Saturday, October 31, 2009

Field Trip!...B-17G Flying Fortress

My hubby found out that the Flying Fortress, a B-17 Bomber, was making a stop at our local Flight Museum, so last Tuesday, October 27th , we went to tour it! The B-17 changed history in WW II when 1000's flew, but now there are only about 100 left and only 4 that can still fly!
From the website:
Between 1935 and May of 1945, 12,732 B-17s were produced.
Of these aircraft, 4,735 were lost during combat missions.
We climbed up into the plane and explored it. It was very neat and exciting. We have not studied this area in history yet, but won't it be super when we do to remind the kids of this experience! The kids loved it, especially our boy!

They might be coming to your area...check out the tour schedule HERE! You can even fly on the fortress for $399/person...that was not in our budget, but the tour itself was only $15/family and well worth it! :)

Here are the *COOL* pics:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Virginia Soaps & Scents ~TOS Crew Review


I'm enjoying my year on the TOS Crew...I never know what will show up in my mailbox. A few weeks ago I received a package with wonderful soaps in it! I love yummy smelling, homemade soaps, so this truly made my day!

The package came from Virginia Soaps & Scents. The Spargur Family, from Virginia, make the homemade soaps. From their website:
We are a homeschooling family with nine children living in rural Virginia. Our interest in soap making began with a history lesson and developed into an artistic passion.
My package included the following: 3 soaps [Fresh Orange - Smells fresh squeezed!, Oatmeal, Milk & Honey - A warm scent with real oatmeal, & Coconut Lemongrass - Light and tropical].
My 11-year-old, made some cute soap dishes in her art class, so I put one in bar in each downstairs bathroom and the Coconut Lemongrass by my kitchen sink. Here are some pictures of the soap after using them for approximately 3 weeks...they last! Look close and you will see the cute soap dishes that my Kate made, they are in the shape of fall leafs. So cute!

The Fresh Orange was moved to the bathtub [the girls decided this was going to be their bath bar!]. The other item I received was a shampoo bar in the Cherry Almond scent...heavenly! The shampoo bar went fast...ALL of us loved it! I have *normal* hair with a natural slight wave in the back. It gets dry in the winter, but stays pretty much normal (no oil problems) throughout the year. It worked GREAT on my hair and I did not need conditioner. It left a 'squeaky-clean' feeling. My oldest daughter has thick, long hair and she loved it as well. She tends to get oily [pre-teen] hair, so I am going to order her the Oily Hair Clarifying Formula in Tangerine Grapefruit...yummy!

I know you will LOVE these soaps as much as we have, so go take a look at all the wonderful products Virginia Soaps & Scents offer. It's time to start thinking about Christmas...

it will be here soon! LOOK at the pretty Christmas soaps...don't you love the smell of Christmas!?! And check out the gift sets available HERE. Oh, and LOOK at these extra~yummy Gourmet Soaps! Fun, useful gifts for everyone!

Amazing Bible Timeline~ TOS Crew Review


Recently, I received an Amazing Bible Timeline, to review for the TOS Crew. We are studying the old testament [via Grapevine Studies] this year, so I was excited to review this timeline...I felt it might be helpful in our bible study lessons.

The timeline ships in a nice tube, for protection. Once I got it out and unrolled, I realized that it is HUGE! It is a 37" by 45" wall chart [see pic below] printed on sturdy, durable cardstock with a nice protective coating. Great quality!


According to the website, you can See the Whole Bible At Once!
It covers 6000 years of biblical and world history from Adam to present day...
it has over a thousand references! The timeline is in a circular format and works like a clock. This made it hard for me to read and understand [gave me a headache trying to read in a circle]. I like a linear time line with blocked sections. I understand that it would have to be much larger to be linear, but that is just my preference.

Even though it seemed overwhelming to me, I think bible students would enjoy all the information. You can go look at their website and see if it is something you might enjoy. They have a full page of 'Bible Questions' HERE. I would like to point out that there are Mormon references on the timeline [only a few] and this may cause you to not want to order it. I know I would have been surprised and a little upset if I had paid for it and then found out, so I wanted to let you know.

You can purchase the timeline from Bible Charts and Maps LLC for $29.97 plus $6.00 shipping and handling. Order now and you will receive free extras including the Interactive Maps of the Holy Land download, a digital copy of the Amazing Timeline, and two PDF versions of the genealogy of Christ. Also, you can order two for $49.97 and they both ship for $6!

Still not sure? Read lots more reviews HERE!

*I received the Amazing Bible Timeline free of charge in exchange for my honest review. The opinion is mine alone.*

Sue Patrick's Workbox System ~TOS Crew Review


Sue Patrick's Workbox System has helped me bring order to my day. As a laid~back, Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I sometimes lack order and focus. I was in need of a system that would help me stay on track with the day-to-day items that need to be accomplished. I had heard of the Workbox System and wondered if it would help me with my daily schedule? Would it fit with my CM style? Could it bring order and focus to my days? Yes, yes, yes...the system works and it's easy to implement into any homeschool style!

Sue Patrick, a homeschool mom, developed the Workbox System out of necessity when her son was diagnosed with autism. She has helped countless families, that have children with developmental disabilities. She now offers the Workbox System User's Guide, $19 [ebook] on her website, to help ALL families implement her system.

The Workbox System User's Guide is a 122 page manual that includes 12 helpful chapters like...What is the Workbox System?, Who is this System For?, & How a Day Works to name a few. The guide does an exceptional job of detailing all you need to implement Sue's Workbox System in your homeschool. The guide includes great pictures and you will also receive basic forms to download, when you register your purchase online. Her website has lots of good information on it.


My children enjoy seeing the work in the boxes and knowing what they will need to accomplish during their 'seat work' time. They each have 6 boxes to work through. They have also enjoyed the file folder games and the individual centers that I have incorporated into their daily learning. As a former public education teacher, I know the value of centers, but I forget to include them in my lesson plans. With theWorkbox System it's easy to plan the activities into their schedules! Another thing that the children enjoy is our new science center. I set up a science area and once a week [or more] I set up an experiment and they go to the center to complete the experiment and record their findings. It's fun, new, & adds excitement to the classroom.


One thing that I do not like about the Workbox System is the fact that it puts a big emphasizes on 'school time'. I believe that ALL we do everyday...every minute is tied to learning and we do not 'have school'. I follow Charlotte Mason's philosophy and most of our learning is gained through reading and discussing good books. Time spent on the reading couch...well, you cannot put that in a work box! So there are a few things in the User's Guide that I will not follow. For example, we will not 'clock in to school'. Life IS school! Also, the system puts a huge emphasizes on 'independence'...where children are to work quietly and on their own. One thing that I absolutely love about homeschooling is the fact that we are all together...talking, laughing, and learning together! It does not bother me for my children to talk to me, and each other, while working. It does not bother me if they ask for help. And it does not bother me if they help each other or work together. Independence will come~ I want to cherish these fleeting days that we can all be together.

I do like that this system is easy to tweak and use according to your homeschool needs. Overall, the User's Guide is a great resource. It has helped me be consistent and intentional with the day-to-day items that need to be reinforced [math, spelling, copywork, etc...] and by incorporating review via file folder games and centers. I feel more focused, & on track with my children's learning. If you are looking for a system that will add structure and consistency to your day...try theWorkbox System!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Educaching! ~TOS Crew Review


let the hunt for learning begin!
What is Educaching? Jason Hubbard, a 5th grade teacher, created a full curriculum that combines geocaching and education to create an exciting learning adventure! The GPS based curriculum is for teachers grades 4-8, but can easily be adapted (homeschoolers love that word!) up or down. For this review, I received the electronic version [PDF format] of the Teacher's Manual.


It is a large manual [128 pages] and is divided into five parts:
  • Teacher Training: includes explanation and internet links about GPS technology; terminology, overview of equipment/gear
  • Lesson Plans: beginner, intermediate and advanced lesson plans on mostly math and science related subjects (there’s some language arts, social studies, and physical education). Each lesson has a list of National Teaching Standards that it meets.
  • Field sheets: worksheets from the lesson plans that students use to complete as they find their “caches”
  • Acquiring GPS: This section is more applicable to traditional schools as it goes into details about how to obtain GPS units at no cost (e.g., grants/grant writing). For homeschoolers, Walmart carries a great, basic Garmin GPS for $76!
  • Beyond the Basics: additional ideas for implementing GPS technology with educational learning.
When given the opportunity to review the 'educaching' program, I knew it would be something we could easily do, since we started geocaching [as a family] about two years ago and we know how to use our GPS quite well! But don't worry if you are a beginner...the first section of the manual is perfect for beginners, you will learn all you need to know! After downloading the manual I started reading through it and I quickly realized that this manual is written for the public education, classroom setting, but it can be adapted for homeschools and homeschool co-ops fairly easily. There are lots of lesson plans to choose from and I decided to try the 'Dino Discovery' lesson, because my 8-year-old loves science and loves dinosaurs and loves our GPS, so this was going to be a 'triple treat' for him!

ALL the materials you need are lined out in the lesson plans. It's nicely organized and easy to follow! For the 'Dino Discovery' lesson...I made a map of where I wanted to hide the 5 caches and proceeded to make 3 copies of the 'dinosaur bones' [on red, yellow, and blue cardstock], cut out the pieces, mixed all the bones up, and put them in 5 different baggies. I hid the caches and my hubby helped me set the waypoints. The kids 'hunted' for the dino bones and once found, we sorted the colors and they each worked on creating their dino. They had a great time and I was amazed at how well they used the GPS and worked together to find the caches. Fun, cooperative learning...gotta love it!

Educaching...what a neat concept! It will be easy to incorporate some of the other lessons into my homeschooling and I've already got lots of ideas to create my own lessons. I'm very pleased with the concept and the manual. I think it is a wonderful resource for homeschoolers, especially those that are interested in geocaching.

Read more Educaching reviews from my TOS Crew members HERE.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 Birthday Celebration!

October is our 'party month'! ALL of our children were born in October! You may think it is a curse to have 4 birthdays in one month, but actually it is a huge blessing! We always choose a fun destination and celebrate ALL the birthdays together. We do not have 4 separate birthday parties. Each child has their own 'special day' that we honor their birthday and then we do one BIG celebration weekend. This year we chose to go to Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City! It was a blast! The kid's had a fun, fun time and so did my hubby and me. This is our 'roll over' now we have an 11, 8, 5, & 2-year-old! Here are the pics from the Lodge:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sarah Books~ TOS Crew Review

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A few weeks ago, I received a beautiful, autographed copy of Sarah's Wish from author Jim Baumgardner, a Christian writer. When I sat down to read Sarah's Wish I quickly realized this was a historical fiction ~living book [a favorite in our home]! Set in Ohio in 1858, the story is about a 12-year-old girl named Sarah who becomes an orphan, after her mother dies in a tragic accident. Sarah and her mother were a part of the Underground Railroad and now Sarah is left with the difficult and dangerous task of delivering the 'packages', waiting to be transported, on her own. Sarah relies on her faith in God as she faces much difficulties and danger. The happy ending ties in the meaning for the butterfly on the cover of the it!

The author, Jim Baumgardner, is a friendly, kind man that loves and lives history! As a volunteer at The Old Cowtown Museum, he helps keep history alive. He also goes into schools and homeschool groups to help students learn more about the Underground Railroad, trail drives, Indians, & more. His love for history is evident in his writing. Sarah's Wish is a historical 'living book' exciting story that teaches history. When asked, "Why history in fiction instead of non-fiction?", the author stated "stories bring facts of any history book to life." So true! That is why we enjoy 'living books' so much more than dry, boring textbooks. You and your children will learn about the Underground Railroad, slavery, travel on riverboats, the Orphan Train, and Apothecaries.

Mr. Baumgardner is a grandfather and all of his grandchildren are homeschooled. He has a 'homeschool page' on his website. You can sign-up for a *FREE* Sarah's Web Newsletter on the homeschool page.

Sarah's Wish is the first book in the Sarah series. Sarah's Promise & Sarah's Escape are also available, which I plan to order soon for Christmas presents! I know you will love the Sarah books too!

Go HERE to order an autographed copy of Sarah's Wish for $9.99 [includes shipping!].

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Guardian Angel Publishing ~ TOS Review

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. recently sent 5 Ebooks for me to review (Guardian Angel Publishing provided me with a free copy of the Ebooks to test and use in order to write this review). GAP publishes *FREE* and reasonably priced books for children ages 0~12. The books are offered in Ebook format (instant download), CD format, & print format (paperback). I will review each book individually.

No Bones About It!
This book covers the 206 bones in the body set to a catchy rhyme. I was amazed at how fast my older children learned all the bones from head to toe! The book includes interesting 'Factoids' on each page that gives more detail and information about each bone. The drawings are fun & entertaining, only one page [26] seems a bit scary (eye balls popping out and a long tongue sticking out) for little ones. For easier study, I printed the book out and put it in a notebook with page protectors. This was my 8-year-old's favorite...he loves science, especially books about the body! Ebook download is $5.00.

Andy and Spirit Go To the Fair

This is one of three books that make up the
Andy & the Albino Horse Series. Andy and Spirit Go To the Fair is an inspiring story about Andy, a boy in a wheelchair, and his horse, Spirit. Andy and Spirit have a special bond. They work together to overcome obstacles and become true heroes to each other. Three extra pages on wild horse
management and 4-H are included. Ebook download is $5.00.
A portion of the proceeds from this book are donated to Healing Reins of Bend, OR. , a non-profit organization, and Horseplay of Fernley, NV.
Rainbow Sheep
Come along on a wonderful adventure with Genevieve, the shepherdess, as she cheers up the bored, lonely rainbow and causes him to cry happy tears. Much to her delight, the happy tears turn her sheep into rainbow sheep!
The author, Kim Chatel is an incredible fiber artist. The illustrations in the book are all created by Kim using only's amazing! My 10-year-old, who loves all kinds of crafts, wanted to try the needle-felting, so she is working on her own sheep (I will post a pic soon). The book includes four informational pages on needle-felting with complete instructions on how to create your own sheep. We all love this Ebook! is $5.00.

Maybe We Are Flamingos

When Flora and Fernando hatch from their eggs, they soon realize they are the wrong color...white, not pink! They are confused and begin to wonder if they are in fact flamingos at all. They finally gather enough courage to ask their 'mum' and learn a fascinating fact that calms their fears. This book is fun, exciting, & educational!
The Ebook download is $5.00.

I purchased the iKids Play app for my iPhone [$2.99 at iTunes App Store] and my 2 & 5-year-old both love it! It has a neat feature that allows you to record yourself reading the older children love this feature! Or you can choose the 'read' option that has a person read the story. It also has a 'paint', 'rub', & 'color' feature that are very fun for your little ones.

Wow...LOTS of information in 28 pages! Engaging illustrations, interesting facts, and science experiments to try at home
(learn how to make your own seiche)....this book has it all. We all learned a lot from this book. It explores earthquakes from every angle and even has an excellent overview of geology. There is an earthquake safety page available on the website for further study. Look HERE. Love it..added to my science notebook for further study. Ebook download is $5.oo.

Overall, I enjoyed all of the books from GAP. At $5.00 an Ebook, I plan to buy other titles for my homeschool. My only complaint is that the website is not well organized and a bit confusing...some of the links do not work. It needs a new look and a site map. However, the books themselves are wonderful! I know you will want to go see the *FREE* books and browse the many books available, HERE.

For more reviews from my TOS Crew members...go HERE.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nature Friend Magazine ~TOS Review

Last spring, while thumbing through The Old Homeschool magazine, I saw an ad for Nature Friend magazine. Being a huge nature study fan, I thought it looked like a super magazine for our classroom. I tore the page out [with intentions to order a subscription], put it in a 'safe place' and forgot about it. Well, you can imagine my excitement when I found out I was going to have the opportunity to review this magazine! Nature Friend sent both the August & September magazines & study guides for me to review [Nature Friend provided me with two free copies of their magazine for me to test and use in order to write this review].

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Nature Friend magazine is in its 27th year (began January 1983). Kevin and Bethany Shank have owned Nature Friend since May 2006. From the website:
We are a children's magazine the whole family, including the grandparents, can enjoy. We publish twelve issues per year, six of which are gently nudged towards an older age. They are the January, March, May, July, September, and November issues. This is easiest to observe by the two-page art lesson that goes a bit more in-depth than the one-page lesson. While 8-16 may be a nucleus, we publish drawings by 3-4 year olds and quotes/writings from parents and grandparents.

The first thing that caught my eye was the incredible photography! Both covers have awesome pictures that create great curiosity...we could not wait to look inside! Once inside Nature Friend, I noticed right away that this is a magazine that honors God! It is the publisher's desire to encourage children to believe in God as their Creator and to seek out, recognize, and appreciate His handiwork.

Special features include:
  1. 'Invisibles' ~A drawing with numerous objects hidden within the drawing (similar to Highlights Hidden Pictures, which was a favorite of mine when I was a child). My 8-year-old wanted to find the hidden objects right away!
  2. 'Articles' ~ Character-building, Creator-honoring stories that both teach and delight the reader.
  3. 'Puzzles' ~fun, nature-related puzzles that educate.
  4. 'Scavenger Hunt' ~hidden objects (two or more) somewhere in the magazine. My son loves this feature, too!
  5. 'Learning By Doing' ~ an educational science feature that reinforces the lesson.
  6. 'The Story Behind the Photo' ~photographers capture a stunning photo and tell about the events leading up to the incredible photo.
  7. 'Caption This' ~ Approximately every other month a photograph is featured and readers are invited to submit a caption for the photograph. One or several of the captions are featured in a later issue on the back cover.

Children enjoy seeing children's work and they get excited about the possibility of having their work published. Here are some of the many ways Nature Friend offers reader/student contributions:
  1. The 'You Can Draw' feature is a monthly art lesson. Each month the magazine features artists from previous 'You Can Draw' lessons. My daughter completed the black bear lesson (from the September 2009 issue) and we submitted it for possible publication in a future issue.

  1. 'Pictures & Poems' features nature-related artwork and poetry.
  2. Reader submitted photography is featured in the 'Creation Close-ups' section.
  3. 'Nature Trails' has stories/photos about activities that readers like to do each year in a particular month, or something they did one year and enjoyed (children are welcome to submit to this feature as well).
  4. The 'Readers' Issue' is published twice a year and features, cover-to-cover, material from Nature Friend readership.

A Study Guide is also available to the Nature Friend readers. The Study Guide is a wonderful resource! The Study Guide ships with the magazine, and is 8-12 pages in the center portion of the magazine. It features the following:
  • Exercises that reinforce what can be learned from that particular issue of Nature Friend. Exercises may include crossword puzzle, acrostic, fill-in-the-blank, true and false, etc. Several research questions are also included... “For You to Research,” challenges the student to go even deeper into the topics being discussed.
  • “A Study in Nature; a Lesson in Writing” teaches creative writing using a nature study as a springboard.
  • “The Photo Critique” teaches nature photography tips.

Using the Study Guide, from the August 2009 issue, I planned an 'end-of-summer' walk. The Edge of Autumn article helped me plan a fun, educational nature study that we all enjoyed immensely! We took a walk and used our five senses to look for signs of summer coming to an end. We made an entry into our nature journal and took pictures of some items we found. We read the poem and the prayer (also included in the Study Guide). I'm very excited about the Study Guide...excellent resource! Check out a sample HERE.

Overall, we LOVE this magazine! I'm on my way to subscribe right now...don't want to miss a single issue! I know you will love it as well! Want to 'try before you buy'? The website has 3 sample issues for you to view...look HERE.

Ready to order? Go HERE!
1yr subscription- USA- $36.00
2yr subscription-USA- $68.00
You will want to add the study guide for $2.00/ issue [this is not a separate is included as an insert in the center portion of the magazine, if you subscribe to it].

*Nature Friend is currently offering a promotion, BLOG93 can be used to save $3.00 off of any new subscriptions and this promotion is valid until November 30, 2009.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Our playhouse is finished!!

After lots of painting...

The hard work paid off! The house is finished and it is awesome!

We went with a 'nature' theme because we love nature study and God's creation! We found a neat picture, on clearance at Target, that has the earth on it and says, "Conserve". We found a great green rug on clearance too. And I made curtains with material [also on clearance at Target] that says, "Think Green", "I 'heart' Nature", "Trees are our friends", etc....So it's a 'Nature Hut'. :) Hard to all agree when you have a boy that wanted absolutely NO pink in the little house! Notice Katelyn & Carrie's dolls and dollhouse...the Lego's are hidden in the stools! ~ha! I cannot wait to have tea time in our little house next week! We have electricity and Katelyn put the heater out there for when it is chilly. I'm just as excited about it as the kids! Thank you sweet Hubby!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services

Recently, I received Write with the Best, Vol. 1 from Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services (EDUDPS) to review. EDUDPS offers several items, from complete writing curriculum to a vocabulary program, career planning and learning diagnostic tools. They have a resourceful website chock-full of incredible information...see the site map here.

Write with the Best, Vol. 1 is a writing program written for students in grades 3-12. It focuses on descriptive writing skills, literature analysis and grammar. Grammar is taught in the context of writing, not as a separate subject [no sentence dissecting!]. The idea is to teach your child how to write descriptively by having him model great works of literature.

From the 'Focus and Goal' page of the manual:

The goal of the program is to produce successful writers who know how to write effectively, who know how to proofread their work efficiently, and who know how to properly analyze great literature.

Each of the nine units provides activities for 10 lessons, designed to take 2 weeks to complete. Each lesson has 1-3 objectives for each day which breaks down the writing task into small, manageable bites.

Nine different genres are covered:

* Describing an Object from Jules Verne

* Describing a Place from Charles Dickens
* Describing a Character from Daniel Defoe
* Writing dialogue from Kenneth Grahame
* The Short Story from O. Henry
* Fables from Aesop
* Friendly Letters from Robert Louis Stevenson
* Poetry - Rhyming Verse from William Wordsworth
* The Ballad or Narrative Poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The curriculum also includes a grading guide, answer key and other suggestions for different learning styles.

Katelyn is in 5th grade this year and up to this point we have covered writing through copywork, dictation, & narration. I was ready to go forward with some actual writing lessons, for this year, so a writing curriculum was on my 'find list' all summer! When I was given the opportunity to review this product...I happily accepted! I'm certainly glad I did, because it eases the student into the writing process and teaches them excellent writing skills through a 'gentle' approach [Charlotte Mason style!]. While the author suggests each unit taking 2 weeks to complete, she also encourages parents to not rush through each genre. It took us 5 weeks to complete the first unit. It is my plan to work a little each day [15-20 minutes] and use Volume 1 the whole year.

Write with the Best sells for $19.95 to $24.95. The e-book version is currently on sale for $14.95. The first two units (out of a total of nine) can be downloaded as a trial version HERE...go check it out.