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

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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.**