Friday, September 30, 2011

Review: iPlanLessons -- Homeschool Planning on your iPad

I have reviewed a couple of apps put out by iHomeEducator in the past.  Most of those related to math, but they also have titles involving grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and even history.


Now there is a lesson plan app -  iPlanLessons.  It works, technically, on both an iPad and the iPhone/iPod Touch platforms.  But it is much, much better on the iPad.  The screenshot here is on an iPhone.  It works.  But it just isn't as easy to use.

This review is going to be mostly of photos from their website, but let me tell you a couple thoughts I have in between.

I love the idea of being able to do some lesson planning on the iPad.  But my kids have the iPad, and I have a Touch.  I think I would love this more if I had access to the iPad more frequently.

I love being able to push the assignments from iPlanLessons to iCal or email. Love that.

Every time that the folks at iHomeEducator update this program (updates are free), it is 100% better.  So right now, at version 1.5, I am finally feeling like there is enough value here to recommend it.  I was too frustrated with how it worked before to be able to say that!

So, if I had an iPad of my own, this would be great...

Available through iTunes, this is priced at $9.99.  I think the best part is that it is allowing my kids to create "lesson plans" for scout merit badges...  because anything that is giving them the ability to do their own planning is a hit with me!

You can check out all of iHomeEducator's apps at the App Store.  I've been working with iLiveVocab SAT, and hope to write about that soon.  I want to purchase some of the Ancient History titles for William and Thomas, who are doing ancient history now.  But what really intrigues me is Medieval Life... but we don't need that yet, so I'm waiting...

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received iPlanLessons 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.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: Aletheia Magazine

Can I start this review off by confessing something?  I guess it is my review, so I can start off any way I want, huh?

This is not something I really wanted to review.  I didn't NOT want to review it either, but this just seemed like 'one more thing' to try to fit in, and it was not something I thought would have enough value to justify it.

Aletheia Writing Magazine's fall issue arrived at our house, and was set on the island in the kitchen and basically forgotten about.  I handed it to Connor (14) a week or two later and told him that I had something for him to read when he got a chance, as we had to review it in another couple of weeks. 

He looked at the cover, and put it in his school stuff.  He clearly had an attitude about it. But I knew he would comply.

A few days later I was gone for the day, and he had been told to get his schoolwork done OR ELSE.  And practically before I walked in the door, he bowled me over and started gushing about how much he loved this magazine, and how he wanted to know if we could subscribe.


So, what did you love about it, kiddo?  And why do you want to subscribe?

"I liked that the stories were written by teens," he said.  That was his stock answer every time any of us asked about the magazine.  But I did eventually get more from him.

He enjoyed the stories.  They seemed to address real things that real Christian teens think about.  Not some sort of ideals as to what Christian homeschooling parents *want* their kids to think about.  More real. 

The artwork is done by teens.  The photos are done by teens.  There are book reviews done by teens.  And poetry by teens. There are notes after some of the stories mentioning other works, or scripture, or great quotes.

And Connor's statement to me:  Not only is this enjoyable to read, but it makes me think that I can write too. 

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we also got digital access to the Summer 2011 issue.  Connor loved that as well.  He commented on how that issue was great because it had more variety in genres... the Fall 2011 issue being predominantly fantasy.

As I type this review, he is busy reading this issue:
Click the magazine cover and you can read it too.  This was the first issue - Spring 2011.

I am impressed with what this magazine has accomplished in just a couple of months.  And we will consider subscribing.  At $26 for a one-year subscription (in the US), it isn't cheap, but it is in line with what I've seen from this type of magazine.

One thing I love is that there are very few ads, and the photography is beautiful.  And while Connor's comment above about the themes in some of the poems or stories not necessarily being things that parents want their kids thinking about, I don't have a problem with the way they were presented here.  I hate that my kids do think about things like human trafficking.  But sheltering teens from this brutal reality does nothing to stop it. It is something to keep in mind though, as there may be subjects in here that are too much for younger teens...  and I'm not ready for my 12 year old to be reading some of this (though he likes the photography!)

It inspires my kids. And that says a lot.

You can read what other TOS Crew Members have to say about this magazine  here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive two issues of this magazine (one physical, one digital) 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.

Reading Aloud Challenge: September 29

Here is what we've been reading this week.  It hasn't been a whole lot.

Number the Stars.  We finished that last chapter or so.  Connor was surprised that nobody ended up being arrested by the Nazis.  At least not in the actual story part.  So he is finally understanding what I meant by my statement about a "typical WWII book" when we were discussing a couple of his reading options. 

Mara, Daughter of the Nile.  I'm listing this so I don't forget it.  But the book went missing.  So we haven't read ANYTHING.  <sigh>

We barely started Homer Price. Funny, funny book.  And a nice break from the far more serious reading we've been doing.

But we did a lot of other school reading. 

Below is a picture of the books I've been reading to Richard and Trina.

So, umm, yeah.  Another pretty pathetic read-aloud week.

Plans for this coming week?   Well, Connor has wrapped up Sonlight Core 7 (or H now, I guess), but we do have two more books we are going to do on audio.  I Am David.  And God's Smuggler. Connor will be starting Core 100 on Monday, and I *am* still going to be doing some reading aloud. I have to.  I just haven't figured out exactly what.

How did your week go?  Sign the linky to link up your reading aloud post and I'll come visit your post, sometime before the week is up.  This weekend is going to be a bit crazy, so I'm not promising it will happen quickly.  I do, though, really love having you here... without you, I would not be posting this week. I'm feeling like a failure at this read-aloud thing right now.  But I will post the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Like this week's two chapters of read-alouds.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review & Giveaway: Math House Games

I've spent a bit of time over the past week or so with a new math product intended for kids in preschool through early elementary ages.  Trina, my kindergartner, has been my test subject.  Richard (2nd grade) thought he was far too mature for this.  He will, however, be joining in.  Just not at the beginning.

Carlito C. Caterpillar's Math House Games is a set of 8" x 4" cards -- thirty of them -- on a ring.  Twenty of the cards have math games, with a version of the same concept on each side.  That means there are forty math games in all.

The games are split into three stages:
  1. Quantity (Steps 1-10)
  2. Numeration (Steps 11-14)
  3. Operations (Steps 15-20)
The final games involve multiplication and division, so this definitely is something that can take you well past "preschool" math.

The cards contain the instructions for playing the games, and a list of "stuff" you will need.  That stuff might include socks, fruit, chickpeas, notepaper.... or it might include the special manipulatives that you can download.

I was disappointed that the link to the downloads was incorrect.  However, it was pretty easy to find on the website.  From the home page, you click through to downloads, and scrolling down to the manipulative pages, which are available as pdf files by stage.

The first cards are introductory in nature, talking about the myths about teaching math to young kids, for instance.  I disagreed with a couple points made, but overall, I thought this was an excellent discussion, particularly good for parents who are just starting off with their oldest child.

Trina and I are having a lot of fun with these games, and I will continue to use these for a lot of her kindergarten math.  I don't tend to believe in "formal" math at this age anyway, and I am impressed with the approach used here.

Would you like to win a copy?  I have one to give away.  I'm trying something new with Rafflecopter, so I'd love feedback on this as well!  And...for the Facebook option for me, if you are friends with me on Facebook already, go ahead and click "I did this."  If you aren't, you can find my page here, and friend request me, then click "I did this."  It wouldn't be any fun if I did this all right the first time!

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.

Book Review: Heiress

I've reviewed a couple of books by Susan May Warren, and I have loved them.  The Nightingale was set during World War II, and I found the detail to be amazing.  More recently, I read My Foolish Heart, which is modern-day, but fabulous because it so perfectly captures Minnesota.

So when LitFuse announced a book tour for Heiress, by Susan May Warren, I really didn't care what it was about, I knew I wanted to read it.

From the publisher:
They can buy anything they want—fame, power, beauty, even loyalty.

But they can’t buy love.

The beautiful and wealthy heiress daughters of August Price can buy everything their hearts desire. But what if their desire is to be loved, without an enormous price tag attached? When one sister betrays another for the sake of love, will she find happiness? And what happens when the other sets out across the still untamed frontier to find it—will she discover she’s left it behind in the glamorous world of the New York gilded society? What price will each woman pay for being an heiress?

Set in the opulent world of the Gilded Age, two women discover that being an heiress just might cost them everything they love.
So I started reading.  And I had a really tough time getting into it.  The first chapter (available here) has great detail.  But the two sisters -- Esme and Jinx -- I just could not identify with them at all and I just did not care.

Since this is a review book, and since I have loved everything else I've ever read by Susan, I persevered.  Somewhere about the third or fourth chapter, I did start to care.  About Esme anyway.  I no longer had to force myself to read, which was a good thing.

The book is split up into a few sections.  The first one, Sisters, takes place in New York City in 1896.  The final section, Heiress, is back in New York City in 1917.  In between, we spend time in Newport, Rhode Island with one sister, and in Silver City, Montana with the other.

I'll confess that I groaned when I realized I was about to read a huge section of the book that focused on Jinx.  But it didn't take more than a couple of pages for me to totally change my opinion of her...

My opinion?  Fantastic book.  There is simply no better word.  The characters are so real, and not just the sisters, but everyone.  Like her other books, these characters are complex and certainly imperfect.  And everything doesn't wrap up neatly in a little package.  Mistakes have consequences, and the "magic author wand" isn't used to make everything end happily ever after.

There were a number of places where I was a little stunned by the serpentine nature of the plot.  Just when I thought I had figured out where it was going, it snaked off in a different direction entirely. 

Susan brings out a great message with virtually no preaching.  I love that about her works.  The central question relates to being blessed.  Clearly, as members of the 'nobility' of New York, the sisters are blessed materially.  But is there more than that?  What does "blessed" mean to me?

Fantastic.  Or did I say that already?  This is the first book in a series, the Daughters of Fortune series.  I will be reading them as they come out.  Wow.

You can read what other people thought of this book at the LitFuse Blog Tour page.

Susan May Warren is thrilled to announce the release of her latest historical book, Heiress!

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

Heiress, a richly complex historical romance, is the first in Susan's three book Daughters of Fortune series. In honor of Heiress’ debut, Susan is hosting a FABULOUS Gilded Age Giveaway and giving away an opulent prize pack fit for an heiress!

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A $100 gift certificate to
  • A sleek silver iPod™ Shuffle
  • A beautiful strand of Pearls
  • Titanic DVD
  • Speakeasy Compilation Music CD from Starbucks™
  • Heiress by Susan May Warren
Click one of the icons below to enter. But do so soon - this giveaway ends 10/5/11. The winner will be announced Thursday, October 6 on Susan’s blog.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Review: Hideaway Country Kitchen

When I found out I would have the chance to review this Hideaway Country Kitchen, I was so excited that I forced myself to tell NOBODY.  I knew my little two would be thrilled, and I didn't want to hear them constantly asking if the UPS Man was coming today...

So when the UPS truck did show up with it, he put it into the van for me, so that we could "make an entrance" with it later, making it a really big deal.

Opening up the big gigantic box from Guidecraft was quite a production, and I really wish I had gotten at least a photo of Trina's face when she saw what was actually inside.  Video would have been better.  She squealed, she nearly cried.  Richard was incredibly excited as well.

My big three boys (14, 12, 10) went and found the power screwdriver, pulled out the directions, and started inventorying the parts.  Then they went to work putting it together... something else I should have photographed. 

It took probably an hour and a half or so, but they got it together really well, and without problems.  It would have taken ME far longer.  Their only comment was that this would have been awfully time-consuming with just a regular screwdriver.

And then Trina and Richard got to play.  Trina insisted on getting on her apron, and will not "work" in her kitchen without it.  Richard has no such rules.  Trina particularly loves washing dishes... and the faucets are so cute!


In the picture above, you can see the hinge where this all folds up.  I did not get a photo of it all folded, so I'll use one from the website... so below you can see it all folded up and going under a bed.

That is just the coolest thing!  So instead of it always having to take up a huge bunch of space, you can store it away.  Now, folding it up is reasonably straightforward, but it isn't so easy that I'd be putting it away every night or anything.  Just an fyi on that.  But my kids all figured out how to do it, so it is now pretty easy for me!!

What I love about this kitchen is that it is giving both Richard and Trina the chance to pretend.  Trina tends to "make" meals that I have just made, and she spends a lot of time washing dishes.  To her credit, she does some of that for real too.  But imaginative, pretend play is so important... and while none of my kids have had problems creating pretend worlds for their pretend play, a high-quality resource like this makes it a lot more fun for everyone.


Richard spends a lot of time setting the clock to the right time.  It makes him a little crazy when it says something completely different from reality.

Guidecraft has some amazing products, and if the others are as sturdy and well-constructed as this one, they are worth every penny.  I have my eye on the Greek blocks.  Merry Christmas, kids?  The Hideaway Country Kitchen is available for $200, and there is also another hideaway kitchen available.  That one looks really pink though, so I am thrilled that we have this one.

(And note to self... mop the floor before taking photos in the kitchen.  Uff dah.  We are always tracking mud in, so there is a reason I rarely take pictures in there.)

You can read what other TOS Crew Members have to say about this kitchen here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this amazing kitchen 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.

Women of Faith - in Denver this weekend!

There are days I feel so incredibly blessed.  This week is going to be full of a lot of those days.

Because on Friday, Dale has taken off work and I am driving up to attend the Women of Faith: Over the Top conference with a few thousand other women... and without my kids.

Refresh.  Recharge.  Be re-invigorated.  I am SO ready for this.

Speakers include Patsy Clairmont, Marilyn Meberg, Lisa Whelchel, Sandi Patty, Andy Andrews, and Karen Kingsbury.  Musical guests include Mandisa and Amy Grant.  And drama by Katharine Everett.

I cannot even begin to tell you what an amazing event a Women of Faith conference is.  I attended two in Denver quite a few years ago now.  I would find myself laughing so hard it hurt, and then crying a couple of minutes later.  These ladies (and Andy!  Never heard him before, but read a book of his not so long ago) are real.  And I need real.

Have you ever attended Women of Faith?  Is this the year to do it?  There are still a number of events happening in 2011... and registration is beginning for 2012 as well.  This page has all kinds of info.

I'll be telling you more about it this weekend.

Thank you, Booksneeze and Women of Faith.  Having the opportunity to attend this year is an amazing blessing.

Disclaimer:  In exchange for tickets to this event, I agreed to blog about it both before and after.  This post is part of that agreement.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review: The Life of Joseph

My family has had the chance to work through the newest study put out by Grapevine Studies: The Life of Joseph.  Intended for ages 7 and up, it has actually worked quite well for all the kids, ages 5 through 14.

I reviewed another Grapevine product a couple of years ago, and we found that stick-figuring through the Bible was really a lot of fun.  And the kids learned a LOT.  I kept meaning to get another study to work through, and somehow, that just never happened.

From Grapevine Studies:
Walk with Joseph as he goes from a prince in Canaan to slavery in Egypt and then to the courts of Pharaoh. Your students will enjoy this engaging Bible study!

Follow Joseph as he travels from the tents of Jacob to the house of Potiphar and eventually becomes second in command to Pharaoh. Watch to see how Joseph reacts to slavery and false accusations. See how God uses difficult circumstances in Joseph’s life to prepare him to save thousands of people, including those who mistreated him. Joseph’s story is one of betrayal, forgiveness, and restoration. Take a look at this fascinating Bible story today!
We have loved this!  The first lesson has you work through the "big picture" of Joseph's life.  I was stunned at how my little two (ages 5 and 7) were able to narrate back the story of Joseph, with a fair amount of detail.  After just the first lesson.  Here's the first page of the overview lesson's stick figures:

After that, you step back and start over, getting a lot more detail about each of the key events in Joseph's life.  The first lesson focuses on a young Joseph.  You complete one page a day, for five days (or do it all as a Sunday School lesson, which is closer to what we did!).


The first day, you read four verses from Genesis and discuss Jacob and Rachel getting married, and Joseph being the first-born son of theirs.  You start working on a memory verse (Gen. 30:24 in this case).  And... the part that made this work for my older kids... you look words up in a Bible Dictionary.  Words for lesson 1 included such things as reproach, sheaves and rebuked.

The second day, you read another few verses and discuss Jacob's children, and the fact that Joseph gave a 'bad report' to his father about his brothers.  This day also has the kids doing some map-work, in labeling Canaan. Shown here is the stick-figuring that happen for the first two days.

Days three and four also have you working through a few verses of the Bible, and drawing two stick-figure illustrations each day.  The fourth day also includes a lesson review, with questions such as "Where did Joseph grow up?" and "What did you learn about God from these verses?"

The final day is a chance to illustrate their favorite part so far, and to go over the memory verse.

Later lessons all include additional Bible Dictionary work, and some have more detailed map work.  I don't have my younger students doing this part, but it is fabulous for the older three (10, 12, 14).

I also have my oldest son doing some additional work, reading some commentaries on these verses in some cases, or looking at the differences between various translations sometimes.

I highly recommend this in ebook format -- not only is it less expensive that way, but then you can print copies for everyone in your family.  If you visit the product page, you can check out a sample.

We will do more of these studies.  I had forgotten how much we enjoy stick-figuring through the Bible!!

Disclaimer:  I receivee these ebooks  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.

Learning a foreign language

Okay, so if I am wanting to learn a language, and I don't want to be spending money right now, what would you recommend?

We own some resources, but nothing that has seemed terribly effective for me.  But I guess the first question is what language I choose.  I have been assuming Spanish.  But there is something to be said for working on German, since I do actually know some of that.

Spanish makes more practical sense though.

Okay, so we own a very old version of Rosetta Stone.  But I didn't particularly love it, and I really don't have room to install it on my computer.
  • My library offers Mango online.  They say they focus on practical conversation skills, the goal is speaking.  I like that.  It includes cultural "stuff" which I definitely like.  Intended for travelers, which isn't exactly my situation.
  • Or one of our other libraries offers byki.  They seem to focus a bit more on vocabulary acquisition first.  But it is a bit hard to tell.

The libraries link to some other free stuff.
  • BBC programs, specifically Steps in 12 Weeks.  I like the idea of something from the BBC.  They also gear this to travelers.
  • LiveMocha.  Naturally, I gravitate towards anything with "mocha" in its name.  But with this one, I really don't understand their approach at all.
I'm leaning towards just starting with Mango, since that is what is available at my normal library... and if it doesn't seem like a good fit, then I go try something else.  But I'd love to hear if anyone has experience with any of these...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: Tri-Cross

My kids are absolutely loving being Crew Kids this year.  Here they are setting up our current review product:

Games for Competitors sent us two versions of the game Tri-Cross.  In most of these pictures, the kids are playing with the standard board game. 

Tri-Cross can be played by 2 to 4 players, and is recommended for kids as young as 8.  I have to say that Connor and William (14 and 12) did great with it.  Thomas (age 10) didn't pick it up quite as quickly, but did eventually do great with it.  Richard (age 7) really wasn't that interested in doing more than watching.  Trina (5) didn't even do that.

Here they are playing the beginner version, where the pieces are laid out face up, in a predetermined pattern.  It didn't take long at all for the kids to memorize the set-up.

The kids described the game as a cross between chess and some other strategy games.  The best part?  The game goes fairly quickly.  Though as the kids got better, the games did get longer.  However, this is still something they can play in a relatively short time.

I'm not going to try to explain the rules... but it is fairly simple to understand... grasping the rules took only a couple of minutes.  There is a video or two on the website.  We also received a disk that was supposed to have video on it.  Ours didn't work, but the videos on the website got us going quickly, so I never investigated getting a replacement.

As you can see from the expression on Connor's face, it requires some strategic thinking.

Mom's favorite part?  Logic, memory, planning... all the great things about games of strategy. 

The travel game is shown above.  And the kids are playing the advance version (where the pieces are placed face-down).  This quickly found a home in the van.  I should have gotten a picture there... it is great to have that as an option for killing time when we are stuck somewhere unexpectedly.

This game is a huge hit in our household.  The standard version is available for $24.95.  The Eco-Edition/Travel version is only $19.95. 

You can read what other TOS Crew Members have to say about Tri-Cross here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive these games 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.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hunger Action Month: What Can I Do?

It is Hunger Action Month.  And I said I was going to post more about this whole topic.  So here goes...

What can YOU do to make a difference?

And really, there are so many possibilities.   And it has seemed to me that this is one area that is fairly family-friendly.  I don't know about you, but it sure seemed to me that when I was trying to find community service projects for my kids & I to do together, practically everyone had a minimum age of 13.  Or ONE child under 13 with a parent.  

A lot of the things we've found within the "hunger" area, though, are possible for wider age ranges.  

Where can you help?  Well, like I mentioned in my previous post, if you visit Feeding America's website, that can be a starting point for finding local groups, missions or agencies.  Visit their websites, and start looking around.

What can you do?  Some things we have done, or other people I know have done:
  • taken donations and split them up into boxes to go to individual food banks. 
  • washed containers used for giving personal care items to clients (shampoo gets put into washed out 20 oz soda bottles at one of the organizations we've helped).
  • sorted produce. 
  • transferred dried beans from 50# or 100# bags into quart or gallon ziplocs to be given out.  This one can be huge.  I know one food bank who could give out beans quite consistently... if it was in appropriate sized containers.
  • cut worn out jeans into squares for other people to quilt, and those quilts are auctioned or raffled off for money.
  • hauled boxes of food to people's cars
  • take food provided by a food bank and bake it into desserts to go into Thanksgiving baskets.  Or precook turkeys.  Or can excess produce donations.
  • put together little flyers with ideas for using certain items -- potatoes, dried beans, etc. -- to help educate the clients in making use of some of the staple foods that tend to be inexpensive and easier to obtain and distribute.
  • One food pantry we've worked at also will do up samples of food... so if they are featuring ways to use rice that week, someone will have cooked up some rice dishes (a salad, rice pudding, something hot with veggies added) and clients can sample the dishes in addition to getting the recipes.
  • Stand at donation boxes greeting people and thanking them for donations
  • Many of the food pantries I've known would be thrilled to have a family come and walk around the perimeter of the building and pray for those who volunteer, those who donate, and everyone who utilizes the services that day.
  • help put some things together for a class that is being planned to educate local people regardless of "need" about gardening in our desert climate.
  • In a couple weeks Grant Family Farms, a semi-local farm is looking for volunteers to come in and harvest potatoes -- they planted 3 acres of potatoes specifically to donate, and they want people to come and volunteer for 2 hours to pick and carry those.
  • Many areas have community gardens where you can go and help plant, weed, harvest, etc.
  • Serve in a soup kitchen
  • Drive meals to elderly or shut-in people for Meals on Wheels
  • Pick up produce from farmer's markets to deliver back to the food bank.  Many food banks will have agreements with certain farmers for that.
This barely scratches the surface.  And it didn't even include things like donating food.  But if you are going to donate, call the organization.  Find out what they actually need.  Canned meat is a good guess.  Most food banks I've seen have lots of canned peas, green beans and corn...

What have you done?  What other ideas do you have?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reading Aloud Challenge: September 22

I'm getting later and later... 

Here is what we've been reading this week.  It hasn't been a whole lot.

The Golden Goblet (Newbery
 Library, Puffin)Golden Goblet.  <clears throat>  Okay, we voted.  And we determined that since we ALL remembered the story from last time, and since we were having such a tough time finding time to read this... well... we're returning it to the library.

Number the Stars.  I love this book.  We're nearly through it.  This one is Connor's, but everyone is listening. 

Mara, Daughter of the Nile.  I'm actually succeeding in reading this to just William and Thomas.  I love this book too.  We still aren't very far into it.

And, I'm pretty sure, that covers it.

Plans for this coming week?   Homer Price. Finishing the above. 

How did your week go?  Sign the linky to link up your reading aloud post and I'll definitely come visit your post.   Love having you here... you motivate me when I feel like NOT reading aloud.

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

Ginny Owens Winner!

Time to draw another winner!

This time, it was for the Ginny Owens CD Get In, I'm Driving, which I posted about last week.

Out of 40 entries, picked #27:

Congratulations to:
tawnyamarie said...
I like Ginny on FB.
I'll be emailing shortly!!

If you didn't win, a friend of mine has another one that she is giving away on Friday.  Go visit Jennifer at Milk & Honey Mommy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review: AIMS Education Foundation's Earth Book

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we had a chance to choose one of six products from AIMS Education Foundation as the one we'd most like to review.  I had a hard time deciding, but went with the Earth Book, which is intended for grades 6-9.  I used this with William off and on over the past few weeks.

When this arrived, I was a bit overwhelmed.  I don't know why.  But this book is so much bigger and thicker than I anticipated.  If I thought about the description of the book, "48 activities—446 pages" which was right there in front of me, I would have realized that 446 pages is a LOT.

So I finally got up the nerve to actually open the book... and read all about rubber band books and some other general introductory information.  These rubber band books are part of basically every activity... so I didn't dare to start until I could purchase some #19 rubber bands, whatever that meant.

I failed miserably.  Wal-Mart didn't have them, Staples didn't have them, Office Depot didn't have them... so I determined I was just going to make do.  Should have done that earlier.

Maybe they'd be nicer all fastened together, but just folding them up did enough for our purposes.

Okay, so let's back it up and talk about this a bit more.  First -- what you get for your $49.95.  You get a huge book, which is intended for the teacher, and it does include a fair amount of educationaleze with stuff to show how the activity meets NCTM Standards or NRC Standards or what-have-you.

You also get a CD-ROM that contains the pdf files for all the student pages.  Oh, wow, is this ever nice.  So that little book above?  I didn't have to lay my huge book down on a photocopier... I pulled up a pdf file and just hit print.  Easy-peasy.

The book covers various areas of Earth Science:
  • The Hydrosphere
  • The Geosphere
  • The Atmosphere
  • and finally Interactions (between those 'spheres')
Fabulous organization.

Once I started actually doing the lessons (instead of looking for #19 rubber bands), I found this was much easier to implement than I expected.  Let's pick a lesson on the Hydrosphere...  this one on the temperature layers in the oceans.

There is a 2 page section directed at the teacher that includes the information on the standards being met, along with some nice little statements about what the point of this lesson is, what stuff you need, and some background information.  I would often end up reading the background info aloud.  Just because.

There are also classroom management suggestions, which are clearly geared to a classroom.  I skimmed these because they did give me a feel for how the lesson was to work.

This particular lesson involved reading some "clue cards" and using those clues to label the layers of the ocean, their depths and their temperatures.  You end up graphing this information in two very different ways, and then have a discussion about what information is best conveyed with each type of graph.

I love this kind of activity.  It doesn't just present the information, the student has to do a little thinking to put it together.  But I particularly love having it shown differently, which really illustrates the advantages and disadvantages in how data is presented.  We got into lots of discussion about some of the global warming charts and why one group would choose a certain graph or scale, while those on the opposite side of that issue would choose to demonstrate the data differently.

All in all, we have enjoyed this book, and I will consider other titles.  Other members of the crew with middle-schoolers had the chance to review a math book, Area Formulas for Parallelograms.  Now that I've written my review, I want to go check those out.

You can read what other TOS Crew Members have to say about these and products for younger students too, here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this book 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, September 20, 2011

Review: Big IQ Kids SAT Vocabulary Prep

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to review BigIQkids with William and Thomas.  You can read about that here.

This fall, I've had the chance to let Connor try out a new feature they have added since then:  SAT Vocabulary Prep.  We are loving this!

What is it?  They have created a program to work through the 5,000 "SAT Vocabulary" words.  And by this, they don't just mean to memorize a bunch of random definitions.

This is the menu you get when you start up, and the idea is to complete a lesson per day.  When you start with a fresh list, that can include as few as 10 words, or as many as 60.  YOU set that number.  So for an older student, you could have them work through more words.  You are given the list, and you can open up each word to hear the pronunciation, see and hear it in a sentence, and read definitions.

The first day is a spelling test.  I'll confess -- we struggle with spelling here, so instead of making Connor keep doing the same words over and over at this time, we opted to create 'cheat sheets' for spelling. This lesson involves them giving the word and using it in a sentence.  The student can either type the word, or click on the alphabetical "keyboard" on the screen

The second lesson is definition matching. This is pretty straight-forward and is shown below:

The third day is synonyms and antonyms.  I love this lesson.  Pretty self-explanatory from the screen shot below, but what impressed me is that they are introducing a lot of other words in this section.  This particular lesson isn't terribly impressive, but still...

The fourth lesson is a vocabulary bee.  Connor seemed to particularly like this section.  This involved some different words.

The fifth day has them doing "sentence completion" and seemed pretty effective.

Days 6 and 7 are tests... one on spelling, one on vocabulary.

Then the system generates the next vocabulary list for the next set of lessons.  And this is the great part.  If a student got a word right in all of the sections, it goes away.  But if a student answered incorrectly, that word is studied again.  Connor had two words from this first list reappear for the next set... and got eight new words.  This means that he isn't stuck continuing to work on words like solemn, jamboree and plausible just because he messed up ellipsis. 

This SAT Vocabulary Program is available for $99.99 per year, and you can try it out for free.  You can find more information about their other products -- spelling, vocabulary, math, etc. -- by visiting this page.

You can read what other TOS Crew Members have to say about the regular BigIQkids products here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was asked to review this 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.