Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Children's Bible Hour Ministries

I received four books with audio CDs from Children's Bible Hour Ministries several weeks ago to review for this blog.  The four books I receved were part of the seasons of faith series, which you can read about here or on the TOS Crew page here.  Each book was a softback book with beautiful watercolor illustrations.  Included in the back of the book was an audio CD with the voice of "Uncle Charlie" narrating the book. 

These stories were uplifting and spiritually encouraging.  Although they were a little young for our very mature 13 and 11 year olds, I liked the challenges the books presented to our boys' faith.  Would the boys think about witnessing to a cousin who wasn't saved?  Are the boys able to forgive the big-things with friends?  These are challenges presented throughout the books by Children's Bible Hour.

The narration was well done, with lots of emotion in Uncle Charlie's voice.  He also altered his voice slightly for the voices of each character.  He didn't read too slowly, so it kept the boys' interest.

Each of these books are available for $10 on the CBH website but if you use the code FREESHIPAPR15 between now and April 15, 2010 you can order your books and get free shipping and handling. 

These books are appropriate for younger children up to, probably, age 12.  Any child who still enjoys picture books will enjoy having the Seasons of Faith books read to them.  I always loved being able to sit a child down with an audio and a picture book.  It helped their comprehension and entertained them.  Contact information for CBH can be found here.  There is also a great series of discussion questions for each book here.


You will find these books enjoyable and challenging especially if you have young children.  Add the discussion questions to your time with your children and you will have a great time of devotion with all your children.

Math Galaxy

I couldn't believe it when I learned that the crew would be reviewing another math product.  I thought we were all "mathed out!"  But here we are with Math Galaxy.  I can't call this curriculum, because it was too much fun.  We have reviewed software that has had better graphics.  We have reviewed software that has had comparable practice ability and thoroughness.  But Math Galaxy puts graphics, entertainment, review, and fun all into their products.  They are really fun to use, but give a great review, or practice to a math concept...to ALL math concepts.  It doesn't matter what level you are in math, up to Algebra, Math Galaxy has a software that will meet your needs.

The first day we were to review Math Galaxy, our two boys and I sat on the sofa with my laptop.  Loading the software was easy.  You download a .zip file and then extract the files.  Then you are easily able to run the .exe files and load the software onto your PC.  I received complimentary copies of: algebra fun, decimals fun, fractions fun, math galaxy fraction riddles e-book, math galaxy whole numbers riddles e-book, pre-algebra fun, riddles algebra worksheet generator, riddles fractions worksheet generator, riddles decimals worksheet generator, riddles whole numbers worksheet generator, whole numbers fun, and word problems fun in order to complete my review.


We spent a lot of time that first day on "Whole Numbers Fun".  We played the riddles game, the bridge the gap game and the word jumbles.  The three of us spent a really fun hour trying to guess the riddles and the word jumbles.  The other fun part is that when you complete review of addition or multiplication or any of the math concepts, you eart robots for the labrynth.  The labrynth is this really neat game where you try to get your little robot through obstacles and around a maze.  You need multiple robots, or at least I did, to get through each level of the maze as you figure out how to maneuver around the obstacles.  If you run out of robots or lives, you have to go and do more math problems to get more robots.


Last Friday the boys had a competition to see who could earn more robots.  Our oldest earned 104 in 30 minutes.  Our youngest stopped at 114 after a little over 20 minutes.  It's  a great way for them to review math concepts.  I know I could assign certain levels and concepts.  And this software is easy to use.  Once you've pressed a button on the main screen, such as addition, you have another level from which to choose such as 1-digit, 2-digit, 3-digit, 4-digit, 5-digit.  You can really narrow in on a concept you want to reinforce.

The e-books are large PDF files.  They are math worksheets that would work well for review pages, or even if you are introducing a new math concept, you could print some of the pages from the e-book to give your child practice.  The neat twist is that you solve puzzles to get letter to fill in a puzzle at the top of the sheet.  The word that you complete will be the answer to a riddle.  Our boys loved this.  We enjoy word games like Wheel of Fortune, so the boys loved solving the math problems to get all the letters required to answer the riddle question.  The Whole Number Riddles e-book is 264 pages long and sells for $14.95 on their website.  Each worksheet page has the answer page immediately after it.  The Fraction riddles e-book is 434 pages long and also $14.95.   To find these two e-books, hit the "order" button at the top of the screen at mathgalaxy.com and scroll almost to the bottom of the page.

The image above is an example of what these riddle pages look like.  They are colorful, but if you don't want to use all the colored ink, you can surely print them out using your printers black and white feature.  But, I'm a very visual person, so the color appeals to me.  This is also the screen that you get when you purchase any of the Riddler Worksheet Generators. 


Ok, I've given you lots of my person testimonial, so let me get down to brass-tacks.  To get your copy of any of the math galaxy titles, click on the "order" button from the main page at www.mathgalaxy.com.  If you would like to contact math galaxy directly, you can send an email to:  mathgalaxy_support@mathgalaxy.com  If you would like to see more reviews to find out if Math Galaxy is really for you, check out the TOS Crew's reviews here


I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing Math Galaxy's products.  I'm sure I will be using them for a long time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Imaginary Jesus

I loved loved loved this audio!  Several weeks ago I received a complimentary copy of the audio Imaginary Jesus from Christian Audio in return for this review.  This is a fiction-ish book about a man's search for the true Jesus.  I say fiction-ish because it is written by the author in first person, and set in the town in which he lives.  What he went through in the book is what we all go through in life, which again makes me say "fiction-ish" becuase it was very real.

I was hooked by the very first chapter, chapter 0, when I listened to this book.  I couldn't wait to get an opportunity to listen to more whenever I was alone in the car.  Finally, I spent the better part of a day ignoring my children and listenening to the rest of the book.


I am now on my second listen, with my entire family.  Our two sons, my husband and I are listening to Imaginary Jesus in the car.  We're all loving it.  It's funny, but poignant.  My husband and I keep talking about how applicable this book is to life if you think about the meaning of what the author says.


Read by the author, Matt Mikalatos, it is easy to listen to.  He changes his voice slightly for various characters.  He uses great intonations to pass along the funny parts of the story.  It's a great read/listen.  I highly recommend Imaginary Jesus read by Matt Mikalatos.  It is available from Christian Audio as an MP3 download for $12.98 or on CD for $21.98.  I loved this book.  I learned a lot about my relationship to Christ from listening to it AND I was entertained!  It's a triple threat.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Years and years ago, keep in mind our guys are now 13 and 11, our boys fell in LOVE with super heroes.  I knew who my youngest son was by the name he called me, if he said, "Hewwo Wois."  He was superman and I was Lois Lane.  If he said, "Hewwo, Vicki!"  I was Vicki Vale and he was batman.  If he said, "Hewwo Jesse."  I was Jesse and he was Buzz Lightyear of star command.  Our boys lived in batman and superman pajamas.  They went to the store in them.  They went to the library in them.  I kept those little pajamas.  They are now in their baby boxes, waiting for their brides to know who these precious men were as boys.


In those years, we discovered BibleMan!  Here was a superhero who also talked about the Word of God.  The boys were immediately infatuated.  I loved BibleMan, too.  Not only did he satisfy our guys' need for adventure, but he also taught them biblical truths.  How great is that?

I was excited when Book Sneeze sent me a complimentary copy of Combating the Commandant of Confusion:  a bibleman LIVE adventure to review.  I felt nostalgic for those old BibleMan videos that had been passed on to another young boy as I put this DVD into the player. 


Although BibleMan has changed since we were fans, it still does not disappoint.  In this BibleMan DVD, BibleMan and his crew go to a live event.  Of course, the villains are still there.  The Commandant of Confusion actually made my husband and I laugh with his distortion of the English language.  The message is still there.  In this DVD we learn about putting on the full armor of God and the power found in God's word.  And the BibleMan is still there.  This time with an able team to support him just like our Christian family and friends support us.


All in all I highly recommend BibleMan for children.  This DVD lists ages 6-10 but I know two boys who were much younger than 6 who fell in love with BibleMan.  I think that boys as young as 3 would enjoy BibleMan Combating the Commandant of Confusion, girls too!  The BibleMan has women helping on his team as well as men.  This is a DVD that teaches wonderful life lessons using action and adventure.  As our boys are older, they found the acting "hokey", but they have become somewhat jaded with age.  The special features on this DVD which include learning motions to a fun song and taking BibleMan sword training were a lot of fun even for my pre-teens!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


My husband, the Big Dog, and I email each other during the day.  That may seem impersonal to some, but it works for us and keeps us connected.  He also calls at least 3 times during his work day just to check in and tell us he loves us...awww!  ANYWAY, when we are sending an email that talks about lots of different things, we just title the email, "Stuff."  So that explains the title of this blog entry to you.  I have lots of things to tell you and share with you.

First, I have to brag about my shopping trip this morning.  I did my grocery bargain/coupon shopping today while The Big Dog, T-Bone, and Big Mac were at archery class.  I also picked up Angel Food.  We try to get two boxes a month.  It REALLY helps to stretch my grocery budget.  But that's not what I need to tell you about!

Drumroll please!  All of that pictured above...$4.74!!  I went to Rite Aid with my coupons.  I had two coupons from the Sunday paper for $2 off of 3 Hershey's bagged candy, Rite Aid had a $2 off 3-Hershey's bagged candy coupon in their flyer; AND RiteAid emailed me a coupon for $1 off any bagged candy priced $1.99 or more.  The candy you see above was priced at $1.99 a bag.  The Visine ended up being free after I used the Rite Aid coupon from the flyer and the $2 coupon from the Sunday paper.  The Stride Gum was priced at $1 each and I had a coupon from the Rite Aid flyer to buy two and get one free.  I also had a $3 off a $15 purchase sent to me because I am a Wellness member.  When all of my items were scanned at the register I first handed the clerk the $3 off coupon.  THEN I handed her all my coupons.  And the bottom line was $4.74!  I am filling the boys Easter baskets for under $5 and filling my husband's basket too!

I have Sherri Graham's Chocolate Cinnamon Graham Squares cooling on the kitchen table right now.  I'll let you know how they taste.  I have never made anything from Sherri's website  that I haven't loved.  I will never make another brownie recipe again after trying her brownies.

Tonight for supper I'm making a frozen pizza, which I got for a great price at Giant today.  And my friend Heidi'sStrawberry Spinach Salad.  I really want to try her Mock Hamloaf too, but not tonight.

This afternoon I am on my own again.  T-Bone and his daddy, my Big Dog, are going fishing.  I was going to have the afternoon with Big Mac, but while at archery one of his friends invited him to visit.  We've noticed that Big Mac has gotten lots of time alone with his daddy because they both shoot and love archery.  T-Bone doesn't always get that special alone-time with Daddy.  So today, Daddy Big Dog is making an effort to rectify that problem.  Alone time is important for children with both mommy and daddy, but I find as the boys grow it's especially important for them to have time with their Daddy.  They even ask me when I'm getting out of the house so that they can have a boy's night!  I've been really enjoying reading this blog about parenting and gotten some great ideas from there.  Not that I remember anything about boys nights, but it was parenting-related...

Well, that's most of my ramblings for this afternoon.  I'm off to watch food network and write a few reviews...stay tuned!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Aunt Shirleen

My family grieves today.  Overnight, my Aunt Shirleen passed away in Deland, Florida.  She is the first of my mom's generation and on my mom's side of the family to pass.  She lived a full 78 years, raising four children, one boy and three girls, watching eight grandchildren be raised, and even getting the privilege of seeing many great-grand-children.  I think there are eight great-grand children in her family.

(my mother, my grandmother, and Aunt Shirleen in purple)

Aunt Shirleen was an entrepreneur.  She and her husband, my Uncle Lawrie, had a boat business.  I remember visiting while she was working at Angler's Boat Center.  She was a strong businesswoman and a powerful personality.  Seeing her at work made quite an impression on me as I can still remember the way she laughed and "schmoozed" with customers and salesmen.  On a recent trip to Florida, one of her grandsons, Roger, told me that Ranger used to make pink and purple boats just for Aunt Shirleen.  She loved the color purple.

(My mother, Aunt Shirleen in purple, and A. Shirleen's oldest daughter, Lawrene, recently in Astor, FL)

Aunt Shirleen was a fisher-woman.  She used to fish bass tournaments and had a team of women, I think my cousin Jeena was on her team, who fished bass tournaments throughout Florida.

(A. Shirleen, my mom, and their brother, Uncle George, on the St. John's River in FL)

Aunt Shirleen was an optimist.  Whenever you spoke to her and asked, "How are you?"  The answer was always, "Super!"  She was quick to gush out, "Love you!"  She laughed loudly.  My mom, her sister, laughs loudly too.  I inherited that from them.  We all laugh without abandon.  I remember when Aunt Shirleen and Uncle Lawrie used to come and stay with us when I was growing up.  They would play pinochle in the kitchen.  My brother, Michael and I would love to sit and watch them play cards because they had so much fun.  My Dad and Uncle Lawrie played against my mom and Aunt Shirleen.  Dad counts cards so he always knew what everyone was holding.  Mom and Aunt Shirleen would get frustrated with them beating them all the time.  They teased each other and joked around, laughing all the time.  It's a really fond memory of mine, watching the four of them play cards.

(a picture of a picture hanging in my cousin's house in FL.  That's A. Shirleen on the left and my mom on the far right.)

Aunt Shirleen was an encourager.  Recently my mom and I took the boys to Florida for a visit.  Mom spent her days with Aunt Shirleen watching game shows in her little cabin by the St. John's River.  The Florida experience was new for our sons, and at times they felt a little intimidated by meeting lots of family they didn't know existed, or just by being in unfamiliar surroundings.  Both boys told me that at different times during our visit Aunt Shirleen, who wasn't speaking much then, would look over at them and just wink.  For the boys, that was all they needed to feel reassured that everything was ok.  In the past 10 years, Aunt Shirleen never hesitated to tell me how beautiful the boys were whenever she visited.  She was always encouraging me as a mother.

(My mom's family.  Front row: Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, A. Shirleen.  Back Row:  U. George, U. Brad, U. Dave.)

Aunt Shirleen was a Christian woman.  Recently while visiting my Uncle's conservative church in PA, she shouted out, "Amen!"  I'm sure she worshipped without hesitation, and is doing so now on those streets of gold.  She and mom did their devotions in the morning while visiting together in Florida last month.  One of those mornings, Aunt Shirleen said, "I want to show you something." to mom.  The devotional book she was using was one mom had sent her as a gift.  Mom had written a note to her on the inside cover.  She had used it every day for years and years.

(Aunt Shirleen recently at her home in Astor, FL.  My cousin Lawrene in the background.)

Aunt Shirleen was a great cook.  When my cousin, her daughter, opened a restaurant, Aunt Shirleen baked the pies.  I remember big family dinners when we came to visit for vacation in Florida.  I still make her fish broil recipe today.  It's one of my very favorites.

(Mom's family.  Back row, l to r U. Brad, A. Shirleen, Mom, U. George.  Front Row, Grandpa, U. Dave, Grandma)

Like most women, Aunt Shirleen wore many hats.  She was a mother, daughter, sister, friend, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, business person, church member, cook, maid, and spouse.  In highschool she was popular, I'm told.  I can see why.  When she was in a room you always knew where she was.  She seemed to have friends everywhere she went.  In these last years, she may not have had the same energy of her youth, but her "super!" still shone through whether through a wink to a great-nephew, a lopsided smile to a sarcastic neice, or one of her own witty comments.  She left an impression, I'm sure, on all who met her.  I know she left a permanent impression on my life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Budgeting for Kids?


Several weeks ago I was asked to create a family account on Family Mint and try it out for our family in order to tell you about it.  Logging in and creating accounts for each of our boys was a breeze.  There were no surprises.  Although we were able to manage the accounts very easily on our own, we did watch the getting started video that is available to you when you log-in.  But, truthfully, I didn't need the video.  This is a very easy program to use.  But now, I have to tell you the story...

I logged into Family Mint and our two boys, ages 13 and 11, logged into their accounts that are "under" mine.  We have been giving the boys allowance since they were very young.  They have had chores around the house that are age-appropriate since they were 4 years old.  The boys are not savers.  We require that they tithe and save a portion of their allowance, but they spend everything that is left after their required tithe and savings.  The night we set up their accounts, our youngest son set to work making his "MAC" card.  He now hands it to me when he has a withdrawl that I need to approve taking money from his Family Mint account.


Recently, the boys have become very interested in an on-line game.  The game itself was free, but there were features you could purchase.  The boys wanted to spend some of their money on this game.   I didn't want them to spend their hard-earned money on a virtual item.  We told them that we did not think it was a wise use of their money.   Because we try to let them manage their own money, they were allowed to spend some of their money on this on-line game.  THEN we started using Family Mint.  And the boys' eyes were opened like never before!


On their FamilyMint accounts, the boys have to enter withdrawls when they want to spend their money.  Every two weeks, their allowance is automatically added to their accounts by FamilyMint.  Then they must go in and move their tithe and savings money into those accounts which we set up for them.  After that, the money left is theirs to spend.  When the boys want to spend money, they make a withdrawl from the FamilyMint account and I go into the master account and approve it.  But as they are making these withdrawls, the boys can see the money that has been moved into and out of their accounts over the past few weeks.  That's when the lightbulb lit.


After a day of making another withdrawl to "buy" something on this virtual game, our sons had a conference.   They came down to our bedroom late one evening and announced that they were giving up the virtual game for good.  Now, I was not upset by this at all.  I prayed that their attraction to this game would be broken.  But I was confused.  Just that day the boys were playing their game and chatting giddily about it.  Now, suddenly, they were giving up the game altogether.  "Why?"  I asked.  "I don't understand." 


"I realized how much money I was spending."  My oldest explained.  It was Family Mint!  Because the boys were seeing where their money was going on Family Mint, they were quickly becoming more aware of what money they had!  "If I had all that money I spent...I'd have a lot of money!"  My son continued.


Since cancelling their on-line accounts on this game, the boys have set different savings goals on their Family Mint accounts.  They can move their money directly into these savings accounts from their open money.


And that is why I am a fan of Family Mint.  After years of me preaching, "Spend your money wisely."  "Don't buy that junk."  "Think about where you are spending your money!"  Family Mint SHOWED the boys exactly all those things in the matter of a few weeks.


Family Mint is a free service.  I cannot sing the praises of this system high enough.  It has changed how our sons spend their money.  It has shown them where their money goes.  Family Mint will prepare them to keep a budget when they are on their own.  We will keep using these accounts until that time to get them ready.  Get your free account set up today and start your kids saving and spending consciously.  I never realized that the way we gave the boys allowance and let them spend it without any accountability was setting them up to fail financially.  Now, they use the Family Mint account and see where their money is going and how much they are spending.  It's a fantastic program and long-overdue.


To contact Family Mint for more information, go here.  You will find all their necessary contact information on that page.  To read more crew reviews of Family Mint, go here.

Where in the World?

Geography is one of those required subjects here in PA that kind of gets "thrown in" over the course of a year.  Truthfully, I've never felt that I do Geography well in our little homeschool.  I have the boys do a few maps as we're studying history and call it geography.

Last month, I received a resource that might possibly solve all of my geogrphy problems for the rest of our educational career.  That's not an exaggeration.  The Olde World Style US and World Maps from Homeschool In the Woods  cover maps of every country, including their flags, as well as a very thorough coverage of the United States Maps.  Don't let the "Olde World" in the title fool you.  These are current maps of both the world and the United States.  There are also plenty of maps of the Ancient Worlde as well as the US as it developed prior to 1960

Although the maps are terrific, it was the bonus pages that really hooked me.  In the US Maps set, you not only get labelled and un-labelled maps of each state, the United States as a whole, and the US at differing time periods, but you also get fact pages for every state.  You could build a killer notebook by studying one state at a time, including it's state map with your own key of features you've studied and a completed state fact page.

And the World Maps section is just as valuable.  There are maps of ancient and current countries.  In addition to these maps, however, you have lots of really cool notebooking pages.  There are blank brochures ready for you to complete.  Study a country and have your student write a travel brochure about it.  There is a postcard notebooking page.  After learning about a country, you could have your son or daughter write a postcard to grandma as if her or she was visiting the country studied.  There are several report forms that go from the generic to the religious history of the country.  By completing some or all of the notebooking pages, you could have a really thorough study of a country.

And throughout all of the maps and notebooking pages are Homeschool in the Woods' beautiful graphics.  They do remind you of Olde World times.  If you are not familiar with their graphics, Homeschool in the Woods has a freebie page here.  Check out their items and you will see what I mean about the beauty of their products.  I'm learning that I am drawn in by beautiful visuals.  Homeschool in the Woods really has beautiful graphics and the Olde World Style maps are no exception.

If I were wishing I would wish for some lesson plans to go with these maps and resources.  The notebooking pages give me plenty of ideas, but it would be nice to have some examples of uses for these items.  As I said, though, it doesn't take much creativity to figure out how each of the notebooking pages could be used in conjunction with the maps to create a very thorough geography course.

If you would like to purchase Olde World Style Maps they are available as a download for $28.95.  This is the version I received and it was so easy to download and install.  You can also purchase the World maps for $18.95 and the US Maps for $18.95 if you do not wish to receive the set.  If you would prefer to have these maps and notebooking pages on CD, they are available for purchase on the Homeschool In the Woods website for $29.95.  Individually, the World and US maps are available on CD for $19.95 each.

Homeschool In the Woods has a lot of really great products.  I get a newsletter from them that usually has ideas for a mini-unit and printable pages which use their wonderful graphics.  For a complete list of their products, go here.  They have something for all ages.

You can read the reviews of my fellow crew members by going here.  And if you would like to contact this vendor all of the contact information can be found here.

Homeschool in the Woods provided me with a free copy of Olde World Style Maps to test and use in order to write this review.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Battle of Lexington and Concord

This would be a great title to use for one of our boys fights, wouldn't it?  But we are really studying the American Revolution and today we're having some fun learning about the battle of Lexington and Concord.  As a matter of fact I'm typing this entry while the boys are finishing a scavenger hunt.  They're trying to find the weapons, just like the British tried to find weapons when they marched to Lexington.


One of the activities we did today was to perform a news-cast as if we were current day news reporters trying to report on what happened in Lexington.  I thought I'd share the results with you just for fun today.  Enjoy our two beautiful boys!

 Here's Big Mac:


And here's T-bone:


Monday, March 15, 2010

Pursuing Art

Ever since they were very small, our boys have drawg.  They have filled up numerouse sketchbooks.  They have hung pictures all over the house.  We're not just an "on-the-refrigerator" type family, drawings end up everywhere.  They even have a series of six frames that hang in the living room devoted to the boys creations.


Although I encourage them to continue drawing, that's about all I can do, encourage.  I don't know the first thing about shading, sketching, or any other area of art.  It's quite shameful since my mother and brother are artists in their own right.  But, me?  Clueless.

Then I received a complimentary copy of Artistic Pursuits Junior High Book One to review for the purpose of writing this blog.   I've got to tell you this is one of my favorite resources of all those I've received during this year of crew reviews.  I was immediately impressed with this resource.  I wish I could show you the pages from the book.  They are beautiful.  Examples of fine art to illustrate the technique being taught are woven throughout the book along with student sketches.  This is not only an art-technique book, but also an art-history and art-appreciation resource.  Each lesson has components that encourage the student (and in my case, the Mommy) to enjoy a piece of art from another period and country and consider it's beauty and the skill of the artist.  And the instruction is phenominal!  We have enrolled the boys in classes taught by art educators in the past and never received the detailed instruction we got from Artistic Pursuits.


In just the first lesson, our boys learned how to sketch using short soft pencil strokes.  And it's not just instruction about the art itself, but we've also learned a lot about art materials.  Both of the boys can tell you in detail which pencils are used for soft lines, and which pencils are used for darker lines.  The lesson gives art instruction AND instruction on the use and applications of art materials.


I am so impressed with Artistic Pursuits.  The book is a comb-bound book printed on thick paper in full-color.  The pages lay flat but I can also fold it back so that we're just looking at one page at a time.  We are taking almost a full school-week to complete each lesson and are really enjoying every bit of it.  I can not recommend this product enough.  Truthfully, the boys could be completing the lessons themselves.  I have a friend who's daughter is working through her Artistic Pursuits on her own, but I'm so enjoying this book I don't want to miss any of it with the boys.  Check out the pages sampled here.  You will see a prime example of the lessons including the art appreciation, and the art-instruction, along with the beautiful graphics.


Please check out Artistic Pursuits.  It is such a quality product.  The book I received, was the Jr. High Book 1 which retails for $42.95.  But if you have children of other ages, Artistic Pursuits has a curriculum for all ages from Kindergarten to Senior High. 


Want to hear other opinions, check out the TOS Crew Blog here, where my fellow crew mates are all blogging about Artistic Pursuits.  Or, contact Artistic Pursuits directly.  I love their contact email.  It's alltheanswers@artisticpursuits.com


Give this curriculum a try.  Now's the time to plan for 2010/2011.  I am DEFINITELY including Artistic Pursuits in my plans!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Just What I've Been Looking For...

Several weeks ago, I received a trial-period download of the software Graphics Toolbox to review for the TOS Crew and this blog.  I was excited to receive this software because there are numerous times when writing the blog, or trying to develop a worksheet or lapbook mini-book, and I have a certain image in my mind but can't find a graphic that suits what's in my mind.  To me, this is frustrating.  I have a clear idea  but no matter where I search I can't find the image to fit what I want.  Graphics Toolbox solves those problems.


In Graphics Toolbox, you can bring in a graphic or picture and change the color, remove items or details, add items or details, or combine graphics or pictures.  You can manipulate any graphic or picture you can find.  Now, of course, you are always bound by copyright laws in your own work.  I wouldn't publish a graphic or logo that belongs to someone else.  But you can take a generic graphic that you find and make it your own.


The software Graphics Toolbox comes from the company Great Software Tools, Inc.  I found this company easy to work with.  They have great tutorials on their website.  As a matter of fact, I learned how to use this software by working through one of the tutorial videos.  Although the video is listed as being able to teach you how to accomplish one task, it covers so many features of the software that you learn the basics of using most of Graphics Toolbox by working your way through a tutorial. 


Let me show you very simply what Graphics Toolbox can do.  I took this image from the Great Software Tools website.

 But I wanted to make it look a little different.  So, after I saved it on my hard drive, I went into my Graphics Toolbox software and opened or "read in" the image.  After a few clicks, I turned it into this:

I've had fun playing around with this software during the trial period.  Two previous posts featured things I learned to do with Graphics Toolbox.  Check them out here and here.


I will be able to find multiple uses for Graphics Toolbox in our home.  I will use it to manipulate pictures for cards and invitations.  I will use it to modify graphics to use for worksheets and lap-book minibooks.  I will use Graphics Toolbox to re-define graphics on my blog!  Although I was the one who spent most of my time using Graphics Toolbox, our 13 year-old  caught on quickly and did a little graphics manipulations of his own.  Our boys are very computer literate, so I'm confident that our 11 year-old will be using Graphics Toolbox as well.


I must warn you, however, that this is not a software for the faint of heart.  It is, of course, very graphic, and once you understand the basics, I really think you can learn all of the features easily.  But if you don't have a computer or graphics background, getting used to using frames and using the desktop as a desktop and not a piece of paper is challenging.  But again, use the video tutorials to learn the features of Graphics Toolbox and you'll be golden.


Before committing to buy, check the computer requirements here.  If your PC meets the requirements, you can purchase Graphics Toolbox for $149.  If you would like to talk to the people at Great Software Tools, Inc.  you will find a contact form here.  Since this software is different from anything I've seen for the homeschool community, please read the reviews of other crew members here.  It always helps to get varying opinions!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Audio Review: A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper from Christian Audio

At one time, I copied the entire book of Ruth into a notebook.  I've also completed at least one bible-study on the book of Ruth.  A Sweet And Bitter Providence by John Piper is a book that teaches on the book of Ruth but this book went places I never went when I was studying this well-known Old Testament book.

Have you ever thought that there are lessons about race in Ruth?  John Piper thought of that and expounds on it beautifully in A Sweet and Bitter Providence.  There are also many poignant minutes where you are candidly spoken to about sexual purity in this book.  This would be a great book for a single man or woman to be encouraged to remain pure.


A brief book, 3.8 hours, there is quite a bit of information to be found in A Sweet and Bitter Providence.  Although it is an exposition of Ruth, Mr. Piper is all over the bible.  As he makes a point, he supports it with scriptures from both the old and new testament.  Throughout A Sweet and Bitter Providence John Piper is listing specific scriptures to direct our thoughts and support his interpretation of the book of Ruth.


Once many years ago, I was questioning my Uncle about someone who did not believe in God.  Uncle Dave told me that he was convinced that God was at work in the lives of those who don't believe in order to bring them to faith in Him.  Mr. Piper supports that in his book A Sweet and Bitter Providence.  As with many, many other points he makes throughout the book, this resonated with me as I reflected on the various times in my life when I saw God working in my life and the lives of others.


Filled with good bible teaching, A Sweet and Bitter Providence also is filled with lots of stories to illustrate his point. This makes it easy to listen to the book and stay with it.  It's like listening to a really well-delivered sermon.  It is easy to hear and pay attention.


The narrator, Grover Gardner, will be familiar to you if you've listened to many other audios produced by Christian Audio.  His deep voice is authoritative and pleasant.  He uses a lot of intonation, so that the words don't blend together as you're listening.


I would recommend A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper.  But be forewarned, you will want to dive into Ruth for yourself after listening to this audio book.  It will make you look at the fabulous love story of Ruth in a whole different way.


I was provided with an audio copy of A Sweet and Bitter Providence by John Piper by ChristianAudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

Art Quote

Today, the boys and I began some new art lessons by Artistic Pursuits.  I'll be giving you a complete review in a few weeks.  But I HAD to share this quote with you, because, to me, it's revolutionary!


"OBJECTIVE:  to understand that artistic ability is not a talent possessed by only a few gifted people, but a skill that any individual can learn."

pg. 6

ARTistic Pursuits

Junior High Book One

The Elements of Art and Composition

Brenda Ellis 

Crocodile Poem

Big Mac wants to see the new Alice in Wonderland movie.  I'm not a big Tim Burton fan, so I'm skeptical, but I made a deal.   If he reads the original book, unabridged, by Lewis Carroll, I'll take him to the new Alice in Wonderland movie.


While in Florida, we picked up a paperback copy at this really cool used book shop in Deland.  Big Mac started reading right away and kept reading passages to me.  He said, "This is written really beautifully!"  I really love that even though they don't know it, they are drawn to what Charlotte Mason calls a living book. 


One of the passages he read to me was a poem called "How Doth The Little Crocodile."  Today while I was playing around with Graphics Toolbox in order to write next week's review, I made a little display for the poem.  Check it out.  Keep in mind Graphics Toolbox does not do text well.  I should really have this as a word document, but I couldn't figure out how to show you a word document on the blog, so you have to settle for some imperfect text:


Monday, March 1, 2010

Spot the Difference Puzzle

Look what I did today using Graphics Toolbox!  I'm learning to use this new software and I'll tell you all about it next week, but you've gotta check this out: