Sunday, August 30, 2009

Super *FREE* Printables

I found a great site that has free curriculum & free printables...check it out HERE. Lots of goodies...copywork, charts, lapbooks, & more! She also has a great blog.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Web Design for KIDS ~TOS Crew Review

A month ago I would have thought it was impossible to teach my 7 & 10-year-old children enough HTML to create their own web page, but Web Design for Kids proved me wrong!

Web Design for Kids (...And Curious Grown-Ups!) is a simple DVD, not a software package. You do not need extra software to make it work. All you need is Internet Explorer & Notepad. These two programs are already on your computer (if you use Windows as the operating system).

The DVD is approximately 1 hour and 22 minutes long and consists of seven chapters covering the following (plus a lot more!):

* The 10 Basic Lines of Code
* Coloring the Background and Letters
* Making Letters Move Across the Screen
* Designer Backgrounds
* Changing Fonts
* Adding Pictures

The DVD host is Mr. Brian Richardson, a middle school computer literacy teacher and technology expert. He does an excellent, thorough job of explaining each step. Two children are also on the DVD and they ask Mr. Richardson questions as they go...this was helpful to my children. My plan was to sit with my 10-year-old and allow her to create her web page, but I soon realized that the instructions were simple enough for my 7-year-old to create a web page as well. So, I went back through the DVD with him and he LOVED it! He likes a challenge, so this was great for him!

We placed my laptop right next to my PC, which made it possible to watch the DVD and follow along as Mr. Richardson had us do various exercises on the PC. Both of my children followed along well and were able to create fun, functional web pages...very exciting for them!

If you are looking for a fun, rewarding computer course...this is it! And the price cannot be beat: $19.99! [This is a limited time special offer].

You can see a one minute video clip HERE.

Want to see some sample websites? Go HERE.

One more noteworthy fact...Mr. Richardson believes "we're all blessed -to be a blessing" so he donates a portion of his company’s profits to the following charities:

  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Children’s Miracle Network
  • The Smile Train
  • Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
  • American Foundation for the Blind
And he established the Click Drag Foundation, which provides DVDs and instruction to at-risk youth programs in urban neighborhoods across the U.S. and the world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Quarter Mile Math~TOS Crew Review

At the beginning of summer I was on a quest to find a fun, effective way for the kids to practice their math facts while on summer break, so I was delighted the day Quarter Mile Math was delivered to our house. The package stated "Math Practice Software Kids Love"...I was anxious to try it! It came with a CD that was very easy to install and a booklet with full instructions. Once set up, I began to play and the kids gathered around me wanting their turn. We explored the whole program for over an hour. Conclusion: We like practicing's fun!

Quarter Mile Math is a software program that is highly motivating because you compete against yourself. The screen displays your car or riderless horse racing against others, after five races you race against your best times. You are able to see your progress as you get better and better with each race! It's almost addictive...even for mom! And boy, is it effective! The reason it works so well is because the game is tied to the math. You type in answers as fast as you can which accelerates your car or riderless horse and causes you to become very efficient in mental math, very quickly!

I received the Deluxe Version which gives you access to all 3 Levels (all 323 topics in the entire product line and all 70,000+ problems, covers K-9th grade [pre-algebra]). Look HERE for the exhaustive list.

The Deluxe Version (best choice for multiple levels) has some neat features:
  1. It tracks a student's progress over time automatically.
  2. Students can be in real-time tournaments with other family members on multiple computers.
  3. Multiple students can use it on different computers simultaneously.
  4. FREE upgrades!

The Deluxe Version has 3 payment options:

  • $2.95 per family per month
  • $19.95 per family per year
  • $34.95 per family for two years
You may also choose the Standard Version, which is shipped to you in CD form and prices range from $39.95-$89.95 depending on the level(s) you want. HERE is a Deluxe/Standard product comparison chart.

The kids are asking, "Can we play that race game?" more whining and complaining when it's time to practice our math drills! I like that the game is self-competitive, because it allows 'healthy competition' to motivate. Katelyn is very competitive, she turns everything into a 'race'. She greatly enjoys the self-competition format! Cason, on the other hand, is not as competitive [big sister always wins], so I wondered if the self-competition would be as motivating for him. It is! He likes to see if he can beat his high score each time...when you race against yourself, the pressure is eliminated. Even Carrie, my 4-year-old, enjoys it! She is able to do the kindergarten level with help.

Overall, we all LOVE it! Where was Quarter Mile Math when I was in school? I could have used the math practice for sure and the keyboard practice would have been wonderful in college! I'm definitely learning right along with my children. This program is now a part of our curriculum will be used for daily math drill practice. If you are looking for a fun way to sharpen math fact skills, download the Free will be 'hooked' as well!

**Barnum Software is offering a special for my readers...$5 off any product ~Standard or Deluxe. Use this code: 7R7Y7 There is a place to input this code on the order forms. This Referral Code will be good until September 30.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sense and Sensibility Patterns; Girl’s Edwardian Apron~TOS Crew Review

What a FUN item to review! I enjoy sewing. I'm not an expert by any means, but my mother taught me basic sewing when I was young (thank you, Mom!) and I like to create things. I have taught Katelyn basic sewing as well, I want to teach her how to use a pattern, but I do not like the material that patterns are made of [easy to tear and hard to work with!], so I had decided to wait until she was a little older. When I was given the opportunity to review the Girl's Edwardian Apron from Sense and Sensibility Patterns the first thing that got me interested was the fact that I would receive the e-pattern, $7.95 (also available as a traditional paper pattern, $12.95) and I would be able to print the pattern on printer paper. I wondered if the printer paper would be easier to work with? Short answer: It is!
I received an email containing the e-pattern & class combination [$24.95], which includes , e-pattern, and full class instructions...slide visuals in pdf format and audio in MP3 format. Plus an extra 4 demo videos to 'walk you through' some tricky areas. The $25 is well-worth the step-by-step instruction Jennie Chancey, Sense and Sensibility owner, provides! Apron information from the website:

* Sizes 2-14 all included in one envelope.
* Extremely forgiving and adaptable fit!
* Easy to sew. This is a fantastic pattern to use as a mother-daughter project to teach sewing!
* Yardage Chart available online.

Katelyn and I watched the slide show and listened to the audio. Then we read through the pattern instructions and downloaded the pattern...all 25 pages! The 'fun' part was piecing the pages together. I laid out a large piece of white paper to make it easier to line up the pattern lines, then we taped the pattern together and Katelyn cut out the pieces. It was really easy and went fast. The end result was a sturdy pattern...Katelyn had no trouble pinning the pieces to our material! Jennie suggest that you trace the pattern to interfacing to create a sturdy, reusable pattern, but I knew I was going to make four aprons in 4 different sizes (one for me and my 3 girls), so I decided to use the paper pattern. We started with the largest size and worked down to the smallest size, downsizing the pattern as we went. It worked great, and gave Katelyn LOTS of good pattern practice! Once it was time to start sewing, we started with the size 4 pieces(Carrie's apron; see pictures at bottom) . I thought it would be a good size to handle while teaching. Katelyn and I worked together and it was fast, fun & easy! The instructions, especially the step-by-step slides [actual pictures] are a HUGE benefit, especially if you are a visual learner like myself. The end result is an adorable apron that fits Carrie perfectly. Katelyn said, "Mommy, I like to sew," which made my day! Now we need to complete the other 3 aprons! I will post pictures once they are all complete...give me a few days. :)

As we were cleaning up, Katelyn looked at the pattern lay-out page [small scale of the whole pattern] and asked if we could use it to make her American Girl an apron. We carefully measured her doll [waist, chest, & skirt length]. Next, we glued the bodice piece to paper and made it a little bigger, according to our measurements. Once it was cut out, we held it up to the doll and it was the perfect size! Katelyn cut out the remaining doll pattern pieces, pinned the pieces on the fabric, cut them out, and we sewed it her doll will match! Fun!

If you are looking for an easy, affordable way to teach your daughter[s] to sew, you will love this adorable apron pattern with step-by-step lessons. I especially like the big, deep pockets on the apron...little girls love pockets! Check out the wonderful website here... it is chock-full of gorgeous patterns in yesteryear style, super sewing tips and a customer show and tell page. Jennie offers online photo instructions for most of her patterns.

Here's Carrie in her new apron [click on the pics to enlarge them].

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My Classroom is ready!

Yes, it's true! My classroom is finally ready for school! It took me ALL summer, but this is how I have wanted my classroom for a LONG time. I'm very excited! My books are ordered and will be here this week, so we will officially start next Tuesday. My sweet friend, Anne Marie, reminded me that it will soon be very cold here in NWA...only a few weeks until fall! We will soon miss these nice warm days, so this week will be spent playing outside...the best 'classroom' on earth! Okay, on to the pics...the first 4 pics show Katelyn & Cason's desk area where they do their independent work.

Carrie's desk:

Our sewing area:
The last 4 pics show our bookshelf (all current curriculum on top shelf), that AWESOME cubbyshelf I found on Craigslist (I printed labels...Science, History, Language Arts, Music, Art, Bible, Math, organize each cubby!), our bulletin board ('Look What We Did' to show current work), and my desk area.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grapevine Studies ~TOS Crew Review!

"Stick Figuring Through The Bible"...peek your interest? Did, mine! I recently had the delightful opportunity to review Grapevine Studies Bible curriculum and I like it...a lot!! Grapevine Studies is an easy-to-teach, FUN Bible curriculum that incorporates visualnesthetic learning into Bible study by 'drawing' your way through the Bible. They offer multiple studies, ages 5-adult, that cover the Old Testament, New Testament, Biblical Feasts & Holy Days and Bible geography. I chose to review the Old Testament Overview (Level 2) and the Catechism course: Old Testament Basics. All of the studies are available in ebook or hardcopy form. I received both the teacher books and the student books in the 'ebook' format...I could not wait to get started! :)

The Old Testament Overview has 50 lessons that cover characters and events from Adam to Nehemiah. Each lesson takes a week to complete [4-day schedule], so this will last approximately 175 days. Each lesson begins with a review of the Old Testament timeline [taught in Lesson 1] and then 'dives in' to that week's topic. For example...Lesson 2 covers Creation. Each lesson has four parts: Bible Reading, Drawing, Lesson Review & Memory Verse. After reading the Scripture from your Bible [the translation you desire], you 'stick figure' the Scripture on a white board and your children draw in their student books [they can copy what you draw or be as creative as they want]. My VERY creative 10-year old Kate takes a lot of time to draw her figures. My 7-year old Cason copied my drawings at first, but now is becoming more creative as well. Each lesson ends with a set of questions to check comprehension and review the learned material. One of my favorite questions that the author includes in each review is “What do we learn about God from these verses?"...the answers are priceless.

I'm using the Old Testament Basics [Catechism] in conjunction with the Old Testament Overview. The two studies compliment one another and I like that it adds a little extra review to our study. The teacher book includes 225 questions, Bible verses and answers. It is flexible and easy! You ask a question, read Scripture, and 'stick figure' the answer. We are doing one lesson a week. All questions deal with biblical facts (not doctrinal issues) and compliments any of the studies.

In graduate school, I learned quite a bit about 'visual learning'. The statistics are fascinating... written information is 70% more memorable when combined with visuals and actions. The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than words alone. Retention & comprehension soar when information is learned both verbally and visually! As a public school teacher, I had my students 'draw' their vocabulary words for better was both fun & effective. Grapevine Studies values this approach as well...
"Grapevine Studies believes that students who are taught using reading, hearing, and drawing will have a higher retention rate than those who are just lectured"
The proof is in the pudding...I'm seeing very positive results in my kids! They LOVE the lessons [beg to do more each day] and they are retaining the information! About a week after we studied 'God' [OT Basics, Lesson 2], we were eating dinner and my 7-year-old boy held up his triangle shaped tortilla chip and announced, "Look! It's the 'God sign'!" My husband gave me an odd look... "The 'God sign' is a triangle shape", I explained, joyfully. :) This is a definite 'keeper' in my curriculum line-up. You will LOVE it, too!

For my readers, Grapevine Studies is kindly offering a 30% discount for a limited time on ALL of their studies! Use this code: crews when ordering. Good until September 15th!

The author of the studies, Dianna Wiebe (also a homeschool mom!) was very helpful in assisting me with deciding which studies would work with the ages of my children and she would be happy to help you as well...just send her an email or call.

If you want to read reviews on one of the other studies offered...Go here!


Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's that time of the year...'Back to School'!

We rarely get the newspaper, but last Sunday my hubby rode his motorcycle up to the local gas station and bought one for me [I think he was just looking for a reason to ride his new KLR!]. I opened the paper to the ad section and I had a slight panic attack...ALL of the ads confirmed the fact that it's 'Back to School' time! Summer has flown by and I'm not ready to officially start school. I usually wait until the first week of September to start, but this year I had big plans to start a little earlier. I thought it would be nice to 'ease' back into our full schedule, but my classroom is a HUGE mess! I'm blessed with a large 'bonus room' upstairs that we use for our classroom. It has a nice window [sunshine!] and good space for desk work, projects, and plenty of floor space for spreading out and listening to lessons. However, it has turned in to a 'clutter pit', not a peaceful, happy learning environment! So, I started back in June...trying to clear-out and organize, but it has been a S~L~O~W process! I have a LOT of stuff. I taught public school for 7 years, prior to having my own children, and it is hard for me to get rid of items that I think I might use 'someday', but I'm determined to de-clutter so I'm sorting through everything and letting go of the things I know I will not use. I found a great cubby shelf on craigslist and it will help me organize the items I keep. Hubby told me that he would help me work in my classroom on Saturday...he always motivates me and helps me a bunch, so I was excited! He has helped me get my classroom in order for about 13 years now! I started teaching [public school] in the fall of 1993 and when Greg and I started dating in 1995, he helped me move my classroom and get it set up each year. He built me a reading fort in my classroom when I taught 1st grade in TX! He's really creative. So Saturday we got A LOT done. I've scattered the 'before' pics through out this post. I'm working in my classroom today, so I should have the 'after' pics up soon...I'm hoping this will motivate me to finish! It's not easy to show you my mess, but I hope it motivates and inspires those of you, like myself, that struggle with organization. I know that 'clutter' leads to stress and we do not need added stress in our homes...AMEN!! EnJOY the pics! I took 4 pictures...from the 4 angles of the room.

Friday, August 7, 2009

KAMP! `2009

Yesterday we drove up to Missouri and dropped Katelyn at Kanakuk [K-7] Kamp! It was fun and exciting...her 1st time! I love camp! I have a special place in my heart for Christian summer camps...that's where I met my hubby! During my college years, I was a camp counselor at Sky Ranch-TX [2 summers] and Greg was the sailing team captain [taught me to sail]. At Baylor, I had many friends that raved about Kanakuk and I always thought it would be neat to send my kids there 'someday'...well that day came fast and my Kate is there! I cannot believe she is 10 [almost 11]!! I'm SO excited for her...this will be an awesome-possum week! It will be a hard week for me, because I will miss her a bunch and she is my BIG helper, but she sure deserves a 'week off'! Kanakuk is an incredible place and I'm thankful we are able to send her there. The counselors are excellent, Christian young men & women that love Jesus and pour that love into the kids 24/ changing! It will be a 'spiritual growth' adventure that she will never forget!
Now for the pics...the first pic is where we first came into the camp area and there was a huge teepee with cute little wood-carved Indians...the kids were all so excited! Especially Chloe, because the little Indians were her size!

Signing Katelyn in...exciting!

All the kampers had to climb up to the top of a platform [where you state your name, where you are from, & your cabin #] then slide down the pole, into the valcano, where your counselor awaits you ~fun! Katelyn was a little nervous, but she did great!

The tee-pee...Cabin 6!

Another view of the tee-pees!

Ali [Katelyn's friend from our church] & Katelyn in the teepee!

The first pic we could find of Katelyn on the website....her crazy cabin pic!

And her and Ali on the waterslide! I think she's having fun! :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hank the Cowdog~ TOS Crew Review!

Many years ago, while teaching 1st grade in the great state of Texas, I was introduced to a rough & rowdy cow dog named Hank. Hank has the prestigious job as Head of Ranch Security on a West Texas Ranch and he takes his job quite seriously. My students loved the stories I read to them from the Hank the Cowdog adventures. It has been 10 years since I taught school and I had forgotten about good 'ole Hank! I was very excited when I found out I was going to have the opportunity to review a Hank the Cowdog product! I wondered if my children would love Hank as much as my students did?

We received three items from Maverick Books to review:
  1. The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse, [#8 in The Hank the Cowdog series, $4.24]
  2. Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog [music cd, $3.00]
  3. Tornado game [$12.99]
I'll begin with the book, The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse. My 7-year-old took the book and started reading it right away. He loves to read and I knew he would enjoy reading a story told from a dog's point of view. He read a chapter to me each night and would beg to keep going. The best thing about the books are the fact that they are told from Hank's perspective and misfortune always seems to find Hank & Dover (Hank's sidekick). In this book, Hank & Dover have an encounter with Tuerto, the mean killer stud horse. And Hank ends up in a very dangerous situation while protecting two little girls from Tuerto. It's a funny, funny book! My son loved it!

The second item we reviewed was a CD: Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog. It has story excerpts from 10 books plus 9 songs. We ALL love this CD! Our favorite song is 'I'm Rich!'. It's fun to hear Hank and the other characters sing and talk on the you an idea of what they sound like as you read the books.

The last item we reviewed was a FUN, fast-paced game called Tornado..."wildest race and chase game ever"! Each player receives three pieces...characters from the Hank books...Hank, Drover and Junior the Buzzard. It's a race to be the first to get your three "characters" from the start to the finish. But watch out, your opponent is chasing you and may send you back to the start. And landing on a tornado space can send you flying in any direction! The only safe place is a finish space. My 10-year-old, 7-year-old, & 4-year-old enjoyed playing this game a lot! My 4-year-old and I were a team at first, but she was able to start playing by herself and did well.

Check it out...Hank the Cowdog has his own official website at where you can play some online ranch games, explore the ranch, order the books and tapes and sign sample 'The Hank Times'!

For more reviews on Hank...go HERE.

**Please note: Hank is a rough, ranch dog and he uses some words like idiot, stupid, numb skull, & moron. These are words that we do not use in our family, so we talked about the fact that Hank's Mommy did not teach him well! Just wanted to give a forewarning...before you started reading the book or listening to a CD.