces words using flash cards
MULTISENSORY - Puts actions to words
PICTURE FLASH - Fast flash of pictures using words covered

For example:
The first lesson uses the words:  clap, kick, laugh, hair nose, mouth, dog, horse, and bird.

During the 5 minute lesson, these words are utilized in 'Word Flash', 'Multisensory' and 'Picture Flash'. 

The second lesson of day (also 5 minutes in length) is reinforcement of these words - but uses different pictures and voices.

One neat aspect of this program is that you can edit the family category to put pictures of your own family members in place of the generic pictures of family.

Another option is the ability to download more files for your little reader from the Little Reader Library.

CAN babies learn how to read?  I can't answer that one, but, I can tell you that my son seems to
enjoy his little lessons. 

Here's what other crew members are saying.

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For You They Signed: The Spiritual Heritage of Those Who Shaped Our Nation

Ever wonder about the lives of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence?

Are you then overwhelmed thinking that it would be too time consuming to track down and compile all that information?

Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence
Well, author Marilyn Boyer has taken the hard part out of studying our founding fathers in the book For You They Signed .

I had the opportunity to hear Marilyn speak at the 2010 Florida Parent Educators Association Convention.    She has 14 kids ages 11-35 and has been homeschooling for 30 years.  She's one Mama who REALLY knows what she's talking about!

She stressed the importance of relationships with her children and building character through the use of scripture.  That real education comes through books and real life experiences.

 This book is no exception.

For You They Signed  is a 342 page wealth of knowledge detailing each signers life.  More than just the biographical information, this book is meant to be used as a character building devotional/study.  Each signers section is broken down with a scripture, character trait, personal information, illustrations and thinking questions.

Designed to study one signer a week, there's enough scripture, history and character lessons for a whole year.

For example, do you know:

****Which signer did not live to see independence come to fruition?

****Which signer was also a physician in Philadelphia who saved many lives during an outbreak of Yellow Fever all the while acknowledging the Lord in the routines of everyday life?

****Which signer was actually helped by unknowing British troops across the Delaware River during the siege of Wilmington, Delaware?

****Which signer fled into the Virginia interior to avoid being caught and hanged by the British?

****Which signer exemplified truthfulness?

****Which signers were home educated?

Also available is a downloadable Activity  Guide complete with fun, family quizzes (to be done every other week), coloring pages and scripture/character printouts.

You will learn many facts about each of the 56 patriots and the struggle and sacrifice many faced in the their livelihoods, possessions, social standing and even their lives.  These brave men sacrificed all for our freedoms.

Reading this book clearly shows the struggle our young nation faced and why we still need to be vigilant in  guarding our freedom today.

In our family of 6, our children range in age from 12 years to 12 months.  All members have enjoyed using this wonderful book and I highly recommend it for every home!

Disclaimer:  I received this item for free in return for an honest review.  (and we honestly do love this book!)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Need More Living Space? Cut Your Bathroom In Half!

Huge garden tub
Huge garden tub....aka The Koi Pond. 
Cut your bathroom in half?


We found ourselves in a predicament before the birth of our 4th child.  We live in a rather small house and don't have much room to spare. After weighing our options, it was best for us to stay put and somehow try to squeeze in more living area.  My first thought was our master bathroom.

Our master bathroom was a 12 x 14 gargantuan waste of space.  Every time I entered it, I became annoyed at the amount of under utilized space.

It became the target for our first, we contemplated tearing it out all together and using it just as a bedroom.  But, after living with one bathroom for just a week - this was deemed unworkable.  (Just how did my parents grow up with larger families and only one bathroom????)

I became convinced that this room could be cut in half for dual use.....a baby's room AND a bathroom.  After much brain racking, my talented hubby found a plan to put this into action.

Pictures prior to remodel:
Double bowl sink
Double bowl sink
Built in shower
Built in shower

It took a few months of ripping out, re-plumbing, framing, drywalling, mudding, laying flooring and painting - but 36 hours before the arrival of our bundle of joy, the room (or should I say rooms) were completed.  Instead of a monstrous master bath, we now have a little baby room and a smaller bathroom right off of our bedroom.

This added room should give us a few extra years in this house.....

Pictures from our 'new' bathroom:

New built-in shower where the Garden Tub once stood.
New built-in shower where the Garden Tub once stood.
Handmade linen closet
Handmade linen closet

Single bowl sink replaces old   shower
Single bowl sink replaces old  shower
A little cramped, but totally usable!
A little cramped, but totally usable!

 Pictures of our 'new baby's room'

Changing table where the old toilet stood
Changing table where the old toilet stood
Squeezed in a rocking chair between the doorway and closet
Squeezed in a rocking chair between the doorway and closet

High-boy sits where the old double bowl sink stood.
High-boy sits where the old double bowl sink stood.

Baby's crib complete with bedding used by three previous babies!
Baby's crib complete with bedding used by three previous babies!

We've already moved on to stage 2....the removal of the changing table and a soon addition of book shelf....

High-boy takes the place of changing table
High-boy takes the place of changing table
Rocking chair moves next to crib
Rocking chair moves next to crib

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our North Carolina Mountain Retreat!

We spent a wonderfully relaxing week in a secluded Mountain View Escape located in Franklin, North Carolina.
North Carolina Mountain Retreat!

North Carolina Mountain Retreat!
Hot tub and sitting area on the middle deck.

North Carolina Mountain Retreat!
Sitting area on the 'lower' deck

Now, when I say secluded, I mean  s-e-c-l-u-d-e-d!  No neighbors, no people....just the crickets, the wildlife and a spectacular view --- oh, and did I mention that half the fun was just getting up to the house?

Off the main road, a gravel road turned into a steep dirt road.  The only way to go was up, up, up!

After much prayer, we arrived at our destination and were rewarded with peaceful tranquility and an awesome view!!

North Carolina Mountain Retreat!
The view, oh the view from the screened-in porch!!!
The house was perfect for us.  Simple, nothing fancy, just the basics + a game room complete with ping-pong and foosball.

Every morning, a cup of coffee and a spectacular view invited us to sit on the rockers out on the screened-in porch and take in the view in our p.j.'s.  In fact, on one particular day, I sat on the porch, rocking away, reading and drinking coffee clad in my p.j.'s well into the afternoon --- AH!!!!

North Carolina Mountain Retreat!
Smokey Mountains

Escaping from the Florida heat, we enjoyed highs in the low 80's with no humidity.  The gorgeous weather and peaceful rest lifted our spirits.

North Carolina Mountain Retreat - Family Time
Family Game Time!
Cades Cove
Near Cades Cove
We took a few cruises on the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway:

Stopped for some shopping at Millie and Eve's Bookstore   (The boys found a bunch of great reading material!)

Fun Factory - North Carolina
Fun Factory!
Played together at The Fun Factory (think Chuckie Cheese, but better!).  It's a warehouse filled with video games, putt-putt golf, bumper cars, laser tag, go-carts, bounce house and carousel all reasonably priced.
Fun Factory - North Carolina
Nip Napper's  first carousel ride.....doesn't he look thrilled?
Fun Factory - North Carolina
Milking Cow Game!
Where else can you milk an electronic cow?

Gem Mining - North Carolina
Panning for Gems

Panning for Gold - North Carolina
Panning for Gold
To bring out the rock hounds in the rest of the family, hubby went panning for gold and the kids and I mined for gems.  Afterwards, the folks at Smokey Mountain Gold & Ruby Mine identified our treasures.  

 On one of our days, we trekked up to Cades Cove.  Cades Cove is a beautiful plateau area in the Smokey Mountains.  On the 11 mile trek through the nature preserve, we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife.  For some unknown reason, hubby decided to offer 'reward money' to the first person to spot a particular animal.  Bear = $15, Fox = $10, Deer = $5, Rabbit = $3 and Squirrel = $1.

North Carolina - Tennesse State Line
North Carolina - Tennesse State Line
Breathtaking View of the Smokey Mountains!
Breathtaking View of the Smokey Mountains!

After reading the park brochure on the area, I noticed that turkeys are common to the area.  Hubby commented that there "were no turkeys up here and if someone sees one, he'd give them $25 for EACH turkey they saw", ya'll know where this is going, right?????

Wild Turkey - Cades Cove
Wild Turkey
Not more than 5 minutes later, Mr. Turkey walks right out in front of our van!  We start laughing hysterically while snapping our fine feathered friend's picture.  THEN,  Mrs. Turkey and her sister decide to show bringing the rewards up to $90 ($15 for a bear spotted by son #2 and $75 for the 3 turkeys).

Ah, if only earning money was always so easy!!!

After a wonderful week away, we were ready to return to reality and life in the tropics.