Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another Graphics Toolbox Project

Here's a project i did this weekend:
The Smallish Man-Child goes on Safari 
(he was about 8 months old in this picture).












Thank You, Graphics Toolbox!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Homeschool Library Builder (TOS Crew Review)

Okay, before you click away, let me assure you that this review will work for the average family with children in school as well.  When I received information regarding Homeschool Library Builder (HSLB) as a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I'll admit I didn't know what I was getting into.  "Library Builder," huh?  How does that work?  Well, let me tell you.

HSLB provides an online bookstore full of used and new books for your home library at really great prices.  Okay, so what?  Well, here's what: my son wants more fiction books, but he reads them so fast, I really don't want to spend a lot on books for him.  So, I head on over to HSLB and click "Search by age" then click "Elementary" and I get a list of discounted books meeting that reading level (for example, 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving that originally retails for $16.95, HSLB sells for $5.99).

Let's talk about the homeschooler for a moment (after all, that's me!).  I want a book that complements my attempt at Charlotte Mason's approach for education, and I recently started following Ambleside Online.  So, on HSLB's website, I click "Search by Curricula" then click "Ambleside" then the grade, in this case I'll use "4th" - and BAM! I get 3 pages of discounted books ranging in price from $1.50 to just under $10.  That's not only a good value, it is darn convenient!

Ever used Book Adventure online?  It is a free online program that your kids can use to take short reading comprehension quizzes (somewhat like AR for schools).  Well, HSLB actually has a subdirectory of books that match the ones in the Book Adventure library of quizzes.  Pretty snazzy, if you ask me!

Okay, so now that you're hooked, I'll give you the bait: this month (which is almost over, so get a move on!), HSLB is offering 20% OFF their already discounted prices.  No coupon needed, so head on over and stock up on some good books for the rest of this chilly winter season.

To see what other Crew Mates had to say about HSLB, click here.

*Disclaimer: this review is based on my own honest opinion, and I have received no compensation for it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Great Software Tools Introduction

I am in the process of reviewing a product from GreatSoftware Tools called Graphics Toolbox.  While the review will come in a week or so, here's a glimpse for you....

Original (above)
My first Graphics Toolbox photo play (above)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

AAS Beehive Reader (TOS Crew Review)

When we received the Beehive Reader 1 from the makers of All About Spelling, I was excited to give a new book to The Smallish Man-Child, who is going through books like he goes through underwear!  He gobbled it up, sure enough.  I could have reviewed this book ages ago because of how fast he read the thing!! (but ever the procrastinator, I review on schedule...)

Delightful stories about children and animals and charming sketch-like drawings entertain and engage your "Level 1" reader.  The wording is simple enough that children can figure the words out themselves when there is one they don't recognize, which builds their confidence that they can keep reading.  One thing I have discovered in my home: confidence in reading is a HUGE part of reading itself - without confidence, we have daily battles with the I Can't Family (and I'm not a great host to the I Can't Family, I have to tell you!).

My only concern about the book is that the stories are a bit more stilted than ones in other books (probably to keep the words simple, which is a bonus as stated above), but it has so many stories in that one binding that it is hard to complain.  Especially when my son didn't appear to mind one bit!

Note: He just walked in and saw me writing this review.  Our conversation went like this:

Son: "Did you order that one? Or are you reviewing it?"

Mom: "We got it for free to review."

Son: "Do they have any more??" (this with enthusiasm!)

Okay, 'nuff said, dontcha think??

Check out what other Crew Mates had to say about the Beehive Reader here.

Get one for your child here.  I didn't see any additional books on the website, but if everyone they sent these books to liked them as much as my son, I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of these from All About Spelling!

*Disclaimer: This book was sent to me for free to use and review.  This review is my honest opinion, and I have not been compensated for it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Homeschooling for REAL

Yesterday, we did REAL schoolwork... well, sorta....

We had our first EVER day of 3 straight hours of schoolwork.  We didn't take breaks to play because we were having so much fun!  Then we ate lunch, cleaned the bathrooms, and started again!  By dinner, we put our "schoolwork" away for the day. :-)

Here's what we did:
  • We read our Bible story. (Walls of Jericho)
  • We listened to the first chapter of Robinson Crusoe. (yeah, we had to find the kid version, though. Sorry, Charlotte Mason!)
  • We worked on our first lapbook (all about money!).
  • We watched Moody Bible Institute's The Wonder of You video. (did you know your heart pumps enough blood over your lifetime to fill a 70-mile-long line of tanker trucks?)
  • We traced ourselves on giant paper and labeled all the wonderful parts God gave us ("i praise thee because i am fearfully and wonderfully made!" Eyes=cameras! Ears=musical instruments!)
  • We learned about the state of Alaska (do you know the state capital city? say "you know" like old country accented english... Joo-know... JUNEAU!)
  • We did shapes puzzles with The Littlest Princess.
  • We went to the store and got a kids' tool set (ages 14+, not toys), some wood, some wood glue, and some sandpaper, and brought it all home to create our own bathroom book holder. (partially assembled, first coat of stain applied, waiting to finish it - hopefully later this week it will be all done!)

Today, we are going to plant strawberries, finish our money lapbook, read more Robinson Crusoe, read another Bible story, do some math, and play with textures.  Better get going...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Math Mammoth (TOS Crew Review)

When I discovered we had another math program on the way for review purposes, I winced.  Really?  I could really use some science, art, or history in our homeschool, sure, but math?  Um, no.  No, thank you.

Well, the vendor for Math Mammoth contacted me and asked for specific information about my children (ages, math levels, problem areas).  [+1]

We decided (yes, together, we decided! [+1]) on Subtraction 1 for The Smallish Man-Child and Multiplication 1 for The Drama Princess.

First, let me tell you what I saw when I printed Subtraction 1 for our first use: GAMES - ideas for games, suggestions, ways, materials to use (rocks, blocks, etc)... seriously, play games to teach subtraction.  Okay, now that I have been there, sure, it makes sense, but Kudos! to a maker of math curricula for directing teachers to teach subtraction by using games.  So, since my son was a pill when I had tried to teach him subtraction the one time I had attempted it, and since the purpose of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew is to "USE AND REVIEW" the stuff we're sent, I did exactly what I was told.  Later that week, I had a child who could do simple subtraction and could tell when to use subtraction.  Wow.  Color me stunned. [+1 and +1]

Let's move on to Multiplication 1, shall we?  Really, The Drama Princess is the difficult one when it comes to math, so we'll be able to tell a LOT about Math Mammoth from their multiplication lessons.  Bring it on!

First off, the program explains the concept of multiplication.  [+1] The creator of Math-U-See, the program we were using before stumbling into this journey of the TOS Homeschool Crew Reviewer, discovered that children can often perform the mathematical equations just fine, but they generally have no idea when to apply each concept (they would ask: "Do I add, subtract, multiply, or divide?").  This is generally the reason story problems (or word problems) are so tricky for children.  Well, Math Mammoth has solved that problem by informing children of what the concept is (What is addition/subtraction/multiplication/division? When/Why do we need do use it?) before they bother teaching the child how to solve the problem.  Makes sense to me.

Multiplication 1 teaches the concept, explains the order of operations, and adds word problems, THEN they work on memorization of the times tables.  Once mastered, a student is ready for division.

The only downside to this curriculum for me is that I have to physically lead each child through their math. (that is just my kids, not everyone's - it is a very user-friendly worktext!) While some children could do these simple, easy to understand worktexts independently, mine are not confident readers of instructions! Also, many of you may be thinking, "So you have to teach them... what's the big deal?" - for us, it is a problem. [-1] Our busy little preschooler and her sidekick (our dog) make it difficult for Mommy to do individual lessons with the bigger kids, so any lessons that can be combined or taught using videos/computer/independent learning are a HUGE bonus. I expect as the children gain confidence in reading (The Smallish Man-Child) and math, though, that they would be capable of using the worktexts independently, so this downside is not permanent.

Overall, WE LOVE MATH MAMMOTH.  [did you keep up with the points??]
No, it didn't come with manipulatives.
No, it didn't use a flashy computer game.
No, it didn't teach itself to my kids. (though it will for many)
But... it worked.
And that is the goal.

Click here to read the reviews of my fellow TOS Crew Mates.

*Disclaimer: The above materials were provided to me for free for the purposes of using and reviewing them.  This review is my own opinion, and I have not been compensated for it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hurry, Spring!

Yes, today, we here in Middle Tennessee experienced much warmer weather.  It was a far more typical day for late February for us.  We spent so long outside (played, cooked, and ate outside) that many of us got sunburns!!

It is my hope that all who are anxiously anticipating spring got a taste of its nearness today as well.

Have a blessed rest of the weekend.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Grateful am i for the sun that shines.
Thankful am i for the seasons that change.
Blessed are we that God loves us enough
To design our world to be beautiful.
  Our world is so useful and beautiful.

Honored am i to be part of His plan.
Treasured i feel that He bothers with me.
Happy am i that He heals and He frees.
A wonderful God do i serve.
  With a joyful heart i will serve.
                        ~ Angela Varela

(yes, an original, and though i do not actually believe it to be worthy of stealing, i recently discovered i should SPECIFY that my blog is my property and cannot be copied without permission. thanks.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Presidential Penmanship (TOS Crew Review)


I received a handwriting curriculum from Zeezok Publishers called "Presidential Penmanship" to use and review in our homeschool.  We were sent the Italic Style Complete Program.

The Good:
  • Grades 1st through senior high school included.
  • Writing is tailored to grade level (shorter manuscript lessons for first through second grade, then Italic style writing beginning in third grade with lengthier copy work with each level).
  • Easy to print and use from the CD-ROM, with all lessons included on one disc (can you say "simplicity?!?!").
  • Lined paper makes sense for the style of writing, rather than separating spaces into halves like typical elementary lined paper.
  • Wonderful quotes from famous people that demonstrate and build character.

The Bad (just one):
For us, the main drawback was that the style of writing from third grade through senior high (Italic) was so different, my eldest couldn't read it.  She did the best she could to do the copy work, and often asked me what it said.  Italic style actually looks really easy to me, and I think it looks like a better variation of current cursive teachings, but it was totally new to her! (Maybe we'll switch to Italic, though!)

The Ugly (truth):
I would love to take the same course all the way through high school with the Manuscript writing from grades one and two, or have them use modern cursive.  I may just have to teach my kids this Italic style, though, and stick with this well-designed program.  Overall, the "CONS" do not outweigh the "PROS" for me.  

We'll see what we feel like doing when we are done with our current Intensive Language Arts Review (a.k.a. The Madsen Method... stay tuned).  To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about this product, click here.

*Disclaimer: This product was sent to me for free with the intention that I would use it and review it.  No compensation has been received.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What if...

What if your child, whom you have poured love, patience, kindness, discipline, guidance, and truth into, turned to you today and said:

"Mommy, the reason our house is a mess is because you spend time with your children. I don't understand why you worry about it so much."

How can i possibly deserve her?

What's in a Name? (TOS Crew Review)

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I received Debra Bell's The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling from Apologia Educational Ministries last month to read and review for the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. The first thing I can say is that it is APTLY NAMED. This is THE ultimate guide.... Seriously. I wonder how I lived through the past 2 years of homeschooling without the encouragement and truths found in this one book.  Not to mention, some of those niggling feelings over the course of our homeschooling journey thus far are explained and validated by Ms. Bell:

  •  not stressing about housekeeping (if I am cleaning my house, I'm not teaching; if I'm teaching, I'm not cleaning - it's an unending cycle)
  •  redesign your homeschool as needed (when I see something isn't working for one of my children, I want to throw it out and do it a different way)
  •  allow clutter in the living areas (yes, the environment sometimes needs tidying, but should I banish all books/magazines/crayons/critter keepers from the living space so guests don't see the disaster we call "home?")
  •  have a plan: what are you going to strive for? what will you teach? how will you teach it? how long do you want to spend on it? (I am terrible at sticking to a plan, but I have been feeling the need to have one)

There is so much more in the book: understanding your children's learning styles (and yours!!) beyond Auditory/Kinesthetic/Visual labels; knowing which resources to make use of with wild abandon (I've already tapped some of her recommended resources, and we are LOVING our new Moody Science Videos!!); program recommendations (I can't wait to try some of her suggestions); schedule and budget tips; as well as what to consider (both positive AND negative) about homeschooling before you decide (or even in the midst of homeschooling, as a great reminder).  PLUS MORE.

This book is really an invaluable resource, and though much of what she asks me to consider before homeschooling is not in the cards for us right now, it explains why this is sometimes a stressful choice.  Plus, I now understand why homeschooling is difficult for me and seems to be easier for some.  I HIGHLY recommend this book for homeschoolers.  Many of my Crew Mates have even said it was great for "seasoned veteran" homeschoolers.  Check out their reviews here.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free with the understanding that I would read and review it.  This review is my honest opinion, and I have not been compensated for it in any way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Adaptation of a Christmas Classic

(sing this to the tune of "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!")

Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
And the heat is so delightful!
I can't imagine having no home...
When it's cold, oh, so cold, yes, it's cold!

It doesn't show signs of warming;
The snow is so disarming.
But for those out there with no home,
It's so cold, way too cold, oh, it's cold!

    When we finally hear God's voice
    Asking us to step outside of ourselves,
    We are being given quite a choice:
    Ignore Him or help His children!

The fire inside is growing,
And it's Jesus' love that's showing.
And all the people out in the cold...
Feel God's love, His precious love, His real love.
            ~ Words by Angela Varela

Nashville: visit Labor of Love on Facebook to help the tent cities' homeless men and women.  I know real people involved in this, so help in confidence.  Also, my church, Grace Chapel, helps the hungry and the homeless and are in need of donations since the number of people in need keeps growing.  In Spring Hill, The Well Food Pantry is running low and is in need of donations to continue serving families in need.

Everyone else: find some local church, shelter, food pantry and help out.  Imagine if everyone with a job gave a dollar ($1) to a local crisis center/food pantry/homeless shelter/church charity... how affordable is that?  And how WELL would we help those in need with that little bit multiplied like that??  I believe that would be WELL-fare.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dollar Homeschool (TOS Crew Review)

Okay, prepare to be amazed!


I received a set of downloads (generally purchased as e-books on CD) from Dollar Homeschool to use and review as a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew.  The downloads were from the Eclectic Education Series, and the name thrilled me all by itself!  If ever there was an eclectic homeschooling family, we would be it!

The Eclectic Education Series (EES) by Dollar Homeschool is a collection of electronic copies of books dating back over 100 years.  The books make up the educational texts used in most of the one-room schoolhouses across the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

Okay, so the Complete Set includes Ray's Arithmetic, Science, History, Grammar, and  McGuffey's Readers

*There is a plethora of mathematics topics included in Ray's Arithmetic, so do not let the simple name fool you!  You can start with kindergarten and progress until college from what I can tell of the topics: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, astronomy, logic, even surveying. The beauty of this program is that it teaches math with words, numbers, sentences, and real-life application rather than just numbers in an equation on a page, so no one should be at a loss for completing word problems when finished with Ray's! [being in 1st and 4th grade, my children didn't get past some of the simple arithmetic topics]

*There is a ridiculously complete set of science topics included in the Science portion, from nature and health to physics and philosophy, with logic, botany, and more thrown in the mix.  What a resource for this family of budding scientists!

*The History included in the EES is actually lots more than just history: there are reading, speaking, and phonetic teachings, as well as health topics included with the ancient history, Medieval history, history of the United States, and more.

*In the EES, Grammar appears to be all-inclusive, but once again, this material is what was taught in the late 1800s to the early 1900s, so it may seem odd to teach it that way.  We did not try to use the Grammar since we are currently enmeshed in another language arts curriculum that we are going to review.

*McGuffey's Readers are a collection of alphabet, grammar, reading, spelling, poetry, and composition lessons.  They begin simply and progress as needed through what appears to be 4th grade (although the website indicates it now goes through 6th - not sure if I am missing something or if this changed recently).

Okay, now I am officially overwhelmed by all that I can possibly teach my children with this amazing resource, and I am in need of some coffee and chocolate to soothe my "unschooling soul."  If you want to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Dollar Homeschool's Eclectic Education Series, click here.

*Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of these resources for free with the intention of using and reviewing them.  This review is my own opinion, and no compensation has been received.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Science and Dogs and Brownies, Oh, My!

A friend of ours was out of school,
So he came over, and that was cool.
I learned another way to crochet
The hats i'm making night and day.

We attended our science co-op, too,
And took some dogs out to pee and poo.
Then Oliver got shots at the vet;
For another year now, he's all set!

Fudgy brownies were made as well
For the troubled teen boys here in Spring Hill.
Now, laundry is towering above my head,
So i better tackle that before bed.

Have a great night and weekend, y'all!
Eat some chocolate and have a ball.
Be sure to hug your family close,
And spend time with those you love the most.
                                          -Angela Varela

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Math Tutor DVD (TOS Crew Review)

As member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, we received 2 Math Tutor DVDs to use and review: Young Minds - Numbers and Counting, and The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor.

I think the Young Minds - Numbers and Counting might be the best counting video out there!  It is low-key, not overwhelming or overstimulating for young children as many programs are, and it has natural world images, which we love in our house.  There is also background music that is calming, but not boring - classical music that is known to stimulate a child's brain.  I could see putting this video on weekly for The Littlest Princess, especially since she has started asking to do her "school work" and numbers.  At $24.99, it is a bit pricey, but if you have multiple children in your home, you will certainly get your money's worth with this DVD (and it won't give you the guilt that comes when they watch too much Disney!).

The The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor covers adding whole numbers through ratios and would be very helpful for students for many years.  It was a bit difficult to review for us because we have used Math-U-See as our primary math instruction, and MUS teaches with stories and concrete, real-world examples.  Thus, word problems are not much of an issue for my kids.  (what bogs my children down with math is the repetition required to put that stuff into their permanent memory - they know HOW to do the stuff the first time we teach it, though - they are just lazy!) Of course, keep in mind that they are only in elementary school, so I cannot be sure this DVD wouldn't be a lifesaver in high school when the mathematical concepts become much more "abstract."

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about MathTutor, click here.

*Disclaimer: I received the above DVDs for free to use and review.  This review is my honest opinion of those DVDs and I have not been compensated for the review.

Monday, February 8, 2010

KinderBach (TOS Crew Review)

My children and I received a temporary online subscription to KinderBach as members of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew.  We didn't manage to complete as many of the online lessons as I would have liked with all the holidays and schedule changes, but we did finish Weeks 1 and 2.  Here's what we discovered:

  • KinderBach is a great introduction to music and the piano/keyboard.
  • KinderBach is fun and engaging for preschoolers and kindergartners.
  • KinderBach offers many fun activities to supplement the online sessions.
  • KinderBach is a little too "young" for my two older kids.

The Littlest Princess loved the sessions, but whether she got anything out of it is not clear (after all, she's only 3).  She even requested the videos many times, often a specific segment (the "high and low" apple tree activity was by far her favorite!).  The older kids did learn to play 'Jingle Bells' during the Christmas break with the song supplements they offered for the holidays.

Overall, I believe KinderBach is a great introduction to music, and is perfect for preschoolers, but it is a little slow and "cute-sy" for my older kids (7 and 10).  It did spark their interest in music, though, and for that alone, I have recommended KinderBach to many of my friends (even those who do not homeschool would benefit from this musical education program).  As a totally musical being, I appreciate anything that instills a love of music in my children.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about KinderBach, click here.

*Disclaimer: a 3-month subscription to KinderBach online was given for the purposes of using and reviewing their services.  This review is my honest opinion, and I have not been compensated for it.

How do you know if your children are keeping up with their peers?

Interesting question.  So glad you asked.

See, the thing about children is that a) we always compare them to other children, and b) we know we should NEVER compare them to other children. 

Hmm. 
Seems hypocritical. 
Well, yes, as a matter of fact it is. 
I never want someone to compare my children to hers... unless my children come out on top.  Yeah, it may not be something you hear every parent say out loud, but it is what drives our hearts.  Many of us have a physiological reaction to hearing anything negative about our children coming out of anyone else's mouth.

So, how do i know if my children are keeping up with their peers?  Well, i honestly don't.  I find myself in various situations over the course of the year: children at my house playing with my children demonstrating various levels of proficiency in various topics; children in public places behaving in various ways; and parents of our local homeschooling groups discussing things they are currently working on with their offspring.  All of these scenarios illustrate 3 things: my children aren't doing half the stuff other children are doing; my children are right on par with what other children their ages are doing; and my children are way ahead of their peers.

Basically, since we don't test yet (elementary school is about proficiency and mastery, not keeping up with an arbitrary state-determined standard), i have only these random situations throughout the year to 'measure' my kids against their peers.  And since my kids come out ahead, on par, and behind when compared to their peers, i have to say we're probably in the same boat as every other parent out there: comparing our children to their peers to feel some sense of satisfaction that we are doing what we should be doing.

One thing i can say about my children: they are far more compassionate than many of their peers, and that is a side effect of parental interaction.  It is also much more possible when children are not overwhelmed with academics at too young an age.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Homeschool Library Builder - SALE

Okay, i am getting a website/service to review that is somewhat overwhelming to describe, but they are having a sale THIS MONTH and i didn't want to wait to get the word out.

If you like books for your homeschool (or home, i suppose!) and you like getting a good deal, Homeschool Library Builder might be just the thing for you!  Like i said, i haven't checked into everything, but i have read a few reviews so far, and i know this to be something TRUSTWORTHY - i am just unable to completely describe it yet. :-)

So you can go here   or here  to see more or you can go to their website.
http://www.hslibrarybuilder.com/

On Super Bowl Sunday ONLY, you can get an additional discount by helping Haiti - but you have to get on their website by tomorrow night.  Check them out for more information!

Worship Guitar (TOS Crew Review)

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As a member of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received access to the Worship Guitar For Kids lessons online.  These lessons include an introduction to the guitar, as well as the way to hold it, pluck the strings, and make chords.  I was delighted to learn we were on this list since the Drama Queen insisted she wanted to learn to play the guitar a couple of years ago.  With private lessons out of our price range, we just kept putting her off.  This review turned out to be the perfect opportunity to see how serious she is without incurring any cost.

So, we borrowed a 3/4 size guitar from a friend and began our lessons.  First, we learned the beat, or rhythm, of music in general.  Then we learned about notes: whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes.  After that, we learned the parts of the guitar, as well as how to hold it properly.  Once we mastered that, we got to pluck those strings - which I discovered I had never done properly.  We accomplished two chords, which Ms. Welles turns into a song that stays with you even as it makes you feel like you can actually play something on the guitar!!

All of the kids were into the introductory lessons about notes, rhythm, and the parts of the guitar, but only the Drama Queen (and her mommy) followed the online lessons and learned the chords and songs.  She and I both discovered rather quickly that it will take some time before we can play those chords without pain.  But I do believe we will persevere.

Thanks to Jean Welles' Worship Guitar for Kids, we have learned that we can play the guitar.  And it is fun!  I really like the way the lessons are done, and I love how she weaves God into them.  Great product.

To see what my fellow TOS Crew Mates had to say about this product, click here.

*Disclaimer: A temporary subscription to the online lessons was provided to me for the purpose of using and reviewing the Worship Guitar for Kids series of lessons.  This review is my own opinion, and I have not received compensation for it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Random January...

I made my first REAL adult hat!
(the first one was a flop!)

Dania enjoyed her first REAL snow!

So did Oliver!  Does he look like he is impressed??

 It was a real snowfall and accumulation, too!

The melting... Thank God!!

Oliver is getting good at catching his toys...
This just makes me chuckle!!

...and finally...
How do i ever get anything done?!?!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ever Get the Feeling...

... that everyone else is crazy?

I know, i know, the first sign of insanity is thinking the world is crazy and i am normal, but really, people!  Do you ever feel that way?

"Christians" who murder in the name of God.  What's wrong with that picture?

Schools that teach our kids about homosexuality.  When did that topic become academic?

Grown men who have no idea how to be MEN because no one ever showed them.  How will the world survive a fatherless generation?

Sometimes, it makes me sick to think of all we are facing.

But... God...
He has a plan.  He loves me.  He loves you.
I am really glad i know how this thing turns out (Psst! We win!).
Sometimes, that is all i have that keeps me going.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Facts First (TOS Crew Review)

When we were given a 90-day subscription to FactsFirst online (by Saxon) as members of the 2009-2010 The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I admit I was a bit bummed: another math product AND it's an online "math supplement" product.  So, I dragged my feel in getting the kids going on it for that reason, but also because in order to do this many math products justice in reviewing them, it is my belief that I need to use them exclusively.  That way, if something wonderful comes from the program, I am not left trying to figure out if it was because of Product A or Product B or a combination of the way we used them together.  Understand my point?

That being said, we have been using FactsFirst online for at least a week, and it is time to review it.  The good news: the kids LOVE it.  They have decided that it is WAY more fun than practicing math on paper, and the kids were rewarded for doing the "work" in the game by 5 minutes of "game time," which was a great surprise to them!  The bad news: we didn't spend as much time playing with it as I would have liked, so check out the other reviewers!

Starting point: the kids create their own character.  This is my daughter's favorite thing to do on computer games!!  The graphics are good and bold, but without being too overwhelming.  There were numbers presented in ways that made sense (like cash registers, chalk boards, etc.), and nothing else was going on that distracted from the problem on screen.

FactsFirst does encourage speed in entering your answers on the keyboard, but the beauty of this program over others we didn't like for this reason is that FactsFirst encourages the speed, but doesn't require it for the child to keep going.  I can no longer remember which program was which without going back and re-checking them all, but I remember there being something in our recent past that stressed the kids out about the time by buzzing at them or moving them on or something if they didn't get to it fast enough.  With FactsFirst, the kids can complete the entire set of problems, and they get a CHECK if they get the problem correct, but they get a CHECK PLUS if they get the correct answer with a fair amount of speed.  No buzzing.  No finishing without them.  They just do the problems and see the results after they are done.  And my son got competitive with himself and started angling for those CHECK PLUSES yesterday!

Really, it is a beautiful complement to any math curriculum, and is well worth the $49.99 for a year subscription (I have spent more in flip charts, flash cards, card games, and dollar aisle workbooks in a year!).  Check them out, or if you need more information, check out my fellow Crew Mates' reviews here.

* Disclaimer: I was given a free 90-day subscription to FactsFirst online with the intention that I would use it and review it.  This review is my honest opinion, and no compensation has been provided for it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Grapevine Studies ON SALE!

I just got an email from Grapevine Studies that they are offering 50% OFF student books through Valentine's Day (Feb. 14th), so head on over and try them out (or stock up!).  

By the way, i also found out that if you give them my name (Angela Varela) when you order, i get a credit on my account, which would mean discounted curriculum for my kids! (and here i was referring you all to them just because i LOVE their stuff - i get bonus points to top it off!)

You can call them at (toll free) 877-436-2317 or log onto their website: www.grapevinestudies.com 

Have a blessed day!