Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reading and Writing and College...Oh my!

When I was contacted by EduDPS (Educational Diagnostic Perscriptive Services) I had no idea what to expect.  I received four e-books to review:

  1. Roots and Fruits, an instructional book about Greek and Latin root words.

  2. Write with the Best Volume I, a writing program based on works of great authors.

  3. Write with the Best Volume II, the continuation of Volume I.

  4. The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers.  (Called The Career Guide for the rest of this article.)


After getting the download completed properly, I printed copies of Write With the Best, Vol. 1 & 2 and put them in a binder.  I just love printing e-books.  I know that TOTALLY defeats the purpose of an e-book, but it gives me great endorphins to see my ebook in a big white binder.  These are not small books, 109 pages and 141 pages respectively.  The products from EduDPS are not fancy.  It is black type on white paper.  No graphics outside of the border on the cover page .  From a visual perspective, it is not appealing.  But I do love a big thick book, so that was appealing.

We began at the beginning of Write with the Best Volume I and my boys loved it from the very first lesson.  To say that they loved a writing curriculum is amazing because these are not boys that love to write.  Write with the Best uses works of great literature as examples.  Our boys have proved Charlotte Mason's theories about living books over and over again in the 6+ years we've been homeschooling.  They come alive and are extremely attentive with a living book.  Write with the Best uses excerpts from living books to show examples of good writing.  As I read the examples, the boys were rivetted.  The other thing that really appealed to them was the short lessons.  In Write with the Best, each lesson takes only a few minutes a day to complete, usually not more than 15 minutes.  It was hard for me to stick to one lesson a day.  I wanted to move more quickly and pack multiple lessons in a day.  I mean, we were already started, why not turn a 10-day lesson into a 3-day?  But I resisted my temptation to get it finished and stuck to the plan, and the boys really enjoyed it.  At day 10 we had a great example of writing completed and placed in a new writing portfolio for each boy.  Although we have to take a break to review another writing curriculum, we will definitely return to Write with the Best and complete the lessons this year.   It's well laid-out, with great examples, brief lessons, and takes little to no preparation on my part.

Roots and Fruits is a book that teaches Greek and Latin root words.  Compared to other curriculum in this same area, Roots and Fruits boasts the use and learning of many more roots than similar books available to the homeschool community.  This book takes more preparation on the part of the mother/teacher.  You must read the book and plan for games and activities.  It is a very straightforward approach with clear instructions.  I can see how teaching the boys the Greek and Latin root words would be a great advantage to their vocabulary understanding and spelliing, but I just have not managed to fit it into a very full language arts schedule thus far.

Finally, I want to tell you about the last book I received, The Complete Career College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers.  This is a book that every homeschool parent planning to homeschool through high school graduation should own.  It is jam-packed with information.  In it you can find four assessments to help your child determine the future for which he is best suited.  These tell learning style, personality type, gifts, and many other things that will help you determine the best type of college-setting and career for the child.  There is a list of college majors and the middle school and high school subjects that should be covered in preparation for those majors.  This book contains alot of information about highschool transcripts and course selections.  As a matter of fact, I will not ony use the forms contained in this book for our boys as they begin to progress into Junior High, but I will also use it for my husband and myself.  Even at our age, I think we can learn a lot from knowing our learning styles, and our ideal careers.  I really do think that every family should have a copy of The Complete Career College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers.

Write with the Best Vol. 1 is $19.95 for the download, $22.45 for the printed book without a binder, $24.95 printed and in a binder.

Write with the Best Vol. 2 is $24.95 for the download. $27.45 for a printed version not in a binder, and $29.95 printed in the binder.

Roots and Fruits is $14,98 for the e-book download, $17.48 for a printed version not in a binder, and $19.98 printed and in a binder.

The Career Guide e-book is 34.95.  A softcover version is 39.95.  The Career Guide is a lengthy book.  With a hefty 225 pages, you may want to consider purchasing a printed copy of this book if you do not want your printer printing 225 pages at once.

Although their products are very well done, I did not enjoy the method of receiving these books.  EduDPS does not send e-books in the .PDF format that I've received most ebooks in the past.  They use a program called File Secure Pro to download the book.  You cannot access the book without first going through file secure pro.  Also you can print the book twice and no more.  The printing is restricted.  For larger books I sometimes print to another program that prints two pages per one 81/2x11 sheet.  File Server Pro does not allow me to print to anything except my main printer.  I have still not found a way to access my books without first going to the original email and clicking on the attachment which then  launches File Server Pro and then my ebook.  I cannot simply go to "My Documents" and pull up my book as I usually would do.  EduDPS has learned that there are potential problems with the regular way of downloading PDFs, so they use a different approach for protection.  You can read the background behind why they do this here: I did find this to be very restrictive and difficult to use.  I must tell you, however, that when I did have problems with my first download the company worked quickly to resolve the problem for me.  Just be sure when you download that you are at a PC connected to a printer.  I wasn't and I couldn't transfer the file to my desktop to print.  I had to be issued another download.  I also have not printed The Career Guide as of yet because you must print the entire book at one printing and this is a 200+ page book.  Special notes about their unique file download and printing system can be viewed on their website here.

If you would like to see other reviewer's opinions, check out the rest of the crew's reviews here: 

EduDPS is a no frills company that offers a quality product.  I will be using their writing curriculum for the balance of the year and, hopefully, beginning to learn Greek and Latin root words this year as well.  I will refer to The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers for the next several years and we prepare the boys for the future to which God has called them.  You can visit their website at and see all that they have to offer.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks

We have done a lot of lapbooks in the 6 years we have homeschooled the boys.  We have made up our own lapbooks.  We have purchased lapbook e-books from almost every company in the homeschool community.  We have used free lapbooks available at several sharing sites where other homeschooling mothers contribute lapbooks they've developed.  Yes, we've done a lot of lapbooks.

A little over a month ago I got the opportunity to download several lapbooks from the company, A Journey Through Learning.  I know that I can seem extremely eager and excited when I review a product, but I am NOT exaggerating here.  Ready?  This is the best lapbook/unit study kit I've ever used.

We were sent several lapbooks to review, but I chose the Amphibians lapbook to complete first with the boys.  We recently picked up two new pet anoles at the Renaissance Faire. (They sold them as "baby dragons.")  So I thought that we might learn about our new pets by completing this study.  As it turns out, Anoles are reptiles not amphibians.  Oops.  I guess we'll complete the reptile lapbook a bit later this year.

The entire lapbook took us about a month to complete.  I wanted to include pictures of our finished project in this post, but the camera is on the fritz, so I'll post them later.  Please check back. 

But, I really want to tell you why I consider these to be the best lapbook/unit study kits I've ever used.  (and remember I've used almost all of them!)

  • The mini-books had a lot of vivid colors.  I'm so pleased with the appearance of the lapbook.

  • The book was so easy to use because it required almost no preparation.  I didn't have to read several pages of introduction or preparation.

  • It was broken into sections with the required reading first and then the mini-books that built on that reading.  I very easily read the boys the section and had them complete the mini-book or books for that day's reading to "chunk up" the unit study.   Some days I handed them the reading and the mini-book and let them work on it on their own. (They are grades 6 & 7.)

  • Each page of the mini-book had what we called a map at the top.  The map showed the boys exactly where to place the mini-book in the lapbook.  It used a graphic which showed the folder with a shaded shape representing the mini-book.  The boys just looked at the graphic and knew where to place the mini-book they had just completed.

  • Beside the aforementioned graphic were all the instructions needed to complete the mini-book.  I just handed this to the boys and they took it from there.

  • When we were done with the last mini-book, all we had to do was glue it into the last open space.  It can be so challenging for the boys to try and put every mini-book in at once and fit it into the folded folders, as we have done with other lapbooks.  We did not have to worry about that frustration here.

  • We concluded our study with a "final" test.   I had the boys tell me everything they knew about Amphibians from our study.  This is also called narration.  This came from the recommendation and narration forms found at the back of the lapbook.  Brilliant.

All-in-all I give A Journey Through Learning lapbooks an A+++.  They have lapbooks and unit studies for all ages and in just about every school subject.  Downloadable lapbooks are $13.  Lapbooks on CD are $14, and printed lapbooks are $21 or $20.  I can confidently say that they are worth the price.  They also have Unit Studies and Copywork books available on their website:


If you don't want to take my word for it, check out some of the other crew reviews here.  And then head over to and pick up one of their unit study lapbooks to enhance one of your current studies or as a stand alone for a new study.  You could even give an upper elementary student, or older, one of these lapbooks and let them do it on their own.  It is that easy and comprehensive!  And let me know what you think after you've tried one.  I know I'm hooked.  As a matter of fact, I'd better get printing that reptiles lapbook.  Those anoles aren't going to learn about themselves!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Growing Healthy Homes Health and Nutrition Curriculum

When I got the opportunity to download the Nutrition 101 e-book from Growing Healthy Homes I was both excited and anxious at the same time.  I am always interested in improving my family's health.  I have done a lot in past years that has worsen our health.  As a matter of fact, the four of us are all over-weight.  I love to cook.  I also love to feed my family.  I get some emotional satisfaction from watching our boys eat heartily.  And my husband is always so complimentary when I cook a big wonderful meal.  I want to cook for our health, but I am also on a tight grocery budget.  I find it difficult to get everything we need AND buy it all organic and fresh.  As I started reading the Nutrition 101 - Choose Life book I was touched and inspired.


The instructions on-line lead me to read a few pages from the "Getting Started" section before continuing onto the lessons.  As I read that section I came across one of the testimonies of an author.  She explained how she had introduced her daughter to all of her favorite junk foods.  That's right where I am.  Our boys love junk and I'm the one that handed them that junk to eat the very first time and every time after that.  Reading these paragraphs encouraged me that we could start somewhere and learn about healthy eatting and maybe make some important changes in our lives!


The other idea I gleaned at first glance was that this was not a series of lessons to use during the day just with the boys.  This wasn't about checking off the "health" section on our homeschool log.  To even call Nutrition 101- Choose Life a curriculum is a vast understatement.  This is a life-changer.  This is a family-motivator.  We were not going to work through the lessons of this book as part of a homeschool morning.  We were going to complete Nutrition 101 - Choose Life as a family, around the supper table, together, all four of us.  My husband has always been hesitant to move to an organic lifestyle.  He sees the price difference between organic and not organic and says, "NOT!"  And so we continue in this un-healthy lifestyle.  Well, by working through these lessons about how good nutrition affects the various systems in our body, I know it will turn his heart and mind toward better health.  It will turn ALL our hearts and minds toward better health.


So we began at the beginning with lesson 1.  I read to my husband and the boys about the brain and the nervous system.  As I read my husband would interject with comments that sparked lots of discussion about the importance of protecting and feeding our brains.  Although the book suggests making the recipe at the end of the lesson, we made our recipe before the lesson and everyone snacked while I read.  I want to tell you about the recipe, but I don't want to spoil it for you.  Suffice it to say, it was yummy! 


The lessons in the book are well laid-out.  The book is in full-color, which appeals to me as a visual learner.  Although some of the additional recipes have ingredients that I'm sure I will need to visit a health-food store to make, I made the main recipe with all ingredients from our regular grocery store.  The book promises to correct our bad eatting habits, without breaking the bank, which will appeal to my husband AND myself.


I would recommend purchasing the printed book.  This is a lengthy book (448) pages, and you will want to have a printed text.  If you don't mind printing that many pages on your printer, then go for it!  Some of the reading may be a bit daunting if being read to a younger elementary-aged child.  But the authors recommend breaking up the lessons over the course of a week anyway, so there's no reason you couldn't break up the reading over the course of several days as well.  As with everything, no one is sitting behind you making sure you've used their curriculum EXACTLY as they've planned it.  Make it fit your family.


This curiculum can be used by all ages.  For the very young you will need to gude them and scale down some of the exercises.  But the curriculum stands on its own for those in the upper elementary grades and into high school.  Each lesson has lists of additional activities geared to all ages.  You can do one, none, or all of these supplemental activities for each lesson.


Nutrition 101 - Choose Life is available in an e-book format on CD for $79.95.  Having the CD is convenient because you can print each of your children their own copy of the recipes.  When they are helping you cook, they can follow along in their own recipe.  It would also make a great cook book to begin their own nutritional journey.  The book is 448 pages in lenght, so printing can be daunting.  If you would prefer to have the book in printed format, it is available for $99.95.  There would be value in having the printed book and the CD so that you did not have to print the entire document but could still print single pages as needed such as the recipes mentioned above.  Growing Healthy Homes offers a valuable package that includes the CD and the printed manual for $129.95.  If you are ready to purchase, go here to learn more about the pricing plans available.  


 You can find information about the company Growing Healthy Homes here.  A directory of all the products offered from Growing Healthy Homes is here.   And the Nutrition 101 - Choose Life information can be found here.  If you would like to contact Growing Healthy Homes about any of their products, followthis link for more information. 


If you would like to read others' opinions about Nutrition 101 - Choose Life, the TOS Crew website is full of other reviews.  Check them out at


If you, like me, need to take a better nutritional path, then try Nutrition 101 - Choose Life with me!  We are reminded in the very first lesson that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made."  Nutrition 101 celebrates that and endeavors to encourage us to feed our bodies in order to strengthen them for the Kingdom of God.  I'm excited about this path on which God is leading.  Want to walk with me?  Check out Nutrition 101 - Choose Life.