Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The World's Greatest Stories - TOS Review


Listening to stories on CD has only been a recent addition to our days.  This summer my three little ones gave up naps.  Very excitedly on their part, but not so much on mine.  Granted, they are 5 and 6 now, so I suppose it is time.  However, there have been days where they have become crabby mid-day or it is quite obvious that their little brains and bodies have done all they can do.  I can't exactly announce nap time or there will surely be mutiny, so I've introduced "quiet time."  It's not an everyday activity, but it is great at putting the kabosh on silly sibling squabbles or rejuvenating the weary.  (This Momma appreciates the bonus down time as well!)  Our protocol?  The kids lay down on their beds, but no sleeping.  There is no talking, no getting up, and no toys.  I put a CD in and they usually listen 15-20 minutes... sometimes longer if it is a story they are really engaged in. 

Upon learning that I was selected to review The World's Greatest Stories, I was very excited.  While some of the CD's the kids have listened to were Christian stories, none had been specifically from the Bible.  Not only was this a Bible CD, in fact, it was word for word Scripture text.  I so long for my children to hide these words in their hearts and abide in them always, so I support products that aid in that endeavor. 

George W. Sarris is the man and voice behind The World's Greatest Stories .  He truly brought to life the sacred words from the Bible's pages through the use of unique voicing, thoughtful inflection and intonation, a myriad of expressed emotions, appropriate sounds effects, and complimentary music.  Mr. Sarris is an extraordinary storyteller.  From an adult point of view, he's possibly over-the-top in some instances and I stifled some giggles and muttered a few "oh-my's", but my three little ones were absolutely enthralled and thoroughly entertained by his exuberance and enthusiasm.  I believe, his recommendation for listeners ages 4-12 is on target. 


While there are 6 volumes available, we specifically reviewed and enjoyed Volume 1: The Prophets (NIV).  Included were the Biblical accounts of:  

  • The Blazing Furnace
  • The Handwriting on the Wall
  • Daniel in the Lion's Den
  • Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
  • The Prophecy of Jonah

  • (Yes, I've read all my Ken Ham, so I prefer the word ACCOUNTS over STORIES.  We need to be mindful of how we present the Bible to our children.  Historical/Factual vs. Fairytale/Fantasy...  now stepping off my soapbox ;)

    The remaining 5 volumes include:
    • The Life of Christ
    • Beginnings
    • Joshua and Esther
    • Joseph and His Brothers
    • Defeating Giants
    Each of the 6 volumes retail for $7.95 and are available in your preference of either KJV or NIV.  If you purchase 6 or more items, all shipping fees are waived.  There is also one other product available:  The Real Story of Easter.  This dramatic reading of John 18:1 - 20:31 transports the listener to the crucifixion and resurrection for Christ.  It is available only in the NIV translation and retails for $9.95. 

    On the products page, audio clips from each CD are available to sample.  Give them a listen and also be sure to read what other TOS Crewmates are saying on the crew blog about The World's Greatest Stories

    Disclosure:  In exchange for my unbiased opinion, I was provided a complimentary product to review.  

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Vintage Remedies for Kids - TOS Review

    Photobucket Vintage Remedies is a company dedicated to the promotion of healthy living from the inside out.  On the website, you can meet founder, Jessie Hawkins, and see how she started as a busy homeschool Mom (like most of us) and has now grown Family Herbalist and Master Herbalist programs of study as well as curriculum for children.  Through the TOS Crew, I was able to review Vintage Remedies for Kids

    My first impression when opening up the package... "Oooh!  What pretty packaging!"  Yes, I'm a sucker for attention to detail.  It was a special treat to see the book wrapped in brown paper and tied with raffia - beats shrink wrap!!!  First, I unwrapped Vintage Remedies for Kids.  Then, there was a bonus item included!  The thoughtful gesture was not lost in this girl.  Although, I admit, the topic is a little more my organic husband's kind of thing, so he'll probably be the reader of The Kitchen Herbal.

    Vintage Remedies for Kids is advertised as a workbook for ages 2-6.  However, I feel like workbook isn't the best description.  You won't find any tear out sheets with cute illustrations and simple circle, X, tracing exercises to be completed.  Actually, it is very far from that, so I'm not sure why that description is used on the website.  Although, there is an accompanying coloring book that can be added to your cart free of charge.

    In actuality, Vintage Remedies for Kids is an 18 chapter text book divided into 3 sections:  Food & Drink, Health & Wellness, and Healthy Lifestyles.  Each chapter follows the format of a Parents Section to read prior to the lesson, a Read to me section to be read aloud to children, Additional Comments, Thinking it Over questions to discuss, a Featured Project, and Additional Projects.  I found the Read to Me portions to be somewhat lengthy, and often just paraphrased them.  For the 2-4 year old crowd, I'd think that would be an absolute necessity.  It's doubtful they would sit still that long without pictures to look at.

    Being that I'm not a huge fan of the kitchen or one to spend anymore time there than I have to, this curriculum was not the best fit for our family.  It did stretch me out of my comfort zone, but I know that I did not use it to its full potential.  If you are a family a bit more adept in the kitchen or one who enjoys cooking together, then the first section especially may be of interest to you.  There are multiple recipes to try.  Instead, my family focused on distinguishing healthy food choices from unhealthy ones.  We colored and created a color wheel of good food choices and taste tested a few. 

    Vintage Remedies for Kids retails for $25.  For this Momma, that's a little steep for a small 6"x9", 202 page, spiral-bound, black & white textbook without other supporting materials.  However, for others, I could see where this would fill a gap in curriculum and be an important investment.  I encourage you to read what other TOS Crew Members think of Vintage Remedies HERE.


    Disclosure:  I was provided a complimentary copy of this product for review purposes.  All opinions belong to me, and I receive no monetary compensation for this review.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    ARTistic Pursuits - TOS Review

    ARTistic Pursuits, in my opinion, is an excellent visual art curriculum for any homeschool family.  It is a far cry from the copy-cat art lessons I recall from my youth.  The "I do, We do, You do" model works well for some subjects, but in art, such a pedagogy deprives students the experience of transferring their creativity to a blank page.  Thankfully, ARTistic Pursuits, conversely, serves as a catalyst to spark, rather than stifle, young artists.

    There are 10 offerings available to guide students from preschool through high school.  Each title is written directly to a student audience, so the series is 100% child-centered.  In fact, the only preparation required of teacher/mom prior to the lesson is to gather the needed materials.   

    cover k31Because my three kiddos are early elementary, the best place to start seemed to be the very beginning.  Therefore, I opted to review ARTistic Pursuits, Grades K-3, Book One, An Introduction to Visual Arts.  The book's 88 pages are comprised of 32 lessons tailored to meet the needs of young artists. Each lesson portion can be completed in 5-10 minutes.  Then, typically, 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the child's attention span and level of interest, is spent completing the art project.

    This particular book is divided into 3 sections:  What Artists Do, What Artists See, and Where We Find Art.  Likewise, each lesson appears in 3 distinct sections.  First, the child explores what an artist does, what an artist sees, or historical art.  Next, the student observes and dialogues in regards to a masterpiece, and finally, the child creates art.  While both famous artwork and peer artwork are highlighted in the book, I truly appreciate that there is no expectation given for what the child's artwork should look like upon completion.  There is no right or wrong - the child is simply free to create.  Growing up, I equated art with pressure, and never felt "good enough."  To the contrary, my children enjoy creating, thus, believing they are the creators of exquisite, exceptional art.  I love it!!!!

    lesson one  project

    All three of my children have always enjoyed crafts, but especially coloring.  They go through color books and drawing pads like crazy and can wield a marker or crayon with great precision. However, ARTistic Pursuits opened up a whole new world of media to Jeremiah, Caleb, and Rachel.  Never before had they used an ebony pencil or water color crayons, and their prior experience with oil pastels had been limited.  I'm impressed with the variety of media utilized in ARTistic Pursuits.  All of the needed materials can be found listed in the front of the book.  They can be purchased at your local arts & crafts store, or you may choose to order art supply packs from the website.      

    K-3 kit 1

    ARTistic Pursuits combines art appreciation with art instruction and engages even the youngest of students.  I believe, at $42.95, it is a great investment.  Non-consumable - it can be used over and over for years to come to include all the students in your household.  While we have only completed a few lessons in the book, I definitely recommend it.  We will be continuing to use this curriculum throughout the school year, and I'll invest in other titles in the future.  Don't just take my word for it.  I encourage you to read what other TOS Crewmates have to say about their experiences HERE

    (Disclosure:  I was provided a complimentary copy of this product in exchange for my honest review.)

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Is that RANGER I see?

    Oh yes, the time of year has come for a visit from our favorite, somewhat creepy looking, little elf!  Ranger's here!  We read the book together, and Ranger has greeted us somewhere different each morning.  So far... he's been on his best behavior (and has been encouraging 3 little ones to be on theirs), but I've heard he can be quite mischievious.  

    This week he's been surveying the kitchen from his spot on top of the cabinet.

     He hung out in the living room on a candle holder.  We think he has mistaken the snuffer for a Christmas bell.

     Then, who needs an angel or a star on top of the tree when you have an elf?  Oh wait... he won't be there tomorrow. 

    Wonder where we'll find him next?

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    December Days Begin

    It seems like it has snuck up on us, but December is here!  I look forward to snuggling up with my little ones to read Christmas stories or catch the timeless classics on tv.  I enjoy the yummy holiday treats and fun crafts with the kidlets that December days bring.  Most of all, the wonder and awe of the season stems from the remembrance of our Savior's birth.  I never tire of sharing this story with my little ones.

    In fact, Monday and Tuesday, I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to the kiddos in preparation for us to see a performance on Wednesday.  The kids were excited to see their friends Rebecca and Libby on stage, and just couldn't get over the fact that sweet Rebecca was playing Gladys - the meanest Herdman of them all.  I just love this story of the Herdman's and how they embraced the Christmas story and in turn taught others not to become complacent but rather to allow the account of Jesus' birth to penetrate the heart. 

    So... Nov. 30th actually set the stage for our first December Day.  It turned out to be a DRASTIC day!  Huh?  Well, our new homeschool co-op, DRASTIC, had it's first get together December 1st.  Rather than beginning classes immediately, the 8 families shared a finger-food, potluck lunch and collected money to shop for Angel Tree kiddos.  The generosity of the families allowed 5 needy children to be selected from the tree and provided with gifts to meet their wants and needs. 

    Several of the parents and older kids took care of the shopping while the little ones got to stay and play, but as soon as the shoppers returned, my kiddos became wrapping extraordinaires.  They had such fun cutting paper, wrapping, and taping.  It was a sweet, collective effort, and nothing thrills me more than seeing my little ones excited about serving others.

    After our fun times with our homeschool friends off to Lexington we went.  We grabbed a snack, did a little Christmas shopping, and headed to our amazing adoption support group at church.  The kids as usual LOVED playing with their buddies, Mommy got to see her friends, and I had the chance to meet a new couple and answer a lot of their questions about Ethiopian adoption.  Then, the spirit of giving continued because our group is helping to provide Christmas for a couple kids currently in foster care.  The Wells contribution - some nice warm jammies for two of God's precious children.

    As far as December days go, I'd say we had a fantastic start!  Tis' the season... stay tuned :0)

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    Gratitude... One Thousand Gifts

    The Internet, blogs, and Facebook have been marked by individuals logging their daily thanks throughout the month of November.  For many, it may just be the trendy thing to do, and for others, I believe, it is heartfelt and genuine.  Taking time to give thanks is of utmost importance and shouldn't be relegated to one holiday or even one month of the year.  In fact, I'm convicted that it must be a lifestyle.  A daily, even minute by minute, call to be fully present and not miss the gifts God has given.  Great or small, these gifts are given by The Giver of Life, and it should be my desire to live a life of Thanksgiving - or Thanks-living!

    Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, seems to have taken the Christian, literary, blogging, homeschooling, etc. community by storm. While a little behind the hype, knowing the premise of the book, I specifically saved it for this particular time of year in hopes that it would usher in thoughts of Thanksgiving.  She more than adequately chronicles how out of brokeness and tragedy one can learn to live a life of eucharisteo.  She shares the amazing work God did in her, and I absolutely resonate with the need to intentionally live a gratitude filled life.  So following suit of Ann and the many she has since inspired, I will begin my own quest to listing 1000 gifts.  I'm praising God in advance for the shift in my attitude, perspective, and understanding that I know will take place as I consciously keep myself from taking His many blessings for granted! 

    At church, we've been in a series entitled "Rebellious Joy."  Yesterday, Mike Breaux, even quoting Mrs. Voskamp, closed it out with a call for us to live a life of gratitude.  Increased gratitude leads to increased joy - yes, Lord!

    While I'll be adding to my list each day, I'll blog my week's list on Mondays.  Today, I've got my first 30 or the equivalent to the many gratitude challenges currently taking place.  In the future, I'll be linking up with others doing the same at Multitudes on Mondays hosted by Ann Voskamp on her blog A Holy Experience.  Not only is Thanks-living important as an individual, it is vital to be in community with those who share the desire to not take anything for granted.  May gratitude to God be contagious! 

    1. A God, who is ever-present, ever-near
    2. Grace I will never earn or deserve
    3. Salvation freely given
    4. The hope of heaven - oh how real it has become the past couple years!
    5. A committed, faithful husband
    6. Caleb, my compassionate son
    7. Jeremiah, my brave son
    8. Rachel, my precious daughter
    9. Adoption - both vertical & horizontal, the gift of belonging
    10. Ethiopia - where half my heart may forever live
    11. Ezekeal - a man who entrusted me with his most precious gifts, both I will forever love & treasure!
    12. Dad - a gentle giant, always going above & beyond in caring for those he loves
    13. Mom - a constant support, she instilled a strong work ethic in her children
    14. Brother - our special bond, silly words shared, and seeing Him boldly sharing Christ
    15. Sister - no longer a little pest, all grown-up & a true friend, prayers shared & said
    16. PaPa Spaulding - his example, dedication to the Word, and love for all (Miss him so much!)
    17. MaMa Spaulding - generous and encouraging, proving to be stronger than we knew
    18. Extended family gathered together - most recently sharing a Thanksgiving feast
    19. The Wells family - they raised & shaped the man I love and accepted me into their family
    20. Jane - a friend for all seasons, sharing belly laughs & ugly cries, mourning & joy
    21. The gals of Grayson - our college years were full of adventures
    22. Friends gained through the adoption journey - some I've never met, but they are so dear to me!
    23. Southland Adoption Support Group - what a blessing to walk alongside each of these beautiful families, to draw from their experience, and be genuinely understood and loved!
    24. Southland Christian Church - incredible worship, the Word of God, refreshing, renewal, just what I needed!
    25. Dear friends who have become family throughout years of ministry
    26. Having all my needs met and more wants than I deserve
    27. Access to clean water
    28. Food in plenty
    29. Shelter - warm & secure
    30. Freedoms afforded to me - a result of others great sacrifice

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    The Homeschool Mother's Journal - Thanksgiving

    The Homeschool Mother's Journal In my life this week…

    I was able to take some moments to pause from the hustle and bustle and truly be mindful of all of God's gracious blessings in my life.  He is soooo good to me.  I could never earn, be worthy of, or deserve any of them - let alone His unfailing love.  Still, the Giver of Life, He gives so freely to me.  He calls me His child and has adopted me into His royal family for all eternity.  My, my, my... Thanksgiving should be everyday - not just the traditional November Turkey Day!

    In our homeschool this week…
    • After a short break, the goal is to get back on track with a full week of the 3R's and some fun stuff too :) 
    • In the next couple days, we need to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever before seeing it performed on Wednesday.  We're excited to see our friends Rebecca (a.k.a Gladys Herdman) and Libby (a baby angel) on stage.  
    • Thursday is our meet & greet for our new co-op DRASTIC. I'm excited that it also includes a service project. I love that the leadership of this group are so mission minded! I think we'll feel right at home. 
    • We also need to spend some time studying Russia in preparation for our Galloping The Globe co-op that meets on Friday. 
     Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
    • Tuesday, Caleb has another follow-up Dr. appointment to see if his ears are clear, and Rachel has her usual speech appointment.  Then, the cousins are coming over for a visit.
    • Wednesday evening, we head to church for a Life Groups get-together.  The kiddos will play with their friends in childcare, but unfortunately, Jon misses out again because of class.
    • Thursday, our SCC Adoption Care group meets at church.  I'm looking forward to being with this group that I love... especially when a potluck is involved.
    • Friday, the kids will spend the night with MaMaw & PaPaw because that evening I'll be at a Light Will Rise Mom's event.  We'll be eating some delicious desserts while learning all about skin and hair care for our Ethiopian cuties.
    • Saturday, I'm spending time with my college pal Tree!  Looking forward to lunch, shopping, and most of all - catching up!
     Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share...
    • Two or three days off school makes for a much more enjoyable holiday!
    My favorite thing this week was…
    • Our Spaulding Thanksgiving!  It was great to spend a few hours with everyone, share a feast, and see my MaMa doing so well.  Our family truly has so many things for which to be thankful!
    Things I’m working on…
    • Christmas decorating, shopping, and of the greatest importance, planning for books to read, crafts to make, and activities to do together to keep Christ the focal point of the season!
    I’m reading…
    • Finished - Already Gone by Ken Ham
    • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
    I’m cooking…
    • This week's activities will require:  finger foods/snacks, a potluck item, and a dessert.  Yikes!
    I’m grateful for…
    • God's many blessings in my life!
    I’m praying for…
    • a friend enduring the unthinkable!!!  I pray that she feels God's embrace and knows that she is His precious daughter and dearly loved.  I pray that Christian men and women rise up to comfort her, care for her children, and provide aide in this difficult time.  Father, give her peace and bring healing to her hurting heart.  Protect her children and guard their hearts.

    The Reading Game - TOS Review


    The Reading Game retails for $24.95 and includes six black-and-white illustrated books, six decks of corresponding playing cards, and a Teacher/Parent guide. Additionally, on the website, you have access to helpful resources including the Pre/Post Sight Word Assessments and Test Sentence Assessments.  Important to note, The Reading Game meets the criteria of the Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Reading and Foundational Skills for both kindergarten and first grade, and I found it an effective tool in teaching my own children. 

    As you can see from the video below, The Reading Game is a fast-paced game designed to hard-wire sight words into the long-term memory of a young, emerging reader.  6 storybook characters: skunk, snake, bear, penguin, unicorn, and zebra are featured in this simple game. An individual deck of cards is played in six stages, each of which teaches five words. At the completion of each book/card deck, a child has mastered 30 new words.

    Therefore, after completing all 6 stories/card decks, a child will wield command of a reading vocabulary comprised of 180 words. A couple of interesting facts from The Reading Game website:
    • 60% of the words in “The Reading Game” are on the Dolch Word List for pre-k and k and makes up 54% of dolch words for Pre-K, K and 1st Grade.
    • Of the first 100 most commonly used English words (source The Reading Teachers Book of Lists, Third Edition by Fry, et al) “The Reading Game” incorporates 88% of the most common twenty-five words and 63% of the first 100.

    I did not use this game as a stand alone curriculum. Instead, it served as a supplement to our current phonics/reading program. However, whenever it was time to play, they were all very excited. Due to the fact that they were already familiar with match games, there was very little to explain as far as the instructions. All three were able to understand and play immediately. Because so much of our learning is done together, I modified the idea of a tutor/child - 2 player game. Instead, all 3 kiddos were players and I served as a tutor (if needed). It did make our games move much quicker, but we just played more frequently. Actually, I believe, they probably got more practice reading the words aloud. Because some of the words in the first book were already familiar, the children moved through the red Skunk cards quickly. Caleb is reading the book independently, and he has moved on to the orange book, Snake.
    While not an issue for the kids, my only dislike of this product comes from the books. There is no attention to grammar. Beginning words of a sentence aren't capitalized and there are no punctuation marks. My personal preference is to always surround my kiddos with correct models. Caleb knows how to voice a question because he recognizes the question mark. Without it, I noticed he did not read with the same inflection.
    My family has benefited from this product, and I would recommend it to families with Pre-K through 1st grade children.  I encourage you to visit the TOS Blog . Read what other crewmates have to say about The Reading Game.

    Disclosure:  I was provided a complimentary product in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Bright (Not BLACK) Friday!

    The idea of be-boppin' from store to store on BLACK FRIDAY would be completely lost on my three little ones.  Quite honestly, if I attempted such with them, I'd be liable to be diagnosed clinically insane.  Thankfully, the day was sunny and bright.  With the November temps surprisingly still in the low 60's, it would have been criminal to stay inside.  So... we decided to take our Black Friday show on the road to the Louisville Zoo.

    Before hitting the animal exhibits, we made a stop to grab lunch.  Honestly, I was not pleased that Jon deemed today to be a good day to cash in our restaurant.com gift certificate to Shogun.  Really?  What was he thinking when he got that anyway?  I've had Japanese twice in my life and aside from the chef's tricks the whole experience is lost on me.  So, I was being a grump, and Jon conceded to go to Old Chicago Pizza next door.  A moment of remorse struck, and I assured him that it was ok.  We could go to the Japanese place.  He let the kids decide, and I thought for sure I'd be off the hook.  Ha!!! - My kids are much more adventurous than I, so Japanese won.

    The kiddos enjoyed the show.  The chef did several tricks with the eggs, lit things on fire, and even sang and danced.  All were entertained, but Rachel did duck her head under the table every time she saw flames.  As for the food, the kids devoured it!  Caleb originally went with the shrimp, but he found that he liked Daddy's chicken better.  Rachel was all about her shrimp and got some of Daddy's steak too.  Jeremiah stuck to his veggies, but I was pleased with my steak.  Overall, it was the best Japanese dining experience I've had.  Will it ever be my favorite or first choice?  No, but at least, I won't have to dread it or be such a grump if anyone suggests we try it again.

     Sprite & Pink Lemonade always taste better with fun umbrellas & cherries!

     Caleb - braver than I - ate his salad with the "house" dressing!  Me - no dressing, as usual :)

     Our chef... he liked to "move it - move it!"

    Huge plates of food, but notice how empty they are becoming!

    Following our cultural lunch experience, we headed to the zoo.  As always, we enjoyed seeing the animals, being outdoors, and being together as a family.  Our Bright & Sunny Friday beats a Black Friday any day :)

    Seriously... must we take this same pic every time we go?  To them, it never gets old. 
    Oh well... I have 3 super cuties, so it works for me.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Thanksgiving 2011

    Due to Jon's work schedule, we did not make our usual trip to TN to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We missed being with the Wells' family... especially meeting two new little additions.  Thankfully, we were still able to be with loved ones and enjoyed being with my family.  Believe it or not, the majority of the Spaulding crew was able to assemble at my parent's house. 

    I have an amazing family that I love dearly, and we all had so much to be grateful for this year!  After having a heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery, a pace maker, and fluid drained a couple times over the past month and a half,  my grandmother was able to be with us.  Considering all she has gone through, MaMa was doing very well.  We pray that her spirits remain high, her attitude still positive, and her rehab successful.  I know she longs to be comfortable in her own house, and the kids pray every night for her to continue to get stronger and be able to go home.  Soon... very soon!     

    Enjoy pics of our gluttony... notice I managed to stay behind the camera :)

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    The Homeschool Mother's Journal - Gooey & Ornery

    The Homeschool Mother's Journal In my life this week…

    It has been such an interesting week.  All together, things seem to have been just a little off.  Jeremiah's been a bit moody, Caleb has been sick, and for lack of better words, Rachel has been ornery.  She has gotten in trouble for the silliest things ever! 

    First, the child who is deathly afraid of the cat the minute the sun goes down and it is dark has no problem at all harassing him by daylight.  Her measure of torture of choice - clothespins?!?!  Then, she tried to lie about putting them on him.  Yes, Rachel had to spend some quiet time in her bed for lying about clothespinning the cat. 

    Then, the boys started complaining about her.  I asked what she was doing and learned that she was trying to sniff their rear ends.  Uh-huh, you got it right.  She got in trouble for being a butt-sniffer.  I'm so proud :(

    Thursday night was a normal bedtime, but Caleb was out of his bed at a quarter til midnight.  He, then, wailed until 2 a.m. in great pain with his ear.  No warning or symptoms, but he was very obvious in the most pain I've ever seen him in.  Finally, I got him to calm down and head to bed.  That lasted a half hour and then we were back up.  Ear drops, heating pad, Tylenol, Motrin... we ran the gamut.  Finally, he had some decent sleep from about 6 a.m.- 8 a.m. 

    Friday, we went to the Dr. at 10:50 a.m. to confirm that he had one nasty, bulging, fluid-filled left ear and an inflamed right ear.  Unfortunately, his ear drum ended up bursting before the first dose of antibiotics made it in his system.  It has been draining all kinds of ooey-gooey-icky-utterly disgusting-nastiness ever since.  YUCK!!!!  Thankfully, with the pressure alleviated, he's feeling MUCH better!

    Saturday - we visited my family and left Jon to do some homework in peace and quiet.  I got to visit with my MaMa Spaulding for a couple hours while Mamaw & Papaw entertained the little ones.  Bonus - my Mom sewed a button on my pants for me (yes, I am 100% inept when it comes to domicile tasks!) and fed us all supper!

    In our homeschool this week…
    • Monday - I took Rachel to her last gymnastics class this session.
    • Tuesday - She went to speech therapy. The boys take their math with them and are able to knock out 2 or 3 lessons while we wait. This works so well because it keeps them calm and out of trouble and maximizes our time.
    • Wednesday - we met with our Five In A Row co-op to complete activities for Mirette on the High Wire.  The kids did some map activities, learned about their inner ear, created compound words, and tested their balance walking on a "low" wire.
    • Thursday - We attended our last CHIL activity day.  It was a little weird and somewhat awkward.  However, I had a couple extra kids in tow and was filling in for my friend in a couple classes because she was with her husband in ICU.  Being extra busy helped me to pass the time and avoid having to talk about our decision to leave CHIL and join the new homeschool group.  I know a lot of people don't understand and probably don't agree.  However, I'm absolutely at peace and truly believe that I'm doing what is best for my family.  Surprisingly, the kids did great.  I thought goodbyes might be hard, but for the most part, they treated it like any other CHIL day.
    • Friday - no school took place per doctors orders!  This sleepy Momma didn't complain :-)
    Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
    • Monday - our new Life Group is having our first official get together.  Unfortunately, Jon is on call, so the kids and I are on our own.
    • Tuesday - Caleb has a follow-up Dr. apt. and Rachel has speech as usual.
    • Thursday - Thanksgiving lunch at my parents house with several extended family members.
    • Then, a relaxing, unplanned weekend... maybe to shop and to get Christmas decorations up.
    Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share...
    • Don't be afraid to make an unpopular decision if it is what you believe to be the best thing for your family.  Especially after lots or prayer and seeking wise counsel, if you are at peace and honoring God, that's all that matters.  Others don't have to understand or agree.
    My favorite thing this week was…
    • Two hours of uninterrupted time to chat with my MaMa Spaulding.  With 3 kids around, that doesn't happen too much.  I enjoyed having her "all" to myself.
    Things I’m working on…
    • Christmas lists...  time to get my shopping in gear!!!
    I’m reading…
    • Already Gone by Ken Ham
    • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
    I’m cooking…
    • I'm the dessert gal tomorrow for Life Group.  Hmmm... something easy!
    I’m grateful for…
    • access to medical care:  doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance, etc.  This is a luxury that the majority of the world is unable to utilize.  While it may be frustrating at times, we so often take for granted how blessed we are to have professionals educated and trained to tend to our physical needs.  All thanks to The Great Physician, of course!
    I’m praying for…
    • My lil' sis & her hubby... God knows!  He's got plans - Jer. 29:11.

    Friday, November 18, 2011

    Math Mammoth - TOS Review

    Photobucket Often, I'm a first impressions kind of gal, and something that always wins me over is attention to detail and personalized service.  When presented with the many options Math Mammoth has to offer, it would not be difficult to become overwhelmed and full of questions.  An online order form or catalog would not be what I as a consumer would want in that situation.  Thankfully, I got Maria Miller instead.  Rather than give me an uninformed recommendation, she chose to interact with me personally.  She asked about the math history of my children, their strengths and weaknesses, and their likes and dislikes.  Then, she offered her opinion on the best selection for our family.  I truly appreciate this level of client care and am pleased to know that she makes herself available to consult with all customers.  You will not have to make a blind decision - that I promise!  Kudos to Maria Miller!

    After emailing back and forth with Maria, I selected to use and review Grade 1 of the Light Blue Series - a mastery based full elementary math curriculum for grades 1-6.  The two student books (A and B) for 1st grade cover the following topics:
    • addition and subtraction concept and basic facts within 0-10
    • place value with 2-digit numbers (a.k.a. tens and ones)
    • some adding and subtracting within 0-100
    • some geometry and measuring topics
    • reading clock to the half-hour
    • counting and using coins (US, Euro, or Canadian)

    cover for Math Mammoth Grade 1-A Complete Worktext                   cover for Math Mammoth Grade 1-B Complete Worktext
    133 pages                                          125 pages
    118 lesson pages
                                   110 lesson pages
    1A - Contents & Samples               2A - Contents & Samples

    In the spiral math program Jeremiah & Caleb have been using, they have both completed a considerable amount of work in math computation.  However, they were both in need of some attention to basic math facts.  The Math Mammoth books have definitely helped them develop both their speed and accuracy. 

    Things we particularly appreciated about the curriculum:
    • The workload on each page was manageable. 
    • There were enough problems to prove they mastery of the concept but not so many that they were simply completing busywork.
    • The directions were clear and examples were provided.
    • The pages weren't completely cluttered... white space & margins are good!
    This product is available as a download, a CD, or print materials.  Personally, I prefer the downloadable version.  Mostly because it's perfect for a multi-user family.  Save it on your hard-drive, printed as needed, and again and again as your family grows.  Also, since the time I downloaded the Light Blue Series, there has been an added feature. The PDFs in the download version of this product are now enabled for annotation! This means that if you prefer, your student can fill them in on the computer, using the typewriter and drawing tools in Acrobat Reader version 9 or greater. Finally, in my opinion, it's a lot of bang for your buck!  The full set of grade 1 materials (including part A and B worktexts, answer keys, tests, cumulative reviews, a worksheet maker, and Soft-Pak) retails for only $34.00.

    From the time my boys spent working through this program, I have no qualms about recommending the Light Blue Series from Math Mammoth.  Although, if I failed to mention the other great series available I'd be truly negligent.  The Blue Series books are topical worktexts containing both explanations of the concepts and lots of varied problems.  Available for grades 1-6, they are very affordable as downloads: the prices vary from $2 to $7.00.  For Grades 3-8, there are worksheet collections available.  The Golden Series is organized by grade while the Green Series is by topic.  Last but not least, Make It Real Life Learning offers a series of workbooks that each concentrate on one mathematical theme while answering the question, "When am I ever going to use this?"

    The TOS Crewmates reviewed many products from Math Mammoth's extensive collection.  You will want to click HERE to read about their varied experiences.
    (Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this product in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.)

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    The Person I Marry - TOS Review


     The Person I Marry
    Things I'll Think About Long Before Saying "I Do"
    • Created by award-winning author & illustrator team Gary & Jan Bower
    • Hardcover - 32 pages
    • Beautifully illustrated
    • Recommended for ages 4 and up
    • Awarded 2010 Book of the Year by the Christian Small Publisher Association
    • Christian message promoting respect, kindness, and purity.

    My boys still think girls are pretty "icky."  Jeremiah believes he will get married someday, but Caleb is unsure because he doesn't know if he'll find a girl who wants as many pets as he does :-)  My princess Rachel plays "marry" a lot.  When reading the book to them, they paid more attention to the fabulous illustrations of children in the book.  Still, we were able to have some meaningful conversations about character traits such as respect, humility, sacrifice, kindness, etc.  The book was an incredible lesson in how we should treat people.  

    While in all appearances this is a children's book, The Person I Marry, is actually a story that would bless a wide variety of audiences.  I know my three will benefit from reading it again as they are older.  As suggested on the website, I concur that this would make an excellent conversation starter for teens.  Reading the book would be a great way to open up a discussion about purity, discuss respect in dating and courtship, and ultimately help adolescents clearly define what they should look for in a mate when the time is right.

    This book would make a wonderful gift for an engaged couple.  A subtle reminder to hold fast and keep their commitment to purity as well as a picture of the way things should be.  Wrap the book up as a gift for newlyweds.  Likewise, they will benefit from the book's timely truths.

    Take a sneak peek at the book in the video below.

    Other crewmates on the TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed The Person I MarryBe sure and read what they are saying HERE on the TOS Crew Blog.  I also encourage you to take a look at the other books in the Bright Future series.
    Contact Information:
    E-mail: garybower@charter.net
    Bower Books & Fine Art
    A Division of Storybook Meadow Publishing Co.7700 Timbers Trail
    Traverse City, Michigan 49684
    Phone: 231-941-0899 * Cell:
    231-590-0077Orders: 888-898-3207 * Fax: 231-947-8903

    Disclosure:  I was provided an e-copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Ooka Island - TOS Review


    Catchy little song, huh?  I have this anthem committed to memory, because my lil' Caleb has taken an extended "working" vacation on Ooka Island.  Each day, he's excited to live vicariously through his super hero avatar.    He has reached the summit of the great Alphabet Mountain, spelunked in the Cave of Sounds, took a submarine into the water below, popped bubbles, had his fill of cake, and even befriended the island's inhabitants - Ooka Elves.  All of this under the guidance and tutelage of Zobot and Auntie Kay.
    Photobucket Are you totally confused?  Then, like I once was, you are missing out on a wonderful resource for your Pre-K-2nd grade students.  From the website:  "The Ooka Island Adventure is a downloadable hero-mission in 3D designed to teach young children how to read fluently and well. The Ooka Island Adventure combines the highly engaging components of a state-of-the-art virtual world with the scientifically proven OokaMethod that builds literacy skills.

    Carefully embedded within the Ooka Island Adventure are dozens of interactive instructional activities that captivate the child and motivate them as they learn essential pre-reading, reading, spelling, and writing skills. After completing the Ooka Island Adventure, children will be on their way to reading fluently and well for life."
    The interactive games are leveled and build upon prior knowledge.  Following several educational activities, a new book is retrieved from the ocean floor.  It was read once to Caleb before he answered a series of comprehension questions.  Then, the book is read again.  There are also some games that concentrate on sight words from the reading.  After completing 20 minutes of instructional activities, Caleb would earn 8 minutes of free play.  At this point, he could return to previously played games, dress his avatar, and purchase items in the Mist Mart. 

    Employing the Ooka Method, this game sets children up for success.  It completely adapts to their skill level and immediate needs.  If a player is mastering new material, he continually advances.  If he is struggling, by all appearances, the program appears to move on.  However, the player is actually continuing to work on the problematic areas only using different games.  This is very appealing to me as a parent because even when having difficulty, Caleb wouldn't lose interest in the game. 
    A feature that was unavailable to us during the review was the Ooka Lighthouse. While it isn't operating yet, this up-and-coming feature will serve parents by providing progress reports on the player's activities. This will be so helpful to have because as a parent you will know where your child's strengths and weaknesses lie.   

    So... are you ready to book your child a trip to Ooka Island?  He/she will love it, and just think...  NO SUITCASES to pack :-)  However, before travel and purchase, you may want to visit the Ooka Island FAQS page to read the installation instructions and program requirements.  With 85 leveled and sequenced Ooka Island books digitally embedded, music, and detailed 3-D animation and graphics, the download is HUGE - a little over 2G actually.  High speed internet is imperative!  Even so, it still took well over 2 hours to download. 

    During the original installation, I had some issues.  The customer service staff were ready and able to rise to the occassion.  They provided solutions in a timely manner and even sent a new link for download when I believed the first one was compromised.  Once the download was complete and Caleb was able to play, he still experienced a few minor technical hiccups along the way. Thankfully, by closing out of the program and restarting they were easily solved.  Being a new product, a few kinks are expected, but they are being addressed and will soon be remedied. 

    Prior to purchasing a subscription, you may be interested in the 14 Day FREE Trial!
    If you are confident and ready to subscribe now, you will want to take advantage of the launch special.
    Read Ooka Island Reviews by other TOS Crew Members HERE!

    Disclosure:  I was provided a complimentary 6 month subscription to Ooka Island in exchange for my honest opinion.  I have not, nor will I, receive any monetary compensation. 

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Orphan Sunday 2011 - Join Us!

    Recognize a couple Ethiopian cuties in the video? :-)

    Please Join Us!
    Sunday, November 6, 2011
    1-4 p.m.
    Southland Christian Church
    Register HERE!

    Free Lunch, Agency & Organization Exhibits,
    Information on International & Domestic Adoption,
    Foster Care, and Orphan Care
    Break-out Sessions, Adoptive Parents Q&A Panel


    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Classical Phonics & First Start Reading - Review

    I was very pleased when given the opportunity to review Classical Phonics.  One, it is always great to support a home state enterprise.  (Memoria Press operates in Louisville, KY.)  Second, the program appeared to be an excellent fit for my 6 year old son.  As my faithful readers know, English is not Jeremiah's first language.  Socially and conversationally, he has no difficulties and is quite the linguist.  However, academically, he is still a bit behind when it comes to reading.  He recognizes, writes, and knows the entire alphabet and their sounds, but it is the merging of these letters to form words that still has him somewhat hung-up.

    PhotobucketRather than a complete phonics program, Classical Phonics is a simple, user-friendly tool for repetitive phonics practice. It serves as a wonderful resource that would compliment and supplement any phonics program because it covers almost all English phonograms and sounds taught through second grade. This program is not paced with the expectation of reaching a particular milestone at a predetermined time. Instead, parents have the freedom to lead their children through the book at a comfortable speed allowing for mastery. Assements are provided to measure when a child is ready to progress to the next section. In my opinion, Classical Phonics aids a child in becoming a confident, strong reader.


    First Start Reading
    Along with Classical Phonics, I was able to review the phonics progarm First Start Reading: Phonics, Reading, and Printing.  This bundle includes a set of three consumable workbooks and an accompanying teacher's guide, and it has proven by far to be the most effective for Jeremiah.  My son has successfully completed book A, and I'm thrilled with his progress. He enjoys the program very much. He isn't overtaxed and enjoys the opportunity to express his creativity through the coloring pages and drawing exercises. The lessons are short and manageable, and he is able to finish his daily phonics study in a timely manner. Lengthy lessons tend to squelch his enthusiasm, so I appreciate First Start Reading's succinct and to-the-point approach. 

    First Start Reading covers consonants, short vowels, and 45 common words.  Children begin formulating and reading words in the very first lesson.  The teacher manual is scripted and provides many helpful hints and tips.  Within the student books, there are pages to color, space for drawing, and plenty of practice manuscript printing.  Stories to read are also included. 

    View a sample pages from book A.
    View a sample pages from book B.

    It is my intention for Jeremiah to complete the remaining two books in this program, and I anticipate his continued growth and confidence as a reader.  I recommend this program to others, but don't just take my word for it. Read what other TOS Crew members are saying about their experiences with Classical Phonics and First Start Reading. Click HERE!

    Classical Phonics - $14.95
    First Start Reading - $29.95 (includes Teacher's Guide & 3 workbooks)
    Set of additional student workbooks - $21.00

    Ordering Info
    Memoria Press
    4603 Poplar Level Rd.
    Louisville, KY 40213

    1-877-862-1097 [toll free]
    1-502-966-9115 [international or local call]
    1-877-300-7051 [fax]

    magister@memoriapress.com [for order questions]

    Disclosure:  I was provided a complimentary copy of the products above in exchange for my unbiased, honest opinion.  I have not and will not receive monetary compensation.