Sunday, December 26, 2010

Year in Review 2010

Welcome to the family Christmas letter.  I didn't manage to get it out on time (heck half my cards are still waiting to get addressed and my parents christmas present is one of them.  So here goes

This year has been one of happiness and heartache for our family.

John, after being employed with Sun Microsystems for 13 years was laid off at the end of January.  Within two weeks he was hired at a friend's startup.  He no longer worked from home which was an adjustment for the whole family.  He left the startup in September for a position in Oracle.  He started serving in Awana again in the fall after taking the last year off.  He also continued to be the Den Leader for Neil's cub scout den.  The den got so big that it was split and John now has 6 boys at our house just about every Monday.  He still enjoys running but hasn't managed to get out to do it much.
Traci wrapped up the remaining reconstruction surgery in January and was cleared in March by the oncologists and surgeons to get back to life.  Easier said than done as she was spiraling into depression.  I won't go into the details but it was ugly.  John got her to the gym and she took up running in preparation for a sprint tri in early May.  In June she tore her calf and entered physical therapy.  She took some time with girlfriends on a weekend trip to Seattle (so much cheaper than therapy).  She ran two more 5k's in October and November and hopes to be able to continue.  She still homeschools the kids and has become a reviewer for homeschool products.

Claire is now 14 and a freshman.  We continue to school her at home.  She enjoys singing in the high school level choir.  She has been babysitting for a lot of people lately and saving up for summer camps. She is also a well loved volunteer on the toddler hall and Cubbies.  She has become quite the accomplished baker.  Traci hasn't had to make a batch of cookies in over a year.  You can find her on facebook most days.  She is still taller than Traci and working on passing John.

Hannah is almost 13.  She can't wait to turn 13 in order to get her own facebook account.  She still plays the piano but doesn't take lessons anymore.  She too is becoming quite the baker.  She loves to draw.  Her math lessons often have a doodling theme and coloring scheme making them fun to grade. She continues to serve in the Kindergarten sunday school class and in Cubbies.

Ian continues to play baseball spring and fall.  He just earned his arrow of light award ( the highest award a cub scout can earn) a few weeks back.  He is eagerly looking forward to joining the Boy Scout Troop at our church. He has started taking some responsibilities on around the house because when you camp with the boy scouts the youth are on their own.  We have seen great growth in his attitude just in the two months he has been interviewing a troop.

Neil played baseball in the spring and soccer this past fall.  He LOVES soccer.  It is a natural fit for his bouncy personality.  He is a wolf scout this year enjoying a new pack with his dad.  He is in the second grade absorbing information like a sponge.  He continues to excel in math and science.  He still loves the Wii but can also be found swinging away on the playset out back.

Avery at 6 is catching up to Neil in height.  She played soccer in the fall too.  She just loved the pink uniform!  She will be taking the spring off of soccer since she had many leg pain complaints over the fall.  We took her in early for her annual orthopedic appointment and it looks like she will  have surgery again sometime in 2011.  The original bone tumor is coming back but it is another one in the same knee that is giving her trouble this time.  We go back in February (back on the every six month plan) to evaluate her limb length discrepancy and discuss surgery.  She is also a Daisy scout gearing up for cookie sales in January!  Other than that she is very much the princess, attitude and all around her.

The family took two trips this year.  One was to Colorado with all of John's side of the family.  16 of us rented a huge mountain home and spent the week romping in the woods, playing cards and just enjoying each others company in a lovely setting.  Our second trip was to Washington DC.  We spent one week in the city and then headed down to Virginia to see friends and the Historic Triangle.  It was a great two weeks filled with history and fun.  We also took one other small weekend trip up to Palo Duro Canyon where we camped.  It was too hot to hike so we explored Canyon, and Amarillo Texas, sightseeing along Route 66
Merry Christmas Everyone

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thanksgiving in Texas

What a crazy weather day for Thanksgiving this year.  Our guests started arriving around noon dressed in shorts and t-shirts (we are way casual around here) by the time they left around 8 they needed heavy jackets!  I believe the temp at noon was 84 and by 8pm it was 43.  We had the windows open at first because both ovens were going and it was just warm inside.  Then the cold front blew in with one of the kids coming in from playing and we quickly got the windows shut.  When dessert rolled around the kids took to lighting the gas fireplace!  A fun time was had by all.  There were 11 others for dinner besides the 7 of us and 7 more joined us for dessert.  We cooked two turkeys, one in the oven and one in the Big Green Egg.  MMMM nobody went home hungry and all left with turkey leftovers!  My parents flew in from Arizona to join the festivities too.
The kids played phase 10, rockband, and general silliness in the green belt.  The adults ate, ate and I think we talked between eating.  We had yummy appetizers ( My sister made some brie spread that was good I hear) to start the stomachs properly.  Then it was on to the birds.
This little bird was an oven bird.  Brined overnight in the cooler
This little bird was smoked in the Big Green Egg.  Also brined overnight in the cooler.

This little gem is my sister-in-love's recipe for cranberry sauce.  A few years ago she taught Claire how to make it.  I just get to watch the cranberries pop :)


I have 1 math lover, 1 math hater, and 3 math tolerators.  Yep, if you do the math that is 5 kids and only one who is passionate about math, he happens to be in the 2nd grade - working in a 3rd grade level math text at the moment.  So when I pulled up ALEKS for the first time it was my second grader who wanted to try it first.  

What is ALEKS?
From their website... 
Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

When you first use ALEKS it has you set up a master account for the parent to oversee the student accounts.  You then set up individual student accounts.  When the student gets on it takes them first to an assessment.  I loved the assessment part.  It took the kids through a series of questions and assessed what they knew.  The student has an option of "I haven't learned this yet" button if they haven't learned the concept yet.

After the assessment the student is given a pie.  "My ALEKS Pie" as Neil called it.  In fact he would often say he was going to go "eat some ALEKS pie" and he would log himself on.  The pie shows both parent and student what they have mastered and what they need to work on further.  The student can select a topic to work on.  ALEKS then has them do a few questions and if they master it they move on. ALEKS works towards mastery, it isn't just a one right answer - you know it deal.

I liked several aspects of ALEKS for all my kids.  The assessment was good.  The pie gave them visual of their accomplishments and what they needed to work on.  The questions gave them an "explain" option where the problem was explained in detail, then another question of the same type was offered for them to solve on their own.  Like I said earlier my math lover loved ALEKS and considered it a  treat to log on.  My math tolerators tolerated ALEKS.  They found the interface enjoyable enough though to come back to it once or twice so I could see how the program worked.  My math hater is just really hating math right now.  The nice thing about ALEKS for her was to show her her pie and just how much Algebra she really knew. I can see ALEKS being a huge asset as a tutor to the upper level math programs.  

Overall ALEKS is a good program with an easy interface, good customer service.
Subscription for an individual child is $19.95 a month.
ALEKS offers a family discount for more than one student for either the 6 month or 12 month time frame here.

The button below gives you a free one month trial of ALEKS!  This is a great way to see if ALEKS is for your family.  Their website only offers 3 hours of use in a 48 hour period so click the button below to get started.

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

See what my fellow crew mates thought of ALEKS here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free trial period of Aleks for review purposes only

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TOS REVIEW ~ Master Ruler

Master Innovations

Do your kids ever get frustrated using a ruler?  Do all those lines confuse them?  While grading the young ones math do you discover they used the centimeter side rather than the inch side?  Well the master ruler will help with all that!

The Master Ruler is several  clear plastic rulers that are bound together.  The clear plastic helps one with seeing through the ruler.  A huge plus for little ones trying to manipulate a ruler on a math sheet.  The several rulers are actually different measurements.  For example on the inch ruler you have a 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and a 1/16 ruler.  To eliminate the lines for the smaller dimensions if you child is merely looking for inches then you just open it up to the inch.  As you teach the smaller ones you can add them in.  It gives the kids a great visual that a 1/2 inch is 1/2 of an inch and so on.  They also carry a metric ruler as well. Both are available for $9.95 each.

Master Innovations
Along with the two rulers I received Master Innovations also sent along a work book (pictured above) and a measurement poster ( pictured below).  The workbook has lots of fun worksheets that encourage the use of the ruler while introducing the various measurements.  Listed in the upper corner of the worksheet is the measurement used for example on the "Birds of Beauty" page it indicates 1/2 inch.  This workbook provides  a lot of ruler work.  The 24 page workbook is available for $15.95.  The poster that was sent has made a great addition to our school room wall.  It shows length, capacity and weight.  It also gives kids some reference points as to how big an inch is.  

Master Innovations

The Master Ruler is available through Master Innovations website.  Also on the website you will find videos that show how to use the ruler and how to use it to help teach fractions.  Overall I think the master ruler is a good tool to have in the classroom.

Check out what my crew mates thought of the Master Ruler here

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the product for review purposes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Family Favorite

Our family started a tradition a few years back that I would love to share with you.  Based on homeschooling mentors recommendation in a class I took I picked up the book Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreedide.  Based on the calendar in the back of the book we started it one advent season.  You read one chapter a night leading up to Christmas, lighting our advent wreath as we go along.   Jotham's Journey is fictional based on the New Testament story of Christmas.  The book can be intense, even scary, in some parts for young children.  However, it brings the Christmas story to life from a child's perspective.  The author has followed up the first book with two others, Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels.  I just noticed that he has an Easter book coming out soon as well.

Reading a chapter each night during advent led our family to slow down and spend time together during the busy Christmas season.  After reading each night for over a month we realized it was a part of our day we didn't want to end.  On my husband's prompting we continued reading aloud from our school read alouds.  This tradition is going on it's third year!  We will be reading Tabitha's Travels this year for the first time and then we will revisit Jotham again next year.  Each year as my kids get older I pray they glean a little more from the story.

Friday, November 5, 2010

TOS Review ~

I have a problem.  My children, all five of them, have a problem.  My husband funds our problem.  However this is not a problem you will see portrayed on any of your daytime talk shows.  Nope this is a problem most homeschoolers have..... books and lots of them!  I heart books.  I have loved books since I was little.  I used to polish off Nancy Drew's in 2 hours.  It was hard to keep me in books and it is hard to keep my kids in books.  So the problem lies in how to keep track of what books we own or don't own when we head to the book store.
The solution came via this review product. offers a downloadable program for Mac or PC that will help you organize your book collection. Phone apps are available too.  They also have programs for movies, music, comic books, and games.  Book Collector standard edition is $29.95 while the pro edition is $49.95.

I quickly downloaded the program, typed in my license code for the pro version and got started entering ISBN numbers into it.  The program is easy to use.  After doing manual input without a number pad I went ahead and ordered the cue cat scanner from them.  It arrived incredibly fast and has made input a whole lot quicker (once I discovered the barcodes on the inside of the books are more accurate)  My kids have been bringing me stacks of books off their personal shelves as well as the books we are currently using in school.  The search function is fast and almost 100% accurate.  I can organize them into folders of my choosing according the tag I give them.  I can also indicate on which bookshelf they are located on.  More features can be found here.  I also like that I can print a copy of our books for insurance purposes. This product is very well thought out for the collector.

You can try book collector for free up to 100 books.
In a household that loves books this is a great program to have to keep track of what you have.  You can also indicate if you loaned out a book and to whom.
Crazy book lovers can see their collections on screen with
See what my crew members thought of on the crew blog

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for review purposes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One year later

.......I said good bye to the "girls" a year ago today.  I don't regret our decision but there are days where it creeps in and I wonder what if?  Then I hear stories of people who underwent chemo and radiation..... I avoided that.  I hear stories of women who have had it metastasize years after being cancer free.  I know women who have fought a long hard battle and won.  I know women who fought a long hard battle and are losing........I didn't have to fight that hard.
Over the past year I have struggled.  Surgery was in October and all was done reconstruction wise by January.  In February I suffered a huge blow and was spiraled into depression and rage.  My kids were scared of me, my husband was mad at me and couldn't fix me.  I couldn't fix me.  I gave up on God (short of renouncing him) I spent many months shaking my fist at Him, cursing Him and kicking at His shins.  It took some marital counseling, a compassionate and devoted husband, a loving and forgiving Savior, and a group of friends not willing to let me drown, plus some exercise goals to crawl to the top of the pit.  It was a DARK time in my life.  I believe a majority of it was PTSD.  At times I feel back on that edge but the Lord has been gracious to help me recognize it so that I can amp up the running.  Running has been therapy.  Doing that tri was therapy.  Doing both those activities reminds me that I am alive.  It reminds me that I was given the chance to AVOID all that is usually associated with breast cancer.  It also leaves me in a bit of a quandry.  Some call me a breast cancer survivor.  I call myself an avoider.  I'm ok with that.  I still get shook up at the weirdest things however.  My trip to Seattle in June found me smack in the middle of the Race for Cure while trying to get to Starbucks with friends.  I panicked.  My pulse quickened, my breathing got shallow and my eyes locked on all the pink running by.  My friends, God love them, saw the panic in me and rushed me across the street and into the nearest pink free zone they could find.  They just did what needed to be done and did it.  Just the other day I was in a neighboring town buying running shoes.  The store didn't open for another 30 minutes so I was walking around the city square.  Pink ribbons flags were hanging everywhere.  Pink support shirts were being sold in the shops.  I hate pink and I just got angry seeing it all.  I'm not over it, nor do I expect to ever be really.  What I do expect is to remember that I am alive and live life.  Taking the time now to invest in friendships, and relationships that I have neglected this past year because I just couldn't do life while depressed.
Physically  I am recovered.  I have about 50% of my sensation back.  Final sensation levels will be solidified over the next six months.  After that what I have is what I have.  Scars are fading.  My drain hole scars are the most faded looking like chicken pox scars now.  The incision scars are not as red but still a very in your face reminder of what I went through a year ago.  I can use my pec muscles without pain.  I can hike mountains, I can swim bike and run triathalons, I can run 5ks, I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me.  It isn't always easy to let go and let God with all the mental stuff but I am learning......

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two Crazy Options Sale from TOS

The crisp winds of autumn have blown TWO special deals into the Schoolhouse Store for 
Usually our crazy deals are on one item--

Please read carefully--Both options will give you the Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling with Heart tote bag FREE!

Here are your choices:

Option A:

Just $19.95 for The 2010-2011 Schoolhouse Planner. Plus, receive the gorgeous Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling with Heart tote bag for free! 

You save 63% in all--for ONE DAY ONLY.


Only $19.95 for the May 2010 Expo To Go OR the Fall 2010 Expo To Go, and receive the Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling with Heart tote bag for FREE.  

Select from the May 2010 Expo To Go or the Fall 2010 Expo To Go!  

You save 43% in all--for ONE DAY ONLY.

Either offer is only $19.95 and both offers give you the beautiful Cranberries & Cream Homeschooling with Heart tote bag for FREE.

But you have to act fast-the wind is changing and this offer is only here for one day!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Day

For those of you that have followed me for awhile....... pop on over to my sister in love's blog post!  :)

And then come back here and happy dance with me!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Week 8 of school

Today marks the end of our 8th week of school.  We started back in July and have taken 3 weeks of vacation amongst those 8 weeks of work.  For some reason hitting the 8 week mark makes me happy.  I think it is because next week will start the end of our first quarter.  We school 36 weeks with lots of breaks.  I have us ending our school year at the end of May.
So what have we been studying of late......
Claire is learning about Eastern Europe in Geography, nutrition in health, yucky math stuff in Algebra, and water in Science.
Hannah is learning about George Washington and others of that time period, Pre-Algebra, simple machines in Science.
Ian is studying about Japan, practicing his hand at origami, doing math, and studying ants, beetles and other creepy crawlies in science.
Neil and Avery are learning about Knights, math, and studying ants, beetles and other creepy crawlies in science.
We all started learning a bit of Latin this week too.  It is proving to be interesting.
Neil and Avery are playing soccer with a local organization.  Both are involved in scouting learning lots there as well.
Ian is studying some engineering in scouts this month.

All in all it has been a good 8 weeks.  Definitely some rough patches but I think we have the swing of things now.

Books we are reading
Man of the Family by Ralph Moody  (family evening read aloud)
Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski  (Neil and Avery's Read Aloud)
The Ravenmaster's Secret by Elvira Woodruff (Claire and Hannah's Read aloud)
Tales of a Korean Grandmother (Ian's Read Aloud)

Monday, September 27, 2010


I've been running lately.  Technically since last April.  However I have only been running regularly since July.  I've been using the C25K app on my iPhone.  My sister-in-love gives a good overview of the program on her blog here (by the way I introduced her to it and she finished the program before my lazy butt did) :)

This morning I went for the first run since running with my friend Dana in Virginia while on vacation.  I did week 6 day 2 of C25k, consisting of a 5 minute warm up, 10 minute run, 3 minute walk, 10 minute run and a 5 minute cooldown  walk.  So 33 minutes total workout and I ran/walked 3.1 miles!  That is just shy of a 5k.  I came home and looked for local 5k's coming up and found one this Saturday in a nearby town.  I just got done registering for it.  I'm so excited!  I can't wait to see what my time is.  Bonus is we are having beautiful weather so it should be nice and cool for the race. Here is where I will be racing.  Along a hike/bike trail with water views!  Ahh Texas in the fall.

Friday, September 24, 2010

TOS Review : Schleich

Christmas in August!  That is exactly what my kids thought when my review package of Schleich figurines showed up on our porch one afternoon.  Exactly 5 new fans of these figurines have been born.
Included in my package were
Swabian-Hall Piglet
Gnu Calf
Przewalkski's Horse 
Dartmoor Pony
Indian Elephant Calf

These animals are hand painted, containing great detail to each figurine.  The weight of the figurines is what surprised me.  I am used to light weight flimsy figures where over a short amount of time a trunk breaks off or a leg bends and snaps.  Schleich figures are solid, with a good weight to them.  Schleich figures are geared towards the 3 and up crowd, fitting nicely in a small child's hand.  The details of each animal are amazing. It gave my kids the ability to really explore the animal without being around the life sized one.
There are many things you can do with these animals.  For instance my little ones ages 6 and 7 began imaginative play with them.  I also let them choose one to play quietly with while I did a read aloud.  My older kids were fighting over the color catalog that came with them, choosing which ones to spend allowance on.  My 14 year old was particularly taken with the magical collection of fairies that they offer since she collects fairy figurines.  The prices vary for the animals and other pieces.

One thing I enjoyed was on the site specifically.  You can look up any animal they sell and it will give you its zoological name, conservation status and global home.  Also listed with the specific animal is a blurb about that particular breed along with a fun fact.  This could be a fun activity for kids to look up different animals to help them classify them or dig deeper on a specific animal.  My 12 year old spent some time checking out all the different information they offered on the various horse breeds.  Local retailers sell them, use the locator on their site to find one near you.  You can also find them at online retailers.  We purchased some at for stocking stuffers this Christmas.

Schleich figures are a great toy.  When you see one in person you can see the painting detail.  This is one company I will turn to for quality toys for all the kids in my life.

You can see what my other crewmates thought of Schleich figures here.
Disclaimer: I received these 8 figurines for free for review purposes only.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

TOS Review: Salem Ridge Press

Salem Ridge Press sent me one paperback book and two E-Books to review. Salem Ridge Press is committed to wholesome moral books.  They describe themselves on their website as "Salem Ridge Press is a publishing company, established in 2005, dedicated to bringing back quality children’s books of the 1800’s and early 1900’s for a new generation of readers. We strive to republish wholesome "living books" for the whole family, and we hope that you enjoy these books as much as we have! "  Their website has a large list of historical fiction.  
Two of the books were by Emma Leslie, an 18th century author.  Salem Ridge Press has republished her historical fiction 12 book series on church history.

  From Bondage to Freedom was the first book I chose to read.  From Bondage to Freedom is a historical fiction book about the rise of Islam.  At first the book was hard to get into.  The old English wording took some time to adjust to.  After awhile though it became easier to read.  The characters in the book drew you in to their plight.  The character Aseeyah especially caught my interest as she began the book as an outcast due to her blindness but ends up being a leader of her tribe sought for her wisdom.  Asseyah becomes a Christian but all around her is the pagan religion of the Arabic tribes and a new religion being proclaimed by Mohammed.  The story line follows several characters and bounces between the three.  It also switches between Mecca and Constantinople.  This book is obviously written from a Christian perspective.  Not being a scholar of Islam or having much knowledge myself of how that religion came about I can not speak to the historical authenticity of the book.  However the author does a good job of drawing you into the cultural difficulties of the time.  The book is geared towards ages 12- adult but I think I would wait until high school to introduce this book.  From Bondage to Freedom can be purchased in soft cover for $14.95.  Hardcover is available from Salem Ridge Press.

Before the Dawn is another of Emma Leslie's books on Church History.  It is available for  $14.95 for softcover at Salem Ridge Press or in E-Book format from The Old SchoolHouse Store.  This particular book is church history surrounding the times of Wycliffe and Huss.  Again the language is of old but after reading the first book of hers I was more accustomed to it.  Some vocabulary words are defined as footnotes at the bottom of the page to aid the reader in better understanding.  This book pulled me in right away, perhaps because From Bondage to Freedom had warmed me up to the author's style of writing.

Marie's Home available for $12.95 for softcover is written by Caroline Austin.  This particular book is geared towards the 10-adult age range.  So I gave this E-book version, available at,  to my 12 year old daughter to read while waiting for her sister to finish choir.  My girls are hard to keep in books, if you know what I mean. so I printed it out (several pages per sheet) and sent her on her way.  She wrote her own review of the book.
My 12 year olds review of Marie's Home

I liked this book because there were very few dull moments, and you saw Marie grow and mature as she told her history. The only thing I did not like was that there were a few vague points where you did not really know what was happening, until Marie addressed the event afterwards (usually telling her thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc.) You did not know what had happened when a person suddenly dropped from the story line. On the other hand, it had quite a lot of historical insight. The story was set a little before and after the French Revolution, from 1789-1793. It showed all different sides of the story, the French Nobles, King Louis  XIV and Marie Antoinette, and last but not least, the peasants. As Marie and her family happened to be in the French Court as a Noble family and favorites of the King and Queen, things do not bode well for them. But an act of kindness committed by Marie upon their arrival at the French court saves them in an unusual way. The title “Marie’s Home” comes from the fact that Marie and her family move from place to place in England and France but every time they come back to the one place they call home. I would recommend this book for ages twelve and up. All in all it was a great book, and I really enjoyed it. 

I enjoyed these living books from Salem Ridge Press and will definitely add them as a resource when looking for more historical fiction for my children.  They have the entire series from Emma Leslie, plus books on World History and American History.  These books that I reviewed were for an older set but if you check out the reviews of Salem Ridge Press by my fellow crew mates that can be found here you will find reviews of some of the books published for the younger set as well.

These three titles are available at The Old Schoolhouse Store in E-book format


Disclaimer: I received a hard copy of Bondage to Freedom an E-book of Marie's Home and Before the Dawn for free for review purposes only

Friday, September 17, 2010

TOS Review: Vocabulary Cartoons

mnemonic |nəˈmänik|nouna device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something.

Mnemonics is the exact thing that Vocabulary Cartoons utilizes in the book Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power.  This book is geared for 7-12th graders, although when it arrived in the mail for me to review there was fighting amongst my kids grades 2, 5, 7 and 9 as to who got to read it first!  For $12.95 this book offers over 290 vocabulary words.    Each page has one vocabulary word.  This word is the word intended to be memorized.  Beneath each word is it's phonetic pronunciation, part of speech and definition.  Also under the vocab word is it's link word, a word that links it to the cartoon.  Then you have the cartoon.  Under that you have the caption which uses both the vocab word and it's link word.  A few sample sentences using the vocabulary word follow the caption.  You can follow this link to see how it works.  Below you will find an example from the website

My kids would grab up this book in their spare time and look over the words.  They really enjoyed the format for each word.  The cartoon usually had them snickering to themselves.  Most words required  calling over a sibling to let them in on the cartoon and caption.  The funny thing is while they were laughing over the cartoon and caption they were actually absorbing the true definition of the word!  Fun, easy learning.

For the most part, I just have this book handy in our school room for them to pick up at leisure, however when I was met with a particularly snippy 7th grader I presented her with the book to work on the first 10 vocabulary words.  The requirement was for her to take the review quiz and earn a 100% in order to relieve her of other vocabulary work.  She aced the review.  Even several weeks later she can still tell me which each one means as she recalls the cartoon.  My goal is to present a few of these words each month reviewing the previous ones in the process.  I figure by the time SAT time rolls around they will have a good grasp on the vocabulary words.

I love the concept of Vocabulary Cartoons.  It works for several types of learning styles.  The vocabulary words are presented in such a fun manner that you can't help but learn the word.  This is one book we will keep handy as we approach the years leading up to the SAT. 

Vocabulary Cartoons also has books for elementary as well as a second volume for middle - high school.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Vocabulary Cartoons for review purposes only.

Friday, September 10, 2010

TOS Review: America's Math Teacher

Math is a four letter word to my freshman.  She really detests math and will make it the last subject of the day.   She struggles with math but still manages a mid to low B in Algebra I, her current course of study.  She *thinks* she stinks at math.

Along came this review for America's Math Teacher.  America's math teacher is a web subscription based product.  For $195 you get one year access to the entire library of courses from basic math to algebra. This fee would cover all students in your homeschool from 4th grade - Algebra, with plans to add more high school level courses . Each level offers short instruction videos, practice sheets and evaluations.  The website was just being launched as we started our review process and more features are being added as the author receives input and feedback.  

I let my daughter loose in the Algebra section.  We started with adding integers, something that was giving her grief at the beginning of the year.  Claire watched the videos, each of them are about 9 minutes long.  The video itself is just a male voice over with a computer white board.  As the teacher discusses the problem it is displayed on the screen.  My daughter, who has done other “video” math programs felt the male voice was nervous and dry.  After the lesson I printed out the practice sheet .  With the answer sheet I corrected her problems and reviewed the one problem she got wrong with her.  A few days later, once she had watched the other videos in the first section, I opened up the evaluation page.  She had 30 minutes to complete the exam.  She completed the test in under 4 minutes (hence the “she *thinks* she stinks at math”).  She managed an 80% on the test.  The one thing this website does not do is record the student scores, nor track their progress.     For her the quick lessons and practice sheets were a nice change up.  Each lesson was based on one concept - helping with mastery.
The best aspect of the site in my opinion are the speed drills.  One can choose addition, subtraction, or multiplication.  Below is a picture of my daughter working a speed drill.  She enjoyed this aspect of the site very much, always trying to better her speed.

Overall I believe this has the potential to be a great product.  However at the time of the review the site was just getting up and running, with new features being added frequently.  I did not have enough time to explore the features that were coming online.  America's math teacher offers free lessons to try out.

To see what my crew mates thought of  America’s Math teacher click HERE 

Disclaimer- I received a free 60- day subscription of this product as a member of the TOS crew for review purposes only.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TOS Review: Vantage Learning My Access! Home Edition


Ugh!  That is my immediate reaction when faced with assigning a writing assignment to my kids.  I don't enjoy formal writing and I sure don't enjoy grading it!  In fact when I received this review I was dreading it.  I felt my back against the essay wall.

To be honest my older girls (who were my testers) were not that thrilled either.
My Access Home Edition from Vantage Learning however changed a few of our minds.  My Access is an online writing program.  The program is $129.95 for up to 6 students per year.  They also have an option for up to 3 students for $99.95.  For this fee you get access to the online writing center.   My Access! has writing prompts offered for up to three age groups, 8-10, 11-14, 15-18.  The parent has an account and each kid has their own login and password as well.  In the parent center you set up the child's account.  Also in this area you can choose to have progress reports emailed to you each week and set point goals for your child.  There is a huge list of writing prompts available for the student to choose from, but the parent can also create a topic.  I implemented this program in our homeschool by having my girls sit down with the program for about 30 minutes twice a week.  

My 14 year old is not so keen on writing.  She went through the self-paced pre-writing exercises begrudgingly.  As she went through the pre-writing exercises though there was a writing guide she could print out and refer to.  The pre-writing used a nice interface of a journalist gathering info.  It kept her somewhat motivated to get through the initial exercises.  

My 12 year old daughter enjoyed the program.  Well I should rephrase that... she tolerated the program until her final submission of her first essay.  I walked in the door one evening after she had drafted, submitted, corrected and then resubmitted her paper and she was beaming from the top of the stairs.  I asked what was up and she proclaimed that she was "advanced proficient" in all five of the areas the program scores in.  That made her day.  Here is a screen shot of her progress

What I like most about this program was the step by step approach it took to introducing writing.  It didn't just assign a topic and leave you with a blank page.  It "held your hand" helping you build the essay.  What I loved about this program was it's grading process.  It took my daughter's essay and highlighted every grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax error.  It then allowed her to hover over the highlighted error for corrections listing what was wrong with the particular phrase or section of the paper.  

I'm hoping to incorporate My Access! Home Edition into more of our writing lessons.  I feel it has valuable resources in the writing guide as well as in the correction phase of the writing.  The cost for three students is reasonable.

See what other crew members had to say about My Access! here.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free as a member of the TOS Crew for review purposes.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Year ago...

...I walked into my surgeons office for a mere recheck on a lumpectomy site that was performed one week earlier world was rocked
...I was diagnosed with Stage 0 LCIS.
...a set of decisions was put into motion

... I sit here thankful that I am alive and cancer free.
...I don't regret my decision... most days
...I count down the days till my next oncology appointment (24)
...I pray for my friends who have been hit with cancer and are going through treatment.
...I mourn for the things I have lost
...I rejoice for all the things I didn't lose
...I am alive

From Colorado

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fun with hands on projects

Today I decided to do something out of character for me... I pulled out the hands on kits and did a project with N and A that wasn't scheduled.  Shocked??  I was.  :)
So what did we do you ask?  Well after pinning a cicada that decided despite the lysol in the relaxer that it was going to grow mold, I pulled out this kit and the instructions for the catapult.  I have all the kits Hands and Hearts offer.  Most of them are undone.  Why?  Because I feel I don't have time or the space in the school day to do them.  Well I'm wrong.  My kids love them and hands on learning really is what it is all about.  The catapult fits into our current study of the Vikings.  We are reading Usborne book of Time Traveler.  The vikings raided other villages.  Whether or not they used catapults to do so I have no idea but it fit with what was in the box so I went with it.  The littles enjoyed launching animals with it.  It is currently in the shop for repairs though!
From Aug 30, 2010

Fun fact (or disgusting depending on how you look at it): In the middle ages they would load dead animals into the catapult and launch them over the castle walls if they were unable to leave the walls due to threat of enemy.

Pinned Cicada

From Aug 30, 2010
A myriad of insects in the "kill" jars.  N fed the one a tomato so I am not sure it should be considered a kill jar
From Aug 30, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

I have a few goals

I realize New Years Resolutions are about 8 and half months overdue but I'm setting some goals regardless.

1. clean kitchen every night so I wake up to clean surfaces in at least one room
2. run 3 times a week and finish C25K
3. Gym the other 2 nights a week
4.  Input up to week 6 of curriculum (seeing as how we are all ready starting week 5 I am behind but almost caught up just to be behind again.  So really the goal here is to input a little each day always staying ahead.

I will start my goal setting there and see how I do.  I did wake up to a clean kitchen this morning just an hour and a half after I thought I would be up. ::note to self:: turn alarm clock on!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What we are using this year.........for the younger 3

I- 5th Grade
He is doing Core 5 exploring the Eastern Hemisphere.  So far he has mapped and explored the Pacific Islands, Antartica and now Australia.  For Language Arts he is doing Monarch 500 online.  Science is combined with the littles (I expect more complete sentences and vocabulary cards).  For that we are using Apologia's Exploring Creation Zoology 1 Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  It is all about insects and birds.  Right up the boys alley.  Handwriting is A Reason For Handwriting E.  Math- Horizons 5

N-2nd Grade
N is doing Core 2 which is part 2 of World History from Sonlight.  Language Arts is Sonlight's LA 2 for advanced readers.  Spelling is A Reason For as well as Handwriting.  Science is the same as Ian's.  He is also using MCP Plaid D for phonics and Wordly Wise C for Vocabulary.  Horizons 2 math which he started last year is being wrapped up and then he will move on to level 3.  He is a voracious reader and is consuming books as fast as the girls.

A-1st Grade
A is doing Core 2 which is part 2 of World History from Sonlight.  Language Arts we are using a mix of things.  Sonlight's LA worksheets for K and Beginning Readers.  Spelling is a Reason For Level A.  Phonics is included with her spelling so for now we are using that.  Handwriting is also a Reason For.  Math is Horizons 1 which she started last year.  We are working on perfecting and speeding up our reading.  Today she read from the Beginners Bible for me :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

School is now in session

We started school back on the 19th.  I wanted to get a few weeks under my belt while the sun was at its hottest so that we could vacation when it was nicer (and all the regular kids are back in school).  So we are wrapping up our second week of school.  Next week we have off  for a camping trip and then back to work for about a month and then a big vacation to DC and Williamsburg.  Apparently I am the only one who has ever been to DC!  That will change soon.  I will take our first of school year pics tomorrow and post them up.

We also had two birthdays come and go all in one weekend.  Claire is now 14 and Avery is 6.
Claire getting ready for her first science experiment of the year.

 Avery the morning of her birthday.  sorry the quality is bad but a picture had to go here as the other one was not working

What we are using this year.........for the big girls

C- Freshman in High School (really wasn't she just learning to talk yesterday?)  This year I had to take a different approach with C as she needed high school level courses.  So far so good on the text book type things I threw in.  We will start Spanish when I get around to scheduling it.

History- BJU Cultural Geography
Math- Teaching Textbooks Algebra I
Language Arts- Monarch English 1/ My Access
Foreign Language- Rosetta Stone Spanish
Health - LifePac Health
Science- Apologia Exploring Creation with Physical Science
Readers/Read Alouds- Sonlight Core 7
Concert Choir via CCSA
PE via a homeschool PE Class
Bible- Bible Study Guide for All Ages

H-7th Grade.

History-Sonlight Core 7 part 2 of World History
Math- Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra
Language Arts- Monarch LA 700
Foreign Language- Rosetta Stone Spanish
Science- Apologia Exploring Creation with General Science
Readers/Read Alouds- Sonlight Core 7
PE via a homeschool PE Class
Bible-Bible Study Guide for All Ages

Monday, July 19, 2010

TOS Review: TOS June 2010 Module Travel the World!

I enjoy traveling, who doesn't?  Our family takes new roads just to see different scenery.  So imagine my delight when I was asked to review an E-book Schoolhouse Planner June 2010 module Travel the World!.  This E-book put out by The Old Schoolhouse, which is available for $7.95 at TOS Magazine's Schoolhouse Store is an introduction to world geography.  My kids and I were on a summer break when this arrived but we chased away some of the summer blues by diving into Travel the World.

All of my kids ranging in age from 6-14 enjoyed the different aspects of this E-book.  It has lapbooking activities for the younger set and a separate section set aside just for high schoolers to go more in depth.  Within the module there are links to geography games online which were a huge hit with the whole family. The kids and I raced against the clock and each other to place the countries within the continents.  The younger ones enjoyed the included coloring pages and word searches.  My high schooler got a taste of geography through fun activities before she tackles a full year of high school geography.  The high school expansion activities listed in the E-book are ones that I hope to incorporate in her geographical studies this year.  The links to online maps of the different continents and quiz games reinforcing the memorization of countries will prove invaluable.

Included in the E-book is a brief introduction to geography.  It then goes on to talk about each of the seven continents with plenty of links to maps, quizzes and other details about the continent.  There are copy work pages for both manuscript and cursive, famous quotes and bible verses.  A resource list, lap booking ideas, and an answer key are also included in this 56 page E-book.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for review purposes.