Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity. ~ Margaret D. Nadald

Our Father also gifted us with the nature to nurture, keen sensitivity to the Spirit, selflessness, discernment, and heroic faith. No wonder our Father placed us at the heart of the family and thus at the center of the plan of salvation. We are the Lord's secret weapon. ~ Sheri Dew

I'd love it if you would follow my blog!

28 December 2011

Weighing in After the Holiday's....

...wasn't as brutal as it could have been, but not entirely what I thought. I expected that I would as least lose a little bit of weight, but, alas, staying stagnant is all that I pulled off. So, for this week my numbers are identical to last week:

Waist: 37 1/4"

I definitely could have worked harder and had less fatty foods to eat, but all we can do is move forward right? This week I've put in a little more effort than before. I picked up some heavier weights for strength training (very important for EVERYONE. Strength training is huge for building muscle... which will burn fat... and helps keep you together better! Muscles are good!)

Mine have been a bit sore as of late, but that's not necessarily a bad thing :-). I can get in about 2-3 miles a day on the treadmill, usually I can run it... yesterday not so much though... so I walked. Walking is great! If you do nothing else a 30 minute walk a day will do you good. I chose to add an incline to mine as a way to burn more calories faster as well as get a good burn in the legs!

I've also been lucky enough to have a husband willing to take on all of the kids so that I can hit the pool. Yesterday was the first day that I could go and the low impact workout was so awesome I actually felt like I as breaking a sweat over the laps! It was great... the most painful part?? Well, that'd be seeing myself in a swimsuit in a public place. Ugh! Talk about some motivation... and irritation! It was after that sight that I picked up heavier weights :-D.

Here's to hoping and working towards a better week!

How have things been for you? Will the New Year find you making resolutions towards better health?

26 December 2011


...is an always changing, daily opportunity to learn and grow and adapt (hence my blog name). Life for us has definitely followed this definition lately! At the beginning of October we were informed by the military that my husband was needed in Japan before the end of February... I was 8 months pregnant... and we had 4 children ages 6 and under. While excited, the prospect of having to acquire passports for everyone and the mere idea of having to be ready to move in January was/is a bit daunting. The last time I moved overseas I had to follow my husband by myself later with an 8 week old baby because his passport hadn't come in yet... and I'll tell yah, once I go to our layover in Seattle I was very tempted to have my in-law's pick me up and to call my husband and tell him that I would come only when he came to get me! It was terrible! Not really because of the baby, more just the people and airline etc., it was nightmarish, I was never happier to see Korean soil then when that flight was over! Anyway, thanks to that experience I had this horrible feeling that because of our time frame that I'd be moving not only with an 8 week old but also a 23 month old and 3, 5, and 6 year olds.... SO GRATEFUL THAT WON'T BE THE CASE! (Although, my husband did mention that if it was that while it would be difficult he would be willing to take one for the team and fly to Japan alone :-D).

Anyway, as the calendar screams at an alarming pace towards January I have at least one "AAHHH we're moving!" moment a day. I've grown accustomed to having to expect the unexpected thanks to the military, but this one really caught me off guard. We were given every assurance of being here clear into 2013, so we were planning for the baby, I had a race calendar all planned out for next year, we both had plans to start on our masters, we were planning our garden.... HA! They just wanted me to get cozy :-). In any case, I really do have to care for a 1 month old (as of yesterday), the rest of the kids, and make sure that our house is separated into storage, unaccompanied baggage (the smaller shipment of necessities that gets there faster), our household goods (the everything else stuff that goes on the slow boat and we get whenever it shows up), and to ensure that all the stuff we need stays separate from all that because if not IT WILL GET PACKED. So, I need to pack everyone's bags for about 2 months worth of clothes etc. Good times! Yes, "freak out moments abound here."

The one thing that I thought I had figured out was lifestyle once we got there. I got in contact with another American couple in Japan who attends a Japanese church that we wanted to go to. She was excited to hear of our coming and was encouraging of our patronizing the church. So, case closed, we're good right?! NO! *laugh* She asked me if our children would be attending Japanese school. Well, my husband and I talked about it briefly... he brought it up and I didn't turn down the idea but I certainly wasn't entertaining it either! I figured we could find some extracurricular classes to get the kids into etc. that wouldn't require them to be gone so long everyday.

Anyway, she's in the same situation that I'm in.... a husband that speaks Japanese, kids with squishy brains, and a slow go at learning the language herself (my brain LITERALLY hurts after studying Japanese). When she mentioned that her oldest children are fluent and both read and write in Kanji something in my mind clicked. I knew that our children needed to go to school there... but I still don't like the idea! *laugh* I talked to my kids about it, they're enthusiastic to go, and then I tried to talk them out of it! They'll be in school all day being immersed in Japanese, then come home to Japanese homework and they'll still be home schooled in English reading and writing. They were all still up to the challenge. THAT ONLY LEAVES ME WITH 2, COUNT THEM 2, CHILDREN FOR THE MAJORITY OF EVERYDAY! So not happy about that! I can't stand in the way of a great opportunity for them though. They'll pick up the language and culture in a way that we can't provide for them otherwise. We know we'll be there for at least 3-4 years with the potential of more, so now when their brains are squishiest and able to pick up the language is the best. My husband had offered to have them start when we go back after this assignment when they were older, but that's just not fair of me. They'll have a much easier time now. My husband's been speaking and living in Japan on and off for the last 13 years, has a degree in Asian Studies with a minor in Japanese, and is still learning new things everyday. What a gift that my children won't have to struggle to learn as much. My father-in-law speaks Japanese as well... he told me that he expects the children to come back speaking better than him too :-D.

Because of the way the schools run, my older 3 will be there to start the new school year IN APRIL. Yes, school runs from April to March. BOO! Pretty sure Heavenly Father knew that I needed to know that now instead of when we hit the ground there so that I had time to take it all in. It helps that there's a huge running group on base, all kinds of running events and triathlons between them and the nearby Naval base, and that because of the move I had to push my Master's work until April/May. Boy will I need that distraction then! No wonder my brain couldn't put aside going back to school this last year... I needed everything in place for when my children go to school and I'm with my little guys that both nap during the day. It's weird to be faced with so much quiet when you're use to chaos!

In the meantime we're all on Japanese learning track.... we have a bunch of movies by studio Ghibli (recently they came out with Ponyo which was pretty popular in the US, also Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle) and some other selections that the children watch in Japanese.

We also scour the Hiraganamama website like crazy! I enjoyed her website before, now it's more of a lifeline. She has links to youtube videos that have been helpful, worksheets, and overall information. I love this one, definitely something to check out! She has a New Year's card up on her site.. it's a dragon and she provides how to write a message for the New Year, we'll be working on that today! Your kid would enjoy it too I'm sure!

I also have access to Rosetta Stone and try to login to that regularly. (If you're military you should look into getting access to this for free. The library also has Mango that you can use from home). It does make my brain hurt, but I am picking up on a lot more.

My husband also found several apps in the iTunes store that he uses on the iPod of iPad to help him learn additional Kanji (which I am SO NOT ready for... I'm still trying to master Hiragana and trying not think about learning 2 more alphabets thank you very much!)

We also have a few learning books that Nathan picked up on his last stint in Japan.

Anyway! Life's been exciting here and definitely NOTHING like I thought it would be. Learning to change and be adaptable it good though :-). I know my children are headed for an amazing opportunity and one that Heavenly Father had in store for all of us. I'm resistant to change and really don't care to have someone else dictating my schedule, but perhaps there's the lesson for me in all of this! Who knows. Either way we're off for an even bigger adventure than I had imagined! It's a good thing that the one sailing this ship knows where it's headed because we'd surely be lost otherwise!

I hope your holiday's have been wonderful and that you're able to see the working of God in your life at this time to in whatever it may be that you're doing!

21 December 2011

And Thus it Begins!

Today marks the first day of Weighing in Wednesday! This was the brain child of yesterday's workout... I was trying to come up with a good way to track myself, as well as provide motivation for others. So, every Wednesday I will be getting a weight and waist measurement on myself and sharing it here, as well as giving a rundown of what I was up to excercise-wise for the week, and probably offering some kind of tips/advice/goals. I have no problems throwing all of this out into the abyss and just for my own use, but if you'd like to come along you can either leave comments below whenever you feel so inclined, or let me know that you'd like to start your own Weighing in Wednesday blog post and I'll pay to add a linky tool to my blog so that several people can blog hop each week (which would be even more fun! Motivation AND accountability :-D)

To start with, here's a little info on me. Our 5th child was born 3 weeks and 5 days ago. I am just shy of 5'9", pre-pregnancy I weighed 149lbs (I'll explain the significance of that number later), and the day our son was born I was about 216lbs. No, I didn't have gestational diabetes, my body just likes to gain about 60lbs in my belly and legs with each pregnancy... Which is probably why I find something physically crazy to get it off each time! Last year it was triathlons... This year it's triathlons (I'm hooked after last year!) and long distance races (the ultimate goal is a marathon late next year... Still trying to get the base that we're moving to to schedule one for me :-D).

As of today my numbers are:
WEIGHT: 185lbs
WAIST: 37 1/4"

Last week I was 190 lbs and my waist measured over 40" (I don't remember how far over, enough that I quickly forgot though!) Over the last week I've put in a few miles walking, usually with baby in a sling (because he can smell that I'm trying to workout, so even though he's fed and I've laid him down he'll start crying about 1/4 mile into things! Oh well, I figure he helped me put it on he can help me take it off!) Yesterday I got in 3 miles... actually getting to run 2 of those miles because baby did sleep, and today it was an agonizingly slow 2 miles, but it got my heart rate up, so I can't complain too much. In addition to walking/running a minimum of 1 mile a day... minus Sunday... I love the boot camp DVD put out by Lindsay Brin from Mom's Into Fitness (I have this set, the Bootcamp one goes through 6 weeks of increasingly harder workouts for your core and another set for toning and cardio all in one DVD and only taking 10 minutes a piece!). Her philosophy is that MOM'S CAN GET INTO BETTER SHAPE THAN THOSE WHO AREN'T! I've found this to be absolutely true for me. With each baby I've weighed less at the start than with the previous one and I've been stronger and able to do more physically in the meantime. Case in point? I was something like 167lbs when my husband and I GOT MARRIED, and, asa I mentioned, I was almost 20 lbs lighter than even that prior to getting pregnant with baby #5. So, if you use pregnancy and motherhood for any excuse, let it be the excuse that those things have made you stronger and let's get to work!

My biggest tips for you today goes towards new moms, since that's the phase I'm in. The recommended weight loss for new nursing mothers is 1 lb per week. You'll probably notice that my numbers don't follow this, but consider that "the recommended weight gain" is about 35 lbs... my body just doesn't like recommendations! If yours are lower or higher, then they are. As long as you are listening to your body (i.e. if you're beginning to bleed bright red, pull a muscle, anything hurts unnecessarily... we like good pain though!), slowing or stopping down as needed, and baby is getting fed as normal then you should be fine!

Thanks to the men out there who were willing to sift through that in order to get to this tip for everyone:
Be sure to stay hydrated! Lack of hydration is a big factor when it comes to weight loss, the pounds have a hard time dropping off without it! I reposted from a blog last year on how to find out how much water you need each day... the typical "8 glasses" isn't suitable for everyone so make sure you're getting enough... your body will thank you!

My personal goal is to get back down to at least 149 lbs. I don't have a timeframe for this... I just focus on healthy behaviors in eating, exercise and sleep (when I can). Healthy living is a lifestyle and weight loss and maintenance will be a lot easier if you look at it that way now. I don't do anything when I'm losing weigh that I don't do when trying to maintain :-). The 149 lbs is a number that I strive for because in triathlon you can usually race by age group and then there's the Athena's and Clydesdales. To be an Athena you have to weigh 150lbs or more... there are some absolutely amazing athletes in that category, but I don't want to be one. Mentally knowing that I HAVE to compete in my age range against people who haven't had 5 kids (or usually any for that matter), and can spend more time training makes me work harder!

Let me know if you'd like to "weigh-in" next week either physically or metaphorically!

19 December 2011


I've been thinking a lot about children lately.... don't suppose it has anything to do with being surrounded by them everyday? Who knows?! :-).

In the post I wrote yesterday I mentioned how a few of my friends had lost babies in their second trimester that were due the same time as me. It's one of those things that reminds me how fragile life is. When you think about it, the fact that a little human with all the same characteristics and organs etc of an adult can grow from a two tiny cells is AMAZING, and not to be taken for granted. I think it's interesting how trivial people can make this miracle, and how we think that we're so smart in staving off having such a blessing in our lives. Outside of medical/psychological/emotional/spiritual situations where you know you shouldn't have anymore, it's interesting to me to overhear conversations... I think the most interesting being "I think I want my kids to be "x" amount of years apart, yah, that sounds good!" or "I don't want them to close". It's fascinating to me that we think we're that in control of this process! Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on children... mine certainly aren't what they used to be! And when it comes right down to it, you and only you are responsible for your decisions, not me :-). You know what you can and can't handle for whatever reason, so don't get offended by anything I write here. You, your spouse and the Lord are all that matter when it comes to your family and I won't ever judge you for that... just wanted to throw out some things to think about and places to find encouragement if you want it.

I read a post a while ago written by Misfit Cygnet called Faith and Fertility: Mormon Ark Culture and The Choice to Have Children. While I don't always 100% agree with everything that she writes, I do find it enlightening and thought provoking. I'd take a gander through more of her site if you choose to go and read her thoughts on the subject of children. If you agree with what she says then great and if you don't you at least have a chance to think through why you don't and see if that's really the stance you want to take. I love stuff like that!

Another post I read is from Christina at handsfullmom called "Why am I doing this again?". She copied and linked to as story by mother of 10 Janene Baadsgaard... I loved the story and even had my husband read it. At the end of the story Christina has a chart that shows the declining fertility rate of women with age and her feelings about how once she was so sure that she'd have more children because "there was time" and then how lately she'd felt like that time is slipping away. (She's pregnant with her 9th by the way, so excited for them!) Reading Janene Baadsgaard's blog is a joy too!

Another blog I wanted to direct you to is Tristan's at ourbusyhomeschool.blogspot.com. Tristan is pregnant with their 7th baby and found out a little bit into it that he has some complications including spinal bifida. I bring up Tristan because I remember an email sent back and forth with her or a comment that she left on my blog one day that mentioned how she felt she shouldn't be on the TOS Crew this year, even though she'd done it previously and enjoyed it. Then, a little bit later she wrote and said that she figured out why she felt like she shouldn't... she was pregnant again after just having a baby last year! Then they found out about the complications the baby was having, and what a blessing it was that she didn't have one more thing to do. God really is in control and can guide us to what we should and shouldn't do in order to care for His children. Tristan to me is a testimony of that! People always tell me how they could never do what I do, or just shake their heads when it comes to not only the amount of children that we have or that we want more.... but really, God will direct our footsteps if you let Him! Some may be blessed with only a few children or may not be able to have any, but allowing His will to be done will be a blessing regardless of the trials that may attend.

Lastly, here's the link to the Duggar's blog. After the miscarriage of their 20th child, Michelle wrote and recorded a message to her baby girl. Here she expresses her love for her daughter, tells her she was greatly wanted by everyone, that she was a blessing, and that none of the children saw her as competition but loved her dearly. I think it's important to hear these words. All too often children are seen as a burden. Which actually brings up a post that I read this morning: How Not to Look at Children.

Children really are an heritage of the Lord. We read in the book of Moses that God's work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.... how is that possible if we keep denying children in our homes or shooing them away to be taught by other people and rejoice that they're gone for hours on end? Child rearing is far from easy, but they really aren't ours are they? These children are the Lord's and will return back to Him... we're just here to help them on their journey. What an honor! We may not do things that other people think of as normal, but we're happy!! And we have each other and the joy that comes from family. For me, I find joy in "collecting diamonds" and the memories that came from that which I can take with me forever. I wouldn't trade any one of my children for a nicer car, home, or a dream vacation... I am living the best dream that I could ever imagine, and one that I never knew that I wanted!

Again, enjoy what you have, don't take a single breath for granted. Every day is a gift and every child is a blessing! The comments, especially that I receive from those in the church make me sad. Eve gave up her easy life in the Garden of Eden so that we could be here, she was commanded to multiply and replenish the earth.... and we learn from Elder Andersen in Octobers General Conference that this commandment has not been revoked.

Your choices and decisions are between you and the Lord, as are mine. Please be kind to those around you who are following their convictions, and don't make comments or choose actions that make their lives harder then necessary. We each have different callings and abilities, what's right for one isn't right for another. My message here is meant as one of encouragement to those who find it hard to continue to have more children, or just haven't thought about having more than 2 or 3 because "that's the norm." I was given a chance to rethink my stance on children (I never wanted any, and then when I got married we MAYBE wanted 3 or so and even then we were going to wait 5 years), so I wanted to share the gift and lessons that I've learned over the years. Prayer and quiet contemplation is good. :-)

TOS Review - Vintage Remedies for Kids

I recently have been able to have a product called Vintage Remedies for Kids by Jessie Hawkins in my home. This is a book that is full of information and ideas that help parents teach their children about healthy lifestyles (food and habits).

I would recommend this book to anyone that has ever asked me about how we have such good eaters in our home. The beginning chapters introduce the concept of real foods... my children could have written this section :-). Not because it isn't in depth or written at an adult level, but because we discuss why we eat what we do often. I'm pretty particular about what foods get eaten around here, and thus our home (and the grocery store) are constantly giving us a chance to talk about these things as my children see the difference between what we choose and what their friends do/what others buy... my children are walking nutritionists as a result! *laugh* I'd never really meant for that to happen, but they were curious and health is important to their dad and me, so there you have it! I don't discuss what goes on their plates however... I make plates, they eat what's on it or leave the table, and that's the end of that. That's the way it's always been and I have really good eaters as a result because my husband and I are obnoxiously persistent about that. Our kids eat what we do, period! So, should you not have been so "obnoxious" this book gives you ideas about how to get your children to eat new foods and how to transition them to real foods from things they've been used to. i.e. if your child eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, going to one on wheat bread is going to provide completely different texture and the jelly doesn't seep into the bread quite the same. I can definitely see how this would be helpful. And if you're just starting out foods with your children, then this book will give you a solid start in getting your children the proper FUEL for their day :-). Food=Fuel, who knew?! Well, seems like a lot of people don't actually understand that connection or how to get the best source of fuel as opposed to inadequate/cheap stuff! This book will help you sift through that....

The set up of this book gives a section for parents that gives information and the purpose of the chapter, a section to read to your children (or to have them read), as well as additional things to think/talk about/or do, and questions. In addition to teach about food and choices in that direction, the book also contains things like information on bugs, herbs, cleanliness, conservation (i.e. reduce, reuse, recycle). I'm actually going to be using one of the ideas from there without my children... the project is "Old Crayons Become New!" which as you can imagine takes your old/broken crayons and melts them down into new ones. The idea in this book has you use muffin tins so they have fun circle crayons... I'll be making these for Christmas and pairing them with a "coloring book" that I'm making for each of the children from another product that we're reviewing.

So, this book is great for lots of different things! You can definitely use it as a curriculum on health and wellbeing for your child(ren). The target age for this book is 2-6, but could be used for older depending on what you've taught your children thus far about themselves and the world around them. I think the biggest thing older children would have a problem with is "wording." The book is definitely written towards a younger audience, even for the younger audience parents could easily add in proper words, i.e. tummy=stomach or intestines, but I think there's a great balance overall.

Vintage Remedies for kids can be purchased for $25 from the Vintage Remedies website.

To see what other crew members are saying about this product you can go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*

18 December 2011

The Way's Been Long... But I'm Blessed!

I've had a hard time taking the time to come and write here... it's not for lack of things on my mind... perhaps it's been because there has been too much on my mind? I don't know. But, I figure I'd better come and write something and hopefully get a little bit better about writing.

My post title comes from a song that plays in my mind on a daily basis. If you're familiar with the Duggar family then you're probably aware of their friends from Tennessee, the Bates, who have 19 children. I found a video of the Bates singing (well, a few actually) and one in particular made a big impression on me. I LOVE watching this family sing together and the song they sing in one particular video has the lyrics "It's been a long journey but I have been blessed, walking with Jesus I have no regrets, He is so good to me I must confess, the way's been long, but I'm blessed."

My personal blogging tapered off most significantly after an unplanned trip to California at the beginning of October. I knew I'd be taking this trip after a phone call came through on my husband's birthday that a cousin of mine had passed away, I just wasn't aware how quickly it'd happen or how. I had just celebrated another year of life of my sweet husband that I am so blessed to have, only to find out that my cousin (who was only a year older than my husband) was no longer with us on Earth. I did find solace in knowing that he was in a better place, and I could literally see him in my mind being embraced by my grandfather who left us many years ago... but there were still a lot of feelings running through me and thoughts in my mind that still haven't quite settled.

In any case, things turned out wonderfully... my husband was amazing and asked for time to take our little family out to California all together (including his 34 week pregnant wife). He even stayed back at the hotel with all of the children so that I could go to the viewing and funeral. As I walked into the room that my cousin lay there were a lot of different emotions that hit me. It's a pretty sobering experience to be looking at someone you love and who you can remember up and smiling and so full of life, to just seeing a shell. Things were made better by being greeted by ALL of my family members.... my parents and sisters had come in from AZ that morning and my brothers were both there. Being the 7 of us (well 9, plus 2 with my brother-in-laws) was strengthening and uplifting not only to each of us, but it made a big impact on our extended family that we were all there with them. To not only grieve and mourn with them, but to rejoice in life.

I think since then I've reviewed my own mortality quite a bit. What legacy will each one of us leave to those around us? As we walked with family into the chapel after the casket had closed, my heart was full to see that every bench in the chapel was full and that every chair in the extended area had been filled.... the people that had come out on a Thursday morning despite work/school or whatever else they had going on had literally amounted to hundreds of people. Hundreds of lives that had been touched by one man, and that doesn't even count those who couldn't come or who hadn't heard yet. Who are we touching with our lives? What stories and memories will be had of us when we no longer inhabit this body?

We really have no idea what each day holds for us. We have no say as to how long we will be on this earth or what conditions we will live in as we do. Life is such precious gift! As I look at my husband and children it always makes me want to be a better person, but I've tried to increase that resolve as of late. What words will be the last that I say to them? What will they remember me by? My greatest desire is to raise sons that are like unto the Stripling Warriors who have strength and faith in the Lord because of the foundation they were given early in life. And my greatest desire is for my daughter to be like Mary... willing to tell the Lord that His will be done and being worthy of the blessings and trials that He sees fit for her.

I am grateful for life! As the lyrics of this song say: "I've had my share of sunshine and rain, days filled with laughter and nights filled with pain, but with every mile as I travel each day the journey gets sweeter each day."

So, as the kids are yelling, things have been spilled, the house isn't as picked up as we'd like, babies have been up all night (meaning you were up all night) and now you have to be up all day, let's choose joy. The spirits we get to come in contact with each day are so choice and so worth every ounce of our goodness and once that's gone they're worth every minute spent asking God to help buoy us up. Life is precious! We just welcomed our 5th child not too long ago... I have to admit, he had me a little scared along the way. I have 3 friends that were due with babies at the same time who lost theirs into the 2nd trimester, and with out little one's track history of having to endure me having surgery and Nathan being gone I had no idea how this would end. With every pain I was seriously questioning whether he would make it until I was able to hold him in my arms. His name is Zane, it means God is gracious, and that's certainly how I feel!

As you watch this video just think of the words and look into the faces of these wonderful people. Are they perfect? No. But they do have a great perspective on life. While I'm sure my husband will never outright go for having 18 children, and who knows how many more we'll have being one ovary down now, but I look at this family and greatly desire the same. Why? Because raising children is easy of course! Oh, wait, no, that's not it :-). It's because despite the challenges that arise I believe that there are spirits waiting in heaven that need body's and if I can bring them into a home that will teach them that they are children of God and help provide them with the tools they need to return to him then I should. My husband feels this way too... he'd just rather take them one at a time while I'm a big picture kind of gal! In any case, whether this one is our last or if we're blessed with 1 or 2 more I'd be just as happy... God is in control of all that kind of stuff. My job is to enjoy and give thanks for what He's given, improve each day, and learn all that I can so that my children and others can benefit from that knowledge!

Don't take for granted what is given each day. Every breath is a gift, use it wisely and in singing praises to He who gives life.

14 December 2011

TOS Review - Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting iPad App

I can't believe how IN LOVE I've been with the products that I've been sent to review lately. I promise, my only compensation is being given the product to review and I am only asked to give an honest opinion of said product. So, with that disclaimer reiterated....

I LOVE THIS PRODUCT! Why do I love this product? That'd be because 1) There is no objectionable content and is straight forward and because 2) MY DAUGHTER LOVES THIS APP!

No, seriously, she BEGS to "play the letter game." There's no traditional "game" anything about the app, and yet she calls it one!

When you first download Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting App onto the iPad you'll see a colorful icon that says "Letters into Words." After opening the app you'll have the option to get more information about how the program works or to click on "choose a letter." Either way you'll find yourself with the first option of writing letter "u". As most writing programs start with letters that are not set up alphabetically, this one is no different. The "u" sits perfectly onto a curved pattern that the children learn and practice, so it gets to go first. The child is talked through the motions of the pattern and given audio cues as to what is happening (i.e. "down around and, down around and) which I think are great because it gives the child something to think about and visualize as they're later recreating the letters on paper.

One of my favorite features about this program is that as the child "starts at the hole in the letter" and traces the pattern on the screen, whatever they're writing changes color as they follow the right way and makes a little ping sound and makes a "sparkle" when they finish. Perhaps that's what makes it a game for my daughter? I don't know! But I do know that she loves it and has a gigantic smile on her face at the end! Something about that sound and sparkle makes her all kinds of giddy.

This app can be purchased from the apple store for $2.99 (which is also AWESOME).

To see what other crew members are saying about this product you can go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*

06 December 2011

TOS Review - Artistic Pursuits

It's no secret... my artistic ability, and understanding of it in general, is not that great (yes, I'm the one who looks at things and says "I don't get it"). How does that play in when you have children? Well, I'll tell yah.... it's probably not the best when you look at something your child draws (because they love to draw ALL THE TIME), and cock your head to the side and ask what it is... then hear, try to figure out where they got that from... then say "oh, okay" as enthusiastically as possible (which is lacking), and then wonder where in the world you're going to put yet another drawn on piece of paper or wonder how long until you can throw it away. Yes, it's a hard knock life in the art department here at the Jorgensen household! Mom just doesn't appreciate it, but I'M TRYING!!!!!!

Anyway, my confession (not that you probably hadn't already gathered what it was from reading other posts) is to illustrate how deficient I am in the art department and how crucial getting a copy of Artistic Pursuits: The Way They See It was for me. I knew I needed some help (okay, a lot), in this area, so I was excited to be able to use this product (and I'm sure my children's response could be described as nothing less than ecstatic!)

This version of Artistic Pursuits product is focused on children preschool aged or more specifically for 3, 4, and 5 year olds... and really, that's where EVERYONE is in our home thanks to mom's stellar ability as mentioned above.... To start with, reading through the first few pages gave me a perspective on children's art that I've needed. I learned that for children creating art is a process in which they enjoy, it isn't about a finished product. There's a scenario illustrated in the beginning about a child who made a great project for grandma, he and his mother worked on it for hours, and by the time they reached grandma's the child had completely disassembled the whole thing. His mother thought over the time now wasted and obviously thought the project was now ruined. The child's point of view? Well, once at grandma's he asked for some supplies and had repurposed the project into a new creation that he had been planning out in the car. Surely you and I have never had those moments?!

Anyway, I was able to let go a bit after reading that story. I do try and throw out craft items to the children and just let them create whatever. I don't really care what the end result is, but I do get caught up in the mess and of course storage. It's important to remember how much children learn by creating things, and it really is impressive what the children come up with. What I appreciate about Artistic Pursuits is it's ability to speak to an academic like myself while tying in the creativity of my children and expanding their scope and vision of what is possible.

There are several great color photo's of great paintings in the book and a dialogue across the bottom to engage your children into the art. Admittedly, there is one of a mermaid that I don't like (while you can't "see anything" she's not modest :-D), you can always rip that page out if it's offensive to you... the pages are thick and printed on only one side into a spiral bound book. Other than the one photo the rest are great and factor well into what you're trying to get the child to consider (the difference between real and fake, use of color, different mediums etc), I happen to be a sucker for Monet's and there's quite a few in the book (yes, I don't get most art, but Monet is pretty straight forward for me... what can I say?)

I think we'll be buying additional materials from Artistic Pursuits, I live with a lot of artists! I love that they can explore different things (crayons, markers, paint, dough), and I get an explanation of what they're thinking/how they perceive things in a non-consumable book (also a bonus for me). It's almost like I have a page in front of me that says "it's good that they're doing this, it means that they are learning "x"". It's a lot more fun too that I get to have a part in the learning/growth and can appreciate the innate exploration/creativity of my children. So, definitely a win for me! I wish I would have bought this book earlier... I had heard it touted as a great resource for art but wasn't really up for paying the price for it... well, I missed out! I'm excited to share more time with my children on these endeavors and I'm glad that I've gotten the chance to let you know that it really is worth it! I like that this book changes things up around here too... it's a great way to enjoy our "Christmas break" as we get ready for the school year to start again in January and a nice way to shake things up in general. I think Artistic Pursuits will be making my bag of "school items" getting on the plane with us shortly.

You can buy Aritistic Pursuits (and their books for older children) for $42.95 by going here.

You're more than welcome to see what other crew members are saying by going here. I know many were able to get pictures of their children creating the art as well as samples of what they created.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*

28 November 2011

TOS Review - The Reading Game

Who jumped up and down and said "pick me! pick me!" when it came to a product known as The Reading Game? That would be this mom! The name in and of itself had me because it describes my philosophy of learning perfectly, it should be fun! So, if we're going to learn reading AND make it a game.... I'm sold.

I received a package from the company containing my copy of The Reading Game and was pretty impressed to find a sturdy blue box that held 6 different colored illustrated story books (that are a pretty good size), and matching decks of cards that accompany each book placed in wells within the box (so no cards sliding around, they all sit organized where they should!). Everything is very glossy and I love the bright colors, it really helps when you're working with children, especially ones that get distracted easily :-).

I didn't really know what to expect as far as game play. In my mind I had envisioned more of like a Candy Land sort of board game, but, like I mentioned, there were just cards and the books in the box. After reading the parent/teacher instructions I realized that it's more of a (hopefully) high speed game of memory to be repeated 10 cards (or 5 matching pairs of words) at a time.

The first set of cards/book are red and tell a story about a Skunk (all of the books are about animals... I'm fairly certain every child will enjoy that aspect of things). My daughter and I laid out the first set of cards for the color (there are 4 sets for each color and all are labeled on the back of which set they belong to... which is great because I thought I'd have to have the word list from the book and find the cards for each grouping), and we began to play. Every time a card got flipped over we would say what was on the card and eventually she did start catching on and not having to sound out each word every time. We did a review on that set, so after she showed me that she knew the words we got to move on to the second set of cards (that she was really chewing at the bit to get to). After completing all 4 sets of cards for the book the child then knows 30 words by sight and can read the book that the cards correlate with....

... We haven't gotten that far yet, however. While my daughter enjoys playing the game, having to master a set of cards before moving on is hard for her. She really wants to see those new cards! I don't know, repeated games of memory for me can get a bit monotonous, so I wish there was some variation with the games... don't ask me what that would be, I haven't a clue, but we can only handle memory so long, especially when she's having trouble with words. On the flip side, my son can play these quickly and easily, master the words and read through the books no problems. So, perhaps the word is if you have a younger child or one with learning disabilities to not expect to fly through this one?? It doesn't bother me any. My daughter still loves to pull out The Reading Game and enjoys the time she spends playing with it. I know she'll get it all mastered and be able to retain these words, it's just a slow (but fun) go in the meantime. I've recently had her start playing with her older brother (who knows all the words) and the two of them have had a lot of fun playing together. I think it's really good that she can see him as a mentor and not have the "we're having a reading lesson now" feeling that often comes with sitting down with a parent.

To learn more about how the game works you can go here. After completing all of the games/books in the box your child will know 180 words (30 new words in each book), 23 coming from the 25 most commonly used English words and 42 from the 50 most commonly used words. There are also assessments that can be used with The Reading Game and the program meets criteria of the Common Core State Standards (which I don't really care about personally, but would appreciate if I had a picky state or needed an extra something for a portfolio, ammo for family/friends, or as a rubric for how my child was learning.)

I would recommend The Reading Game as a supplement to whatever program you are currently using. I like that the words that are being used are being learned for a specific purpose i.e. so that your child can read an entire book, as opposed to just rote memory/flash cards of words just because.

You can buy The Reading Game for $24.95 from The Reading Game Website.

To read what other crew members have said about The Reading Game feel free to go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*

16 November 2011

TOS Review: Time Timer for iPad

I have had the chance to work with the Time Timer on my iPad over the last little bit... and it leaves me kind of torn. I was excited to get this product as I've been hoping to get a little more time management in (all I really want to do these days is sleep, so I was trying to get something to motivate me a bit more to give proper time to different activities beyond "mommy needs to lay down a minute."). Anyway! I ended up on the list for the iPad Time Timer so instead of a physical device that I could carry around and put places I ended up having a neat product on my iPad that unfortunately didn't get patronized a whole lot because it's not as practical to set up around the house when you have a plethora of small children.

I LOVE the concept of this product, especially for special needs or young children. The program allows you to set up to 4 timers at a time and you can make them different colors, have different display faces, and have them make different sounds to signal that time is up (my favorite is the applause sound... who needs a startling beep to tell you time is up when you can have people clapping for a job well done?) The timers are super simple to set, and they continue running even when you're trying to leave an application... however, that doesn't really help the whole concept that you're using this tool to give your child a visual on how much time is left. I think that was a problem for us as well. We use the iPad for other functions throughout the day, and so having it just sit with a child(ren) during their activity wasn't terribly practical for us. The other problem is that if you are not in the application as the timer is running that it will not notify you when the time is over. However, again, one of the perks to this product is being able to see the time that is being used, so if you're not in the app then it kind of defeats the purpose anyway.

I can see this product being of better us if you are not using other applications on you iPad device during the day, if your homeschool day consists mostly of being in one location or in locations that allow you to prop up the device so your child(ren) can see the timer (the little cover stand on mine wasn't doing it for us), and/or if your children are older.

The Time Timer for iPad can be purchased through the App store for $1.99.

To see what other crew members are saying about the Time Timer (both for the iPad and for a stand alone device), feel free to go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.*

14 November 2011

TOS Review - Keyboard Town Pals

I've been using Keyboard Town Pals with my oldest son in hopes of him learning to type, and he has.... he'd probably do infinitely better if his mother let him on the computer more, but what can you do? Maybe this week I'll loosen up enough to give him more time. It's ironic that we want him to learn to type, and yet the computer is often off limits to him! Ha!

Well, minus our quirks, Keyboard Town Pals really is a great product. I've kind of dragged my feet with it a bit for some reasons, but overall I enjoy the concept of their learning philosophy and that's what I have to gush about today! To get a complete overview of the program via their words you can look at the instruction page found here.

As for my break down, Keyboard Town Pals ranks as a great product because it allows children to learn naturally and in a fun environment. After signing into the website children are greeted by a sunshine puppet who introduces them to different friends around the keyboard. We have our friends in "home row" (where children will rest their fingers) and those friends go "uptown"
and "downtown." On the screen children see a large qwerty keyboard, just like they're typing on below, and then each door opens with a new puppet that talks to the child about who they are, the things they like, and then that puppet tells them about the friends above and below them.

What makes this program unique is that it isn't based on errors. They've deactivated the delete and backspace buttons so that your children aren't paranoid of making mistakes and so that they don't have to take their hands off of the home row keys to "fix" something. I have to admit, that concept at first was a little odd to me, but I've since seen not only the utility in it, but how AWESOME that is for children who have a hard time making mistakes (like my daughter). If you have a special needs child chances are you've played with enough programs that have a clear cut pass/fail, more points if you do well, docking points if you make mistakes, that you give a big sigh of relief when something comes along that lets your child just learn without pressure. Anyway! That's what finally clicked with me. While my son enjoys this program and has certainly learned from it, I think my daughter would absolutely excel at typing because of this presentation.

I know, I'm kind of funny, but the other thing that I thought was nice is that the typing box the children make their entries into allow you to change the background color and text color. That's certainly a lot more fun then a blank white box and black text! Not to mention that it's sometimes easier for children with dyslexia because the colors are more soothing (this information comes from the website, but it's something I've observed over the last few years as well).

The lessons are broken down into a 30 minute lesson for each hand, meant to be completed on consecutive days, or for those with short attention spans each finger lessons run about 7 minutes. So, not a huge time commitment, and the things that they say about the letters and their positions, complete with the puppets, helps the information stick for all types of learners. Allowing your child to learn in a situation that eases anxiety is a winner on all sides. One of the things that I've noticed in my years of homeschooling is that children often do not care to engage in activities that cause them to feel inadequate. This program doesn't require timed tests, correction of mistakes (children figure out that they pushed the wrong button and self-correct without reprimand), and they don't spend a bunch of time just drilling (you know me, rote memorization isn't high on my list to begin with because I don't find it very effective in the long run.... which makes me laugh all the more when I think of my initial hesitation to their product.)

Anyway, the CD Rom can be purchased for $35 and can be bought here. It works on both Mac and PC (we have a Mac, so I felt that extra important to share :-D), and is a single license program. I'm still trying to figure out if that means that legally I can register it under my family and use it for all of my children as they go through this stage of learning how to type, or if that's no okay. I don't know, seems to me like could, but I'll have to get back to you on that!

To see what other crew members are saying about this product feel free to follow this link here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**

08 November 2011

TOS Review - Bower Books

So.... what I'm supposed to be reviewing is a book called The Person I Marry that I got via e-book form from Bower Books, but what I'm REALLY reviewing is the hardcover that I bought IMMEDIATELY after reading the e-book because I just had to have it! Yes, praise does follow here and in great supply!

The Person I Marry was written by Gary Bower in a rhyming type fashion, and then it was illustrated with the most amazing pictures by his wife Jan Bower. The sub-title to this story is "Things I'll Think About Before (and After) Saying 'I Do.'" How awesome is that? Anyway, this book also was votes the 2010 Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year.... and I'll tell you why!! Or better yet, I'll show you :-D.

The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

I love that this is a book that focuses on what really matters in a marriage. My husband and I are kind of funny people. We met over an internet site for those of our faith and we became really good friends (I was dating someone and he was dating on and off... we were in two different countries too). Anyway, we had a while to cultivate a friendship and when it came right down to it we realized that we really clicked with one another! Because we didn't have physical contact/looks etc. to deal with as we got to know each other, I feel really blessed because we realized what was really real. (Not to say that those who meet in a traditional way can't). What I'm trying to say is that we just enjoyed talking to each other, we felt like we really knew each other, and we didn't care about all the hubbub of a wedding, we just knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with one another. No fancy rings, and we did very little otherwise... just some small get togethers to appease family, but we got married in a Latter-day Saint temple, so we knew the "venue" and most important part of our marriage was free and that we had a whole life to plan for and so we didn't really care about "wedding" things, we cared about the "marriage" and wanted to focus on that.

Anyway, I felt like the Bower's book took 31 pages of beautiful illustrations and lovely verse and created a story in which children can get wrapped up and enjoy while being reminded of what matters most. There is so much negative attention in this world given to marriage, and we really think that a bulk of that has to do with the far that people don't know what real marriage is! It isn't just a thing you do, meet someone who's good looking and hope it works... it's something far grander, part of our Heavenly Father's plan, and requires people that are willing to work for strong virtues/values and share that with each other. My children love reading this book and especially enjoy flipping through the pages. I just love that there's another source that they enjoy spending time with that reinforces our values and what their dad and I find to be the most important aspects when finding the person you want to marry.

The only blurb in this book that I disagree with is that marriage only last from death to you part. In my religion we believe that families are forever and that the marriage bond is one that lasts into the eternities if made in the temple. So, that's my only disclaimer, but it obviously didn't deter me one bit from picking this book up! I couldn't handle not having a physical copy of it in my hands. I was so enamored by the illustrations that I literally bought one that day. I also wanted another one in the series after watching various videos of the Bower's that you can find on their website, but it wasn't available yet. Gary personally emailed me in regards to the book I wanted and was very personable and definitely someone that I'd love to buy from again.

Not only would you be getting a fabulous book from this company for a steal of a price at $11.99 that would be encouraging to your children, but you'd also be supporting a great family! My children LOVED watching video's about the Bower Family

To see what other crew members are saying about this product you can visit the homeschool crew blog here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**

04 November 2011

TOS Review - Ooka Island

K... HOLD YOUR BREATH... you're going to be absolutely shocked with this one!

I have been told to look for computer based programs that would help my daughter with her learning... and I've been okay with that... Whatever helps things make sense to her is worth a gander in my opinion! However, as you've no doubt read in the past, the programs that I have come in contact with have come up pretty short for me. Because of this I have had ZERO interest in messing around with anymore and when Ooka Island came up I was crossing my fingers and toes that I wouldn't have to do anything with it! Lucky for me Heavenly Father knows me better than myself and made sure I made the review list for it... even though I made it very known that I didn't want it AT ALL!!

Well, guess what? OOKA ISLAND IS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!! Not only have I been incredibly impressed with the program, my husband has too, my daughter has learned A TON, and my little boys sit next to her and have been picking up reading and phonics skills just by being there. We WILL be buying this program once our current subscription is over and we will absolutely have accounts for all the little guys.

Back to the beginning.... I was picked for this review, so once I got the link to get the program I went ahead and downloaded it to my desktop (it was a pretty big file, probably took 45 mins to and hour to download completely). After it was installed I had Nathan open it up and try out the first thing that came up, which was following 'Zobot' through a mountain cave and listening for the right sound... which when you hear it you click and a bar blocking your way gets lifted. We were both pretty impressed and could see how this would be nice for our daughter to play with... and we could see it as a good way to increase her skills with a mouse as well.

The following day I had my daughter sit at the computer and she just took off! The instructions are easy for her to understand as she's guided through a 20 minute lesson and then about a 10 minute playtime where they earn books. While there is a place that you can go and "buy" things during free time, I like that it isn't really pushed in this game. Instead, my daughter just follows the lesson, reads books and answers questions about them, and chooses additional "games" she wants to play. All the while she's seeing letters and connecting them with their sounds, building her ability to see and put the alphabet in order, and putting together simple words. I LOVE THIS PRODUCT. The difference in my daughters abilities as far as written language is concerned has increased significantly! Not only does she love to sit and work on this program but she's actually GETTING IT. And like I mentioned, her little brothers are sitting and making sounds/reading letters right next to her. It's amazing! Nathan thinks that they'll start reading even before our oldest because of all the exposure that they're getting.

The graphics on this program are also really well done and in 3D! Ooka Island is done up in beautiful bold colors (which probably also add to my daughters ability to focus on what's happening), and the people/robots/etc. are fun to look at. I also really like the voices and sounds that are used in this program.

Pricing can be found here. Or you can look at this table here:

For us to have access for all our other children learning to read it's only $30 more for an entire year, love that! We put another copy of the program onto our laptop so that during our upcoming move the children (minus the oldest) can "work" on their reading/phonics during the time that we don't have access to our other curriculums. And that's fine by me! If this is all they do as well as have time to sit and listen to a chapter book, I'd say the next few months will be an absolute success!

Right now you can also get an additional 30% off of a monthly subscription if you'd like to give Ooka Island a try:

To find out what other crew members are saying about Ooka Island you can go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**

TOS Review - Memoria Press

I'm a pretty open minded person when it comes to the curriculums that we use in our home. While there are some that I absolutely LOVE and recommend to everyone and their dog who asks me about what we use... some of those products have not been as effective for my 5 year old daughter. I've mentioned before that my son can pick up anything and in any method, and while I've always tried to go for fun and/or hands-on methods anyway, I've noticed that some of the products I have aren't as effective for my dyslexic "ADD" daughter.

Anyway! In regards to that I'm constantly on the look out for what will make the most sense to her and what she'll enjoy the most... so I BEGGED for the Memoria Press First Start Reading and Classical Phonics program by Cheryl Lowe. The result? I'm so glad that I've been able to have it in my home!

The box that I received wasn't like anything I'd expected. Expertly packed was a good sized/heavy box that contained 3 First Start Reading- Phonics, Reading, & Printing books (Book A, B and C), Classical Phonics- A Child's Guide to Word Mastery, and a HUGE Teacher Guide for the First Start Reading program. I was pretty blown away by it all and then started flipping through the pages. I was already running numbers with my husband about using these books for all of the children before I had a chance to get home and actually use them!

What makes this program appealing to me is that the Teacher's Guide is very thorough... I mean, the book actually includes a little inlay of each page in the Student's books and prompts all of the discussion for teaching the pages. I don't know about you, but teaching my children reading and phonics has been quite the new experience. I've learned more about how different letters and words work over the last couple years then I ever knew before! I'm just good at memorizing things, they stick easy, never really had to think about anything past that. However, the way that this system teaches allows the child to learn blending without having to learn a lot of phonics rules! It helps my son decode whatever he comes in contact with, and it's a beautiful thing! Anyway, my ramblings are just to say that I appreciate having phonics and reading helps all in one book.

So, speaking of using one book, each student book covers Phonics, Reading, and Printing. Not only does it cover printing, but it offers more room to practice writing then I've had access to in previous writing programs. Additionally, the letters that they are printing follow a pattern that helps the child blend together words easily (which is great for a child that needs a purpose i.e. my daughter always says "I want to read" but just throwing out random letters for her to practice writing can be frustrating. Here she focuses in on a letter and then is able to blend it with others she recently practiced to make words. The illustrations are also nice and big... she loves that! You can see what I'm talking about here. Being able to color in several pictures that start with the letter she's on is fulfilling for her also. I've seen quite the change in her as we've used this product and another (to be posted on later). The First Start Reading Books also provide sentences to write and give the child access to making connections with the alphabet letters and words. Here is a sample for Book B also.

The other product that came in my box was for Classical Phonics. The book itself is not intended to be used alone as a complete language program, but works well with the addition of the First Start Reading program.
Here is a link to a sample of the Phonics book. You can see from these that the child has several words lists that are encountered throughout the book, as well as more great pictures which act as a means of helping your child see the connection between consonant sounds and how they fit with short vowel sounds. There's a few pages in the back dedicated to helping you understand the method being used so that you can fluidly teach your child everything that they need to understand about how words come together.

Due to the consumable nature of the books it's important for me that it's cost effective because that means I'm going to have to re-buy it at least 4 more times (possibly more). After thinking about other items that I've bought in the past and how I've used different things in conjunction that is taken care of all in one in these books, this really is a cost effective method. The first time you buy (if you'd like the Teacher's Manual... which believe me, you do), the total is $29.95. Subsequently, just getting a Student set (Books A, B, and C) are $21.00 and the Classical Phonics book available is for $14.95. All can be bought through the Memoria Press website.

I highly recommend this program. If you've tried everything else, or use a combination of product, I think you'll enjoy the completeness of this program. My daughter actually looks forward to these "lessons" and being able to work on things like her big brother. I love it!

If you'd like to read what other crew members are saying about this product feel free to go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**

31 October 2011

TOS Review - Lots and Lots of Fire Safety Songs DVD and Fire Truck Book Combo

I recently had the chance to get my hands on a few products from Marshall Publishing. Apparently the company/products is big in the "As Seen on TV" world, but as we don't watch tv I hadn't ever heard of them before. Much to my surprise I ended up getting a copy of Lots and Lots of Fire Safety Songs DVD and Fire Truck Book Combo, and there was much rejoicing around the Jorgensen home!

While we don't let our children have much screen time with any sort of media, I'm pretty sure they'd watch this one over and over if we let them (don't think they haven't asked!)

The package that I received had a full color, 128 page, large book all about fire fighters.... my children saw this an immediately started flipping through it and did so consistently for the first week or two that we had these products. While they mostly just enjoyed the pictures (they're 20 months through 6), putting on the DVD was HUGE. They don't actually go around singing the songs from the film, which is odd because they normally pick up EVERYTHING and repeat it until we're all sick of hearing it, but after the first (and subsequent) viewing(s) I was instead caught up in conversations with my children over what you should do if a fire happened etc. I was pretty impressed. My 3 year old with no real pervious "fire education" that he can recall, was telling me all about 911, and staying low to the ground, and ALL of the children were telling me about proper procedures and how to stay safe.

I also liked that they filmed in a fire station and showed the different things that one would see on a trip to the fire house. Last year we had the opportunity to go on an outing with the other wives and children of our squadron and I thought it was wonderful! I hadn't before thought about how children would react to a firefighter coming through their home in an emergency.... they can actually look like big suited monsters instead of someone their to rescue you! Anyway, my children all put on the gear, got comfortable hearing the noises that the air tanks make, and saw what a firefighter coming to rescue them would look like. Watching this DVD sent all those thoughts rushing back into my children's heads "Mom, we've worn that stuff!" "Mom, we got to see a firefighter dressed up like that!" and I'm very grateful that they had reminders should anything ever happen. I really don't know what older children would think of this DVD/Book combo, but it certainly made the cut of things that will be moving with us in Jan!

Lots and Lots of Fire Safety Songs DVD and book combo is normally $49.90, but their web sale price is only $29.95..... unless of course you're reading a TOS Review and end up getting a special code that allows you to get an even bigger discount :-). Enter TOSF1 at the checkout to purchase both items for only $19.95!

Additionally, I was sent a DVD on George Washington Carver. I have to admit, this made me more giddy then firetrucks. I know, weird? Anyway! My children walked in and out of the room several times during this one, but my 5 year old daughter mostly stayed
put. I would say it's for an older group, but my children get the pleasure of having parents that like documentaries, so they've seen their fair share. Hey! There's always something that sticks with them, and if they're going to watch a show it might as well add to who they are as a person :-). So, while this one may not be an attention holder for most younger aged kids, I'm excited to use it again in the future as it's well done and includes a lot of information that I didn't even know!

I would definitely go and take a look at the Marshall Publishing website to see if any of their educational DVD's would be the much awaited resource/supplement that you've been looking for to shake things up in your family's studies!

To see what other crew members are saying about Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks, feel free to go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**

26 October 2011

TOS Review - Wits and Wagers

Wits and Wagers by Northstar Games is a trivia based game that is fun for the whole family. The recommended age for this game is 8 and older and in our opinion…. that’s pretty spot on. We still played with our children (6 and under) and they LOVED playing, but Nathan and I had to sway their answers a few times. We'll definitely be playing this one again though!

The box and all of the pieces are very well constructed, which is HUGE for us. We like a game that can last and this is certainly one…. And thus my love affair began. Inside you’ll find 6 small boards to write your answers on 6 quality black dry-erase pens, 10 meeples (5 large and 5 small people shaped tokens) 150 trivia cards (with 2 questions on each for a total of 300 questions), and a scoreboard. All of the boards are nice and thick and the cards with the trivia information are great quality, not flimsy at all.

The learning process for this game takes just minutes and the actual play time is about 20-30 minutes. For our family we split into teams and let the smaller children place the answer cards, meeples, and hand the trivia cards back and forth between mom and dad.

The actual game play starts when the youngest child gets a card from the box and reads the top question. Then everyone (or each team) writes their answer to the question on their answer board. I find this game a lot of fun and easy because all of the answers require only a number and then everyone lays out their cards in numerical order. From here you can place your meeple(s) on ANYONE'S card... which is awesome! If you think that someone else had a better answer then you can put your piece on their answer instead! Woohoo! (Nathan is often better at guestimating things so I kind of rely on him for that kind of stuff!) Whoever guesses closest to the correct number without going over gets points for that round.... large meeples are worth 2 points and small meeples are worth 1, so if you put all of your meeples on one card and that card was the closest then you'd have 3 point for that round. It is possible to split your meeples if you think two answers may be correct.

Do I have any criticisms of this game? Not really. It'll be a happy addition to our collection.... some of the cards make me laugh because our kids have NO CLUE what they're talking about. For instance? For children that have never had fruit loops or know what they look like it's pretty difficult to guess how many colors come in one box :-D. Yes, that's a parental issue *laugh* We explained to the kids on our team what they are and talked them through guessing, kind of funny! The other question that made me laugh was how many Disney Princesses there are. Yah, not really common knowledge around here, but still fun.

What I do really, really like is that there's a little blurb on the back of each card that gives a little extra trivia in addition to having the numerical answer to the question. I actually learned quite a bit and am excited to play again. Oh! The other thing that I thought was really nice is that when you open the box of trivia cards there's a little place holder card of sorts. You put that card to the back of the box and go through playing the game until all of the top questions of the cards have been read and then once you get to the place holder card you know to go through the deck again but reading the bottom question.... thus no duplicate questions for 300 questions worth of play! Clever, clever.

Wits and Wagers Family can be found online and from national retailers. I can see this being a fun family gift for Christmas.... we like to just hang out and spend the day together, Christmas is pretty low key, so having a new game around is always fun!

If you'd like to read what other crew members are saying about Wits and Wagers Family please feel free to check them out here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**

23 September 2011

TOS Review: AIMS Primarily Magnets

K, so first the story.... as you can well gather, my brain doesn't come up with creative stuff very easily, and art/science stuff (while I think it's fun and so good for my kids) is just not something that I do all that well. SO! When I saw AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science), my heart skipped a beat. Yes, I'm funny like that. However, you have to understand that due to my above handicaps I literally crave some way to have these things make sense to me and thus make it a great experience teaching and showing my children concepts that have alluded me.

The very first of the book includes a Chinese Proverb that means A LOT to our homeschool:

"I Hear and I Forget,
I See and I Remember,
I Do and I Understand."

While I don't necessarily believe that you forget everything you hear, I'm sure you understand the bigger picture of what's being said here. By doing we make connections and learn more than by passively standing back. Involvement makes a big difference!

Anyway, the item that I've had the privilege to review is a manual called "Primarily Magnets." Primarily Magnets is for Grades K-2, is a complete manual for teaching about Magnets/Magnetism, and even comes with a cd that has all of their worksheets in pdf form! (Okay, yes, I'm a little giddy with this last bit. Seriously, it's awesome that I don't have copy individual pages from the book and that I have the option to duplex pages when going straight from my computer, LOVE IT!) The book retails for $18.95, and you can find it to purchase here.

My kids are C R A Z Y for magnets. I picked up a set of magnets at a local book store last year and the kids have huge grins and literally jump every time I get them down. Pulling them out for our lessons on magnets were nonetheless met with much excitement. If you heard screaming and yelling over the last month and couldn't figure out the origins then you were probably hearing them! Needless to say, they enjoyed these lessons and they have learned so much about why magnets work they do (and so have I!) The book starts with an overview of magnets and historical background before even getting to the first concept.

Each of the 19 lessons include many different sections that show a break down of the information being taught beautifully. I wish their preview page was working so that you could see how detailed they are. Yes, even I can teach it! I'll give you an idea of how the first lesson breaks out:



Key Questions
To what will a magnet stick?

Learning Goals
Students will:
-test everyday objects to determine if they are or are not attracted to a magnet,
-sort and graph objects based on whether or not they are magnetic, and
-draw conclusions about what magnetic materials have in common.

Guiding Documents
Project 2061 Benchmarks
-Without touching them, a magnet pulls on all things made of iron and either pushes or pulls on other magnets.
-Keep records of their investigations and observations.

NRC Standards

-Plan and conduct a simple investigation.
-Magnets attract and repel each other and certain kinds of other materials.


Physical science

Integrated Processes

Comparing and contrasting

And then from there we get a list of needed materials, background information on magnets relative to the experiment, a "management" section that gives more information on what is needed and where to find it, a procedure section that tells us each step that we're going to take, and finally a section called Connecting Learning that gives questions to help us to figure out what we saw and how it works. For the first lesson this is all literally on the front and back of one piece of paper. It's amazing!

The way I see it is that, especially for those who have to keep detailed records, that this format makes it VERY simple to pinpoint what you're working on in science (and did you see the math worked in there too?!?). Anyway, from my point of view everything is laid out so it's simple to read a lesson and then go about relating that information to my children... which makes me happy!

I know you'll be shocked, but when I asked my children what they thought of our magnet lessons and what I should write about them great bursts of "we loved it!" "they're so fun!" and the like came through. I know, shocking. A couple even asked if we were going to do more RIGHT NOW. *laugh* I certainly can't beat that! I look forward to adding more AIMS products to our collection. And should you not have a set of magnets laying around, all of the items necessary for the experiments can be picked up from AIMS Labs, Kits, & Components section.

If you'd like to see what other crew members are saying about this product feel free to go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**

20 September 2011

TOS Review - Before Five In A Row

I'm REALLY excited to bring this product to your attention. How I got this review was seriously one of those situations where Heavenly Father knew I needed this and things just fell into place. I hadn't gotten on the computer the weekend that my husband got home from his last assignment, and when I finally did I realized that I'd missed like 3 different opportunities for products, this being one. I had NO idea at the time what Before Five in A Row was, but after reading the form I couldn't help but get caught up in the need for people with children ages 2-4. HELLO??? I have an almost 2 year old, a 3 year old, a 4 year old and a 5 year old who loves to do everything his siblings do! I felt like such a schmuck for not being able to put out there that I was available... I'd say we fit the bill pretty well. Anyway! I contacted the coordinator, apologized for being a space cadet and told her that I could absolutely do this review if I was needed.

Well... then I went and saw the product AFTER putting out the notification that I was available and it was then I knew that I NEEDED this program and was desperately hoping that I hadn't blown the chance to get it. Yah, after being chosen for this review I had to write the coordinator and thank her up and down for the opportunity to have this!

SO! Without further ado, what is Before Five in A Row?? Before Five in A Row is a wonderful program written by Jane Claire Lambert that is targeted at children ages 2-4 to help expose them to literature and learning in a very fluid and fun way. After receiving my book/manual from the company I went to work collecting books from the library... most of which I'd never heard of, and took them home to my children who LOVE them, and we've since checked them out several times. Why this "program" works so well for us and fits perfectly into what I need to do for my younger children is because as a family we lean towards this kind of learning. We feel like literature and hands-on learning/experiencing the world around you is the best way to take in information and have it truly become a part of you.

The Before Five in A Row book is broken into two different parts. The first part helps a child develop "learning-readiness skills" by incorporating simple activities that play off of the books. The second part consists of specific activities to do with your child(ren) to make the most of your time with them. For both of these reason is why I needed this book... I'm not all that great when it comes to thinking up ways to make readings come alive for the little ones. This book gave me the added kick that I needed to pursue activities and additional learning around what we were reading AND add in fun in coordination activities, as well as ideas to make the most of bath time, and time in the kitchen. My main issue is that I'm not terribly inventive when it comes to hands-on learning opportunities. It wouldn't actually occur to me that after reading Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?, by N.W. Carlstrom that my children would enjoy mix and matching clothes on a cardboard "Jesse Bear' that I would cut out. Nor did I think to collect a couple books from the library on shells and rocks so that my children could enjoy looking at different variations that happen in the world naturally. We also took the opportunity to discuss all the ways that Jesse Bears parents showed love for him throughout the book. How fun and awesome is that? For each book suggested (there's 24 in all) there are A BUNCH of different ideas that you can use to help enrich your experience. Ideas fall under the categories of language arts, science, numbers, patterns, colors, art, music, emotions, nature, food, loving relationships, character, safety, and animals... just to name a few. There's no need to use every book suggestion in Before Five in A Row, nor is there anything that makes you start the book and work through it from beginning to end. I especially like this flexibility because I didn't have ANY of the books used in the program and had to go off of whatever was available at my library. I've also noticed that some of the titles are not in print anymore, so you may have trouble finding those in general. Anyway! That aside there are still a lot of titles that are available and add to that additional book suggestions that are IN the different suggested activities throughout the Before Five In A Row book.

Do I have anything negative to say about this program? NOPE! Not a word. The description Before Five In A Row says "It isn't a curriculum. Neither is it an aggressive, academic training regimen designed to turn you pre-schooler into a scholastic super-achiever. It is a rich treasury of creative ideas designed to help you gently, consistently prepare your children for the life-long adventure of learning." I couldn't agree more, and it was exactly what I was looking for! We needed this to add some structure to the time that was spent with our younger children without adding in a "curriculum".

Before Five in a Row can be purchased here for $35. There are also MANY other products available through the company that look lovely, including Five in a Row,Beyond Five in a Row and Above and Beyond Five in A Row, that are geared towards older children! I'm going to have to look into those!

If you'd like to see what other crew members are saying about this product feel free to go here.

*As a member of the 2011 TOS Homeschool Crew I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review of its content. I have not received any other compensation for the opinions stated here, and they were not promised a positive review.**