Take a look at my first published book!
Click on image for more information.
Click HERE to purchase.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Received A TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Award!

As the 2011-2012 Crew year comes to a close, we are once again presenting awards to our vendors. The awards are known as the TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Awards. The following vendors are the recipients of the award this year. Click on their name to check out the Crew reviews!

And the really big news?  Not only did I get to vote on my favorite products, but I also received my very own TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Award for my children's book, Amazing Animals by Design!!!

Favorite Reading Instruction Product: Reading Eggs
Favorite Writing Product: Write Shop
Favorite Language Arts Product: Progeny Press
Favorite Social Studies Product: TruthQuest History
Favorite Science Product: Amazing Science
Favorite Math Product: Math Mammoth
Favorite Online Math Product: Math Rider
Favorite Foreign Language Product: Visual Latin
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Artistic Pursuits
Favorite Christian Education Product: Apologia: Who Am I? 

Favorite Preschool Product: Before Five in a Row
Favorite Elementary Product: All About Reading
Favorite Middle School Product: Write with WORLD
Favorite High School Product: Excellence in Literature
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Excellence in Literature 

Best Online Resource: Reading Eggs
Best e-Product: Heritage History
Best Homeschool Resource: Apologia: Educating the Wholehearted Child
Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: Apologia: How to Have a HEART for Your Kids
Best Children's Book: Amazing Animals by Design
Best Game or Toy: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything
Best Hands-On Resource: Pitsco Education

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: eMeals
Best Customer Service: K5 Learning
Most Adaptable Resource: Creek Edge Press
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything

Kids' Choice (favorite of CHILDREN ages 0-12): Reading Eggs
Teens' Choice (favorite per the TEENAGERS): Pitsco Education
All Around Crew Favorite: Visual Latin  


Congratulations to our winning vendors! We hope you will sail with us again! Many Crew Members are blogging about these awards as well. Click below to see what they have to say!

Powered by Linky Tools Click here to see the Crew Blog Posts...

TOS Review: Dive Into Your Imagination


The ocean has always been a fantastic place to teach science.  Everywhere the Navy has sent us, my kids have been enthralled with SeaWorld, the North Carolina Aquarium, the New York Aquarium, and the Baltimore Aquarium, not to mention the actual ocean.  Even before they fell in love with Disney's Finding Nemo, they loved colorful fish and fascinating anemones!  Needless to say, we were excited to review the Dive Into Your Imagination DVD and study guide.

Dive Into Your Imagination was started by Annie Crawley, aka Ocean Annie, to bring the ocean to children in all its beauty and color. Her goal is to help children (and adults) love the ocean and thus be inspired to protect and care for our environment and ocean. 
In her training and career as a print and broadcast photographer, Annie traveled the world and discovered the magical world of the ocean. Ocean Annie lived and worked around the world as a scuba diving instructor and sailor, underwater photographer and cinematographer. She has poured her knowledge and experience into her own company, Dive Into Your Imagination, which features many resources sharing her love of the ocean and its inhabitants. One of these resources is a series of award winning DVDs aimed at preschool and elementary students featuring her exquisite photography and demonstrating her love for the ocean and the life found in it.

We received the DVD Who Lives In The Sea?  I have to admit that my kids' first impression was that the music was very juvenile, but WOW, the underwater videography was breathtaking!  If you have an ocean or an aquarium nearby, this DVD would be a great introduction to sea life before taking a trip there.  If you do not have anything like that nearby, your students can experience the next best thing on this DVD. Ocean Annie has captured amazing videos of underwater sea life, and for all of your little Nemo fans, yes, his clownfish friends and relatives are in there!  Each chapter of the DVD describes a different sea animal, and there is even a chapter about scuba diving that could lead up to a great field trip!  A couple of things I love about the DVD, besides the fantastic videography, are the transcripts of the narration that are available as a special feature, and the ability to turn the narration off all together and watch the video accompanied only by the music.  This can be a good option for older kids who would just like to watch the sea animals in the video.  Incidentally, there is also a Spanish track on the DVD, if you would like to listen to the narration in Spanish.

While the DVD certainly got my kids' attention, the real meat of the curriculum is in the accompanying study guides.  For each DVD, you may choose a study guide for PreK-K or for Grades 1-3.  Since I have a 1st grader and a 3rd grader, I used the latter.  Each chapter of the DVD is accompanied by a chapter in the study guide that you could use for an afternoon of fun or for a week of unit study.  Pick and choose which ideas you want to use.  Included in each chapter are:  character education, a Treasure Chest of Vocabulary Words, questions and answers about what you watched on the DVD, an Imagination Play Script, classroom activity stations for further learning, ideas for further research and journaling, and a book list for further study.  Would you like to turn your classroom into an ocean for a full year?  You could do so with several of these DVDs and study guides, and you could incorporate your Language Arts, Geography, and Math all into these units.

I love the variety of activities that are included and how they can be integrated with other subjects.  I also love the fact that all the types of learning are covered - visual, auditory, hands-on - and you can use all of the activities or just the ones that work best for your students.  I love the fact that the study guide presents many interesting questions and activities in a way that is much more appealing than a simple workbook.  I have only one warning for you:  my 6-year-old now loves to make sounds like a sea lion, at any appropriate or inappropriate time!


Here's the bottom line:

The Product:  Who Lives in the Sea? DVD and downloadable PDF study guide (also available in print)
Accompanying Products:  The series also includes Dive Into Diversity, Invertebrates of the Sea, and What Makes A Fish, A Fish?
The Company:  Dive Into Your Imagination with Annie Crawley
The Website:  http://www.diveintoyourimagination.com/  - Check out the website also for some cool kid links, dolphin stories, and free coloring pages!
http://www.anniecrawley.com/ - This is where you will find the educational guides along with the DVDs.
Ages:  Pre K-3rd Grade
Price:  You can purchase these DVDs from Annie Crawley's website or  Dive Into Your Imagination for $19.95 each. 
The Educator Guide in printed form is rather expensive (likely because they were written with schools in mind) at $299 for both levels for each DVD. However, Annie is running a fantastic special for our TOS Crew blog followers!  When purchasing any of the DVDs, if you'll mention in the comments that you homeschool and would like to have the PDF version of The Educator Guide, she will send it to you for free (a $70 value).  Currently, she is also offering free shipping on the DVDs.  This information is current at the time of posting, and I do not know how long it will last.

My fellow TOS Crew members reviewed this and the other three DVDs in the series.  To read their reviews, see the TOS blog post here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free DVD and Educator Guide from Dive Into Your Imagination in exchange for a fair review.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.


Monday, May 21, 2012

TOS Review: CapJaxMathFax


We got our standardized test scores back for this year, and let's just say they were, um, less than desirable on the Math side!  I wouldn't say my children struggle with Math.  They understand the concepts and get fairly good grades on their Math work.  While they excel on the Language Arts side, however, they just don't like Math.  In fact, they strongly dislike Math!  Since Math was my favorite subject and my husband has a degree in Electrical Engineering from Penn State, which included at least three years of Calculus, I guess we just thought we'd hand some Math-loving genes down to our kids.  I guess it skipped a generation!

In trying to figure out where I was going wrong in my teaching of the dreaded subject, I realized that my kids do understand the concepts and they are capable of solving the problems when they apply themselves.  Because they do not like Math, however, it has been a struggle for me to get them to drill their Math facts regularly, and I have dropped the ball on that this year, as we were trying to accomplish many other things.  The solution to our problem is that my kids need to drill, drill, drill on their Math facts, and I need to find a way to make that palatable.

Obviously, when an opportunity to review CapJaxMathFax came up, I jumped on it!


CapJaxMathFax is a subscription download to your computer, which works on Mac or PC.  Your child may drill on Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, or Division facts for a rating, or practice a combination of the drills.  The score is higher the faster you answer the problems, and when you have received 1000 points in that operation, you have mastered it.  This is a simple, straight-forward way to drill Math facts on the computer.  It does not use games that can distract your child, but it does use bright colors and instant feedback that will encourage your child to continue to improve and increase speed.

The Product:  CapJaxMathFax, a downloadable computer program (also available on CD)
Where to find it:  CapJaxMathFax website
Ages:  Elementary school levels - or any age that could use some practice on their Math skills!
Price:  $29.95 (small additional charge for CD)
Pros:  Excellent Math drilling practice without the distraction of games
Cons:  Although the program was relatively simple once we got going, the log-in and setup stage was not terribly user-friendly, and it took me a while to figure it all out.

My children have already improved in drilling their Math facts using CapJaxMathFax for a short time.  I would recommend this inexpensive program for anyone who needs some extra practice with Math drills.

To see what my crewmates thought of CapJaxMathFax, see the Homeschool Crew Blog.

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

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Garden Club" by Dandelion Dust Designs/FREEBIE

Are you all out planting your gardens in this beautiful weather?  My mother plants GORGEOUS gardens, but I'm more of a let-me-stay-inside-and-scrap-pictures-of-gardens-and-flowers kind of girl.  Whichever you are, Dandelion Dust Designs just released "Garden Club" just for you!



You can pick the whole lovely kit up at ScrapDelicious.


The Quickpages are up now!  Click on images to download from Mediafire.  PU only.



Happy Scrapping!  :)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "Garden Club" kit in exchange for layouts.  No other compensation was given, and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bouncing Beach Balls Freebie Papers

I have realized something about myself.  I love bright colors.  When I used to be a quieter, more reserved person, I liked pastels.  I hope that doesn't mean I'm too loud and obnoxious now, but I find that I just get bored if I scrap too long with light or neutral shades.  I have some nice family heritage books that I have been working on with vintage and sepia tones, but after a while I just have to throw some red in there.  I am drawn to the brightest kits in any scrap-booking shoppe.

My favorite kit and color palette from the Stuff to Scrap blog trains/road trips that I've been doing for the past year or so was the beautiful, bright Bouncing Beach Balls train from last June.  I could use those matching kits for all my summer photos!  So, of course, I had to try the color palette in my new toy, the Repper Pro software.

The blog train is a year old, but if you enjoyed the colors as much as I did, click on the image below to download a whole new set of papers on the Bouncing Beach Balls color palette.  If you didn't get a chance to collect that kit, you can still download my portion from the June 2011 blogpost.  And great minds must think alike, because just before I posted this, I saw that Adriana's Cafe is offering the kit that she expanded after the blog train last year, on sale this week, and her CT has posted a few freebies!

Here are the papers.  PU/S4H/S4O.


Happy Scrapping!  :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kaleidoscope Free Papers

Hello, friends!  I did not post anything on Mother's Day, but I hope you had a happy one!  I cried over the pickles I pulled out of the fridge because I realized they were the last food I have that my grandmother made, and this was our first Mother's Day without her, but after I dealt with that emotional episode, my Mother's Day was lovely.  I, for one, do not leave such things to chance.  My 10-year-old loves to cook, and to make it easy for her (even though she does sometimes make recipes from scratch), I went out ahead of time and got her a kit for making a roast in the crockpot.  It was in the refrigerated meat section of the grocery store, and it had trimmed meat, chopped veggies, and seasoning all ready to just throw in the crockpot.  So she proudly cooked our Mother's Day dinner and made cookies that said "I Love Mom," and we had some friends over after church.

In addition, I bookmarked the scrapbooking pattern-making software I wanted and pointed it out to my husband several times.  He makes fun of me for making such "subtle" hints to make sure he knows what I want, but the funny thing is, I tried to get this software for Christmas and he didn't pick up on any of the hints.  So evidently the hammer with which I was hitting him over the head was a bit too subtle!  He got it this time, though, and I have been LOVING playing with my new Repper Pro!  So much so that you may get a few free paper downloads over the next little bit if you keep checking back with me!

Here are my first papers, made with the sample images in the program.  I love the bright colors and the kaleidoscope look.  I can't wait to use these in a scrapbook and print them out!  :)  I think my girls might have their eye on them for some homeschool notebooks as well!

Click on image to download from MediaFire.  PU/S4H/S4O.


Happy Scrapping!  :)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

TOS Review: Judah Bible Curriculum


We homeschool for many reasons, not the least of which is that God and the Bible have been almost completely taken out of many public schools.  Is that a problem just because we want our children to learn about the Bible, or is it more foundational than that?  Do we teach Bible as one of many subjects in our homeschool, or do we teach all of our subjects according to how they relate to the Bible and our faith?  This is a personal decision each of us must make for our family.

The goal of the Judah Bible Curriculum is to help you produce Godly character in yourself and your students by making the Bible the centerpiece of a Christian education.  It uses the Principle Approach, which is defined by The Foundation For American Christian Education (FACE) as:
"reflective teaching and learning.” It is America’s historic method of Biblical reasoning which places the Truths (or principles) of God’s Word at the heart of education. Each subject is predicated upon God’s Biblical principles and students are taught to think and reason from principles and leading ideas using The Notebook Method to Research, Reason, Relate and Record.
The Judah Bible Curriculum does not use a specific curriculum or textbook, but gives guidelines and examples.  The only textbook is the Bible.  The plan is that you will study the whole Bible with your students (key events and stories, not every prophecy and genealogy) once each year for five years, studying five key themes running through the Scriptures.  Each year you will focus on a different theme while studying the same Scriptures.  You may do this with multiple grades all together, and older children will of course generally understand more and go into deeper discussion of the themes.  Each child may keep a notebook at his or her own level.  The reading and discussion begins as teacher-led, but the system gradually teaches children to think and study and research on their own.

For this review, I received a downloadable JBC Manual, a downloadable book of Notebooking Ideas, and eight Audio Lectures in mp3 form.  The Lectures are more for the teacher than for the student.  If you have not done this kind of teaching or studied the Bible much yourself, you may find these very helpful.  If you have done Bible study and teaching for years, you may find that you already know most of this information, and the lectures are a bit dry.  Use or don't use them in as much as they are helpful to you.  The Notebooking Ideas are geared toward elementary students who aren't quite ready for the Key Sheets given on the website and in the manual, and they contain some very helpful ideas.  The JBC Manual is the general outline for the course.  It contains outlines on what to cover each week and explains the method of The Principle Approach.  It discusses concepts like Christian Self-Government and true Liberty as opposed to Anarchy.  It goes through each of the themes, how to teach them, what questions to ask, Scripture Memory verses to use, how to fill out the Key Sheets, and how to apply what we have learned.  It gives historical context for the sections and some outside resources.  You could work your history and other subjects right into this curriculum.


What it is:  Judah Bible Curriculum, hard copy or download
Where to get it:  http://judahbible.com (to purchase click here)
Price:  $69 hard copy (plus $5 S&H); $44 download
Ages:  All ages

There are pros and cons to the Judah Bible Curriculum.  Overall, I do like it.  I love the whole idea of The Principle Approach, of building Godly character in students, and of teaching them how to study the Bible rather than just having them fill in a bunch of blanks.  The outlines, Key Sheets, and other helps offer good direction for this type of study.  The price is fantastic - a 5-year study for all of your kids together for only $44!  I like the fact that the curriculum does not require one particular Bible translation or push any specific denominational doctrine.  The program does work well for several ages studying together.  Here is my 6-year-old reading out loud out of his own "Bible" (Bible storybook), while the other kids have their Bibles.  He was very proud to be part of the discussion!



The cons are that the program is very time-consuming and requires a great deal of teacher preparation.  Some parts are difficult to understand and not user-friendly.  I will probably continue to use this program as a supplement for a while, but I do not know that we will do the whole 5-year-plan.

If you are looking for a comprehensive guide to help you work through the entire Bible with your children and to use this as the foundation for all your coursework, the Judah Bible Curriculum may be just what you are looking for.  If you are not looking for something not quite so comprehensive, you may still find that this is a fair price for the help you would get from the outlines and notebooking helps that are included.

To see what my fellow Crew members thought of The Judah Bible Curriculum, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free download of the Judah Bible Curriculum in exchange for a fair review.  All opinions are my own, and no other compensation was received.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Parental Rights Amendment is Being Introduced!


The Parental Rights Amendment Is Being Introduced!
Time to Call Congress!

I have never wanted to get involved or enjoyed being involved in politics, beyond my once-4th-yearly vote for President. Nor did I have any intention of blogging about politics.  I have become convinced, however, that if we want to preserve our rights and protect our children, we must become involved like never before. It just took me all of 5 minutes to call my Rep and two Senators about co-sponsoring this Amendment. This isn't about Republicans vs Democrats or Christians vs other religions - it's about not letting the preferences of other countries supersede our own rights and Constitution. Please take 5 minutes and CALL NOW!!!  (Or at least sign the petition if you have not done so.)

http://www.parentalrights.org/

Happy Mother's Day! (freebie!)

Hello, Ladies (and if any men are reading this, maybe you'll pick up on a hint or two)!  Have you all been leaving "subtle" hints for your families about what you would like for Mother's Day?  You know, like the sales paper or catalogue with that perfect gift circled, a coupon lying next to it, and the words, "This would make a good Mother's Day gift?"  I know, it's almost too subtle, like we expect them to read our minds or something.  Sometimes my husband picks up on the hints and sometimes he doesn't!!!

Well, we have a gift for you today!  Dandelion Dust Designs just released "My Mom" over at ScrapDelicious.  You can pick it up today and have time to make a lovely page or card for your mom before Mother's Day, or print some pieces out and give them to your kids to make cards!  And of course, there are a couple of FREE quickpages at the bottom of this post to help you out!

Here is my beautiful mother.  She's the lovely one on the right, not the one with the shaved head on the left!  :)



I am loving the laced-up ribbons in the last few kits!  You can pick this kit up exclusively at ScrapDelicious.



And here are your QPs.  Click on images to download from Mediafire.  PU only.



Happy Mother's Day!  :)

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of the "My Mom" kit in exchange for layouts made with the kit.





Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Reflections on LIFE

I didn't get a chance to post anything around Right To Life Sunday back in January, but any time is a good time to talk about life.  Below is an article from The Christian Standard magazine on May 29, 1994.  Here is the text:
Decisions That Make a Difference
by Charles A. McNeely
The voice on the phone took me by surprise.  "Are you Charles McNeely from Lincoln, Illinois?"  She sounded young and vivacious, with just a hint of apprehension.
  "Yes," I answered.  "May I help you?"
  "Did you by any chance help place a baby for adoption in Iowa City in 1973?"
  "Yes," I replied cautiously, slowly pulling a kitchen chair over for support.  "Why do you ask?"
  "My name is Susan Andrews* and I was born on January 8, 1973.*  I am wanting to contact my birth mother and I was told you might be able to help me.  Could I have been that baby?"
  My heart beat faster.  "Tell me what you've been told."
  As I listened to her story unfold, long forgotten but vivid memories flooded my mind, like a series of pictures flashing on a screen.  Then I thought, "She's the one!  I don't believe it, but it all connects.  She was the baby!"
  Our conversation continued for another half hour, followed by five days of numerous phone calls and intense searching for Christy, the woman who, as a seventeen-year-old member of our youth group, gave birth to Susan.
  When I called her back with the welcome news that Christy was eager to hear from her, Susan said she was excited, nervous, and scared.  I told her that Christy cried with unsuppressed joy and unresolved guilt.  She said not a day had gone by in twenty-one years that she had not prayed to see her daughter again.
  I recall several comments Susan made then and during the earlier conversation, but one statement will be forever etched in my memory.  It was something she said in the first phone call.  Her bubbly and energetic voice suddenly became very serious and soft-spoken.  She asked about the circumstances surrounding her birth and adoption. 
Don't Make Two Mistakes
  I explained that she was conceived out of wedlock, that her birth father refused all responsibility, that Christy's parents were extremely upset and her family physician had recommended abortion.  I summarized my very first talk with Christy, in which I cited several reasons why she should not abort.  I repeated what my wife and I had told Christy twenty-one years earlier:  "Don't make a second mistake and kill this baby.  Give your child the gift of life and hand her over to a Christian couple who can give her life eternal."
  That was when Susan said something I will never forget.  There was a long pause.  And then softly, slowly, and very seriously she said, "Thank you. . . . Thank you. . . . I always wondered who convinced my birth mother not to abort me.  And I just want to thank you for my life."
  Susan's very genuine expression of gratitude for life itself made everything worthwhile.  The midnight trip to the hospital, the many counseling sessions with Christy and her parents, the long distance phone calls to line up a home for Christy and adoptive parents for Susan, the winter trips over ice-covered roads to encourage Christy, the hours Jane and I let her pour out her heart and weep on our shoulders, the money we gave her to buy what homes for unwed mothers would not provide - it was now worth it all!
  Susan's voice began to quicken again as she described her parents as the best parents in the world.  From the time she was young, they shared honestly that she was adopted - chosen and special.  She was so against abortion, she said, that whenever her papers or speeches assigned in school were open to topics of her own choosing, she always chose pro-life subjects.  Now she was a senior in a Christian college, determined to serve the Lord with all her heart.
  Then she said it again.  "Thank you!"  Chills went up my spine.  I thought of our talks with Christy, and I thought of how often we Christians miss opportunities to give clear, godly advice to people in crisis.  I thought of how sometimes we just need to say, "Don't do it!" whether it's sex before marriage or abortion after sex.  I thought of how some people do listen to us - and their decisions have eternal significance.
  When Susan learned that Christy had turned her back on the church for the past twenty years, that she now has no relationship with Christ and no purpose in life, she said, "Now, perhaps the baby she gave life can give life to her."
   Just before the end of our second conversation, Susan told me that she was going to take it slowly - one step at a time.  She was going to write Christy first, and then talk to her by phone - and later in person.  But she was going to try her best to get acquainted with Christy and reacquant Christy with her Lord!
*The names, place, and date have been changed.


By the way, I'm Susan.