Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grapevine Studies Discounts!!

Yay! I have just been contacted by the Grapevine Studies program that there will be a special discount period for readers of my blog. I get to pass that great news onto all of you!! Even if you don't homeschool, their Bible studies are a wonderful tool for educating your children (and yourself!) about the Bible.

Grapevine Studies is celebrating our new year with a fabulous 30 % OFF for the entire month of January!!

If you haven't read my review for this company, click here to read it. I love this company! You can also access other reviews of Grapevine Studies here. If you are already sold, start shopping here on or after January 1, 2010! Just enter the promotion code "crew" when you are checking out and you will save 30% OFF an already affordable Bible program.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm Allergic... cleaning!

I know, it sounds like i must be making this stuff up, but i think it might be true!! Yesterday, i decided to tackle some of the unidentifiable junk that has been accumulating in various places upstairs over the past few months (with 1 birthday, Halloween, another birthday, Thanksgiving, ANOTHER birthday, 3 Christmas gatherings, and our regular routines, it has been all i could do to focus on the downstairs). About an hour into my tidying, my nose turned into a leaky faucet. A couple of hours later, my head was pounding a most unpleasant beat. Later in the evening, after i had ceased all attempts to organize the chaos that i had created during the gut-it-to-deal-with-it frenzy, i wanted to liberate my nose from my face for the constant itching and my eyes were trying to swim out of my head.


To clarify things some more, i took some Benadryl before bed so i could sleep, convinced i was getting a cold and was going to be miserable for the duration. Not so: I slept like the dead! I woke up with Dania in bed with me, and for once, i didn't remember her climbing in!!

Well, the facts seem to be indisputable at this point: i am allergic to cleaning. Too bad....


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kids are Great!

Last night, we enjoyed a Christmas performance here at my house. My 2 oldest children and 4 of their closest friends told the story of the birth of Jesus, offset with LOTS of Christmas musical favorites. They worked so hard this month, memorizing their lines, learning the actual words to the songs, and learning motions to accompany the songs. They got a bit nervous and giggly in the first act, but they rose above it and persevered... ending with applause!

We had Christmas cookies, Birthday Cake, homemade hot cocoa, and two different kinds of decaf Christmas tea. I put a donation cup on the refreshments table and explained that we were raising money for a missionary family in New Zealand. At the end of the night, there was almost $40 in that cup! (God is really making his $20 point!)

I will be making DVD copies of the recorded production for everyone who couldn't attend last night's performance. A small donation of $1 to benefit the missionary family in New Zealand is all we ask in return.

Have a blessed Sabbath (sort of) and a wonderful Christmas season!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maestro Classics (TOS Crew Review)

This first half of the school year has been very busy for us. We have been blessed to be a part of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, benefiting from free curricula from various sources. It has been eye-opening as I didn't realize there were so MANY things out there for homeschoolers. It has also been a little awkward at times, like when the product we are reviewing is not our favorite, but we are using it for a time anyway. Occasionally, I have had to do a lot of prep to understand how to use a curriculum, and that has been especially difficult for someone like me! The value of the products have been well worth the effort, but it has been some effort.

That said, we recently received something fun AND easy to use and review: a CD from Maestro Classics of the fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. This is something that we just got to enjoy. There is the classic tale of the hare who believes he is so fast that he cannot be beaten in a race of speed, but he soon discovers the tortoise's motto of "slow and steady wins the race" is in fact true. The story is paired with classical music (performed by a fabulous symphony orchestra), which all alone might be intimidating to parents and children who have never studied or enjoyed listening to classical music.

We enjoyed the CD in the car over a period of days during errands around town, and the kids actually asked me to put the story back on when we got in the car the second time. The 3-year-old would even ask me to "turn it up louder" when she couldn't quite hear the narrator (she is the farthest from the speakers, poor thing!).

I hope you'll check out what award-winning Maestro Classics has to offer your family - and it's not just for homeschoolers! There are a variety of CDs available on their website that would complement your next road trip or supplement your evening quiet time. Click here to see what my fellow reviewers had to say.

*Note: I received just the one CD to use and review, and no further compensation has been provided to me for this review. This review is based solely on our use of this product and is my own opinion.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mathletics (TOS Crew Review)

Today, I have the privilege of telling you about Mathletics (from 3P Learning), an online math practice program that we have been blessed to be able to use and review for the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. My kids have tried several math programs already this year for the TOS Crew, many of them good, but this one has them genuinely excited! They couldn't wait to inform me of all the ways Mathletics was better than everything else they had tried. THAT is impressive.

Mathletics offers online math practice programs around the world, and kids actually have the opportunity to "represent" their country with their accomplishments. There are Top 50 and Top 100 categories for the kids to get that recognition, as well as a Hall of Fame - all right there on the home page for the world to see!

In addition, your child has his/her own account, and parents get a different login - that way parents can check how their kids are doing. Mathletics also emails results to the parents weekly. With the way video games seem to go, Mathletics starts out just like a game, with your child choosing an Avatar to represent himself/herself in the game. (Shh!! Don't tell the kids it isn't just for fun!) There are different categories of math practice activities, but there are also games of different sorts. Your child gets to see how s/he is doing, but there isn't a focus on how they are doing until it is done. That was one part that stressed my children out about other math games: seeing how they were doing WHILE they were playing the game became a distraction that slowed them down and frazzled them a bit. In fact, there is one part of Mathletics that allows kids to race against each other or the computer, and that part completely stressed my oldest out! While it will be good practice, it doesn't have to be the only way she practices her math.

Your child also earns points to spend in a "store" for his/her Avatar. [Much like the games kids play on sites like WebKinz, except this site's games are educational and don't play pop music!]

We did have some trouble using the program in Firefox, so I had to do most of the Parent things with Internet Explorer, but that isn't really a big hurdle for me. Plus, getting workbooks for the kids for each math topic was well worth the effort of figuring out how to get them to load! Overall, we really like this program, and I think we'll be signing up to continue our subscription. If you would like to see what my fellow Crew members had to say about this program, click here.

* Note: We were given a temporary online subscription to Mathletics for the purpose of using it and reviewing it. This review is based on our use of the program, and I have not been compensated in any way for this review.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kissing Cousins

This was too cute not to put on my blog! Dania and her cousin, Donald, love each other SOOOOOO much that they request play dates frequently. This picture was of the two of them sitting at the top of the stairs with a snack... then, WHAMMO! He laid one on her! Are they cute or what?
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Introducing The Corporate Wife

Well, the computer geek i married decided he needed a better career path - one that had more ability to move up in the company or greater potential with another company should something happen with his job. He put in for a management position and was offered the job. Congratulations. Yes, by all means, congratulations are in order; i am very proud of him. That being said, i turned into a corporate wife overnight!! He officially got named for the position yesterday and was handed an invitation to the "Managers Only" Christmas party at the VP's house... for tonight! No learning the ropes, getting used to the way things are done, or slipping slowly into the swing of things?!?!

Nope, being a good little stay-at-home wife, i exchanged my sweatpants for pleated slacks, my bobby pins for style, and my slippers for heels... and i accompanied my husband to his holiday party. We hobnobbed with the other managers, made nice with the Vice President, and exchanged small talk with people whose names i will never remember! It was fine. I was tense, worried about saying or doing something dumb, but it was fine. The house was beautiful, the people were kind, the food was delicious, and it was wonderful to be invited to such an elaborate Christmas party.

The Computer-Geek-Turned-Manager officially starts his new position Monday. Maybe we padded the corporate account a bit on his behalf by schmoozing with the higher-ups. I certainly hope so: my bunions would hate me if it was all for nothing!! I can tell you one thing: i am not cut out for this corporate wife stuff... not that it matters now. {sigh}

I suppose God often pulls us out of our comfort zones to find new gifts, skills, or talents buried inside us. Maybe that is what He is up to. He better be planning to dig pretty deep!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tektoma (TOS Crew Review)

Okay, being married to the Computer Geek of the Century, I thought we would have fisticuffs over the Tektoma 'Game Maker' software we received to use and review. Good thing I'm not a bettin' woman!

The makers of Tektoma: Game Tutorials for Kids were kind enough to give us a temporary subscription to their website, complete with the Game Maker Lite software and all of the many tutorials and assistance they provide so that kids (or interested adults) can learn the programming of making their own computer games. I was thrilled: finally, I could plug the Smallish Man's genius brain into something constructive that might lead to learning something useful for... I dunno, like a career or something... you know, someday. When he's eaten all our food, learned everything I know, and given me a head full of gray hair. You know what I'm saying.....

What I failed to count on is the Computer Geek of the Century deciding he should finally fix our Wii. Yeah, that was impeccable timing. Why make computer games when you can play your long-lost Wii games? Making computer games is fun, sure, but it seems too much like, well, work. I only have to use my thumbs to play the Wii. And, sometimes, my wrist... I guess.


Anyway, I am disappointed to say that I am the only one who made a computer game, and frankly, the programming lingo was lost on me... I just blindly followed directions. Bonus, though: blindly following directions in the tutorials WILL yield a computer game! I made a memory game because, well, I like memory games. Go figure.

Tektoma, I must admit, has a really cool product that I have never seen or heard of anywhere else. They have a product that works, but they also have tutorials that a dumb sheep like me can use to make something cool - a computer game! If someone had a few more brain cells or a desire to learn the lingo of all that programming talk, s/he could pick up a whole new hobby - and maybe a future career!!

Tektoma's website lists their tutorials by the type of game you want to create, the amount of time the tutorial takes, and the level of skill (like Beginner). The only real downside I can see is that each tutorial is at least 1 hour, but you are really creating at the same time, so it isn't like you are watching the hour program, then building the game. Your game is pretty much done when the tutorial is over, so go ahead and play it.

I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about this product, and I hope my kids show some interest in something like this at some point because, frankly, that's the way the world is heading and they better saddle up!

To see what my fellow Crew Members thought of Tektoma, click here.

* As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew, I received this product FREE in exchange for my honest review of it. This blog post is that review and is my own opinion.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

All About Spelling (TOS Crew Review)

When I received All About Spelling (AAS) to review as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Homeschool Crew, I thought it might be the answer to prayer! My eldest child is not a fabulous speller, but with the proper drills, she does great. The problem with this is the method: I think drills are ridiculous methods to teach spelling in early elementary grades because the children are so young, the language so complex, and rote memorization so limiting. So, needless to say, spelling has taken a backseat to all other topics lately, and my daughter is falling behind.

The first thing right out of the chute with AAS is the time-consuming, finger-cramping, scratch-inducing letter cards preparation. The Starter Kit that came with our Level 1 box included the letter tiles, CD-ROM with phonograms, and magnets for the back of the letter tiles. Unfortunately, the letter tiles are NOT cut out, nor are they perforated for easy disconnect. It took me over an hour to cut out all of the tiles (they are on sturdy laminated card stock or some such thing), and THAT is a real downside to this program for me. *Update: Just opened Level 2 and it has perforated cards!  They are making this part easier, so no more cutting!! Yay!!

However, moving into the lessons, I must admit AAS regained my trust with the manual and lesson plans. The Teacher's Manual is direct, easy to understand, and lays out each lesson (including teacher script) quite well. There is little to no prep once you get the letter tiles assembled (praise God!), and the lessons make sense and progress in a rather logical way.

I used the program with my 10-year-old and my 6-year-old at the same time, which was rather confusing since my older child was much more advanced. This can be done more easily with AAS by purchasing another Student Material Packet for $14.95, which would give each child his own set of flashcards. [NOTE: the system is such that the flashcards are put in certain places in the card filing box depending on where that child is in the program, thus making it confusing to have 2 children on the same set of cards working at different speeds - understand?]

I really like the idea of teaching children the sounds of letters, which is why we have always used Hooked on Phonics (well, that and we received it as a gift!). The problem I am beginning to see with HoP is that there are too many gaps and too many sight words... again, with the rote memorization! My son is actually beginning to think I have been lying to him when he tries to apply something he has learned to a word he doesn't know!

With AAS, the kids learn the sounds of the letters and the sounds of the letter combinations - these are called phonograms. There are only so many phonograms in the English language, so why not just teach them to the children in a logical way? Well, AAS has developed a program that does just that.

The CD-ROM that comes with the Starter Kit includes an interactive screen with all the phonograms for lessons 1 through 6. The children click on the phonogram and the program speaks the sound, as well as some hint, like "used only at the end of English words." This part was remarkably effective with my son, who is apparently quite brilliant {smile}, because after the first day, he could parrot those rules back to me if he heard any of the phonograms that he had clicked on that first day! He is clearly an auditory learner.

Overall, the program is well designed, makes complete sense, and seems to work. I have already committed to trying another program similar in concept to this one over the next few months, so I will not be rushing to purchase Level 2, but we'll see what next year brings.

The All About Spelling products can be purchased for $29.95 - $39.95, which is quite reasonable in my opinion. To see what my fellow reviewers thought of the program, click here.

Disclaimer: This product was provided at no cost to me in exchange for my honest review of it after using it. I received Level 1 and the Starter Kit from All About Spelling. I was not compensated in any other way for my time or for this review.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our Thanksgiving!

We had a lovely Thanksgiving at our house, about 20 people dined and shared it with us. There was so much food, but it was all prepared by 4 different teams, so it worked well and wasn't too stressful for any ONE person. I even had time to lay pretty tablecloths and decorate each table a little to make it special.

I wanted to post some pictures, but i am having computer problems and am having to use my husband's computer, which is not where the pictures are stored, so i am out of luck! Maybe i'll get some of them up later....

I hope everyone is recovered from their overindulgence... nothing like Christmas shopping to burn some calories!!

Be blessed!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kids Make Us Smile...

...and forget what we are stressed about, worrying over, and fretting for.

Today in Target, the Smallest Drama Princess on the Planet was playing with a squeaky toy we were buying for our dog, Oliver, for his Christmas stocking.

Walking through the Christmas section, where all those stressed-out shoppers were frantically trying to figure everything out, she pipes up:

"Is dat gettin' annoying, Mom?"

I giggled and answered that Yes, it was getting annoying.... naturally, the surrounding area was full of people laughing and smiling in our direction.

Sometimes, a small child can remind you not to take yourself so seriously.

Remember to savor the simple things, let go of the heavy burdens, and enjoy the season of JOY!