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!

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.**

16 September 2011

TOS Review - Big IQ Kids

Big IQ Kids is a web based program that focuses specifically on Spelling and vocabulary, math, and geography. The first time Nathan saw it he mentioned that he could see how this could be useful for our children. Obviously it's not a whole curriculum seeing as who it doesn't cover every subject, but it does provide a good supplement for the subjects it does cover.

This program can be used with children from Kindergarten and even up through adults. Their website professes being useful for K-99 :-). I can appreciate that! They've added spelling and vocabulary list that cover SAT words, so I'm sure older children will find this program useful and a nice break from rote memory.

I think what I really like about this program is that it has both a free and premium option. The difference is laid out here directly from their website:
"Our older spelling+vocabulary program is ALL FREE. Our math, spelling junior, states programs come with a FREE and PREMIUM version. The primary differences between the BigIQkids FREE and PREMIUM programs are the ability of the PREMIUM program to monitor the progress of the student and advance that student only when mastery of the subject matter has been achieved. Additionally, PREMIUM members have their progress tracked, saved, problem areas identified and these findings are reported via email to parents and/or teachers. The PREMIUM program offers students customized buddies, full game page access and the ability to save game coins and gaming high scores. These functions help double the fun while mastering core academic subject matter. The PREMIUM program has very LIMITED advertisement an no ads are displayed during lesson interaction."

So, even if you aren't able to afford the premium version, you child can still enjoy the lessons that BigIQ Kids has to offer. As long as we're talking money, premium programs start at $7.99 a month and a detailed version of their pricing per program and can be found here. (Yearly memberships make the monthly amount cheaper). You'll notice if you go to the website that the way the pricing is set up you can pick and choose what programs you're interested in and only pay for that. Which is great for me because....

I didn't like the math program :-). I know, I know, there's always something with me! It's really not them, it's me. The math curriculum that we use doesn't really mesh well "math drills". Obviously there is nothing wrong math drills, it's just not something that we do in this house, so we didn't play with this too much and we wouldn't buy a subscription for it.

I did really enjoy the geography program! The children were shown each state and learned major facts about them. They had a chance to click on where they were, practiced spelling the state names and also the capitals. I would use this one in the future for sure! I even learned a bit :-).

I also liked the spelling program. I was able to enter the words from our spelling curriculum into a database that then allowed the children to play games with the words they were already working on.

K.... now for more of my opinion. There are "teachers"/tutor figures that pop up on the screen to talk to your child about whatever it is that they're doing. These people drive me nuts! *laugh* They have these mechanical/robotic voices that seriously play with my brain. The children don't seem to mind, but it sure annoys me! Again, just my humble opinion, you can check it out for yourself and see what you think!

The other problem that I had was that this program allows children to earn coins that they can then use to play games. As I've mentioned before, my oldest child will do whatever he can just to get to the game.... and that doesn't necessarily mean that he'll focus in on the lesson to get there! He'll do the very least possible to get the coin and move on. So, that's more a personality thing, I don't know how your child will handle a program like this, but it's worth giving it a try! I also find it kind of funny that you're constantly bugged to get a "buddy" for your chid and then they can customize it etc., but that requires a coin :-)

Okay, and maybe I'm a little technologically disabled, but I find their website to not be very user friendly. They have great content, but the way it's put on the page and moving between subject etc., makes my brain hurt.... which means I'm less likely to use it.

Overall the actual information on this site is pretty useful and there is a lot that can be done with just a free account.... which I respect a lot. Go give Big IQ Kids a look and if you'd like to see what other bloggers are saying about the program 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.**

14 September 2011

Back to School!

Nope, not for the children... their school year is actually coming to an end since we officially start school every January and "stop"/prep for recitals/talents shows/review what we've done over the year/have our family Olympics come Thanksgiving through Christmas.

So, if not back to school for the children that means... ? Oh, right, BOTH of their parents are going back to school! *laugh* I feel like a crazy person saying that! I've felt for some time now that I need to go back to school and was pretty excited earlier in the year and now I'm T E R R I F I E D! :-D. Go figure! As for my husband, he actually has to go back to school if he wants to continue advancing in the military past his next rank. SO! I've been busy gathering everything together for both of us and dotting 'i's/crossing 't's and now we're all set up! Nathan will start work on his Masters in Intelligence (sounds kinda funny huh?), in October, and I'll follow in January.

While terrified there is a bit of excitement still buried within me. I think the terrified thing just comes from fear of the unknown, but I try to shake that off and remember that God wants me to continue my education and He'll help me. I certainly can't succumb to the negative voices in my head now! Anyway, my degree will be a Masters in History with a concentration in American History, and for that I am T H R I L L E D! I spent quite a bit of time "off topic" (i.e. I have an AA in Political Science, LOVED the field and was a semester away from getting a BA in it when I got married and then had to switch fields), so I've spent quite a bit of time in psychology. Which I like. And laugh that I have a BS degree. But now I get to delve back into what I LOVE and that's really wonderful! It took a lot of thought to really pin down what to study. Being a homeschooling mom of almost 5 under 6, with a very unpredictable husband work-wise, doing anything that required a practicum or internship wasn't going to work. And then my other problem was finding a work-field where I could use my degree and not get shut down for "lack of experience." After throwing this around I got some great advice from a fellow TOS blogger and my dreams of playing in the field of history/politics got new life! I've been hoping to teach through and online university (but again, they like you to "work in your field" for 5+ years etc.), I've also thought about community colleges etc. when the kids are a bit older, or if Nathan had a steady schedule or if something happened to him. I'm telling yah, I kicked around A LOT of things over the last year or so. However, this fellow mom that I was blessed to get in contact with is an online university professor and had some great advice. I finally came to the conclusion that "History" is not a necessarily a field where one works in an office etc. It is one in which people research, write papers, get things published etc. SO, that being said, I had a lightbulb moment in which I realized... hello?! I can essentially do all of that from HOME!!! Add to that university need for people that specialize in history to teach their history classes, and voila! A dream was reborn and a new path undertaken!

The scary part? Well, the unknown of actually turning in papers for a graduate degree etc., and how to factor reading and writing for those into my day when: Nathan starts his Masters in about 2 weeks, we have a baby due in about 8 weeks, we homeschool 4 children, and Nathan's job always has us on our toes as to where he and/or our family will be! So, I'm taking a deep breath, trying to prepare and create order wherever I can, and then come 2 Jan I'm just going to take a leap into my program and try not to look back! :-). The time has to go by anyway right? Might as well get myself focused and have a degree in hand in which I can use to help my family if needed. I have know idea why I feel this push, but I better stop ignoring it, and hey, I can't complain too much especially after figuring out that I already own and have leisurely read most of the required books! *laugh* Yep, I'm a nerd!

To all you fellow nerds, I hope you keep learning everyday too in whatever means and situations you may be in! Your family needs your "expertise" even if the world says you are no expert because you don't work outside the home. I refuse to believe that stereotype! I've learned more on my own over the last 5 years than I ever did in "School," please take the opportunity to do the same. We're made to learn and grow regardless of age, situation or environment. Let's get to work!

TOS Review - Time4Learning

I've had mixed feelings about this product.... and have thus literally waited until the last minute to actually post about it. So, let's just jump in shall we??

Time4Learning is a web based program that can be used as a whole curriculum in and of itself, but can also be used to supplement and reinforce learning. In other words, this would work great for homeschooler's looking for a complete online curriculum or for homeschooler's and public schooler's just looking for some added learning after school or over the summer.

In their own words the program includes the following:

"Online curriculum for grades Pre-K through 8th
More than 1,000 interactive animated lessons
Self paced lessons that kids will enjoy working on
Math & algebra tutorials & printable worksheets
Language arts, phonics & grammar lessons
Interactive, project-based reading activities
Science (grades 1st - 6th) & social studies (grades 2nd - 7th)
Detailed reporting for easy record keeping
Extensive lesson plans & teaching tools for parents
and much more...
Time4Learning is web based, so there is no software to download, no CDs and nothing additional to purchase. Members can access the program 24/7 from anywhere with a computer and an internet connection

All of this comes for a monthly payment of $19.95 for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child.

So... what did I think as we used this? Well, let's stare at the elephant that causes me the biggest problem... that'd be the price. As a family with 5 children in order to use this program we'd spend $95 a month, and I'm going to go ahead and not multiply that by 12 because I may have a heart attack :-). In all fairness, it's just my daughter that I really wanted to try this program on and it worked out fine for her... but again, even a $19.95 commitment times 12 is on the pricey side.

Moving on, how did it function for us pricing aside? I had 3 accounts for a 1 month trial. Those accounts consisted of a first grade account, kindergarten, and preschool. I like that you can set the age range for your child in different subjects and that the program will adjust itself to make sure that your child is getting challenged etc., and that they provide reports of how the lessons are going so you can see how your child is functioning and at what level. For homeschooling parents this is also helpful because if your state requires reports and you need proof of something the website allows you to print off what you need from the site.

My oldest was on the first grade plan and I thought that the lessons were appropriate for where he is academically. However, for some reason the idea that there was a game to be played at the end kind of shut down his brain and instead of listening to the lessons and answering the questions he basically just clicked away on the pages and got through the bare minimum in order to play a game. My husband related it to a battery of tests that the military has... if you click enough eventually you can get through and pass with just enough. So, after a few sessions with our oldest in the program he ended up getting banned from using the program.

Our daughter was on the kindergarten plan. She was really the one that I had in mind when I took on this review. Lots of people that I have talked to (family and close friends) that have problems with dyslexia have told me that computers can be helpful in the learning process. So, even despite the cost, I was willing to use this for her if it made sense and was a format that made learning come alive for her. It was good for her in some ways, but I didn't think it was worth it. It wasn't worth it because she wasn't doing THAT much better at things and she would still get frustrated. And I had to be there to read to her the questions for the "test" portion at the end anyway. So, that being said, I like a more hands-on approach to teaching my children anyway so I didn't see the point of trying to get her to go through these lessons and then having to go over all of it again. It is definitely a lot easier to just stick to our regular programs geared towards kinesthetic learning that are not web/computer based.

Lastly, the preschool page was for our next child. I like the pictures and the setup of it, and honestly, for the amount of money that I hear people spend on sending their children to preschool I would totally recommend this instead! That $20 is all the sudden child's play after some of the programs in my area that are 15-20 a day... multiplied by 2-3 times a week. Yep, the heart attack just came back. So, I would ABSOLUTELY use Time4learning for preschool if you're thinking about sending your child to one and then just add in some "play dates" if you feel so inclined.

There is an option to try a free demo here so you can get an idea of how the program works. And of course you can always sign up for a month and see how it works for you and cancel without penalty if you don't feel like it's something you want to do.

I think by doing this review I've found that this sort of program is really not for me, and that has a lot to do with our style of learning. We learn as a family and I prefer things done as a group and not so much an individual or two at the computer alone. Granted I could be there holding their hand through everything, but that feels like it defeats the purpose since you're essentially buying a teacher/tutor.... so, maybe it made me feel obsolete and I'm just jealous? Who knows!

That being said, I can see this being beneficial for someone transitioning with their child from public school to homeschool or having no idea what or how they want to teach/what would work best for their child. I know people often have moments where something happens in the family and maybe a month or more with a web based program that does all the work would also be a great help, and this would certainly fit the bill! So, I say go try it out and see what you think... and if you realize that you're weird like me and it's not going to work then at least keep it in the back of your mind as something that could bail you out of a stressful situation while still providing a good education for your child (well, assuming that s/he isn't like my oldest or eventually snaps out of it! :-D).

If you'd like to see what other Crew Members are saying about this product please 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.**

07 September 2011

TOS Review - Nature Nuts!

Thanks to Griddly Game's I again got to expand my game collection recently! We were lucky enough to get the game Nature Nuts to review over the last month, and we've all enjoyed it.

I'll admit it though, this game is a trivia game... and while it does have 3 and 7 point questions on each card (the 7's are supposed to be more advance, sometimes I don't think that's true though!), I found myself good and stumped on more than one occasion! (I KNOW my questions were tougher than the others!) ;-)

Upon opening the game my first thoughts were that I really liked the box that houses the game pieces... it doesn't take up a lot of room and has a good strong magnet to keep it closed AND THE DIRECTIONS ARE WRITTEN ON THE INSIDE OF THE LID! (what you read there is that you can take it with you places, could make for a good car trip game! Love that!). My one turn off? ...and Nathan agrees, so it isn't just me being weird... is that the cards could use an upgrade. They're pretty flimsy from our point of view (then again we spend our days with a gaggle of little people, so perhaps our thoughts of what holds up is a bit different from others :-D). In any case! That's not going to keep up from buying other offerings from this company... Nathan already has his sights on buying a game that works similarly to this one but that is based on civilizations (a forte of his... can't imagine why he'd want that!)

So, how does it play?

First you decide on a point or time limit that you want to play to. We've played more for fun and to teach our children why the answers to the questions make sense, if they didn't already guess the answer, so we've never set up a point/time limit. We play until we're finished :-). There is a dice in the box that has a colored dot on each side: red, yellow, green, blue, orange and purple. The colored dot then determines what card stack you get to answer a question from: Earth, Animals, Planets, or a Wise Alec card (also known as the stack that has random questions, tongue twisters, exercises to do etc., these ones can be a lot of fun!) So, you get the question right you get the points, you get it wrong and it's the next persons turn. And that's the extent of the "rules." Are you in love yet? I love simplicity!!

My children are a bit young for this game (the recommendations is for kids 8+), however, they REALLY enjoy it! They know a lot about plants and animals etc., but a lot of these questions have set us off looking up answers and studying in a way that I didn't realize it would. So, perhaps we use this a bit like a curriculum of sorts? Who knows if that's what you would call it, but it's increased our knowledge and that gets a gold star from me!! Oh, and while it says that this is for 2-4 players, you could easily pull this out as a single person or play with the whole family and do teams etc. The more the merrier I say!

If you would like to check out Nature Nuts by Griddly Games I would definitely recommend it. The link above will send you to a page that has the product listed as well as a short video that will show you how to play (for all my visual learners out there :-D).

You can find Nature Nuts and other Griddly Games at various retailers both online and in-store. For a list of those retailer's please go here. I've seen this game for as little as $14.99 through Griddly's affiliates.

If you'd like to see what other Crew Members are saying about this product please go here. Enjoy!

*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.**