Saturday, April 28, 2012

World of Animals

Just like World of Science, World of Animals is a visually appealing book.  I would go so far as to call this a beautiful book.  Every page is just gorgeous.  You can see that our animal lover, T-bone, dove into this book with both feet.
The book is broken down into Simple Animals, Worms, Snails, & Starfish, Insects & Other Arthropods, Fish, Amphibians & Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals.  Animals are given  a two-page spread with plenty of pictures at all stages, fun facts on an inset box, and a summary box which includes the latin name.  Each animal is covered very thoroughly.

The World of AnimalsThis book would be great for a unit study or if you had someone making an animal notebook.  I will keep it on the living room bookshelf for reports and research papers.  Actually, I could see our boys when they were smaller just sitting and paging through the World of Animals to look at the pictures.  This would be an excellent book to keep on your coffee table.  If your child thumbed through it and read about just one animal, you would be amazed at what they learned!

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of World of Animals from Master Books in order to complete this honest review.

Friday, April 27, 2012

World of Science

On the day that World of Science arrived in the mail, Big Mac grabbed it and dove in.  This book is visually appealing and grabbed his attention right away.  I was attracted by the holographic image on the cover, but the bright pages with all their pictures charts and graphics drew me into the book as well. After a day or two of perusing, we set the book on a prominent shelf in the living room.

Then, we started working our way through a lapbook on basic physical science.  BOY! The World of Science book got a workout during that lapbook.  If you tend to veer toward lapbooks or unit studies, I think the World of Science.  I had purchased another general science book a little over a year ago, but the World of Science book from New Leaf Publishing/Master Books has been much more useful to us.  It is visually appealing, so that grabbed us from the start, but it is also full of valuable content.

The World of ScienceOver 200 pages long (closer to 250), there are seven sections, or chapters:
  1. Matter and Chemicals
  2. Energy, Motion and Machines
  3. Electricity and Magnetism
  4. Light and Sound
  5. Earth and Life
  6. Space and Time
  7. Science Experiments
So what's cool is that you can cover a chapter by reading it and examining all the charts and graphics, and THEN flip to the end and complete an experiment or two or five on the subject you just studied.  This COULD be a science review curriculum with very little work on your part.

World of Science is a fascinating book.  It is beautifully illustrated and FULL of content!  It is a welcome resource and one I will keep on our shelf to further illustrate our science studies for years to come.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of World of Science from Master Books to complete this honest review.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Answers Book for Teens

"How can anyone believe that the Bible is true since it was written so long ago when people didn't know stuff?

Come on, why would God punish the whole world for one guy's mistake?

How are we supposed to talk about God and the bible in school when it's illegal?"

Answers Book for Teens Volume 1Don't those sound like teenager questions?  You know, I wouldn't go back to my teen years for all the money in the world.  It was so difficult trying to be a Christian teen in a secular world.  I didn't always succeed at it either.  I would have eaten up a book like the Answers Book for Teens by Bodie Hodge, Tommy Mitchell, with Ken Ham.  Written with a sound theology and published by Master Books, The Answers Book is packed with pictures and teen-friendly illustrations.  It's almost a picture-book for teens.  This is a thin book, only 95 pages long, so teens won't feel intimidated by trying to read it.  As a matter of fact, it's a good book to just leave lying around for teens to pick up and read at random times.  Throw it on your coffee table or in the bathroom for your teen to read a question and an answer in a very brief amount of time.  Before you know it, they will have read the entire book and felt challenged in their belief yet also encouraged.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of The Answers Book for Teens from New Leaf Publishing/Masters Books in order to complete this honest review.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Crypto Mind Benders - The Critical Thinking Co.

Homepage - The Critical Thinking Company

I have always been intrigued by the books offered by The Critical Thinking Co.  I really want our boys to be critical thinkers, especially as we're heading into SAT country in the next couple years.  I want them to be able to gather information and answers by deductive reasoning.  I think critical thinking activities are the way to do this.  As a matter of fact I wrote a blog post a few years ago about incorporating critical thinking activities into our routine.  So, I was thrilled to find out that the Homeschool crew would be reviewing an item from The Critical Thinking Co.!  As I said, I'm intrigued by what they have to offer, but I never knew where to start.  Since our review was limited to certain products, the guess work was done for me.  I received a copy of Crypto Mind Benders-Famous Quotations to review for you today.
So, first terrific thing about this book is that the copyright license inside the front cover allows me to copy the pages of the book "within one home or one classrom...each year."  So I can copy a page for each boy!  Yippee!

Well the day I received the book, I made THREE copies of the first exercise and distributed them over the dinner table.  I gave very minimal instructions and pencils to the Big Dog, Big Mac and T-Bone.  Both boys dove into the activity and began to crack the code right away.  The Big Dog needed more instruction, and a little guidance from his 15 and 13 year-old boys.  He said, "I don't get it."  ..A lot.  But eventually he understood.  The boys finished theirs first, of course.

Crypto Mind Benders®: Famous QuotationsSince that first night, I just give the boys a page to do in between lessons during the week. When I handed them their sheets the other day, they boy cheered.  They literally cheered!  They love these activities.  But what boy doesn't love a little sleuthing.  Solving these quotes and codes is sleuthing to a boy. Crypto Mind Benders require you to follow some hints and clues in order to figure out what letters are represented by numbers.  You have to use the process of elimination to figure out some of the letter/number combinations.  Once you've figured out which numbers represent each letter, there is a quotation at the bottom of the page written in code.  You use the code you've cracked to figure out the quotation.  And they are good quotations.  The boys commented the other day that they seem to be getting a little more challenging the further we go into the book, but they're not complaining.  Want to see a sample?  click here to get to the page for this book.  THEN click on the red line that says "click to look inside"  You will see a two-page sample of a crypto mind bender and you can print it and try it for yourself.

The only real beef I have with the book is that it says this is for grades 3-12+.  There is no way our guys could have done these activities in 3rd grade.  I think I could have introduced Crypto Mind Benders to the boys in the upper-elementary years (maybe 5th or 6th grade), but certainly not 3rd grade.

The book I received is $10.99 from The Critical Thinking Co.  But they have a lot of resources for varying ages and abilities.  You can find contact information for this company here.

As always, I am part of a crew of reviewers who got to play with different resources from The Critical Thinking Co.  Check out their reviews here.  And check into The Critical Thinking Co.  I really think critical thinking is an important skill for everyone, no matter where they are bound.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Crypto Mind Benders from The Critical Thinking Co. in order to complete this review.  The opinions offered here are my own and not influenced by the complimentary workbook I received.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Forgiven Duke - Jamie Carie

Several weeks ago I told you about The Guardian Duke, a fun historical romance that I had the opportunity to read.  Well, this month, I got an advance copy of The Forgiven Duke.  I gotta tell you, these are really fun books.  I can't wait for the third in the series.  Please keep in mind that I am not a very deep reader.  I like to be entertained and enveloped by a book and The Forgiven Duke did just that. I would recommend that you read the first book before reading this one.  You get more attached to the characters that way.

We continue on the story of Alexandria Featherstone and the Duke of St. Easton in The Forgiven Duke and it picks up right where The Forgotten Duke left off:
Tethered by her impulsive promise to marry Lord John Lemon - the path of least resistance - Alexandria Featherstone sets off toward Iceland in search of her parents with a leaden heart. A glimpse of her guardian, the Duke of St. Easton - the path less traveled by - on Dublin’s shore still haunts her. 
Will he come after her? Will he drag her back to London, quelling her mission to rescue her treasure-seeking parents, or might he decide to throw caution to the wind and choose Foy Pour Devoir: “Faith for Duty,” the St. Easton motto. The Featherstone motto Valens et Volens: “Willing and Able,” beats in her heart and thrums through her veins. She will find her parents and find their love, no matter the cost. 
The powerful yet wing-clipped Duke of St. Easton has never known the challenge that has become his life since hearing his ward’s name. Alexandria Featherstone will be the life or the death of him. Only time and God’s plan will reveal just how much this man can endure for the prize of love.

This book is quick to read, but very engrossing.  But I have to warn you, it leaves you at a cliff-hanger.  You are going to be anxious to pick up the third book in the series, which isn't available yet.  As a matter of fact this book, The Forgiven Duke isn't available until July of this year!  But you can learn more about the book series and it's author, Jamie Carie on Facebook, or here website.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Unusual form of Eczema

Our oldest son was a toddler, maybe two years, old, when we first experienced what the boys would grow to call "pick" in their later years.  (Before I continue with this story, the pictures and story that follow might make you wince a bit, so if you are squeamish, please don't continue with this post.  I am writing it because there might be another mom who has children with this same condition and I'm looking to connect.)  I'll never forget it.  The Big Dog was playing softball in Virginia.  He was an umpire, then, and they had a once-a-year tournament where the umpires played softball.  We made a family weekend of it and were enjoying being at the ball park during the day and the hotel in the evening.  Our little guy was toddling around on that hot summer day in a sturdy pair of sneakers and thick socks.  That's what you do with a toddler right?  Give them good shoes and socks.  Imagine my horror when I undressed our little guy that evening and when I took off his socks big chunks of skin came off with the socks.  His little feet were red and raw with peeling skin and new pink skin exposed underneath.  That next day, he crawled around the playground because his feet hurt to much to walk on them.

And so began our journey into this strange form of Eczema that, as it turns out, both our boys have.  The problem occurs mostly in the summer months, but begins as soon as the air turns warm.  We began very early in their lives to put them in sandals as early as March to give their feet as much exposure to the air as possible.  Even so, the skin peels wherever the shoe touches their feet.  This happens to their hands also, but we haven't found much to be done for that.

What happens?  Essentially, they get water blisters that pop and peel.  The skin is then dead and what's underneath is new skin which is very sensitive.  As the weather gets warmer, they get water blisters on the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet and the blisters pop.  I guess the water gets trapped between the layers of their skin in the warm weather.  It's very very bad if they spend more than an hour in the water, especially during the summer months, but extended water use all year will cause some 'pick.'  The boys hate the feeling of the skin so they pull at it to remove it.  That is how we named this condition "pick."  When they were little, I would say, 'Don't pick!  Don't pick!'  So the boys thought that their condition was called "pick" and the name stuck.  Here are a few pictures of their condition after a day shooting archery outdoors just this month:

Honestly, now, our guys are so used to it, they don't even complain of the pain.  But when they were younger, we had some very difficult evenings.  They would try to go to bed and their hands and feet would just sting.  We saw a dermatologist who said that we needed to remove the moisture from their hands and feet.  And so we had some special roll-on medicine made to dry up the skin...didn't work.  Then a family doctor said, "No.  No.  You need to moisturize every night."  So we did that...didn't work.  We've been told only leather shoes and white cotton socks...still getting pick.  We were told synthetic shoes and socks...yeah, you can see the pictorial evidence above.  

As I mentioned briefly above, I am writing this post because there may be another mom on this planet with a few boys, or even girls, who are struggling through a similar condition.  It took us at least 10 years to figure out what to do to avoid bad episodes.  I want to pass on what we learned for anyone else who could use it.

Here's what works for us:  We have put our boys in sandals by mid-March every year for years.  That's helped a lot.  But the best thing for our guys are Crocs. You know Crocs, don't you?  The rubber clogs that come in bright colors with lots of holes all over them?  They allow air to move and the feet to breath.  Our youngest wears them year-round.  When we found Crocs, I nearly cried after the first few weeks of summer.  Even with sandals, the boys would get the water blisters under the places where the sandals covered their feet.  With Crocs, their feet breath and they don't have nearly the extensive peeling that they have had in the past.

Another thing we have discovered is that they can't swim for more than an hour at a time.  If we spend the afternoon at the pool, they swim for 45 minutes to an hour and then get out for at least 15 minutes to completely dry their hands and feet.  You know how your skin gets soft and wrinkly after a lot of time in the bathtub or pool?  They boys get water blisters just like you or I get wrinkly.

We do only wear leather shoes and white cotton socks so that their feet breathe during the Winter months.  If they are running around alot in sneakers and socks, even in the winter, the extertion and perspiration can cause a pretty bad episode.  The pictures above are from a day on the archery range.  We did a lot of hiking that day and even though it wasn't terribly warm, that exertion causes the skin to blister and peel.  

So there are a couple tips on how we have dealt with this situation.  I share it so that maybe you can use the tips if you have a child with a similar situation.  Our doctors have all told us that it is hereditary and that the boys will grow out of it.  At 13 and 15 years old it does seem like it's not as bad as it was in their early years, but that may be because we are learning more about it.  We have yet to find anyone in either family with a similar condition, so I'm not sure about the hereditary part.

And there you have it.  Please contact me if you have a child with a similar condition, I'd love to share with you more of what we've learned.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Linen Stitch

I know it's been a while since St. Patrick's Day, but I wanted to show you my St. Pady's Day scarf.  I found a stitch on Pintrest for a linen stitch.  I used some leftover worsted weight acrylic from my St. Patrick's Day banner.  I made this scarf just for our knitty party so that I would have something green to wear.  But I like the linen stitch.  I made the scarf side-ways.  I used a size 10.5 circular needle (36 inches long).  I cast on 210 stitches and then followed the pattern.
It's an interesting texture.  I think if you used two colors it would look like a checkerboard.  It would be beautiful in a varigated yarn too.

Of course, our knitty luncheon on St. Paddy's day was too much fun.  We ate too much (well I did).  Talked too much (well I did).  And even managed to squeeze in a bit of knit and crochet!  My BFF and her daughter went all out on the decorations.  My quote is that it looked like a leprechaun threw up.  Here's a pic or two of the bathroom...that's just the bathroom.  Can you imagine the dining room?  Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Opening Day

Thursday was opening day for our favorite team the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Big Dog took the day off so that we could all watch the game together.  I wanted to share our opening day meal with you:
Yes, my friends, that's hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jack!  You remember the song, "Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack."  Well, of course, we didn't just have hot dogs, we had lots of fixins.  It was a lot of fun AND our team won!

I may not always pull together a huge unit study with lots of activities, but we're building little memories.  One day, in the not too distant future, our boys will have homes of their own.  maybe they'll serve peanuts on opening day too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kale Chips

We discovered kale last summer from our co-op.  I had never tried kale in all my 40+ years, but I had seen it cooked on Food Network, so I sauteed some chopped kale in olive oil with chopped garlic, salt and pepper.  Our whole family loved it!  Big Mac loved it so much, he requested kale for his birthday supper.  Amazing.

Well, I read about kale chips on Pintrest recently and I thought I'd give it a shot.  The ingredients were simple enough, but not completely weight watchers friendly.  So I switched out the oil for vegetable oil spray.  And it worked!

The process is easy. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Lay the chopped kale (I buy it already chopped at the grocery store.) in a single layer on a baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil spray.  I used my baking stone.  I love my baking stone.

Spray the top of the kale chips with vegetable oil spray and then sprinkle with salt and 1-2 Tbs of parmesan.   These chips bake-up quickly, so keep an eye on them.  Bake them for about 10 to 15 minutes.  When they come out of the oven, they will be crunchy and delish!  This is all that was left when I thought to take a picture.

A couple tips:  do not load the kale onto the tray.  Put it in a single layer on the tray and give a little room between leaves.  I used the bagged kale, but I think I would take whole leaves and cut them into larger pieces.  The chips shrunk up quite a bit so when I used the chopped kale these chips were tiny.  Now, that didn't keep us from eating them, but we would have bigger chips if I chopped them from the whole leaf.

Give 'em a try.  They're less than 1 WW point and they satisfy those crunchy snack urges.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Go Fly a Kite

We love kites, but have never had much luck with them.  Until yesterday.  It's quite windy in Central PA right now, so the boys decided to take advantage of the blustery weather.  This is the easiest kite ever and it really flies!  Here's what you need:

  • string (we used crochet thread)
  • 1 8.5x11 sheet of paper
  • hole punch
  • stapler
  • ruler
  • this video
This is all stuff you have laying around the house!  And the kite flies great!  Check out these videos of the boys flying their kites:

Weight Watchers on a Budget

My new niece-in-law shared with me that sugar-free jell-o served with fat free cool-whip is a free Weight Watchers snack!  Waa Hoo!!  But I wanted a slightly less expensive way to serve this snack.  Although the single serve jell-o packages are only a few dollars, I knew I could do this a lot cheaper.  So I invested in two boxes of small containers found in the same aisle as the plastic bags.  These were meant as baby food containers.  Then, of course, I bought the boxes of dry sugar free jell-o, mixed them up and voila!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Two Archers

I'm a week late, but I have to brag on my babies.  Last weekend both of our boys received archery awards.  First, Big Mac received the Aggregate Champion for 2011.  He shot four state championship tournaments last year.  The award he received last Sunday was for being the overall winner of those four tournaments.
 And our T-Bone was not to be out-done.  He won first place in his class at the state indoor archery tournament March 31 and April 1, 2012.
So, yeah, in addition to being completely adorable and totally smart, our boys are champion archers.  It's kind of a big deal :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Truth Quest History Guides

TruthQuest HistoryYou're going to find this hard to believe, but I find teaching History daunting.  This year we are using a textbook-type history book.  We all are kind of bored by it.  I always believed in what Charlotte Mason felt about history.  It should be learned through reading good books, books that engage.  I just haven't found a way to do that with our guys.  I never really liked history in school.  I found the reading boring.  Then I met and married a history buff, specifically a Civil War buff.  And guess how he learns all his buff-stuff?  Yep, he reads!

Well, then I get a copy of this book from TruthQuest History.  You will never believe this!  They teach history through really good books!  I know!  Amazing right?

If you decide to check out TruthQuest History, read the Notes for Dad & Mom, first of all it's kind of hysterical.  It's very conversational in it's language and is designed to shake up how we think history is learned.  What it boils down to is that we have it all wrong with our textbooks, tests, and regurgitation.  TruthQuest has developed spines for all of us to use to teach ancient through modern history to our children in a natural organic way.

About the most difficult part of implementing this history curriculum is choosing which books to read and which to omit.  Many of the books I have in boxes from our library's book sale, or they are others I've collected over the years.

I think the biggest challenge to using TruthQuest History is relax and trust the process.  It's so easy for us to try to emulate what we did in high school.  I mean learning requires test and quizzes and assignments right?  But then stop and think, as an adult, how have you learned all the new things you know since your school days?  I've learned from reading, talking to others, and watching television or movies.  So why wouldn't our children learn now in just the same way?  AND why wouldn't they get excited and involved in what they were learning by reading good books and watching quality programs?

The product I reviewed is called Renaissance, Reformation & Age of Exploration and covers AD1400 to 1600.  Truth Quest has LOTS of other products covering all ages of history. You can find them here.

There are lots of other crew reviewers working their way through Truth Quest products here.  Check out their reviews.  And you can contact Truth Quest for more information here.  Let me know if you decide to choose a new way to teach history with your children!  I'd love to hear about it!

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of TruthQuest History Renaissance, Reformation & Age of Exploration in order to complete this honest review.

Writing book for sale-Gone

This book was posted on and is now gone.  Thank you!

This was a really good book. It was easy to read and the ideas were great. I haven't seen anything like it before or since. Included is the audio CD talking about the book and another CD by the same author about nature study.

The Gift of Family Writing + 2 audios
By Jill Novak
$15 plus S&H
Or make me an offer!