Thursday, May 31, 2012

2011-2012 Blue Ribbon Awards (The Old Schoolhouse)

The awards are known as the TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon AwardI have had the privilege of sailing for the past 2 years with the TOS Review Crew.  During that time I've seen some amazing curriculum and books that have really blessed our homeschool.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Review Crew has compiled their list of favorites:

As the 2011-2012 Crew year comes to a close, we are once again presenting awards to our vendors. 

The awards are known as the TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Awards.

The following vendors are the recipients of the award this year. Click on their name to check out the Crew reviews!

Favorite Reading Instruction Product: Reading Eggs
Favorite Writing Product: Write Shop *
Favorite Language Arts Product: Progeny Press *
Favorite Social Studies Product: TruthQuest History *
Favorite Science Product: Amazing Science
Favorite Math Product: Math Mammoth
Favorite Online Math Product: Math Rider *
Favorite Foreign Language Product: Visual Latin
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Artistic Pursuits
Favorite Christian Education Product: Apologia: Who Am I? *
Favorite Preschool Product: Before Five in a Row *
Favorite Elementary Product: All About Reading
Favorite Middle School Product: Write with WORLD
Favorite High School Product: Excellence in Literature *
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Excellence in Literature *
Best Online Resource: Reading Eggs
Best e-Product: Heritage History *
Best Homeschool Resource: Apologia: Educating the Wholehearted Child *
Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: Apologia: How to Have a HEART for Your Kids *
Best Children’s Book: Amazing Animals by Design
Best Game or Toy: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything
Best Hands-On Resource: Pitsco Education *
Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: eMeals
Best Customer Service: K5 Learning *
Most Adaptable Resource: Creek Edge Press *
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything

Kids’ Choice (favorite of CHILDREN ages 0-12): Reading Eggs
Teens’ Choice (favorite per the TEENAGERS): Pitsco Education
All Around Crew Favorite: Visual Latin

* This was a favorite in our household as well!

Here's a link to the Crew Blog for more! 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gems from the FPEA Homeschool Convention

Here's a few gems I'd like to share with you from our local homeschool convention.

Homeschool Programming - My son has almost completed Lesson 5 in his programming journey using Teen Coder C# from Homeschool Programming.  He has really enjoyed learning C# and being able to move at his own pace.

One section had my son a bit puzzled.  Fortunately, the FPEA Convention was just a couple of days away and Homeschool Programming had a booth!  Authors and Homeschooling parents', the Yust's are both very approachable people - so, my son got his question answered in person!

The nice thing with this program is that not only is it a great way to learn programming and get high school credit, but, the Yust's are available and willing to answer your student's questions if he/she gets stuck.  That's a HUGE sigh of relief for Mom's who know little about this electronic language!

Modesty Matters -  How do you teach your daughter to sew when you've never made much more than a pillowcase?  Answer:  Learn along side her!  I did the mental math in comparing this course with individual lessons at our local craft mega-store and found this to be a significant savings.  This was my splurge item for this year.

Analytical Grammar -  A Grammar curriculum that you don't have to do everyday with a pile of worksheets PLUS it sticks in your children's heads....Used with great success with child it's time for child #2!

My Father's World - Attended a seminar on how to occupy preschoolers while teaching olders.  I learned some great ideas plus got to see their Preschool "curriculum".  I'm not big on worksheets/text books for littles at all!  I liked this one for their hands-on activities with flippable cue card activities.  Considering this one for The Nip Napper.  My oldest (a high schooler) will be using their curriculum this year.

Piggy Paint - In the entrepreneurial area of the convention, I wandered into this girlie girls' delight!  Nail polish without all the awful toxins and icky smell!!  Got some as reading incentives for my daughter....ok, and a few for me too!

Great Products - Just a Great company with a variety of computer and hands on "stuff" for a Great price.  I see them every year and every year we find some Great treasures.  This year it was a cordless mouse, various reader rabbit software, marionette animal puppets, sling shots, bead loom....

College Plus - I'm still absorbing this one!  Earn college credit in high school without stepping foot on a campus of "higher learning" -or-  avoid the "college experience" with its' big price tag.  Wow!

And of course, I met so many wonderful homeschool families and got those batteries recharged for another great year!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Getting My Nerd On at the Smithsonian

On our trip of a lifetime, I was thrilled to visit the Smithsonian's collection of gems and minerals.  The kids went through once and then left me for an extended time of gazing in wonderment and awe and the awesome handiwork of God!

Banded Iron Formation
Banded Iron Formation

An uncut Emerald
An uncut Emerald




The many varieties of Garnet
The many varieties of Garnet - Oh my!


When I look at minerals, I am always in awe at how God knit the foundations of the earth together.  Did you know that all minerals fall into one of six crystal groups - ORDERLY groups.  No presence of chaos there!

Luke 19:40
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beyond the Chore Chart Book Review

Last year I reviewed Joyful Momma's Guide to Shopping and Cooking Frugally.  I was very impressed with Author Kimberly Eddy's tips and insights for managing a large family.  I was anxious to read her latest offering,  Beyond the Chore Chart.  I was wondering what could I glean from this veteran homeschooling mom of 5 teens?  Answer:  A lot!!!

"Chores are not about lightening your load as a mother.  Chores are about training our children."

Beyond The Chore Chart takes a different approach to the topic of chores.  Not only does this book encourage moms in the pursuit of getting kids to do chores, but, in the joyful TRAINING of children for these tasks.  And that training starts with YOU.  Yes, Eddy's insights help to change the reader's  view and attitude regarding chores so Mom impacts her family's helping hands in the right direction.....moving beyond the chore chart and into responsible adults who take initiative in the tasks they are involved in.

As with Joyful Mommas Guide, Eddy takes a thoroughly honest approach as she introduces you to Slobalina and candidly shares her ups and downs from her own life.  Ultimately encouraging you step by step on how to arrive at a household that runs smoothly without mom micro-managing every detail.

There are wonderful nuggets that spoke to me throughout the book, but, my favorite parts were:  "Cheap Organizational Ideas for Children's Rooms", "Allowances and Wages" and "Encouraging Initiative".  "Setting an Example" really struck home as well!

This book is written in bite-sized chapters and is instructional and encouraging for Mom's with children ages toddler to teenager.

If you are ready to pitch your chore chart, this book is for you!

You can receive more encouragement from this Joyful Momma by visiting her blog.

I received a copy of Beyond the Chore Chart free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

TOS Crew Young Readers from Heritage History Review!

"The Heritage Classical Curriculum is the easiestleast expensive, and most enjoyable way to learn traditional history. Our "living books" reading program uses narrative histories that were popular with young people of earlier generations and features books of interest to students of all ages."

Heritage History The Young Readers Library

My 8 year old daughter and I were very excited to try out  the introductory unit, Young Readers, from Heritage Classical  History.  Loaded onto your favorite e-reader or read from your PC /  laptop, this collection is a wonderful way to experience historical fiction, legends, biographies and other classics using living books.

From their website:

The Young Readers Library includes over eighty high-quality juvenile histories that should appeal to students with a broad range of interests. While all of the books in the Young Readers collection are appropriate for read-aloud to younger students, they are intended for self directed reading and can be read independently by any student who is reading at a chapter book or fourth-grade level.

Most are collections of loosely-related stories from history, biographies,
abridged classics, or historical fiction. The advantage of this style of history for young readers is that each book can be read in any order, and students can each choose the books which most interest them. None of the books in the Young Readers library assume any previous knowledge of a civilization, or requires any “context” to understand. The curriculum is intended to expose grammar school students to some of the most famous stories from history without the overhead of a systematic program of study.

Included on this CD are stories from the genres of:
• American History
• European History
• Ancient History
• Bible Stories
• Legends and Folklore

Our favorites were:   Fifty Famous Stories Retold, Story of the Vikings, Men Who Found AmericaHannah of Kentucky,  and Heroe's of Israel .

Though Young Readers is targeted for upper elementary, I think it appeals to all ages either as a read aloud or to further enhance historical studies.  For only $24.99, this CD-Rom includes the complete illustrated text of 86 books, timelines, short biographies, and a Teacher's Guide!

Check out other history studies from Heritage History which also includes a study guide!

Here's what other crew members are saying!

I received a CD of Young Readers free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

College Admissions: What Really Matters?

In our Homeschool, we are on the cusp of High School.  So many things to consider..... curriculum, transcripts, grades, AP or Honors courses, ACT or SAT preparation, volunteer hours, CLEP testing ....

It's mind boggling and a bit overwhelming!

When it comes down to it, besides guiding my child through their area of gifting and interest in preparation for life, I really wanted to know what colleges have to say about all of this.

Don't you?

I found this great article at Online College Courses entitled College Admissions: What Really Matters that really put things in perspective.

Check it out!  You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TOS Crew WriteShop Review!

WriteShop Book C PrimaryI have heard so many great things about WriteShop that I just couldn't wait to try it for myself!

Fortunately, I was blessed to try WriteShop Book C with my 8 year old daughter.

From the Teacher's Guide:


WriteShop Primary is designed for parents to work closely with their children.  As you interact with your child, you help him explore the world of words through a variety of colorful and meaningful activities.  

WriteShop Primary is not meant to be a rigorous writing program.  It is an introduction to beginning writing skills that gives children tools to experience success as they develop the ability to write.  Whether you have a more advanced child or one who is just learning, this program is flexible so students can work at their own level."

The beginning of this book is filled with a LOT of information.  First, there's help to get your child properly placed in the correct level, followed by encouragement to help you teach your child to write, choosing the right lesson plan/lesson pace, teaching multiple children, materials and supplies, breakdown of what will be taught in each section and other pointers.

Phew!  It's a lot of information!  I have to admit that I was overwhelmed with the materials and supplies section.  Though not necessary to do it all, I can definitely see where having a writing corner would be beneficial.  Set up for these sections would be best done over the summer or during times where you can devote extra energies.

The lessons themselves have clear objectives, and well written instructions.  While easily obtainable, the list of materials is a bit of the long side.  Personally, I felt overwhelmed by it, but pressed on none-the-less.

Doing a 3 weeks per lesson pace, my 8 year old and I tested Lessons 1 and 2.

WriteShop Book C PrimaryThe first lesson is on "Planning the Story".  Included is a fun "Hickory, Dickory, Dock" worksheet that introduces how to answer the 5 W's.  The next activities incorporate the same theme, but by the methods of "Guided Writing Practice" (meaning it IS partent-lead and directed, limited to 15 minutes and geared to modeling proper writing techniques to your child), hands-on activities such as "Brainstorming with magnifying glasses" and a final project of a story puzzle.

In lesson two, "Writing a Mystery", you and your child play detective as you work through making a mini-story detective file mini-book, top secret file and fingerprint detective kit.

WriteShop Book C PrimaryMy daughter enjoyed the activities and writing assignments and completed them without struggle or complaint.  We both enjoyed our time spent together as well.

I like how the book is scripted.  I like how the curriculum itself encourages the parent to not only work with their children but to encourage them as well.  But, in this season of our homeschool, this curriculum requires more preparation time than I can give.

Again, I think this is a great program, ESPECIALLY FOR KINESTETIC learners.  It just didn't fit our family at this time.

WriteShop Book C Teacher's Guide retails for $32.95 for print, $28.95 for ebook.  The worksheet pack is $4.95 for both versions.

Visit to learn more about WriteShop's other unique writing curriculum and check out sample lessons as well.

Here's what other crew members are saying!

I received a copy of WriteShop Book C and worksheets free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Trip of a Lifetime!

It was going to be a trip to remember.  A trip of a lifetime!

We were gonna make some memories....and boy did we!
The Capital
The Capital

Our impromptu trip to visit friends out-of-state turned into a "Let's go to DC, we are only a few hours away" and "Hey, while we are there, let's check out Gettysburg since it's only a short 'jump' from the capital."

So, before I knew it, instead of kicking back and relaxing, we were driving around the country!

And so the adventure began.

Inside Fort Sumter
Inside Fort Sumter

Now, I have to confess that I though Central Florida had a market share of traffic and crazy drivers.  I was wrong!  After experiencing eastern seaboard driving and DC By-pass traffic, I will never complain about hometown traffic.  Let's just say I gratefully did not have to drive the 'harry' legs of the trip.  I spent the more intense moments in the passenger seat, eyes closed, meditating on scripture.

WWII Memorial
WWII Memorial
 In the midst of our historical immersion, our companions' breaks went out.  It was a nail biting trip through winding roads in low gear to the motel.  Unfortunately, it was after hours, so, repairs had to wait until the morning...and, unfortunately the repair required parts that were not in stock...which required the renting of a replacement vehicle and the leaving of the injured vehicle for several days.....which also resulted in a wrong diagnosis and stranded us for another day.

Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial

The White House
The White House
  Thankfully the van was eventually finished and made it home.  This was certainly a trip never to be forgotten!
Jefferson Memorial
Jefferson Memorial

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TOS Crew Go Science! Review

Go Science Volume 4
 "Everytime we learn something new about science we learn more about our Creator God."

Go Science Volume 6
 How does a plethora of science experiments presented by an exuberant teacher illustrating creation principles in the comfort of your own home sound to you?

Let me introduce you to Go Science!  Go Science is a 6 volume DVD set distributed by Library & Educational Services focusing on the joy and discovery of science from a Christian perspective.  The author of the series, instructor Ben Roy, also teaches science methods at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Viewing Chemistry, States of Matter, Life Science (Volume 4) and Water, Space, Solar System (Volume 6) we were pleased to see some excellent experiments of chemical reactions, exploding gasses, density, optical illusions, weightlessness and centrifugal force among others.

Though not always sharing the chemicals involved in these experiments, Ben Roy always uses these teachable moments as word pictures to explain Christian principles.  which include (but certainly not limited to):

Exploding balloons = Bible warns us of dangers we cannot see.
Burning paper/tissue = God's forgiveness
Root beer 'float' = Trust in Jesus
Lycopodium powder - in the world, but not of it.

These DVD's are packed with experiment after experiment.  Though my 13 year old science-kid didn't get much new information from the viewing, his 11 and 8 year old siblings definitely did!

Go Science is geared for ages 6-14 and retails for $8.97 each or $47.95 for the set of 6.

You can check out other fantastic buys on a variety of homeschool items at Library & Educational Services .

Library & Educational Services

Here's what other crew members are saying!

I received Go Science!  Volumes 4 and 6 free of charge in exchange for an honest review.