Saturday, December 31, 2011

Stuff to Scrap Road Trip: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!!

Enjoy the New Year Road Trip with Stuff to Scrap - Winter Formal!  Click image to download.  PU/S4H/S4O.

Check out all the travel stops below. You came here from Pizazz Pixels. Next stop: HD Creations!

JMC Designs
Scraps by Andrea
Busy Crafting Mommy
Just For Fun Designs
Scrappin Serenity
Saphira's Scraps
The Scrappy Kat
Tinadell's Tags
Leaving a Legacy
The Digi Scrapping Mama
DoubleTrouble Scraps
Queen Wild Scraps
Shel Belle Scraps
A Fish Design
Pizazz Pixels
Note-able Scraps
HD Creations
Let Me Scrapbook!

Happy 2012!

New Website for Sprouting Seeds Studio

Hello Everyone! We hope you are enjoying the holidays with your family and friends. Just wanted to remind you that Sprouting Seeds Studio has transitioned to their new website - Dandelion Dust Designs - as they will be taking down the Sprouting Seeds Studio website on December 31, 2011.

If you'd like to continue following their website, downloading their freebies and/or purchasing their resale kits, you will need to now visit them on their new website. We'd love to have you join the Dandelion Dust Designs Facebook Page, where they currently have an Exclusive Facebook Freebie for you to download. They also have 2 Freebies on the new website, available for a very limited time.

Thank you so much for being a customer, fan, follower and/or reader of Sprouting Seeds Studio these past few years!

Best wishes to you and yours in 2012! Happy New Year!!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"My Memories" Freebie

If you are interested in digital scrapbooking but just don't know where to start, check out the all-in-one-stop-shop at My Memories, where you can purchase both your software and your digital scrapbooking kits.  Don't know quite what you are doing yet?  Try some of the many freebies offered, like this one.  Click on the image to download from My Memories:


Use This Code: STMMMS79285

to get $10 off My Memories Suite Software! (in the US and Canada)

Happy Scrapping!  :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TOS Review: The World's Greatest Stories

My husband and I have always thought that not only is the Bible important for spiritual growth, but it also contains some of the greatest literature on earth.  Why wouldn't it?  It was written by the Author of Authors, and every word is true!  If you want a happy story, a sad story, a comedy, a tragedy, an adventure story, a topic for your report on ancient literature, or a great plot for a new movie, it's all there.  The story of Abraham and Sarah alone is a saga unequaled by modern romantic adventures.  So why should kids grow up thinking it's boring?  For some reason, that is a common misconception among children, perhaps because they have heard it read in dry monotone voices, or perhaps because they just haven't been exposed to these stories enough.  Stories such as "Daniel and The Lions' Den" and "Jonah and The Great Fish" have fed the minds of children for generations.

In our search for children's Biblical materials, however, we have been frustrated by the inaccuracy of so many retellings.  Oh, I enjoy a good novel of historical fiction, and I love cartoon anachronisms showing familiar Bible stories in the present day.  But when it really comes to teaching, I was having a hard time finding enjoyable children's materials that did not change parts of the stories and create confusion for the children.  We finally found the - perhaps obvious - solution of simply reading to the children straight from the Bible.

George W. Sarris of The World's Greatest Stories came to the same conclusion.  Why rewrite the greatest stories of all time?  In his series of audio CDs, he tells the old favorites verbatim from both the New International and the King James Versions.  Nothing added, nothing taken away.  He is a dynamic story-teller who uses voice characterizations, sound effects, and some background music to truly make the stories come alive.  I received Volume 1: The Prophets, in the NIV, to review.  It includes the stories "The Blazing Furnace," "Daniel in the Lions' Den," "The Prophecy of Jonah," and others.  There are six volumes available all together.  These CDs are fantastic for children of any age who enjoy listening to stories, especially those who are not yet good readers or who are simply better auditory learners.  They are great for car trips, bedtime listening, or as a supplemental activity for one child to use while the busy parent/teacher is working with someone else.  Truthfully, though, I would enjoy them most simply gathering around the fireplace and listening as a family.

Each CD or cassette tape is $7.95 and is about an hour long.  If you order six or more items in one transaction, the shipping is free!  See more about George W. Sarris, order a cassette tape or CD in the NIV or KJV, and even listen to some audio clips for yourself at

To find out what other members of the crew thought about The World's Greatest Stories CDs in both versions, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Volume 1 of The World's Greatest Stories on CD in exchange for a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Merry Christmas!

Another Freebie from My Memories!

Here is a great gift from My Memories, just in time for Christmas!  Click image to go to the download page.

Quickpages make it easy to scrap your memories any time of the year!  Enjoy!

Use the code STMMMS79285 to receive $10 off the My Memories Suite Software and a $10 gift certificate to the store.

Merry CHRISTmas!  :)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heather Jolly's New Blog

Are any of you followers of Heather Jolly?  I discovered her recently and have greatly enjoyed the freebies I have downloaded from her blog.  Recently, however, she had to shut down her blog because of technical difficulties, and I was very sad until I found her new location here!  She already has a new kit posted, Olive Juice, and she is working on a Christmas kit.  So if you've been missing her blog and looking for her on the web, or if you have never heard of her and would like to check out her freebies, visit her new blog!  Preview below is linked to her blog:

Happy Scrapping!  :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

TOS Review: Fractazmic

Today's review goes back to one of my favorite themes: learning through games!  Fractions can be one of the most frustrating and difficult math concepts to learn and to teach.  One of my favorite practical applications when teaching fractions is to go in the kitchen and make a big ol' batch of cookies.  Double or triple the recipe and have the kids measure out the ingredients (hey, Mom, two 1/4 cups are the same as 1/2 cup!!)  Just make sure you double check the accuracy before you let them dump in the salt!!  Up until now, though, I did not have any fun games for teaching fractions.  Fractazmic has filled the void!

Fractazmic consists of a deck of cards divided into three color-coded suits.  The object of the game is to combine cards within each suit to equal one (1).  When one player runs out of cards, the player with the most "hands," or combinations of cards equaling one (1), wins.  This encourages kids to learn to add those fractions together quickly!

My family loves the Fractazmic game from I See Cards.  The game can be played with 2-4 players and is ideal for any age that is learning fractions.  The bright colors and eye-catching illustrations are probably best for upper elementary, when you are starting to teach fractions, but if you have older kids who could still use some practice on those beastly little parts-of-a-whole, I think they would enjoy it, too.  The 60-card deck is only $6.95 and would make a great stocking stuffer.  (You know all you homeschool moms are looking for educational Christmas gifts!)  The game's usefulness is certainly not limited to homeschooling, as it would be great for any kid struggling with or just learning fractions, and it would be a great classroom aid as well.

Find out more about Fractazmic and purchase the game at  To see what other crew members thought about Fractazmic and other I See Cards games, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free Fractazmic game for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

TOS Christmas Digital Issue

The TOS Christmas Digital Issue is live and absolutely free!  Click the image below to view!

Merry Christmas!  :)

"Winter'ish" by Sprouting Seeds Studio

In the midst of downloading all the lovely goodies from the December/Christmas Blog Trains for the beginning of the month, I was excited to also see that Sprouting Seeds Studio released "Winter'ish."  This versatile kit can be used for all your winter and snow pictures, but with its deep reds and greens and golds, is also perfect for Christmas photos or cards!

You can get the kit exclusively at ScrapDelicious:

Click image below to download my freebie from Mediafire (PU only), and also jump over to Sprouting Seeds Studio's blog to download another little freebie!

Merry Christmas and Happy Scrapping!  :)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this kit in exchange for a layout showcasing the kit.  No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DST December Blog Train - "Traditions"

We have two great blog trains coming your way this month!  All aboard for Christmas scrapbooking pages!  Here's my portion of the DST "Traditions" Blog Train:

Hop on the Blog Train at

Merry Christmas!

"Country Christmas" Road Trip with Stuff to Scrap!

December means Christmas, and I can't wait to start downloading all the digi-scrapping Christmas goodies!  Click preview to download from MediaFire.  PU/S4H/S4O.  Then continue on down the road below.  My prayers are for a joyous and meaningful Christmas season for all!

Your last stop was Heni scrappel.
Your next stop is AZ Sweetheart Scraps. Enjoy the ride!

Here's the whole road trip in case you've gotten sidetracked:

JMC Designs
Sweet Maple
Scrappin Serenity
Growing Pains Scrapped
Let Me Scrapbook!
Tina Dell's Tags
Saphira's Scraps
Junfunkie Designs
Sweet Creations
Just For Fun Designs
Queen Bee Scraps
Seal Scraps
Queen Wild Scraps
Monkey's Musings
The Digi Scrapping Mama
Mommy Made This
DoubleTrouble Scraps
The Scrappy Kat
Heni scrappel
Note-able Scraps
AZ Sweetheart Scraps

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 28, 2011

FFH Christmas Album GIVEAWAY

UPDATE:  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your posts!!  The winner is JAMIE!!  Send your email address to me at noteablescraps (at) gmail (dot) com, and I will have the link for the download forwarded to you!

I am extending the giveaway on the FFH Christmas Album below because NOT ONE PERSON ENTERED!  If you want it, leave a comment!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Give Thanks" Kit Freebie

Did you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving?  I hope so.  We had a lovely time with friends!  I am soooooo ready to get into the Christmas season, but I do love Thanksgiving and have enjoyed my weekend.  Before switching holidays, I needed to change some colors on my "Everyday Elegance" Thanksgiving-themed portion and add a few things to match my Thanksgiving photos.  Here is the newly-colored kit if you are interested.  Click image to download from Mediafire.  PU/S4H/S4O.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TOS Review: The Reading Game

This month, we were given the great privilege of reviewing The Reading Game, created by “Wordly Wise” author, Kenneth Hodkinson.  The Reading Game includes six illustrated storybooks and six sets of flashcards which correspond to the storybooks.  The flashcards are used to play a memory game between the student who is learning to read and the parent, teacher, or older student who is already able to read.  As the student plays the game, he or she quickly learns the words on the flashcards.  Once he learns one set, he moves to the next, until he has all the sight words for the first book learned.  Then he can read the first book.  After that, he proceeds to play the game with the memory cards for the second book, and so on.  By the end of the sixth book, he will have a reading vocabulary of 180 words, almost half of which are among the one hundred most commonly used words in the English language!


This is one of those tools that I wish I had discovered years ago to use with my first child when I was teaching him to read!  My youngest son strongly dislikes workbooks and flashcards, and he definitely learns best through games.  Whereas he is completely bored by repeating his sightwords flashcards, he loves the fast-paced memory game using cards that are almost identical to the boring ones (he especially loves it when he wins)!  I like the fact that there are no pictures on the word side of the flashcards to help him figure out the words, so he really has to learn which words use which letters.  (The animal picture on the back of the cards shows to which animal story they correspond.)  I love that he is able to learn so much so quickly through playing the game, and that he gets the immediate reward of being able to read a whole book at the end of each game.  The only thing I didn't like is that the books do not use capital letters (except for the word "I") or punctuation.  The author explains this in the instructions to the game, saying that he prefers to let the students learn the words first without worrying about things like capitalization and punctuation yet.  I believe that children learn things like correct grammar and mechanics best by reading books that use them correctly.  They just get used to seeing periods, question marks, and commas in the right places, so that they are often using these things correctly even before they learn the grammar lesson.  That small difference of opinion, however, did not diminish our enjoyment of this game.  My 6-year-old can play for hours, and then enjoys reading his new books to anyone who will listen!  His reading has improved dramatically in the couple of weeks since we have received this game.


The Reading Game is geared toward lower elementary students and is suitable for any child who is learning to read.  My older children, who are all good readers, enjoyed playing "tutor" and playing this game with their little brother.  I believe an older struggling reader could even benefit from playing this game in a "tutor" role with a younger sibling, strengthening her own reading ability and building her self-confidence.  More information about the game can be found at, where you may also purchase it for $24.95.

I highly recommend The Reading Game for anyone who has children who are learning how to read.  To see what other TOS Crew members thought of this game, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of The Reading Game for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

4shared Freebies

Here's a little poll.  Do you prefer to download from 4shared, MediaFire, or some other sharing site?  Leave me a comment below.  I am considering switching completely to MediaFire in December, as several readers have indicated their dislike for 4shared.  In the meantime, however, all of my previous freebies at 4shared should still be available.  If you haven't gotten them all, take a few minutes to build up your Quickpage stash (as well as a few other goodies).

Click here to scroll through them all.


Monday, November 21, 2011

"Cinnamon Twist" by Sprouting Seeds Studio

Well, I have all kinds of freebies and deals for you today, as we prepare for the holidays and the end of the month.  Here's the new release "Cinnamon Twist," another lovely autumn kit by Sprouting Seeds Studio.

Click image above to purchase the kit at ScrapDelicious.  Click the below image to download the freebie add-on from Sprouting Seeds Studio.

Don't forget to come back for your free Quickpage from 4shared or MediaFire.  PU only.

Happy Scrapping!  :)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of "Cinnamon Twist" in return for a layout using the kit.  

"Clever Dragons" - A New Website for Boys - Limited Time Special Offer!

A few weeks ago, I posted a glowing review for Always Ice Cream, a social and educational website for girls.  (See review here.)  The only thing that seemed to be missing from this fabulous website was. . . . a place for boys.  Well, the site developers have answered the cries from the boys' parents, and have released Clever Dragons.  On this site, boys can raise dragons and build castles - but only after having earned "gold" by practicing math, languages, typing, etc.!

The best part is that they are offering a low introductory rate of $39.99 for a lifetime membership!  (This is normally $99.99.)  The membership can be purchased as a gift coupon to be given through the holidays.  Hurry, as this offer only lasts until November 27!!

Happy dragon-slaying!  :)

"My Memories" Freebie!

Chances are, if you are looking at this blog, you are probably interested in scrapbooking, homeschooling, or both.  (Or you are a very good friend of mine just offering your support, in which case I deeply thank you!)  If you have been considering digital scrapbooking but don't know where to get started, consider the My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software.  Version 3 was just released, and it provides you with everything you need to get started making your own beautiful scrapbook pages or Christmas cards.  Use the coupon code STMMMS79285 to get $10 off your purchase!

If you'd like a taste of what's included, try out this freebie.  It includes 2 quickpages and all the elements and papers used to make them!  Click image to go to download page.

Happy Scrapping!

Review: One Silent Night

UPDATE:  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your posts!!  The winner is JAMIE!!  Send your email address to me at noteablescraps (at) gmail (dot) com, and I will have the link for the download forwarded to you!

I was recently given the opportunity to review One Silent Night, a Christmas album by the husband-and-wife duo, FFH.  What a fun way to get into the holiday spirit as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach us!  Approach?  That sounds so mild.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are hurtling toward me like a speeding freight train, trying to run me over!  I'm not complaining, though; I love the holiday season, and I can't wait to put up my tree and listen to all my Christmas music on Friday!

One Silent Night is a lovely way to begin the Christmas season.  The voices are clear and mellow, and there is some nice harmony.  It contains a mix of fun songs like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Winter Wonderland," and more spiritual favorites like "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Glorious Impossible."  If you are looking for an easy-listening mix of Christmas favorites, take a look at this new album, just released on October 18th.

You can find FFH at the following sites:


Purchase the CD for $12.99 from

OR leave a comment below to enter the drawing for a FREE copy of One Silent Night!  I love Christmas movies and music and am always looking for new things, so leave a comment recommending your favorite Christmas movie or CD for me.  For a second entry in the drawing, leave a comment telling me you "liked" my Facebook page!  I will draw a winner on Friday, November 25.

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."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

TOS Review: Vocabcafe


I remember doing Vocabulary Words when I was in school.  Write the word, spell it correctly, write the pronunciation, write the definition, then use the word in a sentence.  At the end of each week, we would be quizzed on a group of the words.  Increasing a child's vocabulary is so important both for SAT and other test preparation, and also for improving general reading comprehension and communication skills.  The majority of my vocabulary, however, came from the books I read rather than from the word lists we used each week.

Children learn so much about spelling, vocabulary, and grammar simply by reading avidly.  Of course, when they come across a word that is new to them, they need to stop reading, look it up in the dictionary, and find the definition.  Um, well, I wasn't so good at that part growing up.  I usually tried to figure it out from the context and keep going, as do my kids now!

Well, we always want something better for the next generation, and now my kids have Vocabcafe Books from College Prep Genius, at  These modern, middle-to-high-school level, fiction books include 300 SAT-level vocabulary words in the text of each book, and the vocabulary words are highlighted.  You can find the definition of each highlighted word at the bottom of that very page!  There is also a word review and appendix at the end of each book.  While I hoped that my 8th-grader would enjoy the books, his 6th-grade sister enjoyed them as well.  They both agreed that this method of learning vocabulary beat looking up every word and writing down its definition hands-down!

According to the website and our own TOS Homeschool Crew page:
These original, modern novellas contain no foul language, no illicit sexual themes, and no sorcery. Parental discretion is advised, however, in the case of I.M. for Murder, which contains graphic material some readers may find upsetting.

College Prep Genius is currently offering this set of four novels at the special sale price of $38.85, or you may purchase the books individually for $12.95 each.  The set includes:  Planet Exile, The Summer of Saint Nick, IM for Murder, and Operation High School.  You may purchase them here.  College Prep Genius also offers other books and DVDs about standardized test preparation, improving your SAT scores, and finding scholarships for college.

To see what other TOS Crew members thought of the Vocabcafe Series and the SAT Prep Course, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received free copies of the four novellas in the Vocabcafe Series for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Monday, November 14, 2011

TOS Review: Keyboard Town Pals

Over the past few weeks, we have had the opportunity to review Keyboard Town Pals, the typing program for children.  While I personally did not start typing lessons until the 7th Grade, it has become increasingly important to teach these skills to children at a young age in today's world.  With children participating in so many activities on the computer, it is important for them to learn correct fingering early on.  Not only will this be much easier and less time-consuming than the hunt-and-peck method, but also, your child will develop good habits before it becomes too difficult to break the bad ones and re-learn correct fingering at an older age.

Keyboard Town Pals, an online typing program found at, is an interactive alternative to the traditional typing programs that children may find boring.  With its bright colors and friendly characters, it reminded me of TV shows that I watched as a child, such as Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo.  Sunny, the narrator, takes the children through the three streets of Keyboard Town, introducing them to characters like "Amy, for A."  The program is suitable for any child old enough to know his letters and use a keyboard, up through about eight years old.  My 10-year-old thought that the program was too childish, but my 8-year-old enjoyed it.  She finished the eight lessons that we were given for review quickly, in one afternoon, and she is now attempting to use the correct fingers on the keyboard, and she is finding her letters more quickly.

You may purchase the web-based software or the CD-ROM for the "Learn to Type in an Hour" program for $30.00 at this link.  There is also a CD-ROM bundle available for $45.00.  Other products available include stickers, finger puppets, a coloring book, and a card game.

To see what other TOS Reviewers thought about this product, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the Keyboard Town Pals program for the purpose of a fair review. No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Friday, November 4, 2011

To Publish A Book

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get a book published? Have you thought of trying to get one published yourself?  Do you know the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing, and have you wondered if there are any other options?  If you'd like to follow along on a real journey to first-time publication, check out Amazing By Design.  You can follow the process step-by-step from choosing a publisher (um, yeah, that's whoever is willing to publish the book!!), to Illustrations (that's where this book is now), and on to full publication and printing (sometime after Christmas).

The Person I Marry

"Long before thinking of diamonds & glitter,
here are some things that I need to consider."

My kids are at such fun ages.  Even the youngest is learning to bathe himself and make himself peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, so my job is not nearly so custodial as it was a few years ago; yet we also are not dealing with teenage problems - YET.  My youngest son takes off running if a girl tries to hug or kiss him.  My two girls are not planning to EVER let a boy mess up their plans for their lives.  And my oldest son - well, that's where the problems are likely to start.  At age 12, he likes girls.  He is starting to like them quite a lot.

I would like to talk to my children about what type of person to marry now.  Now, while some of them still believe the opposite gender has cooties.  Now, before they are blinded by emotions and teenage hormones.  Now, while they still listen to a few of my opinions and have not quite yet decided that I am the dumbest person on earth.  I'd like to arm them with some foundational ideas about what characteristics to seek in a lifetime partner.

Gary and Jan Bower had just this in mind when they wrote the delightful book The Person I Marry for their own children.  In Gary's delightful rhyming verse, accompanied by Jan's beautiful oil-painted illustrations, they emphasize to children that qualities such as kindness, honesty, and thoughtfulness are the foundations of a good relationship; that God must be the center of the relationship; and that they should strive to have those qualities themselves.

The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

This 32-page, fully-illustrated, hard-cover book may be purchased for $11.99 from Bower Books at   Suitable for any preschool or elementary-aged children, other books in the "Bright Future" series cover topics such as handling money, the reality of heaven, and finding purpose in life.  Gary and Jan Bower definitely have a gift for explaining difficult, grown-up subjects to children.  My children enjoyed this book, and I loved the truth I was reading to them.

To read other TOS Homeschool Reviews of The Person I Marry by Gary and Jan Bower, click here.

Disclaimer:  I was allowed to view a free digital copy of The Person I Marry for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

"Sophisticated Fall!"

Sprouting Seeds Studio promised us lots of fall kits this year, and they have delivered!  Here's the latest release, "Sophisticated Fall."

You can pick the kit up exclusively, and right now on sale, at ScrapDelicious!

There's a cute freebie available at Sprouting Seeds Studio's blog.  Click image below to go pick it up.

Make sure you come back to pick up your free QP from 4shared!  PU only.

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "Sophisticated Fall" kit for the purpose of review.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Take the November Road Trip with Stuff to Scrap: Everyday Elegance!

In two hours, we will begin the month of November 2011 and my favorite time of the year.  I love all of fall, but I especially love November and December, the whole Thanksgiving and Christmas season!  Here is my part of Stuff to Scrap's Blog Road Trip.  Click on image to download from 4shared.  PU/S4H/S4O.

If you prefer, you may download from MediaFire.

Here's the Road Map for the rest of your stops.  You should have arrived here from 
Sweet Maple and your next stop is scraphannah.

Scraps by Andrea
Dandelion Dust Designs
Junfunkie Designs
The Digi Scrapping Mama
Shel Belle Scraps
Lovely Creations
DoubleTrouble Scraps
Queen Wild Scraps
Scrappin Serenity
JMC Designs
Adriana's Cafe
Ladybug Pics n Scraps
Lindsey's Digital Scrapbook
MDK Scraps
Queen Bee Scraps
The Scrappy Kat
Let Me Scrapbook!
Sweet Maple
Note-able Scraps

Happy Scrapping!  :)

TOS Thanks Military Families

As a homeschooling military spouse myself, I appreciate TOS's tribute to the military so much.  If you are military, please click here to see the beautiful tribute and to claim your FREE subscription (for new subscribers only) to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

Thank you for your service!

TOS Review: Ooka Island Adventure

One of the fun things about homeschooling is that while my oldest is beginning college prep reading and writing (see last post), my youngest is just beginning to read.  I have found in teaching four children to read that the best programs involve actual books that early readers can learn to read for themselves, rather than just word lists or word/picture flashcards.  My first grader is anxious to accumulate more and more whole books that he can read all by himself, and each one he masters gives him a sense of accomplishment and a boost of confidence.

Ooka Island Adventure is a unique downloadable early reading program for 3-7-year-olds.  It works on Mac or PC, which is welcome news for us Mac users!  To begin with, you must download the game itself, and then you may purchase a subscription to use it online (the download is included in the subscription price).  It is a large initial download, but I did not have any problems downloading it or using it.  Or should I say, my children did not have any problems.  When we first started, I was unable to figure out how to personalize the student's avatar, and I was thinking the program may not be user-friendly.  When I unleashed my 6-year-old on it, however, he had his avatar ready to go in a purple superhero suit that he LOVED in a matter of minutes.  So apparently, my problem was user-malfunction.  You know what they say:  if you can't figure out how to work a computer program, ask someone with a doctorate degree or a 10-year-old!!

Once you have logged into the program, the student first plays games on Ooka Island, learning and reinforcing the alphabet and the sounds different letters and blends make.  Watch out for the FLIGS, the mischievous flying pigs who like to make trouble all around the island!  Your child can play these games as long as he or she wants or needs to in order to learn the sounds and letters, so this is ideal for preschoolers who are just beginning to learn their letters, or for kindergartners and first graders who can move through to the books more quickly.  Once your child has earned some books, he may go to the Popcorn Theater on the island, where he may pick any of the books on his bookshelf.  The book may first be read with Auntie K and Zobot the robot, who will read the book while highlighting each word, and explain what is on the pages.  Then you may read with Zobot, who will just read the book while highlighting each word.  Finally, you may read the book completely on your own.  The ability to go back to any book on the list and choose to read it by yourself or with help gives children a chance to reinforce their skills.  The more your child plays Ooka Island, the larger the library he can build - of books he can read ALL BY HIMSELF!

My son is currently up to 7 books in his Ooka Island library, and if he had his way, this would be his entire 1st Grade curriculum!!  The program may be used as part of your homeschool reading curriculum, or as a reading supplement, whether you homeschool or not.  You can find more information at  Pricing is as follows:

Click here to purchase.

To read what other TOS Reviewers have to say about the Ooka Island Adventure, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free subscription to Ooka Island Adventure for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

TOS Review: Excellence in Literature

My 12-year-old son is, by age, in 7th grade, but he is doing mainly 8th-grade work this year, and he is especially ahead in the Language Arts side of things.  He is an avid reader who has been reading at high school level for some time, and he enjoys the classics, especially those by such authors as Jules Verne.  For this reason, I was realizing that I need to start looking at college-prep studies and stepping up our writing pursuits.  Just in time, I was blessed to be able to review Janice Campbell's  Excellence in Literature:: English 1: Introduction to Literature with the Honors option, from Everyday Education.

The Introduction to Literature is set up like a study guide, providing assignments to use with the classics listed in the course.  If your budget is tight, you could get these books from the library.  The author recommends, however, that you purchase the books, so that you may highlight sections, write in the margins, and have them for future reference.  Many of the books can be found second-hand very cheaply, and if you have multiple children who will be using the course, then of course you will be able to use them again.  My husband regularly peruses thrift stores, yard sales, and used book stores for the titles we need for homeschool, and we have built up quite a library very economically.  Introduction to Literature is, however, much more than your average study guide with a few discussion questions to ask with each book.  Janice Campbell's course covers how to read analytically and for comprehension, how to study and make notes on the literature, and how to write an effective paper communicating your own ideas about what you have studied.  Much of the work can be done individually by the student, at the student's own pace, with a parent or teacher reviewing the finished papers at the end of each unit and offering praise and advice for improvement.  The course teaches excellent personal study habits, research tips, and in-depth reading and writing skills in preparation for college.  It is also completely customizable for each family: while a specific order of books and timeline is suggested for the year-long course, the books may be done in any order, by themselves or in conjunction with another Language Arts or History course.

We are doing the course in the suggested order, and we have barely scratched the surface in Unit 1: Short Stories.  We cannot wait to get to Unit 2: Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne.  Jules Verne is one of my son's favorite authors, and he has already read that book.  Just take a look at the fun titles we have in store for the rest of the year:

Unit 1: Short Stories by- 
• Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
• Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you're concerned about that.)
• Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
• O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
• Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
• James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne 
Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 
Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw 
Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Honors: 1984 by George Orwell
Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare 
Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
The titles listed are just the focus texts.  More context readings are assigned in each unit, as well as optional honors texts which can be used for further high school and college credit.  The English I college-prep course is recommended for students in Grades 8-12.  It can be purchased from Everyday Education at  The print book is $29 plus $4.95 S&H.  If you prefer to download the e-book and print your own pages for a 3-ring binder, you may download it for $27.  Everyday Education also has many more resources for homeschooling through high school.

To see what other TOS reviewers have to say about Excellence in Literature, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of Excellence in Literature:: English 1: Introduction to Literature with the Honors option, from Everyday Education, for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

TOS Review: Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks!

Do you have a little boy (or girl) who LOVES fire trucks?  This review came at a great time for me, as my 1st grader had just started a unit on fire safety.  Also, since we have several friends and relatives who are fire fighters, any bright and shiny pictures of fire trucks are always popular with my crew!

The 128-page Lots & Lots of Fire Trucks & Firefighters book contains many color pictures of fire engines and other equipment.  It also contains fire-fighting information and trivia about fire-fighting history.  My 6-year-old enjoyed the many pictures.  I think a slightly older child might get a lot more out of the information included.

What my 6-year-old really loved was the DVD that was included:  Lots & Lots of Fire Songs & Safety Tips.  These fun jingles will keep him remembering to "stop, drop, and roll" for a long time to come!

These products are recommended for all ages.  In my house, it seemed that they were best suited for around ages 6-10.  While the songs and pictures are fun for any young children, I think the extra information in the book would especially be good for that older elementary child who wants to go beyond coloring pages and become a young expert on fire engines.  If you are teaching multiple ages about fire safety, this combination would help you to have something for everyone.

You can find all of the Lots & Lots of Fire Trucks products at Marshall Publishing,  Purchase the book and DVD combo here for the current sale price of  $29.95 (regularly $49.90).  And just for taking a look at our TOS reviews on the product, you can receive another $10 off the sale price by using the coupon TOSF1 at checkout!

Marshall Publishing also has a number of other educational videos and products, including the George Washington Carver DVD, of which they also graciously sent me a copy.  This inspirational story of the man born into slavery who rose above his circumstances to become a great scientist and benefactor can be purchased at Marshall Publishing for $19.95.  A study guide is also included on the website.

To read other TOS Crew members' reviews of these products by Marshall Publishing, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the Lots & Lots of Fire Trucks & Firefighers book, the Lots & Lots of Fire Songs & Safety Tips DVD, and the George Washington Carver DVD for the purpose of a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.