Friday, September 30, 2011

WonderMaps: The Best Thing to Happen to Geography since the Globe!

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press
WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

WonderMaps  is an incredible map resource and is frankly the best thing to happen to geography since the globe was created!

WonderMaps is the creation of Bright Ideas Press and coinsides amazingly with their Mystery of History and All American History curriculums.  But, you do not have to use those curriculums to benefit from WonderMaps.

WonderMaps is designed with easy-to-use layers that allow you to enjoy great customizable features with just a click. Select:
  • historical or modern-day maps
  • outline, reference, political, or topographical maps
  • black-and-white or color maps
  • features including:  names, borders, rivers, cities, physical features, and graticules
WonderMaps includes:
  • 60+ maps of the world
  • 60+ maps of the USA
  • 125 historical maps, including 25 biblical maps
  • The complete map sets from The Mystery of History vols. I–III and All American History vols. I & II

Watch this video - it gives you a fantastic overview of what WonderMaps can do for your homeschool!

What I LOVE about this program is the option to change the 'layering' or information on each map before printing.  I school my three oldest and this program enables me to pull up ONE map and tailor it effortlessly THREE different ways.  From my oldest who has the most information on his map to study to my youngest who has just the basics to learn, WonderMaps takes the time consuming tasks of searching for the right map for each child.

For our study of World War II, I printed up maps of Europe showing the Axis and Allies.....

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

IN ADDITION, I printed up maps of Europe for each child to study at their level.

My 8th grader has all the physical features showing on his map:

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

My 5th grader has mountains, physical boundaries, important cities and rivers on his:

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

And my 3rd grader has physical boundaries and important cities (namely capitals) on hers:

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

As a busy homeschooling Mom, this is a PRICELESS bonus!!!!!  

More views of these WONDERFUL maps!

WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press

Visit Timberdoodle's website for more on Geography Puzzles and to get your Free Homeschool Catalog.  You can follow Timberdoodle on Facebook too!

Legal Disclosure:
As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of WonderMaps in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Homeschool Family Question of the Week~Handling the Morning Wake Up

Homeschool Family Question of the Week

Christian Homeschoolers Taking a Stand has just posted their weekly "Homeschool Family Question of the Week" link up.

This weeks question:

"How do you get everyone up, moving and motivated in the morning?" Our mornings are incredibly ROUGH!

Since this is a question that I submitted, obviously I don't have a good answer!

I am very interested in how you successful Mom's out there deal with mornings.  Please link up your posts to the linky at Christian Homeschoolers taking a Stand -OR- leave your encouragement in the comments below.

Thank you !!

Looking for past questions?  Check out:

Homeschooling on the Really Hard Days

Homeschooling a Challenging Middle Schooler (Special Needs and Aspergers)

Computer Use in Homeschool

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jonathan Park Goes to the Amazon Review!

Jonathan Park Goes to the Amazon
Jonathan Park Goes to the Amazon
A Creationist’s Guide to 50 Mysteries of the Amazon Rainforest & Andes Mountains

Explore a lost world and uncover seven mysteries to the glory of God in Jonathan Park Goes to the Amazon! Follow along as Jonathan and his father join Vision Forum—a Christian family ministry—and a team of explorers on an exciting adventure to the Amazon Rainforest and the Andes Mountains. Together they investigate some of the most amazing examples of God’s creation, discovering the true meaning of Christian stewardship from jungle paths to mountain peaks. When Jonathan’s laptop gets mixed up with a stranger’s at the Lima Airport, the adventure begins as two thrill-seekers become convinced the team is trying to find the Lost City of Gold. Join the excitement as Jonathan, Kendall, and the Vision Forum team explore the mysteries of Amazonia, while Ajay and Quentin stalk them in their pursuit of ancient treasure!

Jonathan Park Goes to the Amazon is a very well done blending of  regional facts with an actual creation adventure.  As always, this adventure is filled with life applicable scripture and suspenseful action that shares fascinating evidences for a young Earth and supporting evidence of an intelligent ancient civilization.

Our favorite points were:  the Myth of the Noble Savage, Bombardier Beetle, Stewardship vs. Dominionism, Carbon Cycle, the Godly legacy of Hiram Bingham and even a rescue from a giant Anaconda!

I also like that this 3 cd set is broken down into easily findable topics - such as:  famous people, plants and animals specific to the Amazon and modern/worldly thought vs. Creationism in a variety of topics as they relate to this region of the world.

Since it's unlikely that we'll get to the Amazon ourselves, we enjoyed our tour with Jonathan and Kendall Park and Vision Forum's president, Doug Phillips.  I know that this following quote sums it up best for our family:

"I have learned more about the joy of adventure and seeing how the gospel can change entire villages. I've seen new animals that definitely show design by God.  I've heard the sad consequences of worshiping the creation instead of the Creator.  I've seen the importance of being a good steward and taking dominion for the glory of God."

Disclaimer:  I received this item free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up (More Great Depression Activities)

Outings during Sabbath Week History Center
Outings during Sabbath Week
It's been a busy couple of weeks for The Circus.

After kicking off Sabbath week with a fun stroll down memory lane at The History Museum during their Games People Play:  The Evolution of Video Games exhibit.

13th Birthday!
13th Birthday!
Followed by my oldest turning 13 and a party at a local laser tag place with his closest friends.

And then, to some really fun activities centered around The Great Depression.

First, we played a very fun game that was created on the Year 4 of The Tapestry of Grace's eloop.
Great Depression Game
Great Depression Game

To play this game you need at least 4 players.  One player is a doctor (and has a set income and his/her spouse & children don't work).  One player is a teacher (and has a set income and his/her spouse & children don't work).  The rest of the players are either a farmer or a factory worker.  While they get paid less (and have to pay out less), their spouses and children can work.  So, it's more to their advantage to have more children --- but, unfortunately the children do get injured or maimed and then are not able to work.    This game really gave my kids a good taste of the actual economic impact and realities of life during this time period.

Then we moved on to the Kit Kittredge movie and worked on some of the activities that we didn't do the first time around from the Zeezok Publishing's  movie/study guide.

We did watch the Kit movie before reading the books.  In all honesty, we enjoyed the books much more than the movie.  We all agreed that the movie would have been much more interesting showing some of the thrifty ideas used in the book instead of the 'robbery mystery'.

From Kit's Friendship Fun:


Oatmeal with peaches
Oatmeal with peaches

mashing strawberries for jam!
My daughter enthusiastically mashing strawberries for jam!

Finished product!  Jam anyone?
Finished product!  Jam anyone?

Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding

Felt clutch purse
Felt clutch purse

Felt clutch purse made without much help from Mom!

Handmade Scottie
Handmade Scottie

Scotties were all the rage due to FDR's dog's our felt version sewn with little help from Mom!

We also worked on the rest of the Kit parts for my daughter's American Girl lapbook.

Elements for Kit's lapbook
Elements for Kit's lapbook

Elements for Kit's lapbook
More Kit

And, in the meantime, my 10 year old made him self 'boots' and a 'hat' out of puzzle pieces....

Puzzle man!
Puzzle man!

And, the Nip Napper got into the craft cart to do some crafting of his own!

Nip Napper's mess!
Nip Napper's mess!

Friday, September 23, 2011

TOS Crew Aletheia Writing Magazine Review

Alethia Writing Magazine for Teens
Alethia Writing Magazine for Teens

Ages 13-19
$26 for 4 issues

Aletheia Writing Magazine is a new magazine for Christian teens written by Christian teens, many of whom are homeschooled.

Looking through the Fall 2011 issue, I see 40 pages filled with creative stories, poems, photos, drawings, famous quotes and book reviews.  In this issue, there is an interview with Joe Goode, who is an artist/illustrator.  It was refreshing to read a real life example of someone walking out their faith and using their creative gifts for God.  Though mostly written from a multi-denominational viewpoint, there were a sprinkling of specifically Catholic submissions.

It is admirable to create this sort of outlet for teens that is a world away from the normal pop-culture pervasive today.  While not all submissions were outwardly glorifying God, they were mostly "moral" writings.  And while I don't want to discourage creative writing, I do question some of the submissions in this magazine.

Aletheia does say on their website:

"Aletheia Writing Magazine is a quarterly publication focusing on the literary and artistic works of Christian teens, ages 13 to 19. 
We are excited to offer Christian teens a healthy platform in which to express themselves, especially in a culture that so definitively shapes and saturates their worldview with unhealthy imagery and values. 
In addition to the literary and artistic expressions of Christian teens, each issue offers a variety of unique features: a Writer's Challenge, the Featured Contributor, a book review, Glory to God for the Beauty of Nature, Ancient Ink, and an interview or other feature for edification and enjoyment."

And from their introductory letter:

"As a Christian homeschooling family ourselves, we know how important it is to provide our children with resources that are spiritually healthy and which creatively enhance their education.  We believe our magazine accomplishes this purpose and we hope you will agree."

From the latest issue, an excerpt from one of the stories written in the "spirit of Tolkien":

"Alatar knelt to the ground beside Beren and placed his hands in the pool of blood on his chest.  His voice was sure and clear.  He almost didn't recognize it.  "Heal!  Heal and be well!  Take it, take it all!  Be well!  What is rightfully mine by Maiar blood I give you!  I renounce my immortality!  Be immortal forevermore!  Awake to your new life!  Hark, for it is I, Alatar the Blue, who is calling."

I personally fail to see the "spiritual" healthiness of this story!

Because of such submissions, I would encourage you to check this magazine out first for yourself  and pre-read it to judge its' fit for the teen readers in your household.  As for our household, we will pass.

You can check out the premier Spring issue of Aletheia free of charge at their website:

There's also information on how to submit your teens stories, artwork and book reviews for publishing consideration.

Here's what other crew members are saying!

Disclaimer:  I received an issue of this magazine free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Homeschool Family Question of the Week: Homeschooling on the Real Hard Days

Homeschool Family Question of the Week

Christian Homeschoolers Taking a Stand has just posted their weekly "Homeschool Family Question of the Week" link up.

This weeks question:

How do I keep my sanity on the read hard days? 

Well, it all depends on the circumstances surrounding the 'hardship'.  I do find that starting the day with prayer and reading the Word (even if I only have a few minutes) circumvents the majority of 'sanity-losing hard days'.

But, if the 'crazy day' is.....

Due to illness, we may cancel school and have a relaxed day of reading or watching select videos.

Due to busyness, and it's busyness that can't be avoided, I will take a moment and prioritize what really needs to be done that day and let the rest go for tomorrow - OR - call in some extra hands to help.

Due to our schedule being too full, I'll rethink, repray and reprioritize as soon as circumstances permit.

Other things I've done to help during those hard days:

 - Reach out to another Mom for guidance and prayer.

 - Make sure other areas of my life are getting attention.  Such as:

    - regular date nights with hubby
    - monthly Mom's Nights Out with other godly Moms
     - not neglecting my physical body (proper nutrition, enough rest, exercise, sunshine and laughter).
     - having some sort of appropriate creative outlet (such as scrapbooking, or ahem.....blogging)

Looking for past questions?  Check out:
Homeschooling a Challenging Middle Schooler (Special Needs and Aspergers)
Computer Use in Homeschool

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student Review!

SAT Prep
SAT Prep

When I requested SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student to review, I didn't know what to expect.

I know that my 8th grader will need to begin studying for the SAT test next year.  But I thought any old review book will do, right?

I mean, they are all the same, right?


Eliminate test anxiety with proven strategies and effective skill development in the SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student.  Easily integrated into your student's busy life, the course is designed to help students prepare for the SAT by doing a few lessons per week rather than a massive "cram" weeks before the exam, all the while encouraging them to grow in the Lord.  This new enhanced edition also includes a bonus book to help with college admission essays!  This specialized course for the Christian student offers:
*   Helps in building disciplined study skills
*   Development of an extensive vocabulary
*   Encouragement in the development of writing skills
*   Opportunities for writing practice essay
*   Advanced reading selections to enhance critical thinking skills for both verbal & math       problems
*   Answers to general questions about the PSAT, SAT and NMSQT tests.
Rather than approaching the SAT challenge with the goal of just "outsmarting" the test, the SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student helps develop and reinforce godly character that will hopefully follow the student and lead to success in college and life!  It's not a quick fix, but investing in SAT preparation over a length of time will ensure your student the best chance to achieve their highest SAT scores, and give vital tools for thriving in secular school environments.
So, rather than just preparing your child to score high, SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student is valuable in preparing them for their life's journey.

"Why should a Christian student prepare for the SAT I any differently than a non-believer?  SAT preparation must be understood in the context of our spiritual journey.  In 2 Timothy 2, Paul urges the young pastor Timothy to study hard and to do his work as if he were working for the Lord.  So must we do all that God  calls us to do with all the strength, vitality, and courage we can.  This book challenges you to work hard and to study to show yourself approved of the Lord."

In addition to the actual study materials (150 lessons in all), this book also contains practical helps such as:  vocabulary helps, test-taking strategies, dealing with stress and jitters and transcript helps all sprinkled liberally with scripture.  There's an interesting section of the Rise of the Secular University and a very useful "50 Examples of College Admission Essays".

One aspect of this book that I really appreciate is a clear and easy to follow schedule to help your students whether they are beginning to study in the 9th, 10th or 11th grade.

Each days' lesson starts with scripture, followed by a life's application that includes thoughtful questions to be answered by the student in their devotional journal.

Reading is emphasized as the best way to build vocabulary.  A list of recommended books are included and it is recommended that the student read at least 1 book a week.  Their vocabulary cards will be obtained from this reading.

Followed by a mix of:  grammar, define a word, math problems, critical reading comprehension, essay, sentence completion, and comparisons to name a few.

After reviewing this book, I can now honestly say that this is one book I would not be without for use with my college-bound highschooler.  We will definitely be using this goldmine next year!

Disclaimer:  I received this item free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 16, 2011

AIMS Area Formulas For Parallelograms, Triangles & Trapezoids

AIMS Area Formulas for Parallelograms, Triangles and Trapezoids
AIMS Area Formulas for Parallelograms, Triangles and Trapezoids

AIMS Area Formulas For Parallelograms, Triangles and Trapezoids
Grades 6-8;
15 Day Unit - 77 page book plus cd-rom (which contains PDF files, animations, comics, problems to solve and assessment)

Comics in a math book?  Are you kidding?  What kind of program is this?

Can I tell you something ----- I love it!!!!  I wish I had this math book when I was a middleschooler.  I was one of those "daydreaming, couldn't sit still and be quiet, wanting to touch everything" learner who would most likely be given 'a label' nowadays. 

This math book is absolutely interesting!!!!

Essential Math Series for Grades 6-8 addresses critical areas of the mathematics curriculum with focused instructional units.  Each unit contains investigations to develop conceptual understanding, comics and animations to relate and clarify the concepts developed in the investigations, and problem-solving situations and practice to reinforce and assess the understanding of concepts.  The Essential Math Series can be used to provide initial instruction as well as intervention.

In Area Formulas for Parallelograms, Triangles and Trapezoids, students develop the formulas for the areas of parallelograms, triangles, and trapezoids. By cutting paper and working with geoboards, they understand the meaning of the formulas and apply them in a variety of problem-solving settings. Includes a CD with video help for each activity, as well as PDFs to facilitate printing and use on interactive boards.

AIMS teaches Math and Science in real life applications.  A typical Essential Math unit includes five components:

Investigations - form the heart of each lesson.   Through guided hands-on exploration, students discover and make sense of the essential ideas.

Comics - provide a model of effective instruction and make the content knowledge explicit.  Students can use them to review learning or clarify experiences from the investigations.  They also provider reading within the content area.

Animation and Video - dynamically and visually summarize the essential concepts.  They facilitate a  deeper understanding and provide a powerful and meaningful memory.

Problem Solving  - activities help students apply and reinforce the concepts in unique ways.

Assessments - provide an opportunity for students to apply their learning and for teachers to determine what depth of understanding has been gained.

Our experience:

I first presented this to my 8th grader who had no trouble tearing through the lessons.   He is a kid that "gets" math without issue.  So, while this approach was different for him, it didn't add to his understanding of the material.  Though, he did say it was fun!

I then decided to try some of the lessons with my 5th grader who does fairly well in math.  It was challenging for him.  He too thought it was creative and fun.  This will be perfect for him in a year or two.  I can also see that my daughter who is very creative and hands-on will love this when she is older.

Regarding the comics:  they are all about business with no monkey business included!  The characters have modern dress and hair styles, but are not provocative or extreme and all done in black in white.  Their conversational style is easily relatable and educational.

As another bonus - there's a schedule for each of the 15 days printed in the beginning of the book.

I highly recommend AIMS Area Formulas For Parallelograms, Triangles & Trapezoids, especially for your visual learner.  We will definitely be using more of their products in our homeschool.

You can visit the AIMS website to learn more about their other multi-level science and math resources at:

Here's what other crew members are saying!

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TOS Crew Before Five In a Row Review!

(BFIAR) Before Five in a Row
(BFIAR) Before Five in a Row

"What is Before Five in a Row?  Let's begin with what it isn't.  It isn't a curriculum.  Neither is it an aggressive, academic training regimen designed to turn your pre-schooler into a scholastic super-achiever.  It is a rich treasure of creative ideas designed to help you gently, consistently prepare your children for the life-long adventure of learning.  For children ages two to four, Before Five in a Row is better than a curriculum!"

What a breath of fresh air!  An author that doesn't want to turn your young child into an Einstein speed reader who can divide fractions, balance your checkbook and paint abstract art!

Author Jane Lambert goes on to say that this book is written from a pre-learning point of view.  "The point is not so much to instruct or teach as it is to have a happy introduction to books, provide an interesting light introduction to many different topics and to build intimacy between reader and child."

Before Five in a Row is divided into 2 parts.  The first part of the book is chock full of ideas and activities for a selection of 24 children's literature books.  Each book has a fresh list of activities, and "discussion" ideas.  I don't think I came across two exact suggestions!

The second part is a resource to help prepare children for learning through everyday activities.  Included are:  Activities for Reading Readiness, Coordination, Bath Time, In the Kitchen and At the Store.

My youngest will be two years old in two weeks.  While he is too young to appreciate these timeless stories, he does enjoy the pictures, sound of my voice and engaging with me and his siblings through play and discovery.

Choosing my favorite out of the list of 24 books, here's how I might use the helps for Caps For Sale.

*    Read story as long as attention permits
*    Go back through and comment on the pictures
*    Read Proverbs 6:10-11 and "discuss".
*    Counts the hats.  Count each color.  Count the monkeys.
*    Try balancing a book on our heads.
*    Talk about mustaches and seek out other mustaches in magazines and real life.
*    Study and "discuss" the trees in the book.
*    Talk about how the man feels at various points of the story.

Before Five in a Row is a wealth of ideas to draw you and your toddler/preschooler closer through book and activities.

"Above all, the time between ages two and four should be a time of sharing, hugging, reading, signing, dancing, puzzles, blocks, outdoor excursions, swinging high, playing in the sand box and enjoying fascinating introductions to the wonderful world of life".

At $35 it would be one of my more pricey purchases.  But, considering the amount and depth of usable material contained between the covers, it world be a purchase I would gladly make!

Before Five in a Row can be bought exclusively at Rainbow Resource.

Visit the Before Five in a Row website at: to learn more about other FIAR products such as:  Five in a Row, Beyond Five in a Row and Above and Beyond Five in a Row.

Disclaimer: I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Unveiling the Kings of Israel Book Review!

Unveiling the Kings of Israel
Unveiling the Kings of Israel

My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed Unwrapping the Pharaohs co-authored by David Down during our study of Ancient History last year.  When I saw that the same author wrote Unveiling the Kings of Israel, I knew I had to read and review this book.

On the order of Unwrapping the Pharaohs in terms of in-depth, fascinating, enlightening information, Unveiling the Kings of Israel focuses on the claim that the usually accepted chronology of Egypt (and how it relates to the history of the Israelites) has been grossly misdated.  When the time periods are redated (by up to 600 years in some places) astounding similarities can be found between the Word of God and archaeological evidence.

"The Authority of the Bible faces a crises.  It's historical reliability is being challenged.  Reputable archaeologists have written articles in magazines, and have appeared in television documentaries claiming that there is no evidence for the records of the Israelites leaving Egypt in the Exodus, for the conquest of Jericho and the invasion of Palestine by the incoming Israelites.  They further point out that there is no archaeological evidence to support the Bible record of the reigns of David and Solomon, and that the Bible passages telling of the power and affluence of these kings are either totally wrong or greatly exaggerated.  Based on the chronology usually ascribed to the history of Egypt, and the archaeological ages in Palestine, one might believe these are correct claims."

There's so much information within this book that it is best read section by section in order to absorb and contemplate all the compelling evidence supporting archaeology and The Bible.

Concentrating on the Flood to Jesus, Unveiling the Kinds of Israel is filled with breathtaking photos and current research on archaeological finds as they relate to the Bible.

Examples include:
*     Arguments that Bible chronology places Abraham in the 19th century BC, but critics point out that camels were not domesticated until the Iron Age.  Even if there is no historical record of domesticated camels before the Iron age, that does not prove they did not exist before then.  It simply means that arch have not found any evidence that they existed before the Iron Age.

*     An intelligent argument for the path of the Exodus crossing the Red Sea.

*     Within the remains of Jericho archaeologists found unbaked bread which shows people were cut-off in full activity.

*     Acoustic tests of the valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizion where Moses instructed Israel to gather and have the  Levites pronounce a list of blessings and curses to the people.

*    A retired general of the Israeli army, Rechavam Ze'evy's, commentary on the military logistics of David and Goliath.

*     Evidence of Solomon's fleet of ships sailing from a noted specific harbor (1Kings 9:26).

*     The account in 2 kings when Sennacherib first threatened Jerusalem, Hezekiah bought him off with 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.  Assyrian cuneiform cylinders support this record.

This book has so much important historical information in it, that I can't wait to go back and read it along side my bible.  I only wished I had this book last year when we studied Ancient History.

This book would make an excellent addition to your Ancient History study for advanced Junior High on up  (though younger children will enjoy the pictures with brief explanations) or to help deepen your knowledge of the presence of God's people and the truth of the Bible throughout the ages.

Disclaimer:  I received this item free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The End of an Era - The Final Packing Away of the Crib.....

Standing next to his brand new toddler bed!
Standing next to his brand new toddler bed!
Ah, baby #4 and in all likelihood, the last baby of The Circus.

I had imagined this day from the birth of my first.  The day when I would take down the crib for the last time....lovingly fold up the Noah's Ark bedding and take down the animal pictures from the wall.

Oh, what ceremony I had planned for that day!!!

Here's what actually transpired.....

After several sleepless nights trying to get The Nip Napper to sleep in his crib, it finally occurred to me that it wasn't his room that he didn't like, but, the crib.  Immediately after this realization the crib mattress came out of the crib and was put on the floor.  Now for a big problem, there wasn't enough room in his room!  Being a woman of action, I didn't waste a second.  I grabbed the screwdriver and with the help of my oldest disassembled the crib, throwing the crib bedding on our bed and hauled the crib to the corner.

Feeling pleased with solving our sleep problem, it dawned on me that the big ceremony I had planned in my mind for this day had just been reduced to a 1/2 hour 'get it done and put away' effort.

So, while it wasn't the way I thought it would be, we did do a few special things to welcome this new season.

Vehicle room decorations
Vehicle room decorations

My daughter put together some foamies kits to decorate his now bare walls.

Converting to a toddler bed!
Converting to a toddler bed!
And while the mattress was just fine on the floor, I felt that I wanted to do a toddler bed since the other kids never got one.  I was blessed to find one very reasonable. 

We are all sleeping better now!

Friday, September 9, 2011

TOS Crew Big IQ Kids Review!

 BigIQkids  Big IQ kids

Since Big IQ Kids won a blue ribbon during The Old Schoolhouse's 2010-2011 Crew Review Season, I was very interested in checking out this online program that concentrates on Spelling, Vocabulary, Math and U.S. Geography for elementary students for myself!

" turns your computer into an online learning academy by providing daily academic lessons for young learners in an interactive, easy to follow format. For the best results, children should log into daily and complete their lessons and quizzes. This “daily” strategy builds invaluable study habits, leads to better grades and greater self confidence. "

I have to admit that I had some technical difficulties with this website and my computer.  Working closely with their knowledgeable and friendly technical support, I was able to access only some of the parts of this website.

Big IQ Kids Spelling
Big IQ Kids Spelling

Instead of reviewing their newest versions of Spelling and Vocabulary programs, I was able to tryout Spelling Junior.  I have to say, that it was easy to use and my kids liked it.  You can choose between grade level appropriate preloaded lessons or input your own list.  I personally didn't like their lists because the words they choose had no rhyme or reason --- they weren't word families nor followed any phonetic rules.  Once the words are loaded, there are 5 fun activities (or steps) per week.  After the first day, your child has the choice of skipping right to the 'Pop Quiz'.  A score of 100% puts him/her in the "100% Club" and forwards them to the next lesson.

In the past we've steered clear of online spelling programs because they didn't seem to aid in retention.  I've seen promising progress with my 3rd and 5th graders and will continue to use this part of the program.  The earning of coins after completing lessons and playing of games afterwards may have something to do with this.  I'll be curious to see if their excitement continues throughout the year!

Big IQ Kids Math
Big IQ Kids Math

My kids thought the Math section was 'ok'.  They've done many drilling programs in the past and the one nice thing about this one is that it was very easy to customize to your child.  You set the number of questions, the function (s), number of digits and percentage of each function you want your child to do.  For example, for my 3rd grader, I set it to 50 problems, doing 25% two-digit addition, 25% one digit subtraction and 50% one digit multiplication.  Timed tests are also customizable.

From their website:  You can set up a child's lesson to mirror what they are doing in their current curriculum. For example, if the child is on double digit addition and single digit multiplication, the program can focus on just these two areas providing invaluable practice and reinforcement that is certain to provide them with the tools to ace their next test. Or, BigMathTime can automatically generate grade specific and subject specific lessons as per your requirements.

Big IQ Kids States
Big IQ Kids States

The U.S. Geography section is very thorough starting with the locations of each state (tackled 12 states at a time), state and capitals spelling, abbreviations and fun facts.

I was pleased to see this part of the program really helped my 5th grader with his capitals.   However, this program didn't do so well for my 3rd grader.   Her retention of facts and spelling was very low.  We will be repeating these lessons again.

From their website:  Every elementary student will be confronted with the need to know their US State facts to mastery. BigStatesTime is the ultimate tool in learning the state's location, capital, spelling, abbreviations and general state facts. The program allows parents/teachers to add additional facts which will be included in the child's lessons and the program culminates in a “State Mastery Exam” that, if passed with 100% mastery, awards the child a State Master Certificate. 

For the most part we enjoyed Big IQ Kids.  The lessons are short at 10-15 minutes each and the students only advance once they have proven mastery of that particular subject.  I also liked the progress reports sent to my email.  This was helpful in keeping tabs on problem areas where I could step in and adjust the level or spend extra time with them.

Starting from free to $49.99/year, there are several options in choosing the program that is right for you.  Click here to see all pricing options for the four subjects.

Below is a breakdown of Big IQ Kids Free and Premium programs.
FREE vs. Premium Spelling
FREE vs. Premium Vocabulary
FREE vs. Premium Math
FREE vs. Premium US Geography

Visit Big IQ Kids for yourself at:

Here's what other crew members are saying!

Disclaimer:  I received a subscription free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Homeschool Family Question of the Week: Homeschooling Challenging Middle Schoolers

Homeschool Family Question of the Week

Christian Homeschoolers Taking a Stand has just posted their weekly "Homeschool Family Question of the Week" link up.

This weeks question:

How do I keep my middle-schooler going and not fight me ALL THE TIME about doing school work?

I know when this question was asked, the reader was looking specifically for information for a child with aspergers, but as we all know, homeschoolers are great at taking an idea and transforming it into something that will work for their family.  Please, if you have any experience with middle-schoolers, answer this question on your blog and link it in the Christian Homeschoolers Taking a Stand blog  or answer in the comments below the post on their blog.  Thanks so much for participating in a little corner of the homeschool internet web to help support and encourage homeschool families around the globe.

This weeks question proved challenging for me to answer.  You see, I have very little problem getting my middle schooler to do what is asked of him.

Now, before you congratulate me with a pat on the back and a "homeschooling mom of the year award", let me be blunt and tell you that while we don't have THAT particular challenge, we certainly have PLENTY of other challenges in our homeschool.

Revjen from Reflections on an Intentional Life is an incredible mom friend who is raising and homeschooling an incredible young man who was diagnosed with Aspergers at the age of 2 (and is now in high school and will soon be learning to drive!).  She and her husband have done it all with therapies, dietary changes, you name it!  I'd like to share a piece of advice she recently gave another friend of mine regarding her older child with Aspergers:

" my oldest is autistic although functions at a very high level after YEARS of therapy. When we first started homeschooling I had the same issues you do. What I learned was that kids with ASD NEED a very structured schedule. Back in those days it would have taken an absolute act of God to change our schedule one tiny bit. Now, we can be a little more flexible. Also, he has a check list every day (now it's a student planner) and that helps tremendously! I know it isn't popular or fun, but make a schedule, post it on the fridge and STICK TO IT....even if that means saying no to things that would interfere with your schedule. Also, I suggest getting your other kids involved with sibshop through CARD. It will help them understand their brother."

If you are a mom facing struggles with your middle (and older) schooler, you are not alone!  I encourage you to click on through to the Christian Homeschoolers Taking a Stand blog and read through the blogs linked up.  I also encourage you to build a network of support either physical or virtual to ask questions, share concerns and receive prayer and support.  No Mom is an island and sometimes a sister-in-the-Lord is exactly what is needed!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Goal Planning Monday - September 6

Goal Planning Monday
It's time again to set some goals for this coming week with Katrina of Mama Manuscripts!
Taking a look at last week's goals:

1.  Continue exercising 1/2 completed

2.  Take care of misc. administrative family paperwork. Almost Done!

3.  Finish The Nip Napper's ABC 123 album. Not Done!

4.  Finish review for Kings of the Bible and Big IQ Kids. Not Done!

5.  Continue to put the Lord first in our homeschool days.  DONE!

6.  Visit the other GPM participants.  DONE!

Well....not so great on the goals, but considering #5 is the most important, I did get that one right.

So, this week:

-Enjoy Sabbath Week + my oldest's 13th birthday + Labor Day + a list of fun, hands-on activities + 2 co-ops that begin this week.

-Continue exercising

-Finish misc administrative paperwork

-Look up and 'study' a bunch of links given to me by friends on a current interest

-Finish reviews of Kings of the Bible, Big IQ Kids and Before Five in a Row

-Visit all GPM Participants

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up (The Rise of Totalitarianism: Germany, Italy & Japan) September 3

Southern Toad
Southern Toad
But first, I'd like to introduce our newest amphibian boarder, Chirpy the Southern Toad.  Chirpy hails from the neighborhood and was rescued from the lawn mower last week. 

Chirpy is right at home on my 10 year old's desk and is presently enjoying soaking in his 'hot tub'.

This week we went back and re-did our reading on Franklin and Elanor Roosevelt.  These books were much better than what we substituted last week.  Also this week, my oldest began his study on Hitler and Stalin.  He doesn't enjoy reading about these mad-men, but, has a new appreciation what to look for in a "good ruler".

Selected readings on The Rise of Totalitarianism
Selected readings on The Rise of Totalitarianism

In addition, we watched a biography on Amelia Earhart and Stalin: Red Terror.


My daughter enjoyed this 'folk' book called Elisabeth .  All kids learned about the Hindenburg and watched the original newsreel.

Original Hindenburg newsreel!

American Girl Kit
American Girl Kit

My daughter finished books 4-6 of the Kit series and picked out several project from Kit's Friendship Fun for next week.

Speaking of next week, it will be a Sabbath Week for The Circus.  In addition to Labor Day, my oldest turns 13 and two co-ops begin.  We have plenty of fun, hands-on projects planned as well.

Friday, September 2, 2011

TOS Crew Wise Alec: Civilize This! Review

Ages 8+
2+ players
Retail: $18

Wise Alec
Wise Alec
From their website:
Cultural trivia with a adventurous twist!

Hello Time Travelers! Explore the world’s cultures across time with the trivia game based on the award-winning Wise Alec™ Family Trivia Game. There are 300 questions to test your knowledge of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern cultures. Two levels of questions on each card let everyone from young scholars to history buffs play together. Plus, Wise Alec™ cards will have you doing tongue twisters, brain teasers, and fun exercises!

The cards from this game can also be used to expand your own set of Wise Alec™ Family Trivia Game.

Civilize This by Griddly Games is a fun, easy to learn, educational game for all ages.

The rules are easy.  With pen and paper in hand (for score keeping), decide on either a point goal or time limit.

Roll the colored die.  A red, yellow or green gets a card from one of the three corresponding time periods read aloud to you.  (Ancient, Medieval or Modern History).  Roll blue and YOU choose the subject.  The player to the right of you chooses the subject if you roll orange.  And, oh boy, if you roll a purple you get a Wise Alec Card.  These cards vary from exercises, brainteasers, special bonuses or win/lose points.

What if your 7 year old wants to play with your older children?  No problem!  A unique feature of this trivia game is that each card contains a 3 point AND a 7 point question.  By staggering the point goals, (Older siblings need 50 pts, and younger only 25 pts) the playing field is leveled for all to enjoy.

Using this method, our whole family enjoyed this games and asked to play again.

I can't think of a better way to get more history into your home while having fun!

Visit the Griddly Games website at to see Nature Nuts and Sports Buff travel trivia games also in this series.

Here's what other crew members are saying.

Disclaimer:  I received this item free of charge in exchange for an honest review.