Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: When God Created My Toes

As part of Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program, I have had the chance to read When God Created My Toes with my daughter these past couple of weeks.  Written by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by David Hohn, this short picture book features a very active and mischievous little girl asking about what happened when she was created.

From the publisher:
When God created my toes, did he make them wiggle? Did he know I’d giggle?
Did he have to hold his nose, when God created my toes?
This charming picture book allows your child to imagine what it was like when God created them. From the top of their heads to the tips of their toes they will explore and understand God’s delight in creating them.

Through rhyming lines and vivid illustrations children will gain confidence and self-esteem when they begin to fully realize how perfectly, intricately, and uniquely God created them.
I have mixed feelings about this book.  The pictures were delightful -- my favorite page is the one Trina is looking at here:

In this spread, the text is about God creating my hands, and the little girl has tubes of open paint, paint all over her hands, and handprints on the sofa, the wall, and the painting hanging above the couch.  Mom, in the corner with her hands on her head -- oh, yeah, I've been there.

I do like the sense of fun and wonder expressed.  I love that almost all of the illustrations represent things that most toddlers would have real-world experience in (hot chocolate, playing in the mud, pretend tea parties) so they have a frame-of-reference.

The text is all from the point of view of the little girl, with questions that do sound like ones kids come up with... the above one about God holding His nose when creating my toes, for instance.  It was all cute... but I kept expecting something to wrap it all up with a more Biblical point of view.  Psalm 139: 13-16 is quoted on the dedication page, and I assumed that the overall message of the book would go along with that.

Instead I finish reading the book feeling like there is something missing.  But as is clear in the above photo, Trina loves it.  I think she is on the "old" range for it though, and that it would be more appropriate for about ages 2-4.

I would truly appreciate you for "ranking" my review with the link above.  Thank you!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for this review.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: The Story of The Pledge of Allegiance

I have been a fan of John Hudson Tiner's books since the first one I read.  So when The Story of The Pledge of Allegiance was offered up for review, I jumped at it.

A pretty short little book, we read it aloud for a few minutes at a time over a few days. 

From the publisher:
When American put their hands over their hearts to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we know why it's done. Yet how many of us know the story behind the Pledge? How did it come to be?
In this wonderful book, John Hudson Tiner provides the interesting detail behind the patriotic words.  Learn facts about the various stages that culminated in the Pledge of Allegiance we say today. It has changed!
Read the stirring accounts of good men and women who boldly proclaimed that God is the source of this country's many blessings.
This book includes sections talking about the changes made to the Pledge, how the Pledge came to be in the first place, brief biographical information about a number of people associated with the Pledge, a discussion of what the Pledge means, and there is even a quiz and some activity suggestions.

The section on what the Pledge means is fantastic.  I plan to use this with my kids over and over again as they have Scout activities relating to the Pledge.

This is a fabulous, information-packed little book that I am very glad to own.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free through the Page Turners program from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  

Reading Aloud Challenge: May 26

I cannot believe it is the end of May!  How in the world does this happen?

It was a decent week for reading aloud.  Grandma is visiting, so we certainly didn't read as much as I'd like.  But we did do some.

Black Horses for the King 
(Magic Carpet Books)William and Thomas are continuing to listen to Black Horses for the King.  And.... Drum Roll Please!!!  We finished it!!  I don't know why I had so much trouble reading this book.  We enjoyed it.  It is totally something my kids love.  I guess... I guess, it is partially that the "parts" are so stinkin' long (no chapters) and it stressed me out to think of reading an entire part, or to figure out where to break it up.  And the names, uff dah, the names...  Let me quote, from near the end of the book.  And you need to read this aloud without rehearsing it, just for a clue...

"'Well, we've mounted Gwalchmei, Geraint, Cei, Bedwyr, Medraut, Drustanus, Bwlch, and Cyfwlch; Prince Cador has three or four for battle and King Mark two...'"  Of these, I had seen only Cei and Bwlch before (well, and Cador and Mark).  I got to Cyfwlch and gave up.  Thomas suggested I call him Bob.

Dale even took a stab at it.  I handed the book to him and suggested he read that sentence aloud.  He insisted on studying it some first, and he turned all the "l's" into "i's" and vice versa.   That makes the names imminently more pronounceable.    Gwaichmel, Geralnt, Cel, Bedwyr, Medraut, Drustanus, Bwich and Cyfwich.  I made him do it over.

Anyway, I shouldn't complain.  The above is, by far, the worst sentence in the book.  And the story was worth it.

Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster: The Discovery of the Smallpox Vacci: The Discovery of the Smallpox VaccineConnor and I read through Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster this week.  This was great.  The Speckled Monster is smallpox, and I learned a ton.  So did Connor.  William & Thomas listened some too.  The book wasn't just about the fight against smallpox by Dr. Jenner, but also the history of smallpox, and what has happened since Jenner's day as well.  Fabulous book.  One of very few I don't actually own for Core 7, and although the library has a number of copies, I made just need to own this one.

I love scientist biographies, especially when they give such a great picture of the process.  Fantastic book.

Mary Jones And Her Bible
Then, I started reading Mary Jones and Her Bible to Connor.  We are halfway (or a bit more) through it.  We're liking it.  Connor feeling lousy though means we really haven't done any reading the past couple of days.  One of those stories that makes you not take the incredible availability of the Bible for granted.  Even after Bibles were available in English, in England, they were still expensive and owning one was out of the reach of so many. 

The Story of the Pledge of Allegiance: Discovering Our Nations HeritageEveryone has been listening to The Story of the Pledge of Allegiance.  I'll be reviewing this one, probably this afternoon.  We have a few pages to go, but I am considering it "finished" for this check-in post.  I'm a fan of Tiner, and this book doesn't change those opinions.

We also continue to read aloud various history, science, and Bible selections.  

So -- plans for the week ahead. Well, we may not have a ton of reading aloud time available to us.  Definitely plan to finish Mary Jones, and am hoping to read The Big Wave to William and Thomas.  We'll see other than that.

How did your week go?  Sign the linky and I'll definitely come visit your post.  This weekend, most likely!  Love having you here...

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: The Dark Side of Charles Darwin

Some book reviews are pretty easy to write.  Some are not.  This one falls in the latter category.

As part of the New Leaf Press book review program, I had the opportunity to read The Dark Side of Charles Darwin by Jerry Bergman.  I've had the book in my possession for about two months now, and I'll give my overall opinion up front:  this is a well-researched book that contains a lot of information that simply isn't presented about Darwin anymore.  I am glad to have read it.

The publisher's description:
A single man stands behind the greatest deception in history. Charles Darwin's ideas still penetrate every aspect of our culture, including science, religion, and education. And while much has been made of his contribution to the evolutionary hypothesis, little has been publicized about the dark side of the man himself and how this may have impacted the quality and legitimacy of his research.
This daring and compelling book takes its readers behind the popular facade of a man revered worldwide as a scientific pioneer, and unveils what kind of person Darwin really was. The book reveals disturbing facts that will help you:

  • Perceive Darwin firsthand through the eyes of family and friends, and his own correspondence
  • Discern this darkly troubled man, struggling with physical and mental health issues
  • Uncover his views on eugenics and racism, and his belief that women were less evolved than men
Thoroughly documented, this book reveals Darwin's less-than-above board methods of attempting to prove his so-called scientific beliefs, and his plot to "murder God" by challenging the then-dominant biblical worldview.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology at the college level for over 30 years. He has 9 degrees, including 7 graduate degrees, and has authored over 800 publications.
So, my more extended thoughts:

There is a lot of information in this book, much of it from Darwin's own words, or from the words of his contemporaries.  This book covers a lot of ground.  The fourteen chapters are split into four basic sections:  Darwin and Christianity; Darwin and Mental Health; Darwin and His Theory; and Darwin, Racism and Sexism.

I think why this book took me so long to read was that that second section was tough to read.  The sections in a bit more detail:
  • Christianity -- this included a lot of information about what Darwin's beliefs really seemed to be, and how Darwinism and Atheism go hand in hand.  Some of this was really interesting reading, particularly information about using creationist terminology to make some of the arguments for evolution.
  • Mental Health -- these three chapters were definitely my least favorite.  I do think his mental health issues need to be addressed, but they were still hard to read chapters.  The final chapter in this section, about Darwin's love of killing, contained more information I had not seen before.  It did make me think.
  • Darwin's Theory -- okay, here is where I started to really appreciate this book.  Fairly lengthy discussions about plagiarism were fascinating.  The case was strongly made that Darwin not only liberally "borrowed" the thoughts -- and words -- of a lot of other people, but that he blatantly lied about it as well.  And then there was extensive discussion about his scholarship and some of the main components of his theory.  
  • Racism and Sexism -- I've read a fair amount about Darwin and racism, but the presentation here was excellent, including a lot I had not seen elsewhere.  Likewise, I've seen a lot about Darwin and eugenics, with the presentation here being good too.  Darwin's views on women, however, I've really never encountered before.  A lot of the actual Darwin quotes in this chapter come from The Descent of Man.   To summarize: white men are the most evolved animals on the planet.  Women, and men of other races, are slightly more evolved than male apes.  Lovely.  Of course, most of Darwin's ideas about "lesser races" and women have been scientifically proven to be in error.  Nevertheless, Darwinism asserts that the superiority of men is a central premise in survival of the fittest. 
My primary criticism of the book is that at times it read like a series of essays.  There were a couple of times I was certain I had just read exactly the same thing a chapter before, and in turning back, I had.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free through the Page Turners program from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Stuff, May Edition

It's been ages since I've just talked.  Or at least it seems that way.  So here are a few random thoughts from me:
  • My TOS Homeschool Crew year has wound down.  No more crew reviews on my to do list at all!
  • But I do have a few curricular items that I will be reviewing in the near future.  Including some handwriting, Latin, and typing.  I'm glad I'm not going cold turkey.
  • How come the kids will lose their shoes, find an old too-small pair, and not tell me?  Picked up new shoes for Trina this weekend, and Richard mentioned he'd like new shoes too.  Turns out I bought him shoes THREE sizes larger than what he had been wearing.  I *know* that I bought him bigger shoes more recently than that.
  • Richard is now a Wolf, instead of a Tiger... he looks so grown up.  <sigh>
  • Which means Thomas is officially a Webelos II.  A few more months until he becomes a Boy Scout. THAT doesn't scare me.  I love the idea of having three Boy Scouts.  It will be a lot easier.
  • After telling people that I would not raise mealworms, what did we start doing this weekend?  Yeah, ummm, you guessed it.  We'll see if we are successful.  I like the idea of not having to buy food every week for the Gecko.  But ugh.  Trying to grow these critters?  On purpose?
  • Speaking of pets, we finally named the cat.  Shadow.  That only took seven months.
  • I hate figuring out math for the kids.  Hate it.  I have no idea what I want to use next for any of them, I just know we are not being deliberate enough about math for anyone right now.  Yes, expect me to post about math soon.
  • I love my library.  Love 'em.  I completely blew going to pick stuff up on Saturday.  They're holding everything for me so I can get it tomorrow.
  • Being in multiple places in history for the different kids is nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be a few years ago.  Maybe because I've finally learned some history.
  • And I really want to post some book reviews this week.  I've got 3-4 books nearly read... I just need to finish some. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: How Huge the Night

I am always on the lookout for good historical and wholesome fiction for my teen, so I was interested when I had the opportunity to review How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn.

I was especially interested as we are rapidly approaching the 20th century in our history studies, so a novel about a teen in France definitely appealed to me. 

From the publisher:
Fifteen-year-old Julien Losier just wants to fit in. But after his family moves to a small village in central France in hopes of outrunning the Nazis, he is suddenly faced with bigger challenges than the taunting of local teens. Nina Krenkel left her country to obey her father's dying command: Take your brother and leave Austria. Burn your papers. Tell no one you are Jews. Alone and on the run, she arrives in Tanieux, France, dangerously ill and in despair.

Thrown together by the chaos of war, Julien begins to feel the terrible weight of the looming conflict and Nina fights to survive. As France falls to the Nazis, Julien struggles with doing what is right, even if it is not enough-and wonders whether or not he really can save Nina from almost certain death.

Based on the true story of the town of Le Chambon-the only French town honored by Israel for rescuing Jews from the Holocaust-How Huge the Night is a compelling, coming-of-age drama that will keep teens turning the pages as it teaches them about a fascinating period of history and inspires them to think more deeply about their everyday choices.
Since this is marketed as a teen novel, I picked it up fairly late one evening figuring I could read a few chapters and head to bed.  Nope, not a chance.  I stayed up until 4 a.m. finishing the book.  I had no idea it had gotten so late, as I was completely engrossed in the story.

Having read the book, I'm even more glad I was able to review it.  The story is primarily about Julien, with a secondary plot line involving Nina.  Even though I've found a couple lately, it isn't often that I find truly good teen fiction with strong boy-appeal. 

Julien is a fabulous character.  He comes across as so very real.  Fairly self-centered at the start of the novel, he gradually grows and begins to change.  The publisher's blurb calls this a "compelling coming-of-age drama" and that seems to me to be a perfect summary.

Julien is torn by a lot of normal teen stuff, which is something I really appreciate about this novel.  It isn't just about the war.  There's the usual playground soccer field pecking order types of things, and Julien grappling with doing what he knows is right vs. getting back at someone who hurts him.

One thing to note, though, is that this story does take place in wartime, and there is mention of some violent events.  In particular, Nina faces an attempted rape situation.  It is not graphic, and nothing actually happens.  But I did feel I needed to put in a warning that it is there.

This book is fantastic.  It will be part of my kids' high school reading when studying world history.  I hope that the Munn's have plans to write more books.  I'll purchase them, if I'm not fortunate enough to have the chance to review them.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through the LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Wordy Qwerty

This is going to be my last TOS Homeschool Crew review for awhile, as the crew year is winding down.  How sad!  There are a few more products being reviewed next week, but I'm not on any of them.

So I get to go out with a bang, talking about a product I really like.  Talking Fingers, the creators of Read, Write and Type and Wordy Qwerty, is a company I first learned about a few years ago.  Connor worked through Wordy Qwerty, and both William and Thomas worked through Read, Write and Type.

The Crew reviewed Read, Write and Type last fall, but I wasn't a part of that one.  That program teaches kids to read by teaching them to type.  The idea is that if you can type (and write) it, you can read it.  Cute program.

Wordy Qwerty is intended for after a child has gotten fairly proficient with basic reading, and is targeted towards 2nd-4th graders.  I know my kids aren't exactly normal when it comes to reading and spelling, but I think 2nd grade is a little young for this.  And I love it with my older kids.  In fact, William (6th) was the primary person to use Wordy Qwerty during our review of the online subscription.

Essentially, as I see it, the point of Wordy Qwerty is that if you can spell something you can read it.  So it is focusing mostly on the spelling aspect, but in each of the twenty lessons, you are working with a few different things:
  • a spelling rule.  This includes a great little song too.  Rules cover a lot of ground, such as learning when to use the various /k/, /j/, /x/ spellings, or how to form plurals.  I really like this section.
  • word families.  This involves working with words with the same sound but different spellings -- ate/ait, eed/ead, ite/ight, ore/oar are examples.  This is the section my kids have all found to be the most difficult.  
  • outlaw words.  This involves being given a sentence (such as "They would like some.") and the various words show up on the screen on balloons.  In this example, you might see They, The, Them, Thy.  The student pops the correct balloon to recreate the sentence, and more words start appearing.  The words only stay up a short time (so they have to pay attention!) and if the student doesn't get "They" before it disappears, it does come up again.  My kids enjoy playing this and seeing how many times they can form the sentence.  I love this section, as differentiating between similar looking little words is something my kids have all needed extra work with.
  • type and spell.  A two-part sentence is put on the screen and read.  The second part of the sentence is taken away, and the student is to retype it.  This is great for my older kids, but anytime I've had a 2nd to young 3rd grader doing it, they have found this part quite frustrating.  The program does give a lot of help though.  And I like that it is here.  It's just the part that keeps me from thinking this is appropriate for 2nd graders.
  • fill in the blanks.  This final section has a story for them to read, with some drop down boxes for them to choose the most appropriate word.  The kids actually like this section too, maybe because it seems so easy.

One thing I do not like... in the parental login section where you set up the kids' accounts, there is an option to set up a "pass level" in 10% increments (from 0% to 100%).  It defaulted to 70%, which works for me.  However, what I assumed that meant isn't what it actually means.

If a student works through a section and scores, oh, say 10% on it (ummm, yes, this happened) the computer will make them redo that lesson.  Okay, that is what I expected.  However, if the student again scores 10% on the lesson, it doesn't matter.  The student moves on to the next lesson.

William thought he was getting things basically correct because it wasn't doing enough to tell him he was wrong.  He didn't find anything that was showing him how we was scoring.  I had been watching over his shoulder and saw he was making progress through the lessons, so I assumed he was getting over 70%.  It turns out, when I go look at the reporting data, that he isn't.  So I have to go back through and make him do the lessons again.

If this aspect were changed, I would be much happier with the program.  What I would love to be able to do for my struggling students is to set the pass rate at something like 40%, and that way they could go all the way through the program learning the various little songs and rules.  And then I would want to be able to up that pass rate to something more like 70% so they could sail through the ones they understood, but they would be forced to spend a bit more time on the ones where they struggled.

So, even though this program is a bit more mom-intensive than I would prefer, I do really love it.  The songs are catchy, the games are definitely educational, and it does cover a lot of spelling.  You can check out the scope and sequence here.

The program is available as software or through an online subscription.  Subscriptions are for FIVE years, and vary from $25 for a single student to $71.25 for five students.  If you go here to download lesson 1, and you sign up for their newsletter, you can save 20%

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about Wordy Qwerty at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive one year Wordy Qwerty subscriptions for some of my kids in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: May 19

All day I've been thinking that I was totally forgetting something.  Finally, I realized WHAT I had totally forgotten.  Ugh.  Maybe I wanted to forget because we didn't do much this week.  But hey, I'm a real person who does not always accomplish the things I say are important.  So I'm going to post when it's been a particularly horrid read-aloud week too.

Black Horses for the King 
(Magic Carpet Books)William and Thomas are continuing to listen to Black Horses for the King.  We were supposed to be done by now.  :(  We read maybe a chapter.  Hopefully we'll finish today or tomorrow.

We also continue to read aloud various history, science, and Bible selections.  

And that is IT.  I warned you it was a pathetic read-aloud week!  I was not kidding.

So -- plans for the week ahead.  Finish Black Horses, read Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster to Connor, and keep the little two inside long enough to actually read to them again.

How did your week go?  Sign the linky and I'll definitely come visit your post.  This weekend, most likely!  Love having you here...

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Mad Dog Math

Math Drill.  While my kids all excel at math theory, memorizing math facts is a lot more challenging for them.  I am always on the lookout for math drill that is effective, inexpensive, easy on Mom, and most importantly, drill that moves them along without a lot of thought from any of us.

Mad Dog Math was developed to allow each child to progress through a series of short, timed practice sheets.  It is paced individually -- if the child passes (misses two or fewer problems), he moves to the next set of facts, if he does not pass, he works on that same set again.

There are three levels, plus a challenge level.  Each level is intended to be done over a schoolyear.  Each worksheet consists of twenty math problems (Levels 1-2) or twenty-four problems (Level 3 and the Challenge Level), and if done in order, the child would alternate between addition and subtraction (Levels 1-2) or multiplication and division (Level 3).
  • Level 1 is addition and subtraction, and starts off with the 0-3 facts.  This would indicate answers... so it would include facts like 0+0 and 1+2.  All answers will be 0, 1, 2 or 3.  The sheets continue to progress through levels, so the next level (after mastering addition, then subtraction) would be 1-4, then 2-5.  The final level is for 12-18 facts.  There is a lot of review built into this level.  This is where I started Richard, my first grader.
  • Level 2 is addition and subtraction also, starting off with the 0-6 facts.  The facts continue through the final level, which is the 18 facts.  This level would include subtraction facts such as 18-3 and 18-12.  This is where I had William (6th) and Thomas (4th) start.
  • Level 3 is multiplication and division.  This level has a fair amount of review built in, and starts with the 2 facts, ending with the 0-12 facts.  This is where I had Connor (8th) begin.
  • Challenge Level has all of the operations in each worksheet.  This level starts off with a worksheet that includes the 2 fact family for multiplication/division and the 0-6 facts for addition/subtraction.  It ends with the 12's for multiplication/division and the 18's for addition/subtraction.
For Trina (age 5), I had her start in Level 1, but she is doing it using the untimed mode.  That means that she gets to work on the math facts without *any* time pressure at all.
The idea behind the program is that you start your child at the appropriate level, set the time allowed to two minutes, and have them work through all of the worksheets at that two minute time.  At the end of that, they earn a Student Club Sticker for the "2-Minute Club."  At that point, you have the student go back to the beginning of that level, choosing the one minute time.  Completing everything earns them a "1-Minute Club" sticker.  Then, the go through a final time, this time setting the timer at the 30 second mark.  When they pass all of the drills at this time, they will earn a "30 Second Club" sticker, and be a Mad Dog Math Top Dog.  At that point, they can move to the next level.

What do we think?  The kids find the timing part of this to be very motivating.  I was shocked at that.  Connor doesn't want to do the facts in the suggested order, so he ends up bouncing around a bit.  I let him, as this really is review for him.  He is motivated by getting those stickers.

I like that this is straightforward and it is very easy to see what you should do next.  I wish there was some sort of teacher log-in so that I could see all the progress reports without logging in as each student.  However, the reporting is straight-forward and informative.  And you can have as many individual students as you like.  I love that.

We are seriously considering purchasing this when our review subscription is done.  It is simple and effective.  Nothing flashy.  It gets the job done.  Now, if it were available for a Mac, well, I would be happier, but it is nice to have some things they can do on the PC too, I suppose.

You can try Mad Dog Math out for free at their website, and that gives you access to the first fact family in all three of the levels.  To purchase, you can choose a one or two year license ($19.99 and $29.99 respectively), or a perpetual licence ($39.99) and download the software immediately.

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about Mad Dog Math at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a short subscription to Mad Dog Math in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: No Place Like Holmes

Connor has been on a Sherlock Holmes kick for a few months now, so when I saw No Place Like Holmes available for review from Booksneeze, I pounced on it.  I read the book in an afternoon, and Connor is going at about the same pace today.  He is older than the recommended age range (9-12) but he is really enjoying the story anyway.

From the publisher:
The new resident in 221A Baker Street is about to give Sherlock Holmes a run for his magnifying glass!

When Griffin is sent to stay with his detective uncle at 221A Baker Street for the summer, he is certain that his uncle must be the great Sherlock Holmes! But Griffin is disappointed to discover that Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street and his uncle lives unit 221A. His uncle is a detective, just not a very good one. But when Griffin meets a woman with a case that Holmes has turned away for being too ridiculous, he and his uncle team up to help her. Along the way, Griffin shows his uncle just what it means to have true faith in God, even when the case challenges that. The woman claims that her husband was eaten by the Loch Ness Monster, but monsters aren’t real—or are they?
Finding books for my boys to read for fun is sometimes a challenge. Not so much now, for Connor anyway, as he is able to sit down with true classics and not be overwhelmed by their size.  Five years ago, I would have loved having this book for him to read, as it would have been long enough to keep him occupied for awhile (more than an afternoon!) yet not so long that he would have been intimidated.

It seems like almost everything written today is full of smart-alecky kids who hate their siblings, are smarter than every adult around them, and who get into their adventures through deception and defiance.

Griffin Sharpe has one of those issues -- he is smarter than a lot of the adults around him.  But he is respectful to everyone, even people who certainly don't deserve it.  While he gets into a lot of scrapes by being where he shouldn't be, it is because his uncle isn't paying attention and not because he is sneaking out or lying about where he is going.

Connor's response to the book is mostly positive.  He thinks Griffin is a fairly good role model.  His biggest complaint is the uncle (an inventor) has inventions that are way too advanced for the time period.  Some are conceivable for the early 1900's, but a couple are fairly fantastic even for today.  I don't think my two 9-12 year olds, however, are likely to have an issue with the fantastic inventions.

I'm thrilled to recommend this as a great "boy book" (though girls would enjoy it too!) for the upper elementary level reader.  I hope there are going to be more Griffin Sharpe books ahead.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson. No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Music Review: Robert Pierre

I enjoy contemporary Christian music, and have for a number of years.  Back when I was in high school, though, I didn't tend to think a whole lot of it.  I was the kid bringing Van Halen and Queen along on church retreats, and rolling my eyes when we were forced to listen to new Christian artists like Amy Grant and Petra.  In other words, I was the kid you worry about your child being exposed to at church.

In my defense, while there were a couple of okay songs in the CCM genre, there really wasn't much.

And even the songs that were okay to listen to, well, they didn't speak to teens exactly.

I wish there were artists like Robert Pierre around when I was in high school.  I probably would have rolled my eyes about being forced to listen to him too, but at least when I did listen, I would have appreciated his talent, and the lyrics certainly would have meant more to me than such classics as Amy Grant's "Giggle."

Robert Pierre is an eighteen year old artist, graduating from high school this weekend, who happens to have an amazing voice... and "he has committed his talents to the glory of God alone."rece

I recently had the chance to listen to four of the songs from his soon to be released album titled "I'm All In" and I like what I heard.

My favorite is a song called "Identity" which you can listen to here.  I love the real teen perspective on not being conformed to this world.  The chorus:

That's who I am, forgiven and set free
It doesn't matter what the world may think of me
I got nothing to hide, I know my identity
Without a doubt, I know His blood has covered me
And that's who I am

Check out the four songs.  You can even download them.  Like his Facebook page.  Watch for his album this summer.

Disclaimer:  I was asked to listen to these songs and blog about them.  I was not required to write anything positive.  Thanks to Propeller for the opportunity to listen to this music.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: WonderMaps

An incredibly cool part of being on the TOS Homeschool Crew is the chance to try brand-new products that I would never be able to rationalize purchasing until after seeing some reviews from someone else.

WonderMaps, by Bright Ideas Press, is one such product.  I don't often quote vendors in my curriculum reviews, but I'm going to this time:

"WonderMaps is a customizable collection of over 350 different maps. With nearly endless possibilities, WonderMaps makes it easy to regularly integrate map study into a variety of lessons and make the most of every learning opportunity."
As part of the crew, I received the download version of this product (there is also a CD available) and I was very pleased with how easy it was to download and set up.  Like Illuminations (a product of theirs I reviewed last year) you begin by opening a "start here" pdf file that serves as a menu to everything else.

As you can see, from here you can choose a number of different options.  I love the index options for each set of maps. One thing that I did find frustrating initially was figuring out where to look for certain maps.  The blue one is easy... world maps, continents, etc.  The red one is easy too... basic state and regional maps for the US.  But the yellow and purple -- those were a little less clear.

Historical Maps includes four time periods:  Ancients; Middle Ages; Renaissance, Reformation & Growth of Nations; and Revolutions to Rising Times.

Thematic Maps includes some incredibly cool categories:  Chinese Dynasties, 20th Century Treaties (love this one!), Biblical Maps, Explorers, Native Americans.  Love these.  But then there are also two categories: World Wars and American History, which are great, but they seem like they belong in Historical Maps.

Once I figured out where to look for the types of maps, though, it wasn't that difficult to remember.  The Historical Maps is more general time periods.  The Thematic Maps are far more specific.

The feature I'm using most right now though, is the option to go to the maps from Mystery of History (and there is an option for All American History too).  What is incredibly wonderful is that they include both the 1st and 2nd editions of Mystery of History I, though I don't need that this year.  I love being able to easily print the maps from MOHII, without having to try to do the whole photocopier thing.  It's made all the difference in the world for our mapping alongside Illuminations II this year.

The downside, though, is that the MOH maps are not customizable.

What I have been trying to do is to integrate the historical maps into Connor's studies these past few weeks, and unfortunately I have not been entirely successful.  Too many things going on right now, I guess.  We're just in that in-between time where some of the maps we need are in the Renaissance section, and some are in the Revolutions section.  I think now that we are solidly into the most recent historical set, I'll have better luck, only needing to look in one place.  I've printed out the two pages of the index, so hopefully that will help.

Here's a map of Europe after World War I:

If you blow this up, you can see the sidebar where you have the option to remove rivers, country names, or country borders.  Here that same map is again without the rivers:

Overall, I am really liking this program.  As I get used to having it, and as I get used to knowing where to find what I'm looking for, I'm sure it will get more use.

Available for $49.95 from Bright Ideas Press, it isn't exactly inexpensive.  But one of the coolest things about it is that once you register with them, you are eligible for free updates.  So if they create new historical maps, you will get those.  If they correct errors, or do thing like add Duluth to the Minnesota map, you'll get that.  When something happens to change borders or country names, they will update that and you'll be able to have current maps pretty quickly. 

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about WonderMaps at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Blog Cruise: Lots of great stuff

This is my final week of reviews for the TOS Homeschool Crew for the year, and I have three of them to do.  And this is also the final Blog Cruise.  Not that I've participated faithfully the past few weeks, but this one, well, I have to jump in.

Please share your favorite homeschool experience in relation to your participation in the Crew this year!

Oh, my.  How difficult is that?

I could go anywhere with that topic.  The many friendships would be a great topic.  The opportunities I've had to spread my wings a bit.  Right now, though, I think I'm going to go with a top ten list of my favorite products/vendors for the year.

10.  Digital Frog.  We received the Digital Field Trips DVD-ROM, and that is such an amazing resource.  We haven't done a whole lot more with it since the review, but we are looking at utilizing it a bunch over the summer.  I love science resources that are jam-packed with great stuff and usable for a variety of ages.

9. Kinderbach.  This is just such a great way of teaching music to little ones.  My big kids used it to teach the younger ones, thereby learning a bit themselves.  Amazing company.

8. All About Reading.  This would have ranked higher on my list if it had come out about four months earlier.  Still, what an amazing product.  Being able to really work on all of those pre-reading skills -- not just the letter recognition parts -- is phenomenal.  I love programs that teach the teacher, and All About Reading does that.

7.  Bright Ideas Press.  We actually reviewed stuff for them twice -- back in the fall we used a Christian Kids Explore title, and later today I'll be posting a review of their newest product, WonderMaps.  We are currently using Illuminations 2 from them.  I'm just so incredibly impressed with this company and their products, and especially how they are constantly improving them.

6.  Ten Marks.  I have to make some decisions about William and Thomas continuing with TenMarks, but this has been absolutely perfect for Connor.  He'll hopefully finish off the geometry reasonably soon.  I think he will continue on to Algebra 2.

5.  Yesterday's Classics.  225 children's books on my Nook.  Yes.  I don't need to say more, do I?

4.  Latin Alive.  We needed a new approach to Latin.  Something Connor could watch over and over again, if necessary.  Something he could do at his own pace.  I had no idea that Latin Alive was the answer.  The timing was beyond perfect.

3. Roman Town.  An archaeology game?  Set in ancient  Rome?  This was the absolute favorite Christmas present ever for Thomas.  This was voted by my kids as the best crew product of the year.  They adored it.

2.  Reading Kingdom.  A generous vendor, an amazing reading program.  I have one year subscriptions for four of my children, and it is so beyond perfect for three of them.  A couple of months after my review, this program still totally blesses us.  William and Thomas are seeing those little words, it is so amazing.  This program is teaching all those subconscious reading skills that good readers (like me) take for granted.  I'm going to start crying about this. Again...

1.  Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Oh, wow.  I had no idea how badly I needed the video based and age-appropriate writing instruction for Connor.  And how much I needed to have a writing seminar on DVD that I can refer to over and over again.  I'm so incredibly blessed to have been part of this review.  Connor's writing has improved dramatically, and my ability to teach all of the bigger kids writing has improved as well.  I thought this was just for Connor, but it has been incredible for everyone.

So, there you have it.  My crew year top ten products list.  It's sad, as there are so many other amazing products and experiences that didn't make the list, but having reviewed over forty things this year, obviously a lot has to be left out.

Go check the Crew blog on Tuesday to see how other crew members answered this question.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Skin Map

We had an interesting experience here with my latest review book, The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead.  It came up at the Thomas Nelson site for review, and based on the publisher's description I thought it sounded like a fun book to read.  I requested it and dug in.  I thought I'd read it, and then possibly suggest it to my husband, but we hadn't discussed it at all.

A couple of days later, I headed to the library to pick up our holds.  And what had Dale put on hold?  The Skin Map, on audio.  He had done a search at the library for time travel, and thought this sounded intriguing.  So he listened to the book on his commute, while I was reading on my Nook.  Neither of us had any idea that the other even knew about the book.

From the publisher:
It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin, across an omniverse of intersecting realities, to unravel the future of the future.
Kit Livingston's great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.
One explorer knew more than most. Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery. Ever on his guard and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code—a roadmap of symbols—that he tattooed onto his own body. This Skin Map has since been lost in time. Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.
But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal. It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.
The Bright Empires series—from acclaimed author Stephen Lawhead—is a unique blending of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning, fantastical adventure like no other.
My take:

Well, first and foremost, I need to point out that this is book number 1 in a series.  And this is clearly not a series where the books stand alone.  I saw somewhere that book #2 is due out in the fall, so honestly, my recommendation would be to wait until then to read this book.

My kids have been doing a lot of literature analysis, or story sequence charts, or other such discussions about books lately.  One fairly common thing with all of them has been talking about the plot.  First, you have a section that sets up the characters and the setting.  Then there is some type of conflict, which leads to the rising action that normally encompasses the majority of the book.  Somewhere towards the end, you hit the climax where you know everything is going to work out (but you don't necessarily know how) and the falling action and conclusion types of stuff follow.  A good book, of course, will have multiple conflicts, so there will be different points where those plot lines peak, and maybe some won't be resolved. 

This book doesn't exactly follow that format.  First, it follows four different sets of characters through multiple times and places, with them sometimes interacting with each other.  But the primary conflicts of the story pop in almost immediately, and very, very few are even remotely wrapped up when the book abruptly ends.  In fact, both the final chapter and the epilogue introduce new issues.

That being said, this was a really fun book to read.  I was surprised at how well Lawhead handled all the different transitions between character groups.  There were only one or two points early in the book (well, and in the epilogue) where I was scratching my head trying to figure out who I was reading about.

In discussing the book with Dale, we both agreed that Lawhead did an excellent job of painting the scene when someone goes into another time and place.  All of the various times and places felt real, so clearly the author had done some research.

Dale particularly liked the concept of traveling without some gadget or device-- the time travel is happening by being in the right place (the ley lines) and knowing what to do.

This is a good book, but I would have enjoyed it more had I known that I shouldn't expect anything to be resolved when I reached the final pages.  Or if the next book was already available.  I think this would make a great late-summer read, because then the next book will be out soon!

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson. No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Reading Aloud Challenge: May 12

I am SO busy this week!  I did do a bunch of reading aloud, but I simply do not have a lot of time to post.  So no deep thoughts from me this week, just a list...

Attack at the Arena (AIO 
Imagination Station Books)William continues to read Attack at the Arena out loud to me.  This is going way slower than it ought to, because we are not being remotely consistent.  We are nearly done though, so look for a review soon.  I love a "boy appeal" book from a Christian publisher.  Love it. 

As long as I'm counting the kids reading real books aloud to me, Thomas is reading Robinson Crusoe to me from my Nook.  This is the version from Christian Liberty Press, and I can't seem to find it to grab a picture.

Black Horses for the King 
(Magic Carpet Books)William and Thomas are continuing to listen to Black Horses for the King.  We were supposed to be done by now.  :(

The Thieves of Ostia (The 
Roman Mysteries)
We're finished up The Thieves of Ostia.  This would be the first book in a series. Book #2 was checked out from the library on Saturday, but we haven't begun it.

The Sherwood RingI read The Sherwood Ring aloud to the older three.  It was intended for Connor, but everyone got into it.  What a fun book!  The action switches back and forth between "now" and the American Revolution.  Fabulous.

We also continue to read aloud various history, science, and Bible selections.  

So -- plans for the week ahead.  Finish Black Horses, read Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster to Connor, and keep the little two inside long enough to actually read to them again.

How did your week go?  Sign the linky and I'll definitely come visit your post.  This weekend, most likely!  Love having you here...

To see my first post when this turned into a linky thing, check here

Book Review: Attack at the Arena

I was thrilled to get the chance to review Attack at the Arena by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker.  Even more thrilled when I got it.  This is a new series of Imagination Station books, and they are fabulous.

From the publisher:
Patrick and Beth learn that Mr. Whittaker’s fancy ring can be seen inside the Imagination Station but not outside of the machine. A mysterious letter leads the cousins to fifth-century Rome in search of a special cup that belongs to a monk. If found, the cup could keep the mysterious Albert out of prison. 
At the Roman Colosseum, Emperor Honorius is hosting a gladiator battle in celebration of a war victory. Beth attends the event as the emperor’s slave; Patrick attends as a monk’s apprentice but is taken prisoner and sent to fight in the arena. During their adventure, the cousins meet Telemachus (a true historical figure), a monk who believes that fighting is wrong. Telemachus is willing to risk everything—even his life—to stop the killing. When the cousins return with the cup, they find that a third letter has been sent with more information about Albert’s fate.
I had my reluctant reader son, William, read this aloud to me.  It has been great.  It is basically a beginning chapter book, and it includes a fair amount of historical information and is definitely coming from a Biblical perspective.

I have looked and looked and looked for a Christian beginning chapter book series that has some "boy appeal."  There really is not much out there.  Until now.  And the best part is that it isn't "just" for boys, it is also interesting for girls, I think.  The main characters include a boy and a girl, which is great. 

We have already purchased the first book in the series, and I will be continuing to get more of them.  William likes the connection to Adventures in Odyssey, and he loves Roman history.  "Action.  Adventure.  Traveling back in time.  What's not to love?"

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: IEW

Today is the day. I have to sit down and write rewrite the review I've been dreading for months. Grab a cup of something, because this is going to be long...

If you have homeschooled for any length of time, you have undoubtedly at least heard of IEW -- Institute for Excellence in Writing. If you are really fortunate, you've had the chance to see Andrew Pudewa speak somewhere. I really wanted to see him at the North Dakota convention a couple months ago, but alas, with only one car... well, that didn't work. <sigh>

Institute for Excellence in Writing is a company that produces primarily writing materials. Their main product, Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) is a DVD seminar to teach the teacher how to teach writing. The seminar part consists of six DVDs and a 3 ring binder workbook, plus three more DVDs showing Andrew Pudewa teaching kids in various age groups (that you can have your kids watch), plus a Tips and Tricks DVD, which is a bit like an update to the six-DVD seminar.

Wow! So much information, it made my head spin. Or at least it did the first time I tried to "get" this whole IEW thing. You see, I borrowed TWSS from a friend and watched the whole thing over about a week, thinking I could then have the information to utilize IEW with my kids via one of their theme schedules.

My reaction back then was mostly how incredibly gifted of a teacher Andrew is, how this approach isn't as stilted and awkward as I had always thought, and YES! I can do this!  The biggest thing I took out of that whirlwind viewing of TWSS was Andrew comparing teaching writing to teaching violin.  Okay, so I subbed viola in my mind... but when my teachers were having me do little drills and exercises on the viola, they expected some awkward phrasing.  And the idea wasn't that I'd master a perfect scale so that I could perform it at a symphony.  The idea was to practice various skills and techniques to get good at those skills and techniques.  Then, when I encountered a little phrase in a real piece of music, I could 'just do it' without really even thinking about it. 

Writing is the same.  The goal in writing *instruction* is to teach techniques.  We'll hear awkward phrasing.  We aren't shooting for an award-winning paragraph.  We are shooting for mastery of various techniques and skills, so that when the child is writing something real, they will be able to put in strong verbs, or mix up their sentence openers, without really even thinking about it.

We started using the Ancient History-Based Lessons (the old version, not the one currently sold) and it was a struggle.  Really, we failed.  In retrospect, I took in way too much information way too fast, and it didn't have time to sink in. Since I did not own the TWSS (nor could I readily re-borrow it), I didn't have the chance to refresh my understanding except through the seminar notebook.  It was horrible. While I knew enough to realize that IEW was a perfect approach for my reluctant writers, I just couldn't make it work in the real world. I was a total IEW failure.

When I found out I'd be getting TWSS and Student Writing Intensive Level C (SWI), along with a set of portable walls, I was excited.  This would force me to really use the program, and maybe what I really needed was Andrew teaching my son instead of me trying to do it.

Well, I was right. And I was wrong.

First off, being able to watch TWSS over a longer period of time has been amazing. And being able to re-watch the section my children are currently doing is amazing. And being able to just pop it in when I need some encouragement is amazing. Do you get the sense that I think this is amazing?

Connor, age 13-14, dug in to the SWI enthusiastically, as he already has a lot of respect for Mr. Pudewa. It has been wonderful. The basic idea with the SWI sets is that you have video of Andrew teaching a group of kids, and there are assignments and checklists and extras to go along with that.  Here is an excerpt from SWI-C, (SWI-C, by the way, is meant for 8th grade and up):

Connor had this to say: I like having the video presentation, as Mr. Pudewa is more entertaining than my mom. This is a very effective method for writing, and I have particularly enjoyed learning to write reports. Basically, you have specific steps to help you figure out what to write so you don't have to think so much about how to do it. Instead, you can think about what the important and interesting details are and not just copy and paste stuff. Also, the format helps me to narrow things down and not worry that I'm not including every detail I know about a subject. I like condensing the info. That's probably my favorite part.

Back to me. There are a number of things I love about using IEW and specifically SWI:
  • I don't have to try to be entertaining. Andrew does that for me.
  • There is a syllabus all set up and I don't have to think about how much is enough or how much is too much.  No prep time, aside from rewatching TWSS as I think is necessary.
  • At the same time, it is really easy for me to pick and choose a bit as to what we will actually do.  Skip extra assignments, adjust the pacing.  SWI doesn't force me into a rigid structure.
  • The class in the DVD is real kids asking real questions and offering real suggestions. When someone makes a goofy suggestion, Andrew is amazing at gently correcting and teaching so that not only the live class, but those of us in the video class, get it.
  • Connor frequently has a smile on his face as he is doing his writing. That is worth a lot more than the cost of these materials.
  • The TWSS teaches me to teach writing. The SWI models it even better.
  • Although it isn't recommended, I can have Connor do at least parts of this pretty independently
Remember I mentioned our not so positive IEW experience with a theme-based lesson plan? Well, we decided to take the plunge and try again. William and Thomas are studying the Middle Ages this year, so we purchased the Medieval History-Based Theme program from IEW. I'm not sure if it is because of watching TWSS more slowly, or because of my experience watching SWI, or a combination of both, but I am finding it so much easier to teach it now.  I do think that not having Connor in the mix is a factor too, as his "Can we move on!" attitude didn't help his struggling brothers.  Also, the new versions that have both a student and teacher book just seem so much more wonderful!

From my incredibly reluctant writer, William, after finishing the first lesson of Medieval History: "Can I do another paragraph? This is fun. I actually like writing this way. The only part I don't really like is having to [hand]write the Key Word Outline. That's tiring."

I plan to continue with IEW. This fall, Connor will start doing American history, and I plan to use the US History-Based theme programs for him. William and Thomas will be doing Ancient History, so we'll be doing that theme program. Richard and Trina are going to use the new Primary Arts of Language, which I talked about last week.  Further down the road, we may look at doing a DVD-based continuation course

The items I talked about here include:
  • Teaching Writing Structure and Style: available for $169.  This is the best teacher training investment I can imagine.  And it has a very high resale value.  Or if it doesn't work, IEW's return policy is phenomenal.
  • Student Writing Intensive C: available for $99 (or in a set with TWSS for $239).  You can use this with all of your children, just making copies of some of the pages.  Or you can purchase additional copies of the student materials.  If you do this fast (15 weeks) that is less than $7 per week, and that is if you only use it with one student.  That is a bargain.
  • Portable Walls:  available for $7.  Very helpful.  I'd recommend one for each student you have using IEW.
  • The various theme based sets.  The ones I mentioned are each $49 for a student and teacher set.  
  • Primary Arts of Language -- well, go read my post about that. 
IEW has products for literature, spelling, poetry, grammar, speech and more.  Everything they put out seems to have at least some teacher training to it, which is one of the things I adore about the company.

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about IEW and the various Student Writing Intensive levels at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive Teaching Writing Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive C, and the Portable Walls in exchange for my review of the product.  Other products mentioned were purchased by me.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: GoTrybe

There are awful statistics out there, everywhere, about childhood obesity.  Like the one saying that nearly 1 in 3 children and teens in the U.S. is overweight or obese.  The reasons for this are undoubtedly fairly complex, but clearly one answer is for kids to be more active, and to eat in a more healthy manner.  GoTrybe is one organization that is trying to help with that particular answer.

GO get active, TRY something new and BE your best!

GoTrybe provides a web-based program that can be accessed anywhere you have internet.  There is fitness, nutrition, motivation and wellness content every day.

GoTrybe has programs available for different age groups, from K-12.  We used Trybe180, meant for 6th-8th graders.  Upon signing up, you get to choose an avatar.  And as you earn points, you can customize that avatar with clothing and accessories.

We really love the concept of this.  The idea of getting little snippets of nutritional content each day, for instance, is really appealing.  The kids weren't terribly impressed with the motivational parts though.

The workouts are good, although  I wish there were more males as instructors.  Connor and William both enjoyed some of the pre-planned workouts, and they enjoyed putting together their own combinations as well, like what is shown here:

One concern I always have with my teen/tween boys and workout videos is how people are dressed. I was pleased to find that I did not have major issues with the dress in the workouts I saw anyway.  It can be really hard to find that line, I think.  We don't want something too tight, skimpy and revealing.  But we also don't want baggy and UNrevealing either -- I know from personal experience how frustrating it can be to do a workout when the instructor's clothes keeps you from figuring out just what she is actually doing in a given exercise.  I think GoTrybe found a reasonable balance.

The only real complaint I have about this is that we were reviewing it during one of the most beautiful times to be active outside.  I had a hard time getting my kids motivated to do a video workout when they could go outside instead. 

That being said, I am seriously considering signing up for an account when our subscription expires.  It will be nice to have something appropriate for them when it is too hot to be outside working out, and it would certainly be nice to have something to do when it is cold, windy and miserable.

You can go and see what you think for yourself.  Sign up -- the code GETFIT will let you try it for free.  After that trial, a full year subscription is $19.95.

You can check out what some of my fellow crewmates had to say about the various GoTrybe levels at:

Any questions? I'd love to know what you would want to know in deciding whether or not this is something you want to purchase.

Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive a subscription to GoTrybe in exchange for my review of the product.  All opinions are my own, and receiving complimentary products does not factor in to my opinions.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.