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)