Saturday, December 17, 2011

The World's Greatest Stories CD - A Review



Product:  The World's Greatest Stories - Volume 1 - The Prophets CD
 Told by George W. Sarris

Price:  $7.95

Company:  theworldsgreateststories.com

Age Range:  Most ages

Other Products Available:  Volumes 2 - 5


From the Website:

Volume 1 - The Prophets

The Blazing Furnace    -    Daniel 3

The Handwriting on the Wall   -    Daniel 5

Daniel in the Lion's Den   -    Daniel 6

Elijah & the Prophets of Baal   -   1 Kings 17-18

The Prophecy of Jonah    -    The Book of Jonah

Listen to an Audio Clip   NIV KJV




Our Thoughts:

This CD is a word-for-word retelling of some of the prophets' stories (see the list above).  I chose the KJV translation, but it is also available in the NIV.   

I like that the re-telling is word-for-word.  I don't have to worry about the speaker's interpretation, because there is no interpretation.  


The great thing about this CD is that the speaker adds such emotion and inflection to the reading that it helps make the story come alive.  It truly is a one-man dramatization of the stories that we love.  


This is a great addition to our Bible study resources. 


Read more reviews.

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Cookbook E-book Sale

A fellow blogger friend wrote a Christmas Cookbook E-book.  It is on sale right now until December 24th for $2.50, free shipping.

Visions of Sugarplums



To quote another reviewer:
Visions of Sugarplums: A Collection of Christmas Cookery is a delightful ebook published by Lizzie of A Dusty Frame, filled with those exceptional recipes of holidays past. My mouth waters as I examine the contents:
 
Gingerbread Waffles
Warm Cranberry Punch
Sweet Potato Casserole
Moravian Cookies
Toffee Squares
Epiphany Cake
Julgrot (Swedish Rice Pudding)
Triple Layer Brownies
Vintage Molasses Cake

The book is sprinkled with holiday traditions from around the world and their corresponding recipes, like finding the lucky single almond in the Julgrot. You’ll find inspirational quotes, a section on making homemade ornaments from kitchen ingredients, suggested family traditions, snow day ideas, and a list of favorite Christmas books. And, of course, lots of love.

Visions of Sugarplums is thoughtfully arranged with vintage illustrations—a lovely keepsake for yourself or a special gift for a friend.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cooper and Me and the Winter Adventure - A review & giveaway




Cooper & Me & the Winter Adventure
     Written by Monique & Alexa Peters

Available for $12.99 at cooperandme.com
Along with 3 other books in the series, 4 music CDs, a Cooper dog and backpack.  These items could make great Christmas gifts.

Get connected at Facebook and Twitter.

This is a delightful series about a black lab named Cooper, written by a young daughter and her mother.  The books teach life lessons for young children, this particular book being about accidentally getting lost.  At the end of the books you will find thought-provoking questions to discuss with your children.  My 3 year old enjoys the books and likes the illustrations.

Description from the website:

Cooper and Bella can’t wait to go sledding, but what happens when they wander a little too far from home and a snowstorm makes it difficult to find their way back???
This book provides a wonderful opportunity to teach children the importance of making good decisions and the gentle lesson of how to be prepared in case they get lost. This book, along with all the other books in the Cooper and Me series, includes these interactive Features:
• A Special Memory Creation
• Life Lesson
• Connections
• Learning Together

In fond memory of Marc Lustgarten and to honor him, $1 of every Winter Adventure book sold at events and at on our website through February 2012, will be donated to the Lustgarten Foundation www.lustgarten.org/.

 EXCLUSIVE DEAL FOR OUR BLOG READERS:
Make any purchase of $25 or more at CooperandMe.com and get FREE SHIPPING now through December 15.  MUST USE THIS CODE @ Check out:  COOPERBLOG


 Disclaimer:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Giveaway:
The kind folks at Propeller are giving away a copy of this book to one of my lucky readers.  Good luck.

One winner will be selected at random on Dec. 19th.
 
1. Follow me on Google Friend Connect.
2. Follow me on Twitter.
3. Share contest on your blog and leave link in comments.
4. Share contest on Facebook and let me know.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ARTistic Pursuits Grades 4-6 Book 1 - A Review


Product:  Grades 4-6 Book 1 - The Elements of Art and Composition

Price:  $42.95

Age Range:  4th - 6th grade

Company:  Artistic Pursuits

Other Products Available:
Art books for preschool through high school


Brief Intro: (from the website)

This book gives students their first in-depth look at the elements of art in a simply written text with illustrations in pencil, marker, and scratch art, the media they will be using. The elements of art and composition are explored through American art.



Sample pages and review comments.



Meet the developers: Brenda and Dan Ellis

Our Thoughts:

We have made different attempts at different art programs over the years.  None with much success.  Most of the time we just end up winging it.  And I end up wishing we had done more.  So when this program came up for review, I was very happy to be selected.

I looked it over and was happy to realize that we really could do this.  This program could work for us.  The book is made up of short, manageable lessons that a child could do own his own.  But we decided to do it together.  I get to learn the tips of the trade, while my 9 and 13 year olds draw the assignments, and my 3 year old does her own drawings with crayons and stickers.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much my daughters liked it.  They picked their own subjects to draw, based on the lesson requirements, and they took their time with the drawings.  I learned a very important lesson from the author.  She suggested that you always make to leave plenty of time for your child to finish the drawing.  At least an hour.  That a child rarely returns to the drawing with the same gusto the next time, once interrupted.  I am thrilled to say that my children take longer than I expected, meaning that they are taking their time and taking the assignment seriously.

They enjoy the lessons; they don't complain about art time; and they actually ask to do art.  They are learning important lessons and skills and even tips.  I have already seen improvement in just a few weeks. 

A plus is that the book references famous artists and their paintings.  She provides examples for students to study.  So we get some American art history thrown in as a bonus.  But when it comes time to draw, she lets the child pick an item, within a wide guideline, that interests the child.  Children are much more eager to draw an item that they find interesting, versus the proverbial bowl of fruit.

Final thoughts: I love this program.  My children enjoy it.  It is a winner here and I plan to keep using this book and then buy the next one in the series.

Supply Kits are available.
Gr 4-6 Book 1 Supply Kit
You can read about their philosophy and how they teach art.

Read more reviews .

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Le Français Facile! Junior (Easy French Jr) - A Review

Product: 

Le Français Facile! Junior

Price:   $69.95

Age Range:  K-3rd grade

Company:  Great Commission Languages

Other Products Available:

Various levels of Easy French
Various levels of Easy Spanish


Brief Intro: (from the website)
 

Le Français Facile! Level I was designed to be great for a family with multiple children of different ages. If you have mostly younger children though, you may want to consider the new Junior level which is targeted specifically at K-3 grade levels. It contains 34 all new lessons written to a younger audience. The character illustrations have even been redrawn as younger versions of the Level I characters (Cherie is VERY cute as a young kitten). There is more focus on the stories and songs (more new songs have been incorporated), and less focus on gramar and writing - perfect for younger children.

Sample Lessons - free online
Sampler CD - $15 (credited off order if you decide to buy curriculum later)

Our Thoughts:

As a member of the crew, I was given a choice of French or Spanish.  Living in upstate New York, close to the Canadian border, I chose French.  French Jr level.  It comes with a manual and 2 CDs.  The CDs have all the lessons on them, so that you may listen to the stories and hear the correct pronunciation of the words ( a big help ).  CD1 is an enhanced CD, which you can load on your computer to print out the coloring sheets and activities.

Jr. Level is geared to grades K-3rd.  The stories are cutesy.  The coloring sheets are simple.  Games and songs are included with the younger set in mind.  This younger version's goal is to focus mainly on the stories and the songs.  It is to get the younger ones used to hearing the language, to gain an appreciate for the beauty of it.

It incorporates different learning styles.  With the audio of stories and songs.  Following along visually in the book.  Hands-on learning with the worksheets and coloring pages.  Instructions of how to play some French games for the active learners.

We had a rocky start.  But that was my fault for trying to jump right into it with my girls, instead of taking the time to look over the book, website, and CD to get a better feel for the program before beginning.  I have since done all of those things, and understand the plan better now.

It is designed for multi-ages and the manual stresses that the "program works for you", not the other way around.  So make the best of it; do what works for your family.  My 2yo will listen to the story and color the cute little coloring sheets of kittens and little girls, etc.  My older children listen to the stories and then to the vocabulary (repeating the pronunciation and meaning after the teacher).  They used some of the worksheets.  My oldest daughter decided to keep a notebook, writing down the words and their meanings, along with a phonics-reminder of pronunciation.

I haven't made a final decision about the program yet, but plan to keep using it and see how it goes.  I have hopes that my children will get more excited about it as they learn more words and enjoy using them on their own in everyday conversation.

I do already know that I love the company and what it stands for.  The company is called Great Commission Languages for a reason.  Find out more here.


Read more reviews.

Disclaimer: I received this curriculum free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at MelissaAndDoug.com just for voting!



 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

VocabCafe' Books - A Review

Product:  VocabCafe' Books

Price:   $38.85/Complete Set of 4 books

Company:  College Prep Genius



Age Range:  Junior High and up

Other products available:  Various college prep items



Titles in this series:






Brief Description (from website):

VocabCafé books help students easily learn SAT-level words while reading an original wholesome story. These modern novellas contain no foul language, no illicit sexual themes, and no sorcery!

Based on a three-step approach to increasing vocabulary, each book highlights 300 advanced words by using DEFINITION, REPETITION, and REINFORCEMENT.
Readers find the definition of every highlighted word at the bottom of the page — a word review and appendix complement the learning process!

STOP wasting your time on fiction books that don’t enhance your knowledge.
BUILD YOUR STOREHOUSE OF WORD POWER WITH VOCABCAFÉ!



Testimonials from the site about the College Prep line of products.


Our Thoughts:

I originally intended to have my 12 year old daughter read these books.  But after receiving them and reading the descriptions of the plots, I wasn't sure if she was old enough for the topics.  So I decided I should read them first and then decide whether to pass them on to her.   College Prep Genius also recommends that parents read the books first, and then decide whether to share the books with their children.  The company strives to pick themes that will be of interest to the high school set, without adding in questionable things such as profanity and sexual content.

But it can be very difficult for a homeschool mama to get through 4 books in a short period of time.  So I enlisted the help of my mom, who just happened to be in town visiting.  She read a little and I read a little.

My mom's opinion - She liked what she read and thought the story line was great.  She found the vocab words to be a distraction, because you have to pause from the story to look at the bottom of the page to see what a word means.  

Of course, she understood that the point of the books is the vocabulary.  In her opinion, if she saw those words again in the future in context, she would probably remember what they meant.

Mom thought the book was appropriate for the high school set and that they would enjoy reading it.

My opinion -  I also enjoyed the story line of the book that I read.   It was way better than I expected, getting pulled into it from the first chapter.    I also found the words to be a distraction.  But again, I know the whole point of the books is to improve Vocab scores.  So I made a point to look at the pronunciation and definition of each word.  I think that I would remember some of the words if they came up again.

I also feel the book would be appropriate and interesting for high school students.

In summary
1. The stories are interesting . . . a good read.  They hold your interest.  
2. The stories are "clean" without profanity, sexual content, etc.
3. You will be exposed to LOTS of SAT level words and will walk away knowing more than you did before you read the books.


Depending on your child's learning style, this might be a great investment in preparation for the SAT test.  Some children might prefer to just study a list of words.  Others might prefer to soak the words up more naturally, while reading them in context, such as the case in these VocabCafe' books.

Read more reviews.

Disclaimer: I received these books free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Christmas Lodge DVD - A Review and Giveaway


Thomas Kinkade presents -
                       The Christmas Lodge
  by Vivendi Entertainment

Price:  $12.99 at CBD (available at other retailers also)


Details: (from CDB website)

Mary Tobin loves three things---her grandfather, the outdoors, and restoring historic properties. When she rescues Charlene Rand while on a mountain hike, Mary learns that the girl and her father live at a ramshackle lodge that holds happy memories for her grampa. Resolving to repair his broken-down home, will Mary encounter reluctance---or romance---from Jack Rand? Dove approved. 90 minutes.
Our Thoughts:

 Our entire family watched it and we all enjoyed it.  It is a feel good, wholesome, G-Rated,  family-values, Christmas-y movie. 

It is nice to be able to sit down and watch a movie and not have to worry about anything inappropriate being said or done.  It is great to watch a movie, which portrays a "family-first" attitude with a high dose of good values. 

I highly recommend this movie.

 Disclaimer:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Giveaway:
The kind folks at Propeller are giving away a copy of this DVD to one of my lucky readers.  Good luck.

One winner will be selected at random on Nov. 12th.
 
1. Follow me on Google Friend Connect.
2. Follow me on Twitter.
3. Share contest on your blog and leave link in comments.
4. Share contest on Facebook and let me know.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

George W Carver: His Life and His Work DVD - A Review

Product:  George W Carver - His Life and His Work

Length:  Approx 30 minutes

Price:  $19.95
The company has generously offered an additional discount with the Coupon Code TOSC-1.  This will give you a 15% discount, making the price $16.95.


Company:  Marshall Publications






Age Range:  Elementary and Up

Other Products:  Other Educational DVDs 
Watch a clip of some of their titles.



Brief Overview: (from the website)

For anyone looking for an inspirational story, for historians, teachers and students, and for young and old alike this DVD featuring stunning photography and a superb original music score is certain to be watched again and again.

Bonus:  The site includes a free study guide and discussion questions.  Very nice touch.

Our Thoughts:

The story of George Washington Carver is an amazing one.  What an inspiration and testimony his story is.  The more I learn about Carver, the more fascinating I find it.  So, when this review came along, I jumped at the chance.

I was so anxious to receive it and kept stalking the mailbox in hopes of it soon arriving.  Finally, the day came and there was the DVD.  Super cool.

This documentary crams a lot into 30 minutes.  You will get a very good overview of his life and a lot of details, to boot.  Students will learn the value of hard work , of never giving up, of generosity and stewardship, of prayer and faith.  George Washington Carver was an amazing and inspiring man and children and adults alike can learn much from his morals and his work ethic. The story includes several of Carver's quotes.  One of which was:
"Success does not depend on the style of clothes you wear or the amount of money you put in the bank, it is service to others that counts."


The DVD is documentary style.  Parts are narrated as a biography, parts as an autobiography.  With narration, an original music score, some great photographs, and graphics.  Lots of videos of nature, which Carver loved. Video clips of statues, museums, old photographs, old papers, etc. Kind of like a slide show with commentary.  The show includes a sound clip of Carver speaking.  You will notice that he had an unusually high voice.  In the study guide mentioned above, you learn that it was that way because whooping cough had damaged his vocal chords.

Booker T. Washington and George W. Carver were a great team, who did great things at the Tuskegee Institute.  This shows just how amazing.  Carver didn't care about fame or fortune.  He truly cared about making a difference and helping people, sharing his great discoveries.  Booker T. Washington was known to say, "We ask for nothing we can do ourselves."

You will have to judge if this style of film will hold your child's attention.  Commentary style versus a drama-style performance.  My 12 year old and I learned a lot from it.  My 9 year old had some trouble focusing on it. 

Read more reviews here!


Disclaimer: I received this item free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Say Anything Family Edition Game - A Review


Product:  Say Anything Family Edition

Price:  Retails for $19.99

Company:  NorthStar Games

Age Range: 8 and up



Other Games:  Wits and Wagers - check out my review of the Family Edition!

Brief Intro: (From the website)

Say Anything Family is a game that will get the entire family talking and laughing in minutes. This family-oriented version of the popular adult party game gives players the chance to settle questions that have been hotly debated for centuries. For instance, “Which celebrity would make the worst babysitter?” or “What magical power would be the coolest to have?” The best thing about Say Anything Family: there are no right or wrong answers – just your opinions. This is every family’s chance to Say Anything. 

Our Thoughts:
We reviewed Wits and Wagers last year and enjoyed it.  So I was super excited to try out another game by NorthStar.  This time around it is Say Anything the Family Edition.  My mom was visiting, so she and my 2 oldest girls tried it out on their own.  They glanced over the directions and got busy playing.  But, they didn't seem too impressed with the game.  I was surprised because I thought it sounded like fun.  So I read over the instructions, explained a few basics, and invited my husband to play along.  So now we had 5 players instead of 3, and we had a better understanding of the rules.  The verdict this time?  So much fun!

The more players, the more fun.  And it may take a few read-thrus  to understand the gameplay.  In a nutshell, one player asks a question and everyone answers what they think THAT person will pick.  So for example, if the Dad asks "What is the best candy?", everyone else will write down what they think Dad's answer will be.  After Dad sees all the options, he picks his favorite answer and hides it.  Then everyone else picks what they think Dad chose.  Based on this, points are awarded.  Points for writing the answer he chose, and points for picking the one he chose afterward.  Then Dad also gets points based on how many people guessed his choice correctly. 

It only takes a few run-throughs before you get the hang of it.  And we all enjoyed it a lot.  My husband, my mom, me, my 12yo daughter, and my 9yo daughter.  It is something that we can all play together, despite the wide age range, and still have a great time.  It led to lots of laughs and discussions, and even memories.

The game play is short, but can easily be adjusted to make it shorter or longer.  So no need to worry about boredom setting in for the younger ones. My 9yo can get very restless with games after a short time, but not with this one.  And she enjoyed it as much as the rest of us.

This game was a hit at our house!


 Read more reviews!


Disclaimer: I received this item free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Educating the Whole Hearted Child - Book Review



Product: Educating the Whole Hearted Child -
A handbook for Christian Home Education


Price:  $22.00

Authors:  Clay & Sally Clarkson









Publisher:  Apologia/Whole Heart








Discipleship, Whole Books, and Real Life!  WholeHearted Christian Home Education for Ages 4 - 14.  Third Edition.

Brief Intro: (from the website)
God did not forget to include "school" in His biblical design for raising children; home education is a natural expression of all that God intended for parents and their children. Clay and Sally Clarkson's Educating the WholeHearted Child is about rediscovering God's original design for the family. What you'll find in this book is a homeschooling model that makes sense. It's an approach that is based on sound biblical principles of nurture, discipleship, instruction, and learning. Newly revised and significantly expanded, Educating the WholeHearted Child is about much more than homeschooling; it is about life. Effective Christian homeschooling must begin with the sure foundation of a Christian home, and the Clarksons' uncomplicated, common-sense approach to life and learning will provide you with the tools you need to experience God's abundant blessings for your family.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


SAMPLE CHAPTER


My thoughts:

I have read several homeschool and parenting books over the years.  I am guessing that most homeschooling moms have.  Sometimes I gain a little bit of help from them, sometimes I gain a lot.  Sometimes I get convicted; sometimes I get encouraged. 

I have read some of the Clarkson's books before and found them to be very worth the read.  They are an amazing couple, doing amazing things for the Christian homeschooling community.

When this book came up for review, I gladly volunteered.  I was so excited to get it in the mail.

This book is jam-packed with over 300 pages of helpful advice, insights, tips, lists, forms, etc.  It covers most every area of a Christian homeschooling family's home: marriage, parenthood, fellowship, serving others, good literature, teaching, disciplining, etc.

Sidebars are full of verses, quotes, and helpful stats.  I LOVE quotes!

Each section ends with "In Our Home".  In this section, the Clarksons tell how they have handled things in their own home, with real-life experiences.  This helps to inspire and to put things into perspective.

Lots of helpful resources are included.  And some great forms are in the back for you to duplicate. 

This book is HUGE and it is going to take me a while to finish it.  But so far, so GREAT!  And I am very thankful for it.  For the encouragement, the wisdom, the insight, the personal experiences, the wonderful suggestions and examples.

Thank you, Clay and Sally!



Read more reviews!

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

E-Mealz - A Review


Product:  E-Mealz

Price:  $15 / 3 month subscription

To Order:   Subscribe

Creators:  Jane DeLaney & Jenny Cochran



Recommended by Dave Ramsey 


 Brief Intro - From the Website

Manage your food budget and enjoy delicious dinner recipes at home.
Menu plans based on weekly grocery store sales, seasonal discounts
or diet preferences. Be meal-wise and money-wise with E-Mealz.



How it works!


My thoughts:

E-Mealz generously allowed some of the TOS crew members to try out their ingenious program.  I volunteered for two reasons.  I wanted to add some variety to our dinners and I wanted to maintain some sort of dinner budget.  I chose the Walmart Family Plan.
Here are the details of this plan from the site - "You can hardly beat the prices at Wal-Mart SuperCenter! Wal-Mart does not offer weekly sales, but, the savings are consistent from week to week, and we take advantage of their regular Roll-back Pricing in our meal planning. If you are already a Wal-Mart grocery shopper, or you enjoy the convenience of their “one-stop shopping,” you will enjoy this meal plan and you will save even more money. We compile delicious, family friendly meals based the wide variety of produce and meats that Wal Mart SuperCenter consistently provides. The total cost for this weekly Wal-Mart plan ranges from $75-$85."

Signing up is easy.  Pick from several different option plans for couples and families, ranging from gluten free, to low carb, to vegetarian.  Just pick the one that is the best fit for your family.

On your designated day of the week (Walmart's is Thursdays), log in to the website and find the new schedule for the upcoming week of dinners, ready for you to print out.  The print out is awesome.  One page lists the meals by day, with ingredients and very detailed instructions.  The next page is your shopping list, broken into departments such as meat or dairy.  At the bottom, it lists all the staples they expect you to have on hand.  Just in case you are out of them, you can quickly add them to your list.

So how was the variety?  Very nice variety.  Throwing in some bread, veggies, and fruit.  And also making frequent use of the crockpot, which I love! 



How was the shopping list?  Very nice and organized by department.  The staples are listed at the bottom of the shopping list.  I think it would be nice if the staples were listed in the main shopping list, so that they are in the correct departments.  That way if I didn't need them, I could cross them off.  But if I did need them, I wouldn't be as likely to miss them.

I also think it would be great if the shopping list was interactive, so that I could manually add other items that I needed to shop for, combining it all into one list.



How were the prices?  The plan that I chose ranges from $75 - $85 a week for 7 dinners.  That is a little over $10/meal.   Whether or not that is a good deal, depends on your personal budget. Of course, any coupons (which I am a big fan of) would bring this down more.

How easy was the plan to follow?  The recipe instructions were very thorough and easy to follow.  I didn't have any problems figuring them out and everything turned out well.  I found all the meals that we tried to be good.  Of course, we liked some better than others.  A new favorite at our home is the BBQ Chicken Salad.

Since not every meal is going to be a winner, I think it would be great if the program offered an option to allow meal swaps.  Maybe give 2 choices per day, allowing us to pick one.  Or maybe have 2 "bonus" meals at the bottom that we could trade out for some that weren't our favorites. 

Overall, I think this program is a great idea.  It takes the "brain-work" out of dinner meal planning.  E-Mealz provides a dependable budget amount for each week.  It adds some variety to dinner and comes with a prepared shopping list.  Pretty cool idea.

It does take some getting used to.  But anything new like this has a learning curve.  So it may take a few weeks to work all the "bugs" out.  One thing different for us is that I usually make meals that have leftovers for the next day.  But with this program, it is a different meal each night.  Of course there are several ways to work with or around this.

Read more reviews.

Disclaimer: I received this item free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Always Ice Cream - A Review


Product:  Always Ice Cream
A Scoop of Laughter.  A Scoop of Learning.


Price:  $4.99/month, $39.99/year, $99.99/Lifetime Membership

Try it free!

Company:  Miaplaza Inc.

Age Range:  Girls 7-12 years old

Brief Overview:

Optional: A Friendly Learning Community

If you choose our Learning Community set of social features, your daughter can interact with other members on Always Icecream. With this option, girls play "social" games, such as babysitting each other's pets or buying artwork from other members. Communication is moderated and we enforce strict guidelines about what communication is permissible on the site.

Ideal for Homeschoolers

A large share of our members are homeschooled and many of the ideas for the educational content originate from the experience of the founders as homeschool parents.  Always Icecream offers fun and relevant drills in core academic subjects embedded in a safe and loving community experience. Parents are also given the option to choose Christian educational content if they want to offer this to their daughters.



Our Thoughts:

According to my 9 year old - 
She likes that you can watch a wholesome selection of YouTube videos.  She enjoyed the variety of games.  Her favorite was the dress-up game.  She also liked that you could use your scoops to buy pets.  Her favorite educational category was Language Arts.


She did wish that you could do more with the pets that you buy.  And she would prefer to able to walk from store to store.

According to my 12 year old -
She likes the music videos. She liked the games that didn't earn scoops; she enjoyed them more.  Her favorite educational category was Language Arts. 


She wishes that you could do more with the pets you buy. 

Mom's Thoughts -
I like that the site is geared to girls.  I like pink, cuddly themes.  :)  


I like that the site is wholesome and friendly and "tame" for younger girls.  The price is average, a little lower than some monthly-fee websites.


The parent control center is nice, with some helpful features.


I also like that is a quick educational thing that the girls can do to throw in a little extra review time here and there. 

Check out this intro to the site.

Great concept.  Nice company. 


Try out the Free Trial and see what you think!


Read other reviews here.


Disclaimer: I received this item free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.





Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cooper and Me - Review and Giveaway

Product:  Cooper and Me Book

Price:  $12.99

Illustrator & Author:  Alexa Peters (11 years old)
Co-author:  Monique Peters (Alexa's Mother)

Age Range:  Young readers

Other Products Available:  More books in the "Cooper" series and some collectible Cooper items

To Purchase:  Cooper & Me Store

Brief Intro from the website:
Cooper and Me is a delightful picture book about a young girl who is nervous as her first day of school approaches. She doesn’t want to go without her best friend, her beloved dog Cooper. Fortunately her mother finds the perfect answer! Packed with vibrant illustrations and rhythmic verses, this book addresses the anxiety children often feel before trying something new.

Bonus Reading Guide!




Our Thoughts:
I love the fact that this series was written and illustrated by an 11-year-old girl.  How delightful. How nice to read a book for children, written by someone who is still a child, herself.

The Peters are committed to helping young children.  One way they are doing so is to  team up with the Happy Hearts Fund (founded and run by Petra Nemcova), donating part of their proceeds to the Fund.  Happy Hearts improves children's lives through education and sustainable programs in natural disaster areas.  I think it is nice that the Peters are willing to donate part of their profits to benefit children in need.

My 2 year old saw the book and claimed it as her own.  She wanted me to read it and read it again.  She listened and looked and asked questions.  It was obvious that she was enjoying the story and the pictures.  The book was a real hit with our little one.

I think it will be a real confidence booster to those a little bit older, giving them a little more confidence in new and uncertain situations.  It is a delightful story with a great lesson to share.

Disclaimer:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Giveaway:
The kind folks at Propeller are giving away a copy of this book to one of my lucky readers.  Good luck.

One winner will be selected at random on Oct. 19th.
 
1. Follow me on Google Friend Connect.
2. Follow me on Twitter.
3. Share contest on your blog and leave link in comments.
4. Share contest on Facebook and let me know.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scruble Cube - A Review

Product:  Scruble Cube

Price:  Approx $24, prices vary

Age Range:  "If you can spell, you can play"


Brief Description (From the website):
What if you took some of the known playing patterns of some of the most popular word games and puzzles in history and combined them in a brand new, unique format to create the World’s Greatest 3-D Word Game? Well, you’d have the “SCRUBLE Cube™ a patent pending game with over 7.4 x 1045(that’s 7,401 septillion)possible configurations that anyone who can spell can play. And all in a portable format that can be played anywhere- anytime. The SCRUBLE Cube™ is a word game and a puzzle- on steroids!

Our Thoughts:
I love word games, all kinds of word games.  So the Scruble Cube sounded like lots of fun to me.  My daughters could use some more spelling practice.  So a fun way to encourage spelling sounded like a winning idea to me.  So I was already excited before the Scruble even arrived.

Once it arrived, I wasn't disappointed.  It has a definite cool factor; the look is very unique.  See the picture of it?  Doesn't it just make you want to pick it up and start playing with it?

Well, here is the thing.  We all tried it out. (My husband, myself, our 12 year old, and our 9 year old). And then we tried it out again.  Several times.  But we just couldn't get into it. My husband and kids didn't particularly enjoy it.  And I found it overwhelming.


The directions tried to help.  It came with a quick start guide, with helpful hints and tips.  They were helpful.  They did make it a little less stressful.  But it just wasn't our thing.


I hesitate to say that.  Because I know many of the other families who reviewed the product loved it.  So I hope that you will read more reviews, to help you make a decision.  Read some of the stories of families who did think it "rocked".


The site even offers activities and lesson plans, which I think is an awesome bonus.

On a side note, several of us found it to be a good stress reliever to just sit there spinning the rows.  Not trying to spell anything, not even really paying attention.  Just relaxing and spinning the rows.  


Read more reviews here.

Disclaimer: I received this item free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.




Monday, September 26, 2011

Alethia Magazine - A Review

Product:  Alethia Writing Magazine

Price:  $26/1 year U.S. Subscription   $29/1 year Canada Subscription
           Includes shipping and handling

The Team:  Nick and Stephanie Muzekari

Age range:  13 to 19 years old

Brief Intro:  from the website -
Aletheia (Greek for Truth) Writing Magazine is a quarterly publication focusing on the literary and artistic works of Christian teens, ages 13 to 19.

We are excited to offer Christian teens a healthy platform in which to express themselves, especially in a culture that so definitively shapes and saturates their worldview with unhealthy imagery and values.

In addition to the literary and artistic expressions of Christian teens, each issue offers a variety of unique features: a Writer's Challenge, the Featured Contributor, a book review, Glory to God for the Beauty of Nature, Ancient Ink, and an interview or other feature for edification and enjoyment.




Our Thoughts:
It is nice to have a magazine that caters to Christian teens.  Not only for reading and enjoying.  But also for submitting their own original works.  Stories, poems, photos, drawings.  It is a nice chance  to become a published author or artist. 

It is nice for parents to be able to subscribe to a magazine that caters to Christian young people.  Works by your Christian teens' peers.  No ads for the latest styles and fads.  No tell-all articles of the latest Hollywood stars.  

I read the magazine with my daughters, 12 and 9 years old.  They did find some of the articles interesting.  But most of the articles were above their maturity level and understanding.  So I would reiterate that this is a magazine for Christian TEENS, not for pre-teens.  Several of the articles we read had a lot of symbolism, that was difficult for my daughters to follow.  And some of the submissions were written on a higher reading level, with more advanced and uncommon words.  So a good portion of it was too old for my daughters. 

Some of the articles are on difficult topics.  For example, a tribute to 2 young girls caught up in a prostitution slave ring in a foreign country.  It was very difficult to read such a heartbreaking article, because I was constantly thinking of my children close to the same age.  And my daughters had questions about how such a thing could happen.  So be prepared for the possibility of some very thought-provoking topics.


I appreciate what the Muzekari's are doing with this great work.

Read more reviews.


Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.







Furious by Jeremy Riddle - CD Review and Giveaway

Product:  Furious CD by Jeremy Riddle

Facebook page.

Twitter page.


From the website:

Released Tuesday, September 20th, 2011.

"Furious" Jeremy Riddle's 3rd full length album from Vineyard Music, is the newest collection of songs penned by this gifted songwriter and worship leader.

Furious communicates the story of God's love and kingdom with strong worship anthems like the title cut, "Furious" and "One Thing Remains" to introspective musical devotions such as "God of the Redeemed" and "The Lord is My Shepherd."

Jeremy's newest songs are exceptional for congregational worship and personal worship moments.

My Thoughts:
I am always nervous when I receive a music CD for review.  There are so many different styles and sounds, and odds are that I'm not going to like them all.  Odds are that you aren't going to like them all.

But I am happy to report that I REALLY like the "Furious" CD.  These are songs that I can enjoy listening to and singing along with.  Songs that will lift my spirit and refresh my soul.   Jeremy Riddle has an awesome voice and I enjoy his songs of worship.

Listen to some samples and see what you think.


Disclaimer:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

GIVEAWAY:
Propeller has generously offered a CD to one of my lucky readers.  Please leave a separate comment for each entry. Winners will be selected at random on Oct. 5.
1. Follow me on Google Friend Connect.
2. Follow me on Twitter.
3. Share contest on your blog and leave link in comments.
4. Share contest on Facebook and let me know.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Beverly Lewis' The Shunning DVD - Review and Giveaway

Product:  The Shunning DVD   -  Starring Danielle Panabaker & Sherry Stringfield

Watch the trailer.

Facebook page.

From the website:
Before she succumbs to cancer, the dying wish of Laura Mayfield-Bennett is to be reunited with the daughter she never knew. Unfortunately, that daughter, Katie Lapp, is a member of the Amish order. Katie is about to be married, but uneasy about the path ahead.  Now she discovers the secret her parents have kept from her: she's adopted.

The film is based on the celebrated first novel of the best-selling "The Heritage of Lancaster County" book series from author Beverly Lewis. Stars Danielle Panabaker & Sherry Stringfield.



My Thoughts:

I absolutely love Beverly Lewis.  Truly love everything she writes.  Pretty sure I have read them all.  So I was super excited to see that "The Shunning" had been made into a movie.  And even more excited when I had the chance to receive it for review.

I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it tonight.  And it was such a moving story.  A girl caught between two worlds.  Parents struggling to know what is right when things go wrong.  Reminders of what really matters.  A story of family and values and faith.

I also have a love for the Amish.  Reading about them, watching movies about them, visiting Amish country.  So, that made the movie even more interesting for me.

My only complaint - I wish the story had continued on a little farther.  It ended a little abruptly, leaving me with questions of what happens next.    :)

Disclaimer:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

GIVEAWAY:
Propeller has generously offered a DVD to one of my lucky readers.  Please leave a separate comment for each entry. Winners will be selected at random on Sept. 30th.
1. Follow me on Google Friend Connect.
2. Follow me on Twitter.
3. Share contest on your blog and leave link in comments.
4. Share contest on Facebook and let me know.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Solve It 3rd - A Problem Solving Strategy - A Review



Product: Solve It 3rd - A Problem Solving Strategy

Price:  $24.95

Age Range:  3rd - 5th grade

Company:  AIMS Education Foundation

Interested in other Products?  Request a catalog.


Brief Intro: (from the website)
Solve It! 3rd: Problem-Solving Strategies develops students’ problem-solving abilities by identifying and reinforcing nine effective techniques through creative hands-on investigations. A pumpkin patch with a fence made from linked paper clips helps students learn how to solve problems by using manipulatives and the strategy of guess and check. Students will work in groups and use logical thinking as they decipher clues and crack a number code.

The engaging tasks not only build a foundation of problem-solving strategies, but also allow learners to apply and expand their number, measurement, geometry, data organization, and algebra skills.

View the first 24 pages of the workbook!

Our Thoughts:

Cute activities.  Simple to use.  Practical skills.  I enjoyed using this with my daughter.  And she enjoyed it too. 

An example of a cute activity is to find a word within a word, and then state what fraction of the original word was used.  Fun little matching game, that gives fraction practice. Like this:
Original Word:  Mitten
New Word:  It
Fraction:  2/6 or 1/3

Another example . . . If a snowman has 3 possible mouths and 3 possible rows of buttons, how many total possible combinations are there?  My daughter was able to cut out the mouths and button rows and actually place them on the snowman to compare and total possibilities.  Very cute.  Hands on and practical.

I enjoyed using this book as part of our homeschool curriculum.  My daughter enjoyed the activities.  I appreciated that the activities cause her to think things through in a new way, building her critical thinking skills along with her math skills.

Read more reviews here.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Before Five in a Row - A Review

Product:  Before Five in a Row

Price: $24.95

Age Range: 2 - 4 year olds

Company:  Five in a Row Publishing

Author:  Jane Clare Lambert

Other Products Available:  FIAR  products for ages 2 - 12

Brief Overview: (From the website)
This all new product includes 23 FIAR-style mini-units (plus an extra mini-unit!) on outstanding AND simple children's books for ages 2-4 as well as a large section on learning readiness activities in everyday life; things to do in the kitchen, at the store, at bedtime, bathtime, etc. You'll find an entire treasury of ideas to prepare children for learning- making sure that they've covered all the basic but oh-so-important steps to ensure that they are ready to begin more formal schooling. The perfect introduction to the joys of parent-directed learning in just a few very special minutes each day.

Get some great insight and ideas on the Message Boards.



Our Thoughts:

I actually used this book years ago when my 2 older daughters were younger.  Now, thanks to being a part of the CREW, I have the opportunity to use it again with my now 2 year old daughter.  I loved it then and I love it now.

This is exactly what learning should be like for a little preschooler.  Lots of lap time, cuddle time, and story time.  Asking questions and making comments about the story.  Learning comes naturally in this context.

For example, we read the story, "Goodnight Moon."  Love this story all on its own.  Which is one thing that I like about this curriculum.  The Lamberts have chosen wisely with their books of choice.  But the book becomes even more special with the mini-lessons added from BFIAR.  Pointing out how the pictures on the wall are pictures from other storybooks.  Showing how the light in the room and outside the window change as the moon and stars come out and the lamps go dim.

Another favorite was "Caps for Sale".  Can't tell you how many times I have read this book to my daughters.  It is one of my favorites because it is so much fun to shout out, "Caps. Caps for sale. 50 cents a cap."  Again, though, the book becomes even more fun with the lesson guide.  We talked about how girls learned to walk with good posture by walking around with books on their heads.  So all 3 of my girls got up and walked around, having a great time trying to keep a book on their head.  Also talking about the meaning of the saying, "Monkey see, monkey do" and seeing it come to life in the storyline.

In addition to the storybook activities, other enrichment activities are added at the end.  Things like the importance of reading or reciting nursery rhymes and poems to your child.  About enjoying your little one while they are still little and making learning a natural process, a part of their play.  As the saying goes, "Learn to play and play to learn."

I am a huge fan of the FIAR series.  I think they are a wonderful curriculum and I highly recommend not only this book, but the whole series.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

See more reviews.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Time for Learning - A Review


Product:  Time for Learning

Price:  $19.95/month for 1st child, $14.95/month for additional children
14-day money back guarantee

Age Range:  PreK - 8th grade

Company:  Time4learning.com

Brief Intro: (from the website)
Time4Learning is a technology-based online educational program that teaches preschool to eighth grade curriculum using a combination of animated lessons, interactive activities and reinforcing worksheets.
A top selection of the Homeschool.com "Top 100 Educational Websites" list year after year, the Time4Learning program has been refined through years of feedback from educators, parents, and students. The lessons are presented at the student's pace by an automated system in a sequence designed to build strong subject literacy.
Time4Learning is a great curriculum for families who homeschool. It is also a great after school skill sharpener and is often used for remediation and test preparation. Whether mainstream, gifted, or special needs, Time4Learning provides a flexible, student-paced approach.


 Our Thoughts:
We used this program with my 9 year old, 4th grader and with my 12 year old ,7th grader.  Both were in the upper grade level section of the program.  They used the program on a regular basis for several weeks.

The program can be used as a core curriculum for math, language arts, science, and history.  Math and Language Arts correlate to state standards.  Science and History may need to be supplemented to meet state standards.  Some homeschoolers use Time4Learning as their core curriculum, supplementing here and there as needed.  Others use bits and pieces of the program to supplement their own core curriculum.  You can choose to use one subject or all of the subjects.  Whatever works best and is needed by your family, but of course, the price stays the same.  If you would like to use it as core curriculum, you can use this handy chart to determine how many lessons per day your child should complete.

The program guides you from one lesson to the next with a green arrow, pointing to the next step.  It includes topic introductions, lessons, and quizzes.  It incorporates different styles.  Some lessons are read to you.  Some you read on your own.  Some are very colorful and entertaining.  The best thing you can do is try out some of the sample lessons and see if it is a good fit for your child.

The site also includes a game area with a 15-minute timer as a reward for completing lessons.  This can be a good motivator.

So how did it go at our house?  My 12 year old handled it better than my 9 year old.  She was better able to navigate her way around the site and understanding the directions.  My 9 year old needed more supervision and guidance.  I am sure this was a learning curve that would have improved more over time.  

Neither child particularly loved the program.  But my 12 year old would do lessons without complaint.  My 9 year old would complain every time.  It wasn't the best fit for her.  But that is why there are so many options out there on the market.  Because there are so many different learning styles.  So what wasn't a great fit for my 9 year old, might be a wonderful fit for you 9 year old.  Again, I suggest trying the demos for yourself.

On a side note:  A 4th grade vocabulary lesson on the word "PREHISTORIC" explained how prehistoric times would be times before history; as in the time of the dinosaurs before there were any humans.  This is contradictory to my beliefs, that God created the world in a literal 7 days; so there wasn't a time before the history of man.  If you choose to use this program and are a Creationist; be aware of these sort of learning opportunities to discuss the topics further with your child.

Read more reviews here.

Disclaimer: I received a trial to this site to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.