Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I was recently provided with a free membership to AVKOs site in exchange for this review.  If you are not familiar with the name of this non-profit organization (AVKO), then you may have heard of Sequential Spelling.  AVKO is the organization that produces the Sequential Spelling program. 


This common sense approach to spelling was revolutionary to me.  The idea is that if you introduce your student to one spelling sound, like "ice" then you continue by giving them as many words with that sound as possible, like lice, mice, advice.  It makes sense in my mind because if you can get your child to master one word, no matter how large or small, then why not bring out all the words that are similar to that mastered word.  It would make word-mastery so much more quick and efficient.  But I'm not a linguist or an English expert.


The thing I liked best about membership to the AVKO site was the free e-books provided as part of that membership.  I've downloaded them all but have yet to get through them.  You will see why when you read the list below with the total number of pages.  Many of these books are for sale elsewhere, so the membership price is a definite value for the ebook prices.  Here is the list of what I downloaded with page-length for each book:

The Patterns of English Spelling 1485 pgs

To Teach a Dyslexic 145 pgs

The Teaching of Reading:  A Continuum from Kindergarten through College 364 pgs

Teaching of Reading and Spelling Starting From Square One 316 pgs


As I was reading through some of the materials on the website and in the e-books, I found this quote and it spoke to me: 

Although there isn’t just one correct way of teaching reading and/or spelling, both teachers and students are helped by a systematic approach.  p.4 TPES

This, again,  reinforced in my mind the effectiveness of this method of teaching spelling to children.


The basic membership to AVKO's site is $25 per year.  Not only do you get the free e-books I listed above, but there are also tons of helps and articles available in the membership area.  In addition to these things, you will receive 25% off of all AVKO products purchased during the year of your membership.  And AVKO is a non-profit organization that focuses to better education for those with learning disabilities, especially dyslexia.  Read more about this organization here.  Membership information can be found here.


I enjoyed this membership.  It's always fun to get free e-books.  I'm not sure, however, if I would have joined on my own.  But if you are interested in the sequential spelling program, you may want to give an AVKO membership a try!


 As always, if you don't want to just take my word for it, check out the other reviews of my fellow crew members for this product here.

Rubber Ducky You're the One!

I love to take a long bath.  In our house we say, "I'm going to go soak in the tub!"  I take a book, and a caffeine-free diet soda and crawl in among the bubbles to soak until my skin wrinkles.  So, when I got a package from Virginia Soaps and Scents, I was tha-rilled!  I received this package of soaps and a laundry soap kit in exchange for my review here on this blog.  I've got to tell you.  Even the box smelled good!

First of all I loved the packaging.  It was simple, and country.  The soaps have a little Vss stamp/brand on them and their shape, along with this brand is very charming.  This is not a square or rectangular bar of soap.  Three sides are straight with the top showing how the soap was mounded into the mold.  My soap sampler had three soaps, and a shampoo bar in it.  The soaps I received were smaller than the normal bar you would buy on their website, but even with the smaller size, I find them to be very long lasting.  One bar has lasted me almost a month!  More on that in a bit.

In my sampler bag, I received one bar of Fresh Orange, one bar of Oatmeal, Milk and Honey, and one bar of Coconut Lemongrass.  I used the Fresh Orange bar first.  The first night I used it in the shower, my husband called out from our living room (remember from this entry, we have a small house), "I can smell it out here!"  That was definitely a good sign.  I tried using this soap without using a wash rag, since I usually use a shower gel and a bath-pouf.  I didn't find there was too much lather when used  it without a wash cloth.  So, I got out the lacy cotton wash cloth I had crocheted several months ago and used it the next time I used the soap.  WOW!  Now I had lather to spare.  It was luxurious.  One problem I did have was with the bar getting kind of mushy if I didn't have it in a well-drained soap dish.  They actually talk about this on the web site and Virginia Soaps and Scents sells a beautiful handmade soap dish for $2.50 that will solve this problem.  When you go to the website, click on Products at the top center of the page, and then soaps from the drop-down menu.  At the very bottom of the soaps page, you will find the soap dish.  I'll need to order one of those.  I am currently using the Oatmeal, Milk and Honey bar and I love it even more than the Fresh Orange.  It is really wonderful and I want it to last forever.  I have yet to try the Coconut Lemongrass, but I'm sure it will be great.  The first bar I will order (after the shampoo bar) will be the Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey bar based on what I've tried.  The regular (not gourmet or Christmas) soaps sell for $4.50 for a large 4.5 oz bar.  If you buy three bars, the price is $12.00, but buy 4 bars and you get the fifth bar free.  They now are also offering a 10-bar purchase for $35.

And now, the shampoo bar...ah the shampoo bar.  I have very dry, naturally curly hair.  I mean VERY dry hair.  I usually only wash my hair once a week, and even then, it is dry most days.  I was really scared to try this shampoo bar.  But, I gave it a shot.  What I found was that it only took a little rub on my hair to get a full lather.  I washed and rinsed twice.  My hair felt clean, but not too dry.  I did use conditioner, but I ALWAYS have to use conditioner, so that is nothing new.  I promptly wrapped up this bar and put it away so the boys and Big Dog don't find it...this is too good for yucky old boys!  I'm keeping this shampoo bar all to myself!  I loved it.  I loved the way my hair felt afterward.  I had a really good hair day after using this shampoo and that's hard to come by when your hair is dry/frizzy naturally curly.  You can buy one 5.5 oz shampoo bar for $5.50 or get two for $10.  They have three scents for the shampoo bars (mine was ginger lime) and they also have an oily-hair clarifying formula which I'll never have to buy.

There are more products than I can tell you about on this post tonight.  Please go to the Virginia Soaps and Scents website and click the Products button at the top of the screen.  Definitely look at the Gourmet Soaps.  They look fantastic!  I'm also really interested in the Pet Shampoo bar (called Pet Poo).  I have two little itchy dogs who would much appreciate a good soap to help in that area.

Finally, I received a laundry soap kit...  The kit I received retails for $4.95.  If you try the kit and like it, you can buy their cleaning bar for $3.95 and follow the recipe on their website to make your own.  In the package, the first line to the crew members said that what we were holding was NOT curriculum.  I have to tell you, I used the laundry soap kit in our little homeschool.  The boys and I followed the recipe and mixed up the batch of laundry soap and stirred it while it cooled as directed.  So it was a little like curriculum.  I was a bit skeptical because years ago I tried a homemade laundry soap that was floating around the internet homeschool community and I found it didn't really get the boys clothes clean.  Today was the true test.  The boys cleaned their room and I had 2 loads of laundry to do from their bedroom floor!  I know.  I know.  Shameful.  ANYWAY, the first thing I noticed is that the laundry soap doesn't stick to the measuring cup like store-bought liquid does.  When I took the wet laundry out of the washer, the next thing I noticed was the smell.  The clothes had a fresh-clean smell.  It's hard to describe, but it's not the perfumy smell you get from store bought detergents.  It's a really clean smell.  All-in-all, I'm impressed.  The soap works well and one batch has made a good amount considering you only have to use 1/2  a cup per load.  The bar is a good value for the money because it makes a much larger batch than what the kit contains.

Do you want to know the age range for Virginia Soaps and Scents?  Well, in my house, it's female adults-only.  But you might not be nearly as selfish as I am when it comes to bath products.  So, in your house, these products may work for all ages.  Actually, Virginia Soaps and Scents offers soaps just for children, like the kiddiwink all-in-one bar here.  And there are a lot of scents that would appeal to men, as well as a man's shaving soap.

If you would like to contact Virginia Soaps and Scents, go to this page for more information.  To read the other reviews of my fellow crew-members, check out the crew website  I give Virginia Soaps and Scents an A+++.  This was a fun product to review and I will become a regular customer.  You should too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I got my haircut!

Well, today I went with my mom and had my hair done.  I'm so tickled with it I just have to show you the pictures.  First, here are the "before" shots:

...and the back...

 My hair was so long that when it was wet, it fell in the middle of my back below my shoulder blades!  But, since it's naturally curly, it kinks right up.


So, I met my mom at her hairdresser's and she squeezed me in while mom's color was setting.  Here are the during pictures:



Yes, I was playing with my blackberry while drying! LOL


And now...wait for's the after photos.  I'll give you the back first to show you how much was cut!


And here it is...drumroll please!


I love it!  It's light and cute and swingy.  Yes, swingy.  What I don't love is my chin...but that's another entry all together.

Bible Charts and Maps

Our copy of the Amazing Bible World History Timeline arrived on a Saturday.  Our oldest, Big Mac, came running into the kitchen with a long triangular-shaped package.  We were all excited to open it up and take a look at it.  We took out the timeline and immediately put it on our kitchen table with a clear-plastic tablecloth over the top of it.


A few days after we received the timeline, my girlfriend stopped over to the house to drop off her son for a playdate.  When she saw the Bible Timeline on our kitchen table, she stopped and stooped over it saying, "What is this?  Oh how cool!"  That started me thinking that this would make a great gift for a family or friend!  It's a great tool for bible study, and what an encouragement to a growing Christian in your life.


Having The Amazing Bible Timeline on our kitchen table has been a wonderful experience.  It's great to say, "whay was going on at the same time Jesus walked the earth?"  Or "who was alive when Abraham had Isaac?  You can not only compare biblical characters to those found outside the bible, but you can see a chronological  comparison of lots of biblical characters.  I love having this timeline at the ready also because I can not only compare biblical characters but also other times in history.  As we are studying the Revolutionary War, we can look at that time period on the timeline and see other events around the world during the same time period. 


I like the timeline's circular structure.  I don't need a long wall to display this timeline.  I like that it is very colorful and, therefore,  it is also very eye-catching.  I love that the small-ish footprint fits on my table but spans such a long time-period, going from the beginning of the world, Creation, to 2000 AD.  The only criticism I can give you is that I may never get to put a pretty tablecloth on my kitchen table again!  No one wants to cover up the timeline!

The Amazing Bible World History Timeline is available for $29.97 on the company's website .  When you buy the timeline, you also get a digital version of the timeline as well as a downloadable Interactive Maps of the Holyland.   


For additional information about Amazing Bible World History Timeline from Bible Charts and Maps, you can cruise through their website  or they can be contacted by telephone:  877-966-7300 or email .  Or, if you don't want to take my word for it, check out the other reviews at the crew website here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Evaluating a Subscriber Site: ABC Teach

I'm sad.  I was able to access the subscriber information on ABC Teach for one-month for free so that I could write this review.  My month is over.  I'm sad.


I had a one-month trial with ABCTeach  a few years ago when our guys were smaller.  I remember finding lots of coloring pages and mini-books to use with our studies.  When I learned that we were going to be able to spend some time in ABCTeach this year for the Homeschool Crew I was interested to see if this site would still be useful as we entered our middle-school junior high years.  The quick answer?  It was.


I wish I didn't have to school the children, work my job, write any other reviews, or cook for this family for the past month so that I could have spent all that time on ABCTeach.  I think I could have found a multitude of lessons, supplements, and graphic organizers to use in future studies if I had all that time for review.  With the bit of time that I did have to find things on ABCTeach, I found a great pumpkin seed experiment that we're going to use the Friday before Halloween for a fun-lesson.  I found a LOT of information on Fallacies.  We've begun to be interested in the aspect of critical thinking after reading the Bluedorn's e-zine.  I got alot of great information off the ABCTeach site to continue our study.  I also found several pages that we will use to make an "All About Me" book for their homeschool prortfolios.  The reason these pages were great is that it wasn't too young for our guys.  And in future years these pages will give me a great glimpse back to who the boys were in 2009/2010.


There were lots of classrom-type printables and tools, but most of them would easily translate to a homeschool.  I don't think many homeschools would use the nametag tool, unless you have a real problem remembering your children's names.  But other than that, how cool would it be to use the crossword puzzle generator to make a crossword puzzle from words you just read in your literature reading?  And there are lots more tools like the one I just mentioned.  The mind reels when you think of the many activities you can dream up just to reinforce your child's spelling words for a week! 


And there are worksheets and activity pages on just about every subject you can imagine.  Since I am a make-it-up-myself kind of gal.  I enjoy having a plethora of activities at my disposal to go with a book we're reading or a timeperiod we're studying. 


All-in-all I think someone who is not a curriculum-for-every-subject schooler could get a lot of use out of ABCTeach.  They have items on their site for all-ages, although maybe not Senior High School.  I didn't really look for anything at that level.  I know that pre-school to Junior High are definitely covered on this site.


Check out ABCTeach .  They do have a lot of free worksheets available on their non-member area, but ultimately, I find that the things I really want are available on the membership site.  And if you don't want to take my word for it, look at reviews from other crew members here.


There are various pricing structures available.  You can check them out here.  ABCTeach has lots of options for group-pricing.  So you may want to get a group together from your support-group or co-op and join to get the best price.  If you want to join individually for $40, go tothis page

Work Boxes

One of the many things that I really like about being part of the 2009/2010Homeschool Crew is that even though I'm reviewing homeschool products, you get a glimpse into our home with each review.  If you read my reviews, you learn a little bit about me, our family, our home and our homeschool.  This review is no exception.  I received a complimentary copy of Sue Patrick's Workbox System E-book so that I could review it for you here.


I am not a manual reader.  I love curriculum that I can just jump into with not a lot of prep or reading required.  So, I really appreciated the section entitled, "How to Use This Book" at the beginning of the book.  In this section I was directed to start my reading at chapter 4, where I would get the workbox system in its entirety.


In general, this User's Guide is easy to read.  The font used is large and there are a lot of color photographs and graphics dispersed throughout the entire book.   I did not print this ebook, because it really was easy to read on my computer screen.  Usually I do print e-books because they are overwhelming to page through on the PC.  But this was not the case with the Sue Patrick's Workbox System User Guide, it was easy to read on-screen.  You didn't get lost while scrolling pages because of the large font.


Unfortunately, I did not find the Sue Patrick Workbox System to be one I could use in our home or homeschool.  This is the part where you get a glimpse into our lives a bit.  We live in a small home.  I can vacuum my entire house without having to move the plug.  We do not have a homeschool room and we do not call our day "school."  We have our lessons at the kitchen table and in our living room.  We have lots of pets, some of them odd, which we care for in the midst of lessons.  We read aloud during meal-times or in the evening.   We complete some lessons with Daddy at night, although not often.  We try to have an atmosphere that school is not a segregated time from 8 to 3 during the day, but a learning is a lifestyle.  I am not an un-schooler, that would be difficult to do and still maintain our state's requirements, plus our boys do well with a certain amount of structure.  The boys have lessons that they do during our morning and early afternoon hours.  So please don't think that we are completely unstructured, but I am also not a rigid, very structured homeschooler.  I don't buy a lot of curriculum.  I use lots of unit studies, lapbooks, and living books to teach the boys.  And, although our boys are 20 months apart and would be 1 year apart in public school, other than math, we do all the other subjects together.


All that being said, the first reason that Sue Patrick's system would not work for us is a space-issue.  As I said, we have lessons in the living room or kitchen.  Using her system as written would take up a big chunk of space in our small living room.  Also, I wouldn't want guests or extended family to have to look at the boys lessons set-up when here to visit.  It CAN be adapted to a smaller space if you work creatively outside the confines of the book.  You would just have to think about how you could make it fit your living space. 


The next reason that I did not find the Workbox System appealing was that it was too much like school.  In one part of the explanation of the system she explains that too many homeschool children talk too much.  To quote her book directly, She has many plans in place so that your children don't interrupt the day with talking and can get your attention in unobtrusive ways.  I understand what she means.  Our boys talk a lot and we might be able to get our lessons done in less time if they didn't tell me their thoughts.  As I watch my children grow so quickly, however, I don't want them to talk to me less.  I want more-more-more because I know that the time when they will be out on their own is approaching faster than I can imagine.  And I will long to hear them share with me, "every thought that enters their mind."  Also, since, quite often, it is the middle-school ages when children begin to clam-up and think that they cannot share everything with their parents, I never want to discourage the boys sharing their thoughts with me, even if they are off-topic.  It is the unplanned times when we've had our best conversations.  I would never want to discourage that.

"I find that there is way too much talking going on in homeschools."  Chapter 4, page 36, under the "independence" heading



Finally, she suggests giving your child a limited amount of times when he or she can ask for help.  I understand that the goal here is independence but I disagree that they have 3 help cards and if they use those they don't get my help any more today.  That doesn't encourage independence, it encourages pride, an "I can do it myself" attitude, and bypasses my role as their teacher.  I know that of which I speak because I'm that person who never wants to call for help.  My husband often asks, "Why don't you just call?"  Pride.  That's why.   I'm a homeschool mom because I want to be part of the boys education.  They are great at figuring out their own problems, but I never want to limit the number of times that they can ask for my help. 


Although I did not find this to be a system that would work in our little homeschool, it may be the solution you were seeking.  Please know that it is a good read with some really good ideas.  We will be incorporating "running" into our afternoons.  But you'd have to read the book to find out what I mean by that.   If you would like to know more about Sue Patrick's Work Box System, you have a few options.  To contact Sue Patrick directly, follow the instructions here although she does say that she is not able to answer all contacts.  Or read more TOS Homeschool Crew reviews here.


The e-book I received, Sue Patrick's Workbox System Users Guide is available on her website for $19.  If you would like to see all of the products that Sue Patrick offers, check out the products page of her website here.  As a matter of fact, check out her entire website.  Once you've purchased her book, you have unlimited access to her free downloads which help you implement the workbox system in your homeschool.  All you have to do is register your purchase on the website and you get access to the downloads that help you bring the workbox system into your home.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Great Idea...Educaching!

Several weeks ago I received a complimentary e-book copy of "Educaching:  GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers" from SDG ltd.  I promptly printed out my copy and put it into a three-ring binder.  The printing was a breeze and I was able to use my favorite printing software (fineprint) which allows me to print two pages landscape on one 8.5x11 sheet of paper.  That way the e-books print on half the paper you would normally use.  I have reviewed some vendors whose printing and downloading software would not allow me to use fineprint, but Educaching gave me no problems at all.

Although the wording and instructions are geared to a classroom teacher, this concept/curriculum is easily adapted to a homeschool.  Many have said that it is condusive to being used with a homeschool co-op, but I really find that this program is great for the individual homeschool.  We have two boys, and I found it to be very useable in our homeschool.

The other thing that is great about this curriculum is that it is very adaptable to whatever you are studying.  Once you're read the book, you could develop your own educaching experiences based on whatever you are working on in your homeschool.  If you have ever made up your own unit study, you could develop an educache once you've learned how from this manual.  Using the concepts in the Educaching handbook, you can make lessons covering a multitude of subjects.  This is not a science curriculum, or a geography program.  This program works just like a unit study covering multiple subjects in one lesson.

We have geo-chached in the past, so we did not have the learning curve of needing to learn to use a GPS.  But if you do, there is an entire section in the book about using a GPS.  Learning how to use the GPS and learning how a GPS works would be a great beginning lesson for your children as an introduction to this new way to learn!

I think the Educaching manual is a great addition to any homeschool.  It gives your students an opportunity to get outside, but truthfully, you could complete a cache activity with only one point inside your house!  In every activity the child will get some exercise, learn about geography coordinates, write, and think creatively or critically.  The rest depends on the activity.  Some of the educaching activities involve history, some involve science, some involve a lot of subjects.  I was just reading over one of the activities available for download on the educaching website and it covered history, art, geography, physical education, language arts, and math!  And that was just one activity!

This program or curriculum can be used with any age.  Small children may need help working the GPS and understanding the coordinates, but this is definitely something you could do with a large age-range.

There are two Educaching products available.  The digital version of the book, which I received, is $32 + applicable sales tax.  The print version is available for $32.00 plus $6.95 shipping and handling.  The print version gives you the educaching manual packaged in a 3-ring binder with a CD of all the printables that you would want to use in your adventure.  There is a Bronze package which includes the printed manual in a binder, the CD and a "Factory Refurbished Garmin* eTrex H Model B/W GPS receiver."  This package is $129.00 plus $9.75 shipping and handling.  The Silver Package contains everything in the Bronze package plus a Otterbox all for $159.00 plus $14.95 shipping and handling.  The Gold kit comes with the manual in a binder, with the CD, four Garmin receivers, and four otterboxes and sells for $544 plus $28.75 shipping and handling.  And, finally, there is a Platinum kit that sells for $619 + $33.55 shipping and handling.  This kit includes the complete manual in a binder, the CD with printables, and six Garmin receivers.  If this is all too much information for you to absorb, check out their product page here

If you would like to contact SDG Creations Ltd., their contact information can be found here.  There are very brief opinion- reviews on their web site, but for more detail, check out the reviews of my fellow crew-members here.

I know I haven't really given you the details of the educaching system, but I don't want to give away the plans.  Check out their website.  Get yourself a copy of the book.  And begin an adventure in learning that you and your family have never taken thus far no matter how long you've been homeschooling!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Read any good books lately? I have!

I've got to tell you about one of our most recent Crew Assignments.  I was really excited about this one because all I had to do was read a book!  I love to read and have read avidly since I was a little girl.  I remember one evening I was in my room engrossed in a book when my younger brother and older sister came charging into my room telling me that the house was on fire!  It ended up being a trick.  They thought I spent too much time with my nose in a book and wanted to get me moving a bit.  I love books. 


When I received my copy of Sarah's Wish for review, I loved the look of the book.  This first book in the series is not a thick book at 123 pages, but it feels good in your hands.  A paperback book, it is well constructed.  The cover art is beautiful and the pages are thick and white. 


I always read a book's introduction, if I can get through it.  The introduction to Sarah's Wish brought you into the book.  If you can believe this, it actually made you want to turn the page and start the book right away!  I've never really had that reaction to an introduction, usually it can stand on it's own.


And then there was the story.  Sorry, I'm not going to tell you much about the story.  I really don't want to ruin any of it for you because it unfolds in a lovely way.  Suffice it to say that the book is about a young girl named Sarah.  But this is just just a book for girls.  I fully intend to read Sarah's Wish to our boys.  It is a fine piece of historical fiction.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah's Wish.  I highly recommend it to all readers in an upper-elementary level and older.  And I would suggest that you read it to those who aren't in an upper-elementary level. 


There are three books in the Sarah series.  I am hoping to read the other two just as soon as I can send for them.  An audio version of Sarah's Wish was included with my book and I listened to three out of four of the downloads for this book.  It was fascinating.  The reader is female and she voices the characters very well, using various voices for each character.  I was on the edge of the seat for much of the audio.  You can find out more about the Sarah Books here.  As I've said, there are three books:

Sarah's Wish  retails for 10.99, but the author sells it at his website for 9.99.  You can also purchase the audio on CD for $24.99, but the author offers it on his website for $16.99.

Sarah's Promise retails for $14.99, but you can buy it from the author on his website for $13.50.  You can also get the audio for Sarah's Promise on 5 CDs for $27.99, but the author sells it on his website for $18.99.  If it is done a like the Sarah's Wish audio, it is well worth the purchase.

Sarah's Escape the newest book in the series is 304 pages, with a glossary of 19th Century terms and two drawings of Sarah.  Retail Price: $21.99 but now available on the author's website for $17.50.

The author offers free shipping and handling AND he autographs the books.  I was so surprised to find my book autographed with a brief message to me.  He sent these books to over 100 crew members, and mine had my name in it!  It was like Christmas morning.  I am a HUGE Jim Baumgardner fan after reading Sarah's Wish and reading a few of his newsletters.

Check out the Sarah books.  The author, Jim Baumgardner, has a charming e-newsletter as well. You can subscribe to it by sending an email to:   Please put "send newsletter" in the subject line of the email.  I hope you will enjoy the books AND the author as much as I have.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's true!

Well, it's true.  We WILL be surprised by who we see in heaven...

But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-7

He is rich in mercy, giving to all who ask.  And we don't know who is asking for His mercy while believing in Christ Jesus.  There are lots of people that we decide are "dead in trespasses" who may be crying out to their Savior in their prayer closets, unbeknownst to us.    So we are made alive with all of those who cry out to God through Christ.  We will be raised up with all of those who cry out for mercy to God through Christ.  And we will see these people in heaven.  Won't we be surprised?

So, I'm thinking that God uses "time out" in heaven.  This verse says that he will make us sit together.  I think we'll be sitting beside those we may have judged...time out.  What better way is there for Him to show His "exceeding riches of grace and kindness"?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Peter 2:13-17

13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.


I had a revelation this week.  Wait, let's back up a bit.  A little over a month ago I got a job.  I'm working from home, but I need to work 20 hours a week.  When I took the position I thought this would be a piece of cake.  It has been a challenge, however, to find 20 hours in a week!  Some days have found me crying out to God about how to fit everything into a day!  One way I've been trying to fit more in is by getting up a little earlier each day and working before the boys are out of bed.  I can get about 2 hours of work in before the boys are really up and moving about. 

But our homeschool has sufferend.  I haven't really been taking the time to prepare and plan, so we fly by the seat of our pants and some days we weren't getting too much accomplished.  This week, I didn't get any planning time over the weekend, so instead of working on Monday morning I planned our lessons for the week.  So far, it's been going so well.  The old addage is true, "Those who fail to plan, plan to fail." 

But still, I was not getting some of the routine housework and my devotions completed every day.  Here comes the revelation.  Each morning, after breakfast, I tell the boys, "Chores and morning routine."  They each have 3 daily chores, plus they must brush their teeth, have devotions and write in their gratitude journals.  It was like a clap of thunder when it hit me...I can do my chores and read my bible when they do!  Usually I was preparing lessons materials, printing pages, or getting out books, while they were doing chores and morning routine, but since lessons are already planned, I can take the time while they're doing chores to sweep the kitchen and living room and throw in a load of laundry (my daily chores).  While the boys are reading their bible and journalling, I can read my bible and journal.  And yes, I am brushing my teeth when they do in the morning, too!  Oftentimes, the boys are done with devotions before me but they know what lessons to start when they're finished so that I can finish my devotions.

Ok, so now you've lost all respect for me.  You're saying, "Oh please...this is a revelation?!?  Come on!"  I remember being told at my baby shower, "Sleep when the baby sleeps."  It's that same principle, isn't it?  But I gotta tell you, this has revolutionized my day.  I feel great, and I had to share!

My Access...Home Edition

Vantage Learning graciously gifted me with a one-year subscription to My Access Home edition.  This is an on-line writing course for students of all ages.  One great way to learn about My Access is by viewing the demo videos on their website.  Go here to view these videos and learn more about My Access.

I managed to add my log-in information and add both of our boys accounts with ease.  The website is easy to navigate and use.


I got our oldest son started on his first assignment and when our youngest, T-bone age 11, saw this program he said, "I want to do what he's doing!"  Now, let me tell you, this is NOT a boy who loves writing.  He has not enjoyed writing at all.  He does the bare minimum and ONLY what is required.  Our oldest, is my creative guy.  He will dictate pages to me, and when he gets inspired, fill a notebook with a story that he's dreamt.


Back to our morning with My Access.  Our youngest couldn't wait to get on-line and complete the activities surrounding his first writing assignment.  Both boys really enjoyed the graphics and the activities.  We chose writing assignments from the 11-13 year old category.  I found some of the activities to be challenging.  T-bone was putting paragraphs in order and I couldn't get them right!  There were five paragraphs that had a specific order, but I couldn't see what that order was.  It took us 5 tries before we got the order the program was seeking.


After completing a bunch of these activities, the boys tried their hand at writing their assignment.  T-bone chose to write to the Mayor and explain why he would be the best choice to go on the next mission to outer space.  Big Mac wrote an essay about the need for better role models for youth.  He chose the skateboarding industry as the area from which to pull his need for role models.


You must know that I have not required a lot of writing from my boys up to this point in their education.  They did not enjoy writing, so I didn't push it.  We worked slowly.  Also, they know their keyboards, but are not fast typers.  These two things have worked against us in using My Access Home Edition.  Also, I don't give them grades very often.  I tell them regularly how great I think they are, but I don't give grade letters, or other evaluations of their writing.  If the grammar and spelling is correct, then I think it deserves a glowing evaluation.  Writing is so subjective, I never thought it was fair when my English teacher would grade my poem.   The boys wrote their first drafts and were immediately graded as "below proficient."  This was instant discouragement.  We spent the rest of that week trying to follow the revision directions, but still could not pull the boys grades up past that first analysis.  The grade was shown in a bar chart of sorts, so the bar moved a bit higher, but never got out of that first category.  The boys felt really discouraged by this.


After this first outting with My Access, we decided to try dropping down an age-level.  Big Mac completed the first writing assignment in the 8-10 age-level (he will be 13 in November). My Access offers a writing program for all school-ages.   Instead of typing it himself, I let him dictate his story to me.  He spoke.  I typed.  On our first draft, he received a glowing evaluation.  Currently I can't get into the program to tell you what it was, but it was the highest rating.  The bars did not go the whole way to the top, but he was in that top range. 


All-in-all, My Access writing program is well-developed and graphically interesting.  My family found many challenges in using this program, but it may fit your family well.  We will be writing more this year, and honing those skills.  My Access did show me that I need to keep the boys motivated to write not only fiction but non-fiction in the form of essays.  We spent a lot of time with this program, and it did keep the boys attention.  It is a great option for the homeschool mom who does not feel equipped to teach writing on her own.   

You can learn more about the products offered by Vantage Learning by going to their webiste:  My Access Home Edition home page is viewable here: 


It looks like I'm the first to post my review about this product, but in the future, check out the reviews of my other crew members here:


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Picture Books Aren't JUST for Children!

Several weeks ago I received a few e-books from Guardian Angel Publishing to review on my blog.  Now, our boys are firmly entrenched in Junior High/Middle School.  If we were in public school they would be in 7th and 6th grades.  We're WAY beyond picture books right?  Well, I'm not reading the boardbooks we all loved when they were little, but I'm finding that the right picture books can still teach the boys many things.  The five books I received from Guardian Angel Publishing are no exception.  With these, we have much to learn.


Guardian Angel Publishing offers so much material, I just cannot detail it all for you here.  Go to their web page: and scrolll down on the main page.  You will see a list of all their books in alphabetical order.  You can easily find the five books I'm going to tell you about on that list.  The website lists that their books are meant for children of all ages, 0-12, but I can tell you that you can get use out of these books even for your Junior High aged student.  Our Big Mac will be 13 in November and I find the five books I received to be useful for him right now.


Guardian Angel's books cover a wide-range of subjects.  This is also evidenced in the books I received.  I received three books that I can fit into a science study, one character-study book, and one that will help us reinforce grammar!  And you do not have to receive all your books in e-book format.  If you would like to have your books in a printed format, Guardian Angel Publishing offers that option to you.  You can get your book in e-book format for $5-12, printed for $10.95, e-book on CD for $6.95-$9.95, and some books are on DVD for $6.95-$9.95!  There is, of course, shipping and handling charges for all of the non-downloadable options.


The first book I received was The Sum of Our Parts, No Bones About It... by Bill Kirk.  This book can be downloaded for $5, but is also available for $9.95 +5.95 S&H as an e-book on CD, or $10.95+6.95 S&H as a printed book.  This is a really neat book about bones.  There is a rhyming text throughout the book, but there are also "factoids" on each page giving a ton of information.  It would take you quite a bit of time to teach all the information contained in this 30-page book.  One of the things I loved about it was that all of the correct names for the bones are listed in this book.  It would be a great tool to teach your junior high-er the anatomically correct names of the bones in the human skeletal system.  The graphics are great and very appealing to our two boys.



Book number two pictured above is Maybe We Are Flamingos by Safari Sue Thurman.  Downloadable for $5, this book is also available for $9.95 +5.95 S&H as an e-book on CD, or $10.95+6.95 S&H as a printed book AND you can get a DVD for $9.95 +$5.95 S&H.  This book teaches your students about flamingos, but there's also a great idea for an art project, and a wonderful character lesson in the end.





Next we received Hamster Holidays.  You're not going to believe this, but it's a grammar book!  This book highlights nouns and adjectives throughout the books; provides you with great definitions of these two parts of speech;  AND there are several activities for your students to complete at the end of the book.  All this runs along a fun story about hamsters who celebrate some very different holidays throughout the year.  For those students who are still challenged by the calendar and months of the year, this book can reinforce learning those as well.  This book can be downloaded for $5, but is also available for $9.95 +5.95 S&H as an e-book on CD, or $10.95+6.95 S&H as a printed book.


 Earthquake!  is another science book, but it also covers safety.  In PA we have to teach safety each year.  This book talks about being prepared in the context of an earthquake, but the preparation tips can be used for any emergency situation and are great for all students to learn.  Again, the graphics are great.  I would suggest that this book be used with older elementary students.  But being able to read and look at graphics that represent the reading on each page really reinforce what's being learned.  If you completed the different ideas and tips for safety at the end of the book, your family will be prepared for anything.  This book can be downloaded for $5, but is also available for $9.95 +5.95 S&H as an e-book on CD, or $11.95+6.95 S&H as a printed book.










 Finally I have to tell you about Stubby.  Stubby's Destiny is an endearing story about a little donkey who wants to be a stallion.  I'm not going to give away the ending.  Just read Stubby and then pray with your children about their "divine destiny."  This book can be downloaded for $5, but is also available for $9.95 +5.95 S&H as an e-book on CD, or $10.95+6.95 S&H as a printed book.  The DVD is on it's way!  It is coming soon for $9.95 +5.95 S&H.

I really think that picture books can be a great little extra to your homeschool studies, but they also can just be a special time with your children.  Contact Guardian Angel Publishing for more information.  Maybe they can direct you to a great book to start your journey.  ( or


If you would like to see what the other crew members are saying about Guardian Angel Publishing, head over here:  I am one of over 100 reviewers, so this is a great resource for you!  Check out these reviews and use them to plan your book and curriculum purchases.  And check out Guardian Angel Publishing.  I'm sure you will find something that can be used in your home.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Review: Nature Friend Magazine and Study Guide

We have always enjoyed nature walks and nature journaling.  So I was excited when I received a complimentary two-month subscription to Nature Friend magazine, so that I could review it here as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. 

My first reaction to the August 2009 issue was, "Oh my, this is a beautiful magazine!"  And it is.  Both issues I received have so many beautiful photographs.  I was really attracted to the photos.  The layout of the magazine is really attractive to the eye, as well.  The pages are colorful.  The text is easy to read in size and spacing.  The pages are thick and the magazine is well-constructed.  It feels like a quality product in your hands. 
These magazines are chock-full of activities.  There are puzzles, such as crosswords, hidden pictures and word searches.  There is always a "You Can Draw" feature that teaches you how to draw an animal or flower.  But, for additional activities, you can also receive the Study Guide.  With a magazine subscription, you can purchase a study guide for an additional $2 per month.  Each study guide is 8-12 pages in length with additional puzzles, writing prompts, and ideas for hands-on activities.  I have to tell you my favorite part of the Study Guide is the "Motto for the Month."  This is a beautiful, frame-able picture with a verse of scripture super-imposed over it.  I love these and plan to cut them out and hang them somewhere in the house.  The study guide is an excellent addition to the magazine. 
When the boys and I sat down to work through the first magazine, I portioned it out over several days.  I read an article and the boys would do a puzzle each day.  We were told that we could make copies of the puzzles for our homeschool, so that made the magazine even more useable in our home.  The boys found some of the puzzles to be pretty difficult.  We had to look up some words for a matching activity before we could complete the activity, and the word-search was a challenge.  I also found the You Can Draw feature to be best for older students.  Our middle-school aged boys did not have the art skills for the shading and other techniques used in the You Can Draw feature.   One really cool thing did happen.  A few days after we read an article in the August edition about cicadas and how they shed their skin, we found a cicada skin attached to a tree while walking in the woods.  It was so cool to have God reinforce what we read!  The article was very timely.
One of the great things about Nature Friend is that there are so many ways you and your children can contribute to the magazine.  The editors accept original artwork and photography with a nature theme, as well as puzzles and stories submitted by readers.  It's really appealing to present your children with a magazine in which they can take part.  Once a year, Nature Friend is entirely composed of reader's submissions, but beyond that, every issue has many pages filled with reader's entries.
Although there are lots of beautiful things about Nature Friend magazine, the most beautiful thing to me is their mission to proclaim God's creativity.  This quote is taken directly from the Nature Friend magazine: 
Since the doctrine of Divine Creation is the first and foundational one of Scripture, our children must be able to stand on it securely to withstand the undermining influences from our culture.
Nature Friend has something for every child, but from my review of two of the monthly magazines, I would say that most of the articles and activities are for those in upper-elementary grades and above.  As I mentioned earlier, our boys who are grades 7 and 6 found many of the puzzles challenging.  Most of the articles are non-fiction and, therefore, I could see that it would be difficult for a young child to pay attention to the reading.
A one-year subscription to Nature Friend is $36, with the additional study-guide costing $2 per issue.  To order your subscription on-line, go here:  You can also order by phone toll free at: (877) 434-0765.
Nature Friend carries many books in their bookstore which you can access here:   Take some time to peruse this bookstore.  They really have a lot to offer.

You can read more reviews by my fellow crew here: