Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Young Minds - Numbers and Counting

The Young Minds series from Math Tutor DVD was created to introduce young children to the joys of learning math at an early age.

Young Minds - Numbers and Counting is over a half hour long and uses beautiful real life pictures and classical music to teach children to count from 1 to 10. It also teaches such things as animal names and sounds, fruit and vegetable names and colors, and machinery names and sounds. In the background is music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, Brahms, Pachelbel, and Chopin. This integrated learning approach is to keep children interested and promote continued learning.

Extra Features include Puzzles (using real photographs), Connect the Dots, and Guess the Animal.

It can be purchased from the Math Tutor DVD website for $19.99. They do offer a 30-day money back guarantee.


This video is very engaging, well done, and a pleasure to watch. It does teach numbers by counting each item in a group individually. So for those of us who teach our children to recognize numbers in a group by sight instead of by counting, it will be better utilized once our little ones reach the counting stage. I am very impressed with the professional presentation and would feel comfortable in recommending its quality to anyone.

I will also be doing a review on one of Math Tutor DVD's numerous other math products.

You can read here what other Crew Members thought.

 Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Monday, December 28, 2009

ACT Advantage - EXPLORE / PLAN

If you are looking for tools to help you determine your student's college readiness, ACT Advantage might be of interest. This review is for two of their products: EXPLORE and PLAN. I previously wrote a review of their college and career planner DISCOVER. ACT Advantage also provides ACT Test Preparation materials.



The ACT EXPLORE Test is given to 8th grade students to assess their skills and knowledge and to prepare them for the ACT test. Students are tested in the core subjects of English, mathematics, reading, and science.

The EXPLORE packet from ACT Advantage ($22.95) includes a sample test booklet, an explanation of the test results, and a booklet  showing college readiness standards as well as ideas for progress for different test score ranges.



The ACT PLAN Test is given to 10th grade students to provide a midpoint review of their college and career readiness while there is still time to make adjustments. Students are tested in the same core subjects as the EXPLORE test.

The PLAN packet from ACT Advantage ($22.95) includes a sample test booklet, an explanation of the test results, and a booklet  showing college readiness standards as well as ideas for progress for different test score ranges.


These sample tests are similar in layout to other national standardized tests we have taken. I found the tests to be quite easy. I ended up having my 7th grader take the EXPLORE test designed for 8th graders. And I had my 9th grader take the PLAN test designed for 10th graders. Even with those changes, they did extremely well.

Once you have scored the tests, you can check the included charts to see how your student compares to the national norms for his/her grade. As usual, these percentiles did not give me an accurate picture of how my students are doing. I do not like to measure them against their peers but rather against their potential. What was beneficial, however, was to use the College Readiness Standards booklet to see in what areas my students need to improve based on their actual scores. Specific activity suggestions are given for each subject.

Even though I found the tests quite easy, the ACT Advantage sample tests can be an inexpensive way to determine your students' strengths and weaknesses.

You can read here what other Crew Member's found with the ACT Advantage Products.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maestro Classics


"Stories in Music" from Maestro Classics was created to expand listening horizons, develop listening skills, accumulate musical memories, and to encourage adults and children to listen to music together. I have to agree that these CDs can definitely do all that.


We received the CD for The Tortoise and the Hare. But we didn't receive just a story. The CD was delightfully packed with 6 parts.

1)The Story - In the story, different voices depicted each character. Wonderful music from The Philharmonic Orchestra was woven throughout.

2)About the Story - This was a great segment that told about the story, the author, and whatever other information might make listening to the story more meaningful.

3)A song - On our CD the song played and sang was the Pretzel Vendor of Paris Song.

4)About the Music - This was a very interesting segment where the composer explained how he chose the music for the different parts of the story. This was almost my most favorite part of the CD and I was very impressed with his choices.

5)Now That You Know a Little More - Here the story was played again so we could listen with our new knowledge of the music choices.

6)Want to Have Some Fun? - This section played just the music from the Pretzel Vendor of Paris song. We were encouraged to sing along from the booklet that accompanied the CD.

So this was definitely a full CD we received. But about that enclosed booklet I mentioned earlier. Also included were pictures of all the orchestra instruments and a lesson on notes, fractions, and time signatures. And since our story was The Tortoise and the Hare, the booklet gave information about turtles and tortoises and rabbits and hares. It also told about the contrabassoon which was a special instrument used in the story. As if that weren't enough, the booklet had short activities such as dot-to-dot, word jumble, and a crossword puzzle. It also told us about the conductor/composer, executive producer, and the narrator.

TITLES AVAILABLE - (CDs are $16.98 each or 3 for $45)
The Tortoise and the Hare
The Story of Swan Lake
Juanita the Spanish Lobster
(in English or Spanish)
Casey at the Bat (Gift set also available which includes the book)
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (Gift set also available)
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Peter and the Wolf

ABSOLUTELY! My 6 year old daughter has listened to The Tortoise and the Hare many, many times since it arrived. And now that I have been able to listen to all the parts of this almost hour long CD, I am very impressed. These are very well done. I will definitely be watching as the selection grows so I can add to her audio book collection. Although now that I know about all the other gems included, I am going to want to listen to them too.

Please read what my other Crew Mates had to say. And definitely check out Maestro Classics. These fun CDs would make great gifts.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Mathletics is an online math program that can be used as a full curriculum program or just a supplement. There are two parts to this program. In one, the student works on problems and receives instructions. There are even printable worksheets to compliment these lessons. In the other, the student chooses from 5 levels of difficulty to compete live against other students around the world doing math facts.

My 13-year old daughter was the lucky candidate to test this program. The program has a game-like atmosphere and seems like it would be very good for students with short attention spans. She got to create her own character. Then as lessons and competitions were completed, points were awarded to her account which could be used to buy accessories for her character. Each week, a "Character of the Week" was chosen. Also as she reached certain point levels, more games unlocked.

Mathletics also has a Parent Center where I could select tasks for my daughter and access the printable workbooks. I could also view the Student Center to see how my daughter was doing on the exercises. Reports were emailed to me show her progress.

Mathletics costs $59 for 12 months per student. They do have a 10-day money back guarantee. If you have a group, you might contact Mathletics to see if there is a group rate available.

Overall, my 13-year old daughter thought this was a fun program but has used others she liked better. Make sure to read the Mathletics experience of other Crew Members.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tektoma Game Tutorials

My teenage girls have been enjoying the game tutorials from Tektoma. These tutorials utilize the Game Maker software and are a great way to make a start in game building.

In order to utilize the Tektoma tutorials, you will need to download Game Maker and the Game Maker resources (no additional cost). The Tektoma website gives directions on how to do this.

Once you have downloaded these resources, you are ready to begin the video tutorial to create the game of your choice. There is a racing game, arcade game, memory game, platform game, and a fantasy adventure game. The beginning tutorials are about an hour long. The more advanced tutorials are 1-2.5 hours long. You can also download an example of each game.

There are shorter tutorials on how to build a racetrack, improve the looks of a platform game, create and use custom icons, create a standalone version of a game, make a game play in full screen, and add an inventory system to your game.

The program is for ages 7 and up. However, younger ages may need assistance. The tutorial directions are clear and take the designer step by step through the process. The website indicates if the game may contain objectionable material.

Tektoma offers a 14-day free trial after which you would be charged the subscription fee. You may cancel your membership at any time during the free trial and not be charged. The fee for a year of full access is a one-time payment of $140 or $14.95 per month. The 14-day free trial is part of your annual membership.

My daughters picked the racing game to work on and definitely had fun. You can read here what other Crew families found.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Food Enzymes

I love to research things, especially nutritional topics, and my latest project has been digestion. So for part of my research I did an experiment with two brands of food enzymes that I had in my cupboard.

I took 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal in 3 bowls. The first bowl didn't get anything added. To bowl #2 I added the contents of one capsule of Rainbow Light's Advanced Enzyme System. To bowl #3 I added the contents of two capsules of Nature's Sunshine Food Enzymes.


As soon as I stirred the Rainbow Light capsule contents into bowl #2, the oatmeal instantly became liquefied and broken apart. (You can see the difference between the two bowls.)


After about 30 minutes, the oatmeal in bowl #3 with the Nature's Sunshine capsule contents had softened but was still quite a bit more solid than bowl #2.


Here are the three bowls after sitting on the counter all day. Bowl #2 is definitely the most "digested". Bowl #3 is still about twice as thick as bowl #2. However, bowl #2 is much softer than bowl #1 with no enzymes.

Oh, and I learned how to turn on the date/time stamp on our camera in the middle of my experiment.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Professor in a Box - Financial Accounting

Financial Accounting from Professor in a Box is a beginning college level accounting course written by Michael P. Licata, Ph.D. specifically for homeschoolers. In the course the student learns to prepare and interpret the four basic financial statements of a business. Anyone who is preparing to work in business (whether for a company or being self-employed) can benefit from this course.

With 12 chapters covered in 28 lessons, this course includes the content to prepare a student to take the CLEP Financial Accounting Exam (see Course Syllabus). It Includes lectures, practice problems, solutions, quizzes and exams. (The quizzes are similar in content and form to the CLEP Exam.) The website states that the average lesson takes 75 minutes to view the Flash lecture and 1.5 to 2.5 hours to work the problems. The only prerequisite is that the student has basic algebra skills.

Financial Accounting is currently priced at $134.99. Professor in a Box offers a Full Money Back Guarantee. Work through the first three chapters and if you’re not satisfied with the course, send it back for a full refund including shipping.

Windows XP/Vista
1.8 Ghz Intel Pentium II or equivalent
256 MB of RAM
16 bit or higher color
Flash Player

You do need Acrobat reader which is a free download.

Internet access was recommended to complete some of the problems in chapter 1.


The box comes with the CDs housed in a nice hard plastic carry case, a calculator, and a pencil. The Instructor CD includes a course syllabus, lesson plans for full and short course, quizzes, and exams. It also includes Excel templates for every problem in the course so that students can learn accounting while honing and improving their skills in working with spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel.

Lecture Discs include Flash lectures, Lecture slides, Key Terms and Concepts, Chapter Problems, and Chapter Problem Solutions. The lecture slides are also available in print-friendly format.


My oldest is only in 9th grade and I did not feel she was ready for this course. Academically, she could have done the work but I want her to complete the course when she is better able to fully understand the process, not just be able to follow the formulas. I plan for her to take this course in 12th grade after taking personal finance.

I do feel that this course can be a good resource for high school students before entering their adult years. The more information they can learn beforehand, the more they have to draw on when it is needed.

It is not a light course and it will take discipline to complete. But that is because we are dealing with college level material.

Please visit the TOS Crew Blog to read other families' experiences.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Exploramania - GyMathtics

Have you ever owned a product that drove you nuts but your kids loved? Well, the GyMathtics DVD from Exploramania is such a product in our house. The idea of combining physical and mental exercise is really neat. When you are listening to it as background noise, it sounds like random chaos. But when you are tuned into the exercise it flows.


This exercise DVD is approximately 30 minutes long and is broken into 4 segments. Background music is included throughout.

The first section is Shape Stretches Warm Up. Here you learn about all kinds of lines: straight, parallel, intersecting, perpendicular, diagonal, and wavy, all while completing the warm up stretches. You also learn about rays, angles, circles, ovals, and polygons.

Section two is Counting Calisthenics where you practice counting from 0-20, odds and evens, skip counting by 2's, 5's, and 10's, place value, and prime numbers, again all while exercising your muscles.

Pattern Power teaches about growing and repeating patterns.

The Well-Being Wind Down does not include any math teaching. The instructor does include several "life" tips throughout the segment such as "Eat healthy", "Get a good sleep every night", and "Be kind to the planet and to people."


I see this exercise video as appealing to children in lower elementary, and I can see it helping them with their math skills. I didn't care for the tips given throughout the Wind Down session. I would have preferred more math tidbits.

Phrases such as "Isn't exercise fun? and "We're getting healthy and strengthening our minds" are used a lot throughout the DVD (about 6 times for each variation) which was a bit overkill.

Although it isn't my favorite, my 6 year old daughter likes it and is strengthening her math skills along the way.


You can purchase the Gymathtics DVD for $24.99. Also, soon to be released is Gymathtics 2.0 which will include an Algebra Aerobics section. They also carry an Exploracise Thumball Collection and Exploracise Mat Collection.

Exploramania does have a 30-day Customer Satisfaction return policy.

You can read other Crew member reviews here.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TruthQuest History

In January we started using TruthQuest History Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for our studies. It was a great semester with very rich study. This year we continued with TruthQuest but added in Mystery of History because I wanted the mapwork, timeline and activities all scheduled for me.

Well, the combination isn't working for us. Mystery of History has the right pieces academically, but our studies are ending up being very mechanical and lacking depth for my 9th grader. So it was time to sit down and write out pro and con lists and see the big picture.

Mystery of History: Pros
Topic information included
Timeline scheduled
Mapwork scheduled
Activities scheduled
Index card summaries scheduled
Topic reinforcement throughout the year
Christian Worldview

Mystery of History: Cons
Not deep enough as scheduled for high school

TruthQuest: Pros
Rich commentary
Promotes deep discussion
Christian Worldview

TruthQuest: Cons
Additional books required
No mapwork
Must research information for timeline
No reinforcement activities

On paper, it looks like Mystery of History would be the easier choice. But knowing the richness of our TruthQuest study last year I am realizing that it is worth the effort on my part to do the extra research and planning to use TruthQuest. Easier isn't always the best choice. Because it isn't just enough to learn facts or even the flow of history. What makes history meaningful is the people that were involved and how their lives were affected by events. For us, TruthQuest is the program that does a better job of relaying the deeper meaning of history.

Does this mean I don't think Mystery of History is a good program? Not at all. You can see my review of it here. It may be just the program your family needs to cause history to come alive. But I am finally listening to my heart and know that we will learn more through TruthQuest this year.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Our Spell to Write and Read Schedule

I am teaching 3 lessons: a kindergartner (List A at 20 words per week), a 7th grader (List U at 20 words/week) and a 9th grader (List U at 20 words per week). My K'er takes about 15 minutes, my other girls take about 30 minutes each on average. I taught my older girls the charts as they were listed in the WISE Guide Preliminaries. Here is what our SWR days look like. We don't do anything together except the assessment tests monthly. It takes me about an hour and a half three days per week. If my older girls were at a lower level we would be doing 40 words per week and it would take longer. I do SWR with my kindergartner 4-5 days per week.

KINDERGARTEN (15 minutes per day) - I may add more enrichments later in the year as she matures

Day One - Sometimes broken into 2 days
Read all phonograms
Quiz phonograms in WISE Guide Preliminaries
Dictate half of word list
Quiz words

Day Two
Read all phonograms
Word Bank for first 1/2 of list - (Done independently)

Day Three
Read all phonograms
Dictate second half of list
Quiz words

Day Four
Read all phonograms
Timed reading of log words
Word Bank for 2nd half of list (Independent)

Day Five
Read phonograms
Index cards for all words in list
Oral sentences
One written sentence

Day Six
Test phonograms
Test word list


7TH AND 9TH GRADERS - (30 minutes per day) - Separate sessions

Day One (We break into 2 days if new chart is long)
WISE Guide Preliminaries: Quiz phonograms, Rule Review
Teach new chart, if applicable
Read phonograms
Dictate list
Collection page words
Quiz list

Day Two
Read phonograms
WISE Guide Enrichments

Day Three
Phonogram test
List test

Day Four - (Girls together)
Assessment test monthly

I found trying to combine was too cumbersome for our family so I just keep them all separate.

Understanding Spell to Write and Read

I know there are a lot of people who struggle with understanding Spell to Write and Read so I thought I would post this in case it can help someone.

First thing you will want to do is take a deep breath. I, too, found the book very confusing. However, once you wrap your head around it, it is quite simple. The short version is to complete steps 1-11 with your student. Then switch your focus to the WISE Guide. It gives you everything you need for your lesson plan. The red book becomes a reference.

LONG VERSION (after you have prepared your material and started your learning log)

The first thing you have to do with SWR is to determine if you child is ready for it. Is the student aware that language is an object that can be analyzed and manipulated in different ways? This would include being able rhyme or to pause between syllables in a word. This is phonological awareness.

The next development stage that must be reached is that the student can hear separate sounds of a language, not just the words or the syllables. She should be able to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. This is phonemic awareness.

If your student has reached these two milestones, you are ready to move on with SWR. These two skills are important to check for all ages.

If your student is not a beginner, you will want at this point to give the Diagnostic Test found in Appendix B. Don't worry about where he/she will place. That will be done in Step 11. Just give the test.

Whether you have a non-beginner or a beginner (who you have determined is ready to begin), you move into teaching how to read and write the first 26 phonograms (and the numbers). Obviously an older student is going to  probably know how to write the alphabet so you just have ensure she knows the sounds. There is a specific method for teaching the phonograms which is part of why SWR is so successful. I found that learning the "method" is much easier when working with a mentor than trying to absorb it from the book. But if there is no one in your area, we will help you in any way we can.

Once your student knows how to read and write the first 26 phonograms, it it time to introduce the Learning Log (step 8) and to teach the Vowel/Consonant Reference page (step 9). There are explicit instruction in the red book on how to teach the reference pages. The C/V chart actually accomplishes several things. It teaches 4 rules (#s1-4) and introduces the student to the word dictation process and the marking system.

NOTE:There are two types of references pages taught in SWR - Teaching pages and Collection pages. The WISE Guide tells you when to introduce both types. You don't worry about adding to collection pages from the lists until that type of page has been introduced as instructed in the WISE Guide. Once a page has been introduced, the WISE Guide will tell you to add certain words from a list to the collection page. (Example: The WISE Guide Preliminaries for Section E instruct us to Start the "SH/TI Page". Then in the body of Section F on the righthand page (under shot) it says to add "shot" to the SH Page. You will see this all throughout the WISE Guide.)

The Consonant/Vowel Page is a teaching page. The next reference page, Multi-Letter Phonograms, is a collection page. You will begin filling that in when you introduce the multi-letter phonograms throughout WISE Guide Sections A through I-1. Again, these instructions are all given in the WISE Guide Preliminaries.

You will now use the test given in Step 4 to correctly place your student in the WISE Guide. You want to find the first word missed. Then back up one word and follow it across to find the starting section. There is a chart in the red book on page 65 that helps place a student new to the program. If you aren't sure which level is best, ask someone.

Once you have placed your student, you are ready to begin daily spelling in the WISE Guide (step 12) using the Learning Log. The red book is no longer your focus. All the lesson plans you need are right in the WISE Guide. You will use the red book for reference to complete the steps as they are assigned in the WISE Guide.

The Learning Log is an essential part of SWR. That is where your student is ungluing and gluing words and starting to absorb the phonograms and spelling rules until both become second nature. You will teach the rules through the reference pages, and they will be reinforced as you come across them in the word lists. The student then isn't just learning an arbitrary rule but actually has a word to apply it to and so it makes more sense. The more words they learn, the more the rules become second nature.

For me, the actual word dictation process was best taught in person. (If you are familiar with Charlotte Mason, this is NOT that kind of dictation.) You teach your students how to spell each word. There is no guessing. If there is another experienced user in your area, she could be great to connect with. It was very helpful for me to see the process modeled and to see how all the senses are used and the importance of each step. There are many things about SWR that are customizable, but if you want the best success from SWR the dictation method for the Learning Log words is one of the "DON'T CHANGE" things about SWR. So it is important to make sure you understand how it works.

I hope that helps those of you who are struggling. SWR is truly an immersion program for both a new teacher and student. But if you can step away from the big picture and take it in bite-size pieces, I think it will start to become clearer. I know how hard that is as I am a major big picture person, but it does work. Give yourself time to process this and then come back with your other questions. Feel free to ask for clarification on anything.

Monday, November 9, 2009

America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty

American Heritage Educational Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation dedicated to the understanding and teaching of America's factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility among our students and citizens.

I had previously downloaded the free lesson plans from AHEF but never understood what they were trying to accomplish. So when I was asked to write a review on America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty for the TOS Homeschool Crew, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. The first thing I knew I had to do was to print out the material. The older I get, the harder it seems for me to understand the big picture from reading on screen. Once I had the printed copy in hand, I was able to see what the program was all about and actually got quite excited.

Even though we are currently studying Rome, I have been wanting to include a study about our founding fathers and the principles that made the United States of America strong. It looked like America's Heritage would allow me to do just that. Since I was going to be using it with my 7th and 9th graders, I decided to use the high school level. They also have an elementary level and a middle school level.

With America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty, we are learning about our country's birth through the study of some of the founding documents: The Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, Federalist Paper #47, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the First Amendment. We will also study about entrepreneurs in history, American's Creed, and the US Flag.

Each lesson includes activities to help the students understand what the documents or events mean and how they affect the framework of our country. There are 13 lessons, some which  easily have enough material to cover 2 or 3 class periods.

It has been really refreshing to learn about our founding fathers' backgrounds and the moral character that shaped their thinking. It has also been great to understand more fully what the founding documents mean.

You can download a copy of America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty and experience it for yourself.


Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


DISCOVER is a program designed to help student develop a comprehensive career plan.  Following are the steps the student uses to build his personalized career portfolio.


The student first takes three inventory tests: Interest Inventory, Values Inventory, and an Abilities Inventory. An Inventories Summary then shows how your strengths relate to careers.


Once you know your potential occupations, you can explore each of them further. This exploration section give you a lot of data.

  • Occupation summary
  • Characteristics of the occupation:
       Amount of travel required
       Working with people
       Schedule options
       Physical demands
  • Work tasks
  • Related occupations: Civilian and military
  • Training needed
       English skills needed
       Reading skills needed
       Science skills needed
  • Personal qualities desired
  • Salary and Outlook
  • What workers say they like and dislike
  • Where to obtain more information


Your exploration of careers gives you possible majors to explore. You can look for majors by name and by occupation. This section also gives you a lot of information.

  • General Information
  • Characteristics associated with success
  • Courses included
  • Schools
  • Related occupations
  • Related majors


Once you have learned more about your possible majors, it is time to explore the schools that have those majors. You can search for schools by state, by major, by degree type, by school type, or by name. You can learn a lot about a potential school.

  • General information such as type of school, contact information, federal school code, accreditation and level of students admitted.
  • Majors
  • Cost
  • Admission Requirements
  • Services such as academic services provided and ROTC.
  • Student body statistics
  • Financial Aid
  • Housing available
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Campus Facilities
  • Sports


One thing you will see when exploring schools is that it can be expensive to attend a college or university. So knowing your options for financial aid is important. DISCOVER provides information on financial aid programs and finding scholarships. It also provides a Financial Need Estimator.


DISCOVER also provides instruction on job searching.

  • Resume Writing
  • Preparing a Cover Letter
  • Interview Preparation
  • Finding a Job

All these parts are stored in a personalized career portfolio that can be viewed or printed at any point. 

DISCOVER can be purchased with a three-month license for $19.95 and a six-month license for $24.95. ACT Advantage also has assessment programs called EXPLORE (8TH Grade) AND PLAN (10TH Grade) which I will be reviewing later. Also available is an ACT Test Prep program.

My 14 year old daughter found the website informative and very easy to use. Read here to see how others families utilized the ACT Advantage programs.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Virginia Soaps and Scents

My philosophy has always been that no matter what the size of business, all materials and products should be professional quality. So when I received my package from Virginia Soaps and Scents, I was very impressed. From their website to their brochure to their packaging - it is all beautiful. Even their stationery is classy. The items I received were 3 Bed and Bath size soap samplers (Orange; Oatmeal, Milk & Honey; and Coconut Lemongrass), a sampler Ginger Lime shampoo bar, and a trial laundry soap kit.

Peppermint You definitely need to visit the Virginia Soaps and Scents website. Their products are beautiful and it is a really fun place to shop. They have soaps, shampoo bars, bath and body products, and who knows what else they have developed. The Bed and Bath Sampler  would make a Cookies and Creamgreat gift. And their Christmas Collection of Wild Bayberry, Pumpkin Spice, and Peppermint scents looks delicious! The Peppermint, in particular, is gorgeous and almost too pretty to use (although they maintain their color well). Really, I would love to try one of each scent. They even have a CHOCOLATE flavor  for  all you chocolate lovers (and friends of chocolate lovers). And don't miss the Victorian Lace. They also have All-In-One Body Bars for shampoo, shower and shave in the scents of the Outback Bar, Victorian RoseWaltzing Matilda, and the Kiddiwink Bar (a very fun bar for the little tykes). If you prefer no  scent at all, they even have that available for their products. I could go on and on with my list, but you will just need to check out the website for yourself. My daughters and I had more than one fun day doing so.


It's one thing to ooh and aah over beautiful pictures and yummy sounding scents. But what were the products like?



 Shampoo BarsSHAMPOO BAR - $5.50
My husband claimed the shampoo bar. He liked that you just had to run the bar over your hair and a rich, thick lather formed. He also liked how clean it made his hair feel. My 12yo daughter really liked the shampoo bar as well. I liked how it made my hair feel too. It  definitely gave it more bounce. Unfortunately, I have an itchy scalp and it did not seem to agree with the shampoo bar. So I will have to wait to use it until I can solve my scalp issue. Our shower trial-size bar lasted us between 2 and 3 weeks. The actual shampoo bar is 5.5 ounces which I believe is about 3 times the size of our sample bar. It comes in three scents of Ginger Lime, Coconut Lemongrass, and Cherry Almond. They also have an Oily Hair/Clarifying formula that comes in Tangerine Grapefruit.

Bed and Breakfast Sampler SOAP - $4.50 per bar; $12 for 3 bars; $35 for 10 bars 
I was impressed at how well the soap lasted. The bars stayed firm and did not dissolve into a puddle of mush even with being used by a 2 year old. My favorite scent was the Oatmeal, Milk and Honey. It seemed to have a cinnamon scent to it. My 6 year old liked the Orange. And my 12 year old daughter liked the Coconut Lemongrass. The thing I liked about the scents was that they were clear and sharp. The full-size bars are 4.5 ounces.

Laundry Kit LAUNDRY SOAP - $4.95 (64-72 loads)
Before my Virginia Soaps and Scents samples arrived, I already had been using homemade laundry soap. I hadn't been super impressed with the results but the laundry didn't seem any worse than with what I was using before, so I stuck with it.

The difference I found with the Virginia Scents and Soaps Laundry Soap Kit is that it made a more concentrated soap. It also seemed to clean the socks better than I have seen in a long time (even with commercial soap). A big plus for me is that it is made with their unscented Cleaning Soap which is much better than the commercial variety I previously used. (The Cleaning Bar is a different formula than their Body Bar just in case anyone has the same question I did.)

If you already make your own laundry soap or want to buy some of the ingredients yourself, you can purchase just the 4.5 ounce Cleaning Bar for $3.95 and follow the recipe on the website. I know I will be putting these on my order! I definitely want to try this laundry soap again.

The Virginia Soaps and Scents products were very well received in our home. I can't wait to place an order but am having a hard time deciding my top choices to try.

These products were used in many different households, so please take time to read the other Crew reviews to see how they were received.

I hope you have as much fun perusing the Virginia Soaps and Scents website as we did.

 Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amazing Bible Timeline

The Amazing Bible Timeline is very large and contains A LOT of information. 6,000 years of Bible and world history are combined to help you put things into perspective. Color-coded, the timeline follows the Semitic, Hamitic, and Japhethic lineages all through history. It also follows the Catholic church and its history. It lists the timeline of the Reformation as well as other historical events.

For me, the Amazing Bible Timeline is sensory overload. There is too much information to take in at once, and I have trouble focusing on just one portion of time to get the big picture. That, coupled with its size (apx 3' x 4'), makes its use difficult. A wall dedicated to its use might make a difference. But I am a bit frustrated because I feel like I have a wealth of information in my hands and my brain is not allowing me to take advantage of its worth.

Interactive Holy Land Maps - These maps could be useful for Bible history study.

The Amazing Bible Timelines w/ World History e-chart - This is a copy of the large timeline in digital form. It can be helpful for lesson planning or perhaps understanding the timeline better. Unfortunately, it was not enough to help me breakthrough my visual overload. Perhaps in the future the timeline will be more useful to us.

For someone who enjoys deep history study and isn't easily overloaded visually, the price tag of $29.97 for this product is very reasonable.

Make sure to visit the TOS Blog to read how others families utilized the Amazing Bible Timeline. I know others had different experiences.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

AVKO - Individual Membership

An AVKO membership looks to be a good value if you use their products or prescribe to their method of teaching reading and spelling. I already use a reading and spelling program that has a philosophy I am comfortable with, and I had a hard time reconciling the AVKO method with it. But It might benefit those who have not found a method that strikes a chord with them. An individual membership costs $25.00/year and includes many resources.


  • 25% discount on all printed AVKO material
  • Hundreds of dollars of free ebooks
  • AVKO newsletter with freebies, discounts, and resources
  • Access to Don McCabe's workshop recordings
  • Supplemental curriculum materials including word games, worksheets, activities, and more
  • Access to pretest and placement tests
  • Access to the Answer Keys for the Unscramblers and Family Reunion exercises of the Engaging Language Kits

You can visit AVKO to see if this company is one that will fit your needs. Also read the reviews of my fellow Crew members.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers


Designed for 4th to 8th graders, A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers from Bright Ideas Press helps students (and parents) break the code of classical music. 32 weekly lessons include information about 26 composers from 6 different eras. Notetaking pages, coloring pages, and composer info-cards are all part of the weekly lesson. There is also a timeline template to be completed which gives an overview of time periods and relationships between composers. Internet links are provided so you can listen to the music of individual composers while doing your study. It is also recommended that you complete a a folderbook for your study. (A folderbook is a simplified lapbook.)

The study starts with an overview of the beginning of music. Then you study about music in the Renaissance. This lesson contains a lot of information and could be spread over more than one lesson with younger students. Next comes the Baroque Period and the start of studying individual composers. You also study composers from the Classical Period, the Romantic Period, and the Contemporary Period.

There are game suggestions for the use of the composer cards to help your students retain the information they have learned. In the appendix you will also find a composer resource list, a glossary, and answer keys to the student reviews and timeline.


I have long wanted to do composer studies but never got it put together. So I was very glad when I received A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers to review. I was concerned that it might be too young for my 7th and 9th graders but figured that even a light exposure would be better than no exposure. But as I looked closer, the information to be put on the notetaking sheets and timeline is heavy enough to keep their minds busy remembering.

It has been really fun to read about the history of music and to hear the different styles. It has brought an awareness of the arts that was not previously present.

If you would like to introduce your family to classical music, this is a great choice. Perhaps it might even light their interest to pursue it further.

You can read here to see how other families used their Bright Ideas Press products.


A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers can be purchased as a CD-ROM for $29.95 or a Printed Book for $34.95.  I reviewed the CD-ROM version. It was nice to be able to print the extra pages straight from the computer file instead of copying. The downside was having to print and bind the book. I printed my book and then laminated the front and back covers before taking it to a printer to be spiral bound. It turned out pretty good, but I would choose the printed book next time.

Other products available from Bright Ideas Press include Mystery of History, All American History and Christian Kids Explore Science. Make sure to read my review of Mystery of History.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mystery of History 2


Mystery of History, published by Bright Ideas Press, is a classical history program written with a Christian worldview. Linda Hobar, the author, has developed the material and activities to meet each stage of the classical trivium while recognizing the needs of various learning styles. Each lesson is broken down by level. The grammar stage (or early elementary) is primarily about absorbing information. This is done through the lesson activities, creation of Memory Cards, and review activities.  The logic stage (or middle school) is about questioning the information learned. A logic student should also be learning to summarize and outline material. The Memory Cards and other lesson activities accomplish this. The rhetoric stage (or high school) is about analyzing information and defending the student's position on that information. This is the stage where the student masters the art of expressing thoughts. The older student activities in Mystery of History include research and writing assignments to help the student practice his expository skills. Mystery of History is written such that you can repeat the series during each stage, building a strong foundation in your students.

In addition to the activities in the 84 lessons, the students keep a timeline, do mapwork, and are kept accountable on the retention of the material through exercises and cumulative tests.


1)Quarterly Topic Overviews: Around the World

2)Weekly Pretest (3 lessons per week)

4)Lesson Activities by skill level

5)Weekly Memory cards
6)Timeline work

8)Biweekly Cumulative Exercises /
9)Biweekly Cumulative Quizzes

10)Quarterly Putting It All Together Worksheets

11)Semester Tests

12)Additional Appendix Activities

So as you can see, the student has at least 12 interactions with a topic throughout the year. This allows the material to become meaningful to the student and not just a fact to remember for a test and then forget. I know for my 7th and 9th graders, the activities assigned are mostly writing and research-based which helps with the retention of a topic even more.


  • Supplemental activities
  • Supplemental books and resources by topic
  • Additional resources by lesson and skill level
  • Materials list by lesson
  • Bibliography
  • Answer key

Map outlines are also provided. 


The lessons themselves are short, leaving time for further research and writing assignments. I am enjoying having skill-appropriate assignments already scheduled. The weekly review activities, including Memory Cards, timelines and mapwork, provide a great opportunity to recap the week's material.

I feel that the activities in MoH are great for middle school as is. For high school I assign additional history and literature reading to complement our studies. I also require more in depth writing assignments from my 9th grader. For example, both girls may research the same topic. However, my 7th grader may be required to write a paragraph or two about her findings while my 9th grader may be required to write an in depth report or possibly a comparison or persuasive essay.

My booklist for this time period was already picked prior to starting MoH, but Linda includes many book suggestions broken down by lesson number and skill level in the appendix. She also includes a book list by topic.

Mystery of History is a program that can be used as a good overview of history, or you can make it a heavier course by including more of the scheduled activities and adjusting the requirements to fit your student's needs.


Printed Book $49.95
Audio Set $48.95
Reproducibles CD $19.95
Craft Pak CD-ROM $19.95

Other programs available from Bright Ideas Press include All American History, Christian Kids Explore Science, A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers (which I am also reviewing), and their new product Illuminations.

Please visit the TOS Blog to read reviews of other Bright Ideas Press products.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

My Access


I recently reviewed an online writing program called My Access! Home Edition from Vantage Learning. We had used this product a few years ago and I was curious to see what changes had been made. The writing prompts are broken into 3 ages groups: 8-10, 11-14, and 15-18. I used it with a 12 and 14 year old.

-Choose writing prompt (90 choices for 3 age groups)
-Start Writing Course OR Go to Writer's Space

WRITING COURSE -Narrative Writing Prompt
-Reporter training
-Basic elements of narrative writing
-Quiz of basic elements
-Daily access rubric training
-Planning your narrative writing
-Graphic organizer 
    -Intro: Hook, Setting, Characters
    -Rising Action: Events leading to Climax, Conflict
    -Climax: Turning Point
    -Falling Action: Events after the climax 

After the student finishes the writing course, he moves on to writing his first draft. However, the student can return to the writing course at any time. He also has access to the Writer's Toolbox which contains a rubric, writer's models, writer's guide, word bank, student's outline, focus checklist, and word count. The Writer's Guide included in the Toolbox has a lot of information as does the Rubric and the Word Bank should the student choose to utilize those resources. Also available to help the student are the Writer's Checklist and the Graphic Organizer Outline (created during the pre-writing). Two other features of the Writer's Space are the Tutor and Editor. The Tutor uses generic examples to help the student through problems in the 5 graded areas of Focus, Content Development, Organization, Language Style, and Conventions. The Editor uses the student's own writing to show where mistakes have been made in his writing in those same five areas.

Once the student has submitted a writing piece, it is graded as Below Proficient, Proficient, or Advanced in the 5 areas listed above. There are revision activities to help the student learn more about the skill before attempting to revise his writing. However, the activities use generic material so they may not be as effective as learning directly from the student's own material. But when the student goes back in to revise his writing, he can once again go into the Editor and see what the computer has marked as problem areas. Unfortunately, more than once, my daughter experienced that many of the revisions recommended had already been addressed in the original writing and were not errors at all. But there are still some useful critiques that may be followed to tighten up the writing.

I was disappointed in the Parent Center. I would expect to be able to know what projects my students are working on and what steps they have completed on those projects. I also want to be able to see their pre-writing work such as graphic organizers and outlines. But with My Access I can only view a student essay once it has been submitted. And I can only see the essay and the recommended editing plan. I cannot track what my students are working on, and I am not able to see the pre-writing that occurred.

Each activity the student does in My Access earns him points. The parent account allows you to set rewards for certain point levels providing incentive to use the program features.

My Access! Home Edition also allows the parent to enter his own writing prompts. This can work well if you are using another writing program but want the tools available with My Access. It also works for assigning writing projects from other subjects such as history, science, or literature.

The Student Center has a lot of neat features that can help the student write stronger prose. However, as much as the student center does a good job helping the student through the writing process, my overall feeling is that writing is too subjective for computerized grading. Also, the breadth of tools available in the Student Center may be utilized by a motivated student, but an unmotivated student will miss much instruction that is available.

I can see My Access being beneficial from the beginning stages of the writing process through the second or third draft. After that I would prefer the writing to be critiqued in person.

The Student Center of the program has greatly improved since we used it before; however, for it to work in our family, even in the preliminary stages, more tracking would need to be available through the Parent Center.

Visit here to check out My Access! Home Edition for yourself. An annual subscription costs $99.95 and supports up to 3 students. You can upgrade to 6 students for a total of $129.95. If you have high school students, you might be interested in the add-on package of the SAT Prep Pack for an additional $49.95. (I have not reviewed the SAT Pack.)

You will find other Crew reviews here.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sarah's Wish

Sarah's Wish by Jim Baumgardner is a book about a girl who is orphaned and faces the challenges associated with taking her mother's place as a station on the Underground Railroad. Meanwhile, the town is working together to find her a home.

I have a hard time reading books that have suspense so I let my daughters read this book. Of course, they thought I was crazy for thinking Sarah's Wish was scary. But such is life. So both my daughters read our personally autographed copy of Sarah's Wish. My 12 year old thought it was very well written, while my 14 year old thought it was well written but not as deep as she is used to. Both thought that Sarah acted more like 9 years old than 12. My 12 year old liked it enough to want to read the rest of the series. My 14 year old felt it was too young.

Visit Sarah Books to see what you think about the books in the series: Sarah's Wish, Sarah's Promise and Sarah's Escape.

Sarah's Wish for $9.99 (Also includes an audio download link)
Sarah's Wish Audio Book $16.99

Sarah's Promise $13.50
Sarah's Promise Audio Book $16.99

Sarah's Escape $17.50

You can read here what other Crew members thought of Sarah's Wish.

 Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009




The free portion of abcteach contains over 3,000 free printable documents. However, for $40/year you can have access to over 30,000 printables on the member site. You also have access to over 60 abctools in a variety of subjects and categories. These tools allow members to create custom documents tailored to their children's interests and learning styles. You can create custom math worksheets, spelling sheets, crossword, etc. There are actually too many options to list.

We do not use a lot of worksheets in our schooling, so this site was not as useful to me. But for any teacher, homeschooler, child care provider, or anyone that works with children and uses worksheets, this site has a lot of potential. So whether you need something for math, science, or social studies, you will most likely find it on abcteach. There are also several teacher helps like clip art, desk signs, and lesson plan templates. There are other such sites on the Internet and I do not know how abcteach compares to them. 

You can read how other Crew members used abcteach here.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.A

Saturday, September 26, 2009

College Prep Genius - Our Experience

I wrote a product description of College Prep Genius earlier so I won't repeat that here. But I will tell you about my 9th grader's experience.

This course has a lot of information to process and remember and has been pretty overwhelming. The method taught seems to be at odds with how her brain works.

Each DVD section teaches several acronyms to memorize and associate with certain types of problems. Then the student completes the problems in the workbook. The DVD then explains the answers to those problems. My daughter found that several times she came up with the correct answer but in a different way than the DVD showed. She was already thinking through the problems logically and the acronyms actually confused her.

We will be putting our study of this program on hold until later this school year. She is scheduled to take the PSAT on October 14th and I would like to find a baseline of where she is at. When we pick College Prep Genius back up, we will do so at a much slower pace, perhaps studying one acronym and then one problem each week.

I was very surprised and a bit discouraged when the program caused more confusion than clarity. So I have been thinking why that might be happening. I don't have any concrete answers, only musings. I do know that we need to slow it down A LOT. And I also wonder if how a student is used to learning makes a difference. Perhaps this method would work better for a student who is used to material that teaches formulas, showing the student step by step how to get the correct answer. We use material that teaches the big picture and the theory behind the problem. The student then uses the understanding of the theory to solve the problem instead of following a step-by-step formula.

I do know that to use the program, the student needs to be dedicated to investing a lot of hours preparing for the PSAT/SAT. If this is not the goal for your family, then it may not be a good fit. If high test scores is a priority for your student, College Prep Genius might be a God-send.

If you do order, make sure to use this free shipping code: HSBlog09. (The code is expires November 15, 2009.)

You can read here what other Crew members experienced.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers

Being a parent of a child entering high school can be a scary thing. We may worry if our child is going to be prepared for college and the future. And without some input, it can be overwhelming. But thankfully all that negative need not occur. We just have to look in the right places for direction.

One of those places is The Complete Career, College, and High School Guide for Homeschoolers by Jill Dixon. Put out by Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services, this book provides a well laid out plan for discovering what careers might best fit your personality and what classes and activities you should complete to prepare yourself.

Your first step is to take 4 assessment tests. The Work/Service Preference Test tells you if you are a builder, solver, creator, organizer, helper or leader. The Concise Learning Styles Assessment helps you know if you are an auditory, visual, or tactile/kinesthetic learner. The Personality Profile indicates if you are outward or inward, if you rely on thoughts or emotions, and if you are more structured or flexible. Following each of these assessments is a list of careers that match the different results. There is also a Work Environment Questionnaire to help you understand in what environment you function best.

With the career choices discovered from your assessments, you are ready to begin your high school and career planning forms. Recommended middle school/high school courses are suggested for many popular careers and college majors. Also included are activities to consider being involved in for your career choices. It also lists candidates to interview to learn more about your chosen fields. It even includes questions to ask in those interviews. A list of the usual college preparatory requirements is provided to make sure you are including the necessary classes. As some states require high school graduates to have community service hours, the author has given a list of volunteer opportunities.

Along with career choices and help for class planning, you will find information such as a cutting edge job list, fastest growing jobs, and occupations with the most new jobs. The author does provide curriculum suggestions for different high school subjects. And there is also a small section on CLEP testing and the ACT and SAT.

One part of this Guide that I appreciate is that the author is not saying that every student is going to go on to college or technical school. Nor is she advocating girls to pursue careers at the expense of being a wife or a mother. In fact, one of the careers listed is marriage/mothering with suggested classes that would be helpful. She also lists part-time jobs that combine well with being a homemaker.

This Guide is not just for high school students but can be very useful for adults who are wanting to change their career direction. It is also not just for homeschoolers. I am very impressed with this program and will be implementing it as part of our 8th grade schedule. At $34.95 (E-book) or $39.95 (Printed), the cost of this Guide is well worth the final result of having a roadmap for your children. You will want to read their e-book disclaimer before deciding what format to purchase.

Other products available from EDUDPS include Write With the Best (see my review of level 2) and Roots and Fruits along with several assessment products.

The Career Planning ebook is currently on sale for $26.90.

Please also read other Crew Reviews on EDUDPS' products.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.


I did want to add that this Guide does not address the needs of those headed into ministry as that is more a calling than a career.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Special Wish

About a week ago, we received The Special Wish, a book about friendship. It is part of the Good News Express Series from Passkeys Foundation which is written for 3 to 5 year olds. I dislike stories that contain no purpose or moral. So I was very pleased to read this story to my 5 year old daughter and discover that not only did it have fun characters and bright illustrations, it also had a good message. My daughter has listened to the CD that accompanied the 31-page book every night since it arrived. The CD tells the story in different voices and includes 3 songs.

Other books in the Good News Express series include The Cheerful Grump (Cheerfulness), The Birthday Gift (Sharing), and Thanks, But No Thanks (Thankfulness). Each books sells for $7.50.

We really enjoyedThe Special Wish and hope you will enjoy this series too. You can read here what other crew members thought.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Growing Healthy Homes

I have long been saddened by the state of the Standard American Diet. Many people deal with needless ailments because of how our society chooses to eat. Nutrition 101:Choose Life! from Growing Healthy Homes provides a different perspective on nutrition. The authors have a strong desire to use their backgrounds in nutrition and medicine to help others live healthy lives aligned with Biblical teaching.

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is a three-in-one family nutrition and health program for all ages that presents the major body systems, how they function, their common health issues, the benefits of good food and the consequences of bad food. Its 448 pages include into six units:

1) The Brain and Nervous System
2) Digestion and Elimination
3) Respiration and Olfactory
4) Muscular and Skeletal Systems
5) Cardiovascular and Immune Systems
6) Endocrine System and Emotions

Biblically based and packed with hands-on activities, science and art projects and nearly 80 family-friendly recipes, this program teaches and reinforces the why’s of what we should eat, not just “because I said so.” Containing a complete reference guide filled with nutrition facts, charts, practical tips and an exhaustive index, Nutrition 101: Choose Life! will serve as a constant resource for improved health and abundant living.

Each chapter in Nutrition 101: Choose Life! has discussion questions, activities broken into elementary and secondary skill levels, and additional resources. A Power Recipe is included which also has elementary and secondary activities. Both the chapter and recipe secondary activities lend themselves nicely to deeper research. At the end of each unit are additional recipes.

Also included are 124 pages of appendices including the Choose Life! Food Pyramid and Shopping List, a detailed chart on How to Select Fresh Produce, Kitchen Safety, detailed Vitamin and Mineral Charts, an Alkaline and Acid Chart, Recommended Daily Allowances, Sugar Alternatives, and many more resources to assist you in choosing healthy products for your home.

This curriculum is co-authored by homeschool mother Debra Raybern, N.D., M.H., C.N.C., I.C.A.; homeschool mother and researcher Sera Johnson, B.MU; mother and writer/editor Laura Hopkins, B.S.; and mother, grandmother and former Home Economics teacher Karen Hopkins, B.S.

I have not had a chance to delve into this curriculum as deeply as I would like. But what I have seen I am impressed with and am looking forward to studying it more closely and doing the activities for myself. I can see its strength being at the high school and adult level, and it will definitely be a part of our high school health program. It will also be a resource we will use for years to come.

If you are wanting a life long nutrition resource, Nutrition 101:Choose Life! is worth checking out. You can purchase this 448-page, full-color book on CD-Rom for $79.95, Printed form $99.95, or both for $129.95. There is also co-op pricing available.

Please make sure to read the other crew reviews.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

List A

The spelling lists are all done from dictation not from copying. The student does not see the word written until she is finished.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sue Patrick's Workbox System

Sue Patrick's Workbox System gives a framework to providing an organized, fun way of covering your school material quickly without frustration while providing your student a rich education. Mrs. Patrick provides numerous tools and visual aids to facilitate these goals. In her book, Mrs. Patrick not only explains this framework but provides suggestions for encouraging learning. She also gives tips on how to make your current material more useful.

My approach to Sue Patrick's Workbox System User Guide was one of trying to understand the big picture. It would be easy to get lost in the minutia of the system. But I wanted to look at the broader perspective to truly understand what the goal was. This would allow me to implement the system for my family in an effective way.

Every family is different and each child within that family is unique. So how each family uses this system may look different. If the original setup is what is most effective, then use that. But if a part is not effective or is overkill, then change it. You know your children best and the goal is to provide an efficient, enjoyable learning environment for them. Personally, the clutter of using the shoe boxes would drive me batty. We also don't have a "classroom" nor do we have individual desks. So the system as written does not fit our family.

This system can be used at any age. At the junior high and high school levels in our house, however, the actual daily planning is done by the student, not by me. The skill of time management is a crucial one to learn. And part of that learning process is not having someone else plan each step of your day. Initially this planning process will be done with the aid of the parent. But by high school, my students should have the maturity to plan their days.  This does not mean that I will no longer be teaching. But it does mean that I will not be organizing their workload.

Our goal is to provide the necessary components so that my children can move through their day with direction and purpose while learning their material with maximum retention. For my youngest daughter that means presenting the material in small units interspersed throughout the day with fun activities and review all while maintaining the proper balance between independent work and teacher interaction. For my older girls it means giving them the tools to stay on task and a check-in point so I know where they are in their day.

One part of the book that I was greatly disappointed in was Mrs. Patrick's recommendation to teach children 1000-2000 sight words before teaching them phonics. I have seen a child learn to read with phonics and it is a beautiful sight. The student is truly equipped to read. But for a child to have to rely on words he has memorized instead of giving him the tools to decode all words just does not make sense to me. Why confuse the brain with sight words when you can give the building blocks right from the beginning? In The New Illiterates, reading expert Sam Blumenfeld writes, "There is probably no way more calculated to confuse, discourage, and finally frustrate a child than teaching him to “read” via the whole-word method. Not only does this method not teach the child to read, but it places almost insurmountable obstacles to his ever learning to read. The amazing thing is not how many child fail to learn how to read by this method, but how many manage to circumvent the method and learn to read despite it." (31) The goal is to make learning easier for a student, not harder.

The part of Sue Patrick's website that I thought really neat is that she offers Starter Sets and Center Kits. For someone like me, that is great. I do not always have the time, energy or desire to create these and really like the option of purchasing them ready made. You can also purchase consulting from Mrs. Patrick if you need someone to help walk you through streamlining your homeschool.

Children thrive with structure and boundaries. They like to know where they are headed and they do not like surprises. If you are lacking a structure system in your homeschool, Sue Patrick's Workbox System may provide this much needed part of your child's life. The User Guide is an inexpensive introduction to her system and can be purchased as an e-book ($19) or printed book ($19.95). With the purchase of the book you will have access to download the basic forms she mentions.

You can view how other Crew families utilized Sue Patrick's Workbox System here.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

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