Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Dive Into Your IMAGINATION

We love nature at our house! And we love science! And right now, we're kind of on an Ocean kick because that's what the theme in Little Bit's class at church (that I lead and the big girls help out with) is all about. So all of that jives nicely with getting the chance to review a video from Dive Into Your IMAGINATION.

Annie Crawley, an underwater cinematographer and educator, created Dive Into Your IMAGINATION to teach children to appreciate the ocean.  Her books and DVDs use images that she has shot underwater all over the world.

Photobucket We were sent a copy of the DVD What Makes a Fish, a Fish and a .pdf verison of the related Educators Guide to review.

The 37 minute DVD is divided into 8 short chapters, or can be watched as one continuous video.

The pictures in this DVD are amazingly gorgeous and the variety of types of fish shown is fascinating! Little Bit loves watching "the fishes", and the rest of us enjoyed it as well.

The Educator Guide includes 2 .pdfs. One is for Pre-K and K, and is just under 300 pages long. The other is for Grades 1-3 and is 374 pages long. These guides take each of the short chapters of the video and turns it into a complete unit study with ideas for bulletin boards, discussion questions, and a variety of worksheets and assignments covering most school subjects. I should note that one reason they are so big is because they also include the transcript of the entire video.

I found much in the Educator Guide to be too "classroom oriented" for us. We did watch the first chapter, discussed it, using the educator guide as a . . . guide, and I gave them some of the worksheets and "assignments" from the Grade 1-3 guide. Sassy and MiniMe declared the math worksheets too easy (I should mention, we don't "do math" here, so I have no real ideal idea of what "grade" their math skills are at) and ran into the same problem I always had in school with story problems . . . overthinking them . . . Little Bit is only 3 but I can see her enjoying the coloring pages and hidden pictures and such when she's abit older.

I found it "choppy" to just watch one chapter and then discuss it, when it's only a 37 minute video and not super complex information. Honestly, I'm lazy and it involves 2 remotes and some fiddling to switch from tv to DVD, and if I'm going to spend 5 minutes doing that I want to watch more than 5 minutes of DVD lol. So, after the first "unit", we just watched the rest of the video in one sitting. As I mentioned, the undersea pictures are GORGEOUS. It's a very nice video to just sit and watch. I'm not sure how much Sassy and MiniMe "learned" from it, but they've definitely had more science than the average 9 year old. They just eat science and nature studies up, so we go with it. Little Bit is still young, but is loving the pretty fish and I'm sure "absorbing" the information without even realizing it, which is always a good way to learn.

Since many of my readers are, like us, young earth creationists, I do want to mention that there's at least one hint at evolution in this video. The one that Sassy caught was mention of sharks living before the dinosaurs, which technically I agree with, since fish were created on the 5th day and land animals on the 6th but . . . I'm pretty sure that's not what Ocean Annie meant LOL, and it's something to be aware of if getting other videos in the series.

I'd recommend the video for Preschool through 1st or 2nd grade children who enjoy fish and the ocean!  The Educators Guides might work well for someone taking a school at home approach to homeschooling, if you're willing to adapt some of the group activities to make them work in a home environment. The Educators Guide is also designed to require quite abit (compared to most of what I do, anyway) of prep work. Certainly if you plan to decorate your school space as suggested, there's that, but even without that, the suggestion is to watch the video on your own ahead of time, prepare activities for the children to do, etc. What I did was to skim the unit of both guides, and print the pages that I thought would work for us, so that didn't require as much prep work as if I'd used it as suggested. Those who know me, know I rarely use curriculum "as suggested" LOL.

The DVD, and others in the series are available from either the Dive Into Imagination site or Annie Crawley's site for $19.95 each. Print versions of the Educator Guides are available from Annie's site for $299. My understanding is that download versions of the guides will be available for $69.95 each, but those don't seem to be on the site yet, as I am writing this.

It is also my understanding that members of the TOS Crew and their blog readers can receive the entire set of .pdf Teacher Guides FREE when you purchase the Dive Into Your Imagination DVDs. Just mention that you are a homeschool parent, and that you heard about this offer from the TOS Homeschool Crew.  I'm not sure how long this offer is available, so don't delay!

To see what other members of the TOS Crew thought of these videos, and to get opinions on the other videos on the series, check out all the reviews, here.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned products in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Weekly (or 3) Wrap-Up - May 28

I know, I know, I haven't been keeping up very well, sigh . . . So let's see . . .

Homeschool Convention with Sassy and MiniMe.

Once we got home Daddy and the girls figured out where all the suspected kittens were hiding out. There are several feral cats that have adopted us since we have cat food out for OUR cats, and I was pretty sure  2 of them were pregnant, then one wasn't, but still hung out near our porch enough that I wondered if something had gotten her kittens. The other one (Sneakers) pretty much disappeared right no schedule, just showing up to eat in the morning, so I figured she was hiding somewhere with her kittens. Daddy and the girls found Sneakers' kittens where I figured they were, but the girls hadn't been able to find them earlier, under an old car that Sneakers has claimed the underside of as her "home". We haven't succeeded in getting them out yet, Sneakers is rather protective of them. Now that we're home for more than 2 days in a row, we need to work on getting them out and taming them.

Then later the same day they figured out that the other batch of kittens was in the RAFTERS of an outbuilding near our house. Long story short, we got the kittens out of the rafters, and they are now all living in an old chicken coop also near our house.. There are 3 black kittens and one black and white one (like it's mama). The girls are having fun playing with those kittens and we've already found at least tentative homes for 3 of them.

I've already mentioned the goose family that lives on our pond. I don't remember if I mentioned a SECOND goose family that we discovered a few weeks ago. The goslings are about the same size as the first family, but were at least a couple weeks old before we saw them. The only thing we can figure out is that they were hiding in some brush surrounding one of the other ponds on the property. So now there are LOTS of geese around. The same day that we found the kittens, the geese came right up into our yard while we were outside. The girls got some crackers to feed them and they came even closer. At that time there were 4 parents and 11 babies, since then one of the babies has disappeared so we're down to 14 geese LOL.

A couple days later my parents came up and brought my grandma's piano. She's happy that her piano is getting used and loved and MiniMe is beyond excited to have a piano! Little Bit is pretty happy with it too. And I'm super happy to not need to find time to take her over to the church a couple times a week to practice.

Mom and Dad headed home and a couple days later we followed them LOL.

I've already mentioned SOME of the many "field trips" we enjoyed while we were visiting them. I'll do a separate post with the rest of the field trips sometime soon.

We also enjoyed time at Mama and Papa's house:
Picking Strawberries

Planting cucumbers

The Playhouse is essentially done on the outside. Papa got most of the (missing in this picture) fence pieces up on the "bridge" while we were there. Now they just have to figure out what swing(s) to hang under the bridge and put a gate at the end of the bridge and then it'll just be interior work, at least until Papa thinks of something else to add LOL.

We ate lunch in the playhouse a couple of times while we were there. Little Bit insisted that the playhouse was a HOUSE and therefore, she didn't have to be dressed in it LOL.

Papa started teaching the big girls to drive the lawn mower. They're not QUITE tall/heavy enough for it to be easy, it's hard for them to sit back in the seat enough to keep from triggering the "safety" that turns the mower off if you get off the seat, but they're having fun. And their steering has improved dramatically since our last trip to Disney World, and the cars in tomorrowland.

When we ate supper out on the deck, the girls decided to eat on THEIR deck. Nevermind that that meant getting filled plates of food up the ladder, they still think such things are fun LOL.

Lessons complete, now they can mow on their own!

Who doesn't like climbing trees?

Had to add this one, just because. Don't let the "halo" fool you, she's no angel!

Walking out to Grandma's House

She's so proud of herself that she can walk on the retaining wall all by herself now.

We got home on Thursday and have been doing fun things like catching up on laundry and such since then.

And a quick update on the kittens! This morning the girls found Sneakers' kittens out from under the car - 2 black kittens and a calico. For a final count of 7 kittens. Anyone want a black kitten? Or 4?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Field Trips Galore

Did you think I fell off the face of the earth? I didn't, we've just been consumed by a week of field trips and I haven't even attempted to post anything. I'll probably do a catch-up wrap-up on Sunday, but in the meantime, here are highlights from some of our recent field trips:

Fort McHenry:  Note to self, I do not like school groups! At least not the particular ones who were at Fort McHenry the day we were, they were loud, unruly and . . . frustrating. Other then that, we had a great time! National Parks do seem to be shifting toward making the Junior Ranger books such that you have to do ALL the activities, instead of picking a certain number which frustrates me because it seems silly to me for my children to waste spend their time at a national park doing cross-word puzzles and word searches and other "busy work" that takes them quite abit of time (perhaps because they don't waste spend large parts of their "school days" doing these kinds of things? I still remember being SOO glad I'd opted to take a correspondence class in German as my high school foreign language instead of the Spanish taught at the school I attended, when I found out that a regular part of their homework was word searches HUH? How is that teaching a foreign language? I can do a word search in Swahili, assuming I have a word bank (they did), it might take me awhile, but I can do it, and still not have the foggiest idea what any of the words mean, what a waste!). ANYWAY . . . it was a beautiful day, the flag was flying over the fort, we snuck in with another school group (but this was high school age and actually followed instructions and listened quietly (or at least were quiet) so it worked out, never thought I'd see the day where I said I liked teenagers better than elementary kids, but there you have it!) and watched them fold (actually roll up, I guess it's too big to fold the "normal way") the huge flag and then we stayed on and asked the volunteer a few more questions. The ranger who gave the girls their badges is SO excited about the Junior Ranger program and that was fun to see too, she really got into it :)

Ferry Hill Plantation - they had a ribbon cutting ceremony there this weekend to celebrate completing a phase of restoration, or somesuch, and there was a passport stamp associated with it, so my parents wanted to go, and we tagged along. The boring long not-my-cup-of-tea speaches from area dignitaries, or in most cases, representatives of area dignitaries, was less than exciting, but again we had gorgeous weather and other then that, it was nice. There was a civil war era band that played period music, which was cool. Sassy has decided she wants to learn violin, so she was fascinated with watching the violins (or perhaps they were "fiddles"? I think which name you use depends on the style of music, not the instrument, which would probably make these fiddles, but whatever . . . ).

After the endless speeches were done, a "slave" who had lived on the plantation came and told stories of his life there. That was much more interesting than hearing how much Senator so-and-so wished s/eh could be there!!!

There were a couple women dressed in civil war style with a whole basket of civil war era toys. Sassy and MiniMe decided to try playing Graces but were struggling abit. The 2 women, first came and were playing next to the girls, so the girls could see how to do it w/o having to, you know, admit they needed to learn how to play and then the women offered to "trade" so each of the girls was playing with one of the women. That worked much better, and the girls had a blast! And when the women finally moved back to the shade, the girls had acquired enough skill to be able to play relatively well on their own. But they soon drifted over and spent the rest of the afternoon asking the women questions LOL. There were very few children there, so the women could answer the million and one questions without neglecting their duties.  Little Bit entertained herself walking on a stone wall for a good bit of the afternoon, then SHE wanted to learn to play Graces. She actually got pretty good at making the hoop fly into the air, which has a trick to it, so she was happy with her accomplishment.

On a fun side note, the place where Rodney and I spent our wedding night many moons ago was right across the river from Ferry Hill Plantation, so it was kind of fun to point that out to the girls, and daydream/reminisce abit while I waited for the dignitaries to stop talking.

The "family's" table, outside their cabin
 Claude Moore Colonial Farm and Market Fair This just might have been my favorite thing we did this trip. We visited Claude Moore a few times when we lived in MD and the girls enjoyed seeing the farm animals but the actual history of it was over their heads. I think we also came back and visited when we went through early American History when they were 5. That time, the fact that the people on the farm absolutely refuse to step out of character frustrated the girls, especially MiniMe, immensely.

Ever since we hit the colonial period this time through American history (late last fall), I've been wanting to go back to Claude Moore but we didn't get back to my parents' house before it was closed for the winter, sigh . . . SO, in planning this trip, I knew I wanted to include Claude Moore on our to do list.

Then I discovered that this weekend was their Market Fair, and that narrowed down WHEN we were going to go to Claude Moore. Woo-hoo!! How fun!!! The Farm itself opened an hour earlier than the Market Fair, so we got there soon after it opened, visited the farm, found it to be not very crowded, just as we were used to.

Sheep shearing
Then we headed on over to the Market Fair. There were MORE animals there, Little Bit really liked the sheep, the sheep did NOT like being sheared 1771-style. And in many ways it reminded me of a miniature Renaissance Faire, minus the story-line, and risque costumes  LOL. It was much smaller, and the clothes were colonial American, so much more modest than the popping-out-the-top styles that are so common at Ren Faires. There wasn't any jousting or anything, but there WAS fencing demonstrations, juggling, slack rope walking and other fun little "shows". And there were fun shops to look in and yummy, and unusual food to eat. It was another beautiful day and we had a great time. The highlight for Sassy and MiniMe was when we stopped to look at the colonial dresses for sale at one vendor, and the woman, after answering the girls' questions, saw them looking at the colonial "pockets" and told them they could each have one!!! They are SOO excited about it! MiniMe has been wearing hers, over her clothes since modern clothes aren't made to accomodate a colonial pocket, every day since. And of course, NEXT time we're down here, she'll have to make some modifications to the girls' "Williamsburg dresses" so that they can wear their pockets properly under them.

We still have 3 more field trips to talk about, but I think this post is getting long enough, so I shall stop for now, hopefully not forget to add the pictures to go with this one in the morning (when my phone isn't playing lullabies to put Little Bit to sleep) and get this posted, then I'll continue telling about the rest of our galavanting, hee hee.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: How to be a Great Wife . . . even though you homeschool

One of the speakers at the 2011 homeschool convention I attended was Todd Wilson from Familyman Ministries. I enjoyed the seminars I attended and my girls and I all enjoyed listening to the CDs I bought of his seminars that I didn't have time to attend in person. So I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to review his book, How to be a Great Wife . . . even though you homeschool

In this book, Todd gives some wonderful insight into how our husbands think, and how we can encourage them to take a more active role at home, without nagging and causing frustration all around. 

I had some time this week to read in the car, so I grabbed the chance to read this book. I enjoyed it, and look forward to working through it again during my quiet time at some point in the near future (when I'm not in the middle of another study). 

On the one hand, the points in this book are so simple. . . our husbands want to be loved, they want us to show them we still love them and want to be with them and value them as people, fathers, and husbands. Simple stuff right?

But it's also something I know I struggle with, and I suspect most moms, and especially homeschool moms, do. Todd does a great job of reminding us to remember that we're not JUST a homeschool mom, we're also a wife, and homeschooling is just a season, marriage is forever.

I really like the way this book is divided into short chapters, the whole book is only 93 pages long, Todd knows we don't have much time to read a long book LOL.At the end of each chapter are some discussion questions that could be used in a group setting (homeschool group? Bible study? Etc) or just to help you internalize what you've just read and then the final paragraph is a challenge related to that chapter. THIS is why I want to go back through this book, more slowly in the future. I want to take one day per week, re-read a chapter, journal my answers to the discussion questions (the book has room that you could write them in the book but I like to loan out my books and don't necessarily want to loan out my answers LOL), and then TAKE that challenge for the week and really focus on loving my husband the way that chapter challenges me to do so. 

So, if you're a married homeschool mom, and your marriage sometimes needs a little help,  I encourage you to get this book, after all, who better to tell us what homeschool dads need from their wives than a homeschool dad right?

Ps. If you'd rather read on your kindle or nook, you can! 

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TOS Review: CapJaxMathFax

CapJaxMathFax is a downloadable computer program to drill math facts. It progresses at the student's speed and allows math practice when teacher isn't available. This can help children of any age who still need to work on their math facts.

We don't typically "do math", at this age I feel they get plenty of math through cooking, grocery shopping (they love to figure out which brand/size is the best deal), and just random discussions. This weekend my dad was teaching them about square roots! LOL. So we don't usually spend time on math drills.

PhotobucketI pretty much downloaded this onto the girls' computer and turned them lose with it. When I asked them, this morning, what their review of it was, Sassy said it took her a little while to get the feel for it, but then it was fine. She thinks it's fun. She said you can make it pretty easy, but it's fun to be challenged. Then she asked 'do we get to keep using it for awhile still? When I said yes, her response was "good". So I'd say that's pretty high praise from someone who typically doesn't have to do math drills. MiniMe wasn't AS enthusiastic, but said "its' fine". She spent all her time in "practice mode", which means I can't see any report information on her. I did realize this morning that I can check a box to have the software keep reports on the practice sessions too, so will do that going forward.  Since the girls have their own computer, I ended up not checking their progress reports very often. Other programs (not just math, but educational computer programs in general) that are web based were nicer in that respect because I could set them up to use the program on their computer, but I could check their progress from my own computer when I happened to think of it. For families that share a computer, this wouldn't be an issue.

This program worked quite well for our "not big on formal math lessons" family. I can see it working equally well for a more structured family, to provide additional practice and quizzes on whatever math facts are currently being learned in your regular curriculum. 

A few things that some people might not like about this. The student simply signs in with their name, no password. It seems like, especially in a classroom setting, but in some cases in a home setting as well, there could be potential for one child to "mess up" another's scores by signing in with their name. Maybe that's just the children I went to school with, but it would be nice to at least have an option to use passwords.

Also, the student sets the parameters for the session. Which function(s) to practice, how many facts in a set, etc. Obviously, the teacher can tell the student what parameters to set, but the student has to re-set them every time she uses the program. Some teachers might prefer to have the added control to set the parameters themselves, and not give the student the option/ability to change them.

You can test out the program for yourself with the free evaluation. The program itself is $29.95 for a download, slightly more to have a CD shipped to you.

Be sure to see what my fellow crewmates thought of CapJaxMathFax, here.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Monday, May 14, 2012

TOS Review: Go Science DVDs


One of my go-to places for books, CDs, Videos, etc. is Library and Educational Services (LES). I don't remember who first told me about this awesome resource for churches, schools, AND HOMESCHOOLERS, but I am forever grateful to them! This is where I've gotten Childhood of Famous American biographies, a set of animal stories that are currently one of Little Bit's favorites, some of our Jonathan Park CDs, Sisters in Time books, and tons of other things! 

When I saw LES on the list of review items this year, I was excited, but also abit confused . . . how does one review a company with such a wide variety of products (seriously, if you're a homeschooler, register (it's free) and go poke around!

PhotobucketSo then it was time for the review, and to my absolute delight, the product that LES chose to have us review were Ben Roy's Go Science videos! My girls LOVE Ben Roy! They had seen them on a Christian kids tv show, and then last summer he came to our church campmeeting and did the evening meetings all week for the kids. They LOVED it!! So we were all excited to find out we got to review 2 of his videos. We chose Volume 3 - Magnetism, Electricity, Engineering and Design, and Volume 4 - Chemistry, States of Matter, and Life Sciences.

PhotobucketThese videos are just like the episodes we've seen on TV. Each video has a bunch (the total 6 DVD series includes 67 lessons, the exact number per DVD varies) of short lessons. In each one, Ben Roy has some of the children in the "audience" help him with an experiment and then uses that experiment as an "object lesson" to teach the children something about God.

This would be great to use on busy days. In just a few minutes, your family can watch one lesson, and have a quick Bible AND Science lesson.  I can also see this being used in a children's class at church too. I know when Sassy and MiniMe were in the 4-10 age class (yes, they're only 9, but they're helping out in the 0-4 class now), they often had a nature nugget, either someone coming in, or a video. I could see these being used that way.

What I love: I love that they're quick, I love that they teach about God AND Science. I love how impressive some of the experiments are, there's alot of "wow value" in most of these lessons.

The one thing that my children mentioned, that they wished was different, was that Ben Roy doesn't explain the science behind the experiment. They want to know HOW it worked. So, from a "science curriculum" standpoint, for sure, including more of the science behind things would be nice. Perhaps it could be included in an included e-book or something to keep the actual video segments short and not detract from the object lesson aspect of it.

Because these videos are available from LES, the prices are AMAZING!! As you can see here, each DVD has a list price of $14.95, but if you order them from LES, they are $8.97 each! For an even better deal, you can purchase all 6 DVDs together for $47.95, that's only $7.99 per DVD! And while you're ordering, from LES, be sure to poke around the site. They have Adventures in Odyssey, Jonathan Park, Your Story Hour, American Girl, and tons more, all at wholesale prices!

To see what other members of the TOS Crew thought of these videos, read their reviews, here.


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Homeschool Convention 2012

I spent the last 2 days at our state's homeschool convention!! I've gone for several years now, but this year was different, this year Sassy and MiniMe came with me! The last several years they've listened to some of the seminar CDs I've gotten (there are WAY too many seminars to go to them all, so I buy the CD or mp3 for the ones I want to hear but can't get to), so they had a good feel for what they were getting into as far as sitting in seminars. They generally have enjoy listening to the seminars even if they're not geared for kids specifically. So, they liked the idea of hearing some of the seminars in person, and they were intrigued by the idea of a huge vendor hall full of homeschool stuff. So, this spring they asked to go with me. When we started talking about it, and they found out that "Uncle Rick" from The Learning Parent was one of the speakers they for sure wanted to come. All three girls fall asleep at night to Uncle Rick Reading the Bible, and we've included several audiobooks, read by Uncle Rick, in our history as well.

So, the three of us headed out EARLY Friday morning. They had so much fun! We went to a mixture of seminars for me, and seminars for them. There was an animal guy there who did a seminar each day which the girls loved! And I have to admit, while I probably wouldn't have taken time to go to the one on Friday, for sure, if the girls hadn't been with me, he WAS really good!! And it was nice to just sit and enjoy seeing and hearing about animals instead of taking notes and stuff like I do in most of the seminars. And Jim Weiss had some seminars that were basically just him telling stories and he's AWESOME at telling stories!! So those were lots of fun too.

The girls also had money burning a hole in their pocket to spend in the vendor hall, so we spent quite abit of time there. Being my girls, they of course, spent their money on . .. books!! As we were walking through the vendor hall, Sassy said "that's Uncle Rick!!" She said she thought it might be him when she saw him, but then when she heard his voice, she knew for sure. He was soo nice! Took time to tell the girls all about how he trains bloodhounds. They were thrilled! As you can tell from the picture I took of them with him above.

We met my friend Monica, and her 8 year old son, M there. The kids had never met each other, so were shy at first, but before very long they'd warmed up and were chattering away, and seemed to hit it of well. Monica had generously offered to let us stay in their hotel room with them Fri night, so we had a nice evening visiting together, and with some of Monica's friends, who had come just for Friday, but came and ate supper with us before heading back.

I also got a chance to meet a couple people who have been on the TOS Crew with me, in person, so that was fun!

As always, the convention was nowhere near long enough, and also, as always, one of my main expenses was purchasing the CDs of all the wonderful sounding seminars that I didn't have time to attend. That means we have lots of great car-listening material to keep us busy for awhile :)

The girls did great! It was a good weekend all around.

Meanwhile at home, Daddy and Little Bit had 2 days together, just them! In preparation, we went shopping and I had Little Bit help me buy cheerios for her to "share with Daddy", and at her request, we also bought "daddy candy" (sweettarts), for him to share with her LOL. When we got home from the store, she put both boxes in her playhouse and, when Daddy got home, she told him about them and said "I'll have to get them for us tomorrow, because I'm little" (her playhouse is a felt house over a card table, so kid-size, not daddy-size).

On Friday Daddy took Little Bit to Chuck-E-Cheese and out for ice cream. All was going well until bedtime. BUT it wasn't me, she missed at bedtime, it was "Sissies"! Rodney said she had a HUGE meltdown over the fact that Sissies weren't here for her to sleep with. He finally ended up laying down with her in their room until she fell asleep. I had figured she wouldn't want to sleep in there alone, but had assumed she'd be fine with sleeping in our bed with Rodney. No such luck. Needless to say, big sisters were pretty proud of the fact that THEY were who Little Bit had missed LOL.

So that was our Homeschool Convention fun for this year!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Judah Bible


A few years ago, I was reading something homeschool related, and came across the idea of the the Principle Approach to homeschooling.  As I first read about it, the Principle Approach is homeschooling while placing emphasis on a Biblical Worldview and incorporating the Bible into all subjects. I *love* that idea!! And, while we're much too eclectic to pick one approach and follow it to the letter, I *do* try to keep our focus on God, and help my children (and myself) to remember that God is in EVERYTHING, not just when we have "Bible study" on our schedule. So, I have been wanting, ever since, to look into the Principle Approach and see about incorporating some of it's ideas into our schooling/life.

Needless to say, when I had the chance to review the Judah Bible Curriculum, as soon as I saw that it is "A Principle Approach curriculum for Bible class", I was excited! To make it even better, since the big girls had recently switched from attending their own class at church, to being helpers in Little Bit's class (where I lead), I had been keeping my eyes open for something to use with them during our evening Bible lesson time.

The Judah Bible Curriculum is designed to be used for Bible for all ages (K-12). It can be purchased in a hard copy ($74, including shipping) or download ($44). We received the download version for this review. Regardless of which version you choose, you receive:
  •  the K-12 manual
  • an elementary notebooking idea boo
  • and an 8 lecture "Teacher Training Seminar" audio
The program is designed to be used for Kindergarten through 12th grade, going through the Bible once per year for 6 years, then repeating back through it all, going more in depth for older children. The "textbook" of this curriculum is the Bible, supplemented by various Bible study aids such as Bible dictionaries, atlases, commentary, etc. 

One nice thing about this, for use in a homeschool environment, is that none of this is "age specific". So, while, in a classroom environment, specific topics are listed for specific grade-levels, in a homeschool environment, the whole family can work through the 6 year cycle together, then start over. The "class" (or family, as the case might be), spends one week on each topic. Reading the Bible passage, and then digging deeper by focusing on key events, individuals, etc. and learning to use Bible study aids.

As I began reading through the manual, I was excited to be reminded of the importance of teaching children to study the Bible for themselves, and to encourage them to study deeply and draw their own conclusions. I was excited to get tips on how to implement this, something that I'm still learning for myself, with young children. However, as I got past the introductory section that was telling me what this curriculum was going to teach, I found that this is a pretty high-level manual. It never drills down to a step by step of HOW to teach this, especially for young children. There are examples of what/how to do, but after the initial examples, for each week the curriculum just lists the theme, and Bible passage to focus on. The recommendation is for the teacher to spend time ahead of class studying the passage on his/her own, and then guide the children through the passage. This makes this, by far, the most teacher-preparation-time intensive curriculum I've used. 

One thing that I hadn't realized, is that there's a major focus, in the principal approach, on government, and how a Biblical worldview will affect government. You can read about it here

This program has alot of potential!!! I feel soo strongly in the value of teaching children to dig deeply into God's word, and to incorporate God's will into all aspects of our life and homeschool, so I love that emphasis in this curriculum, and the principal approach in general. However, I'm struggling with this. I think many homeschool moms (and dads, but for ease of writing, since in most cases mom is the primary teacher, I'm going to go with moms)want everything spelled out step-by-step, first teach this, then teach that . . . This curriculum does NOT do that. On the other hand, there are homeschool moms who like to do their own thing (as you probably know, if you've read my blog much, I fall into that category). The problem with this curriculum for that group is that . . . we can probably figure out this type of thing without a curriculum. In fact, other than the specific Bible passages recommended, this approach is pretty similar to what I've been doing with the girls for morning Bible time for the past year. . . so really, this curriculum seems to be targeted at a niche market of those who strongly want to teach their children about the above mentioned worldview/government philosophy. In that case, this curriculum does a great job of breaking the Bible down into topics that focus on this philosophy and the audios, and related book excerpts, available on the website once you've purchased the curriculum, give tons of information pertaining to this idea.

My recommendation, if the principal approach intrigues you, would be to read carefully through the philosophy of education. If you like what you see, and are excited to dig deeply into these topics on your own, and then teach them to your children, this might be a great fit for you!

What would I change? I think this would appeal to a wider audience if it gave more step-by-step instructions for implementing the program.  I also think it would be very helpful if printables for the lower grades were included. The manual recommends using coloring pages for the youngest children. And the curriculum includes a 60 page book of "notebooking ideas", but these are all samples of notebooking pages prepared by students, while many of the ideas can be prepared on plain notebook paper, there are quite a few that are on specific forms. Maps, coloring pages, or other forms. If you want to use these ideas you are going to have to hunt down the printables, or create them, on your own, they aren't included. For the price of this curriculum, I would expect to get the printables as well.  The curriculum does include printables for summarizing key points but this is geared toward older children, not lower elementary.

Because we were already doing something similar for Bible time, and because I chose not to put extreme focus on the government aspect of things, my children didn't really notice a difference when we switched to this curriculum. It did mean we jumped back to Genesis, instead of the NT where we'd been reading, but beyond that, they didn't see a much change. To avoid burdening them with too much writing, and because we were already doing Bible notebooking for our morning Bible time, I chose not to incorporate the notebooking aspect of this curriculum, but since the curriculum doesn't provide printables, the notebooking would be essentially the same as their morning Bible notebooking, just focused on different topics.

Be sure to check out my crew-mates' reviews to see how other families used this product!


Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned product in exchange for writing an honest review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are those of myself or my children, as stated.

Monday, May 7, 2012

C is for Cute

Little Bit is 37 months old
This past week was "C" Week for Little Bit, here's some of the fun we had:

She is still LOVING the sensory bin! I was lazy and just used the pinto beans again, but obviously switched out the stuff in the bin for "C" stuff. C was a fun letter since it included a "can" and a "cup", so lots of pouring fun.

We sang the "C" memory verse song from Songs for Saplings

Each day we sang "The C says c" from Leapfrog

I printed, and laminated the letter C from 1+1+1=1's Animal ABCs. We put it on our white board for the week.

Little Bit made the cutand glue letter C from the Animal ABCs

Each day in her sensory bin, Little Bit found 3 chocolate caramel candies, one for each of the girls. 

I printed and laminated these "road" letter C's for her to drive a matchbox-type car on.

Little Bit is loving playdoh! So I went through and pulled out several "C" cookie cutters for her to use this week.  I also printed the C playdoh mat from 1+1+1=1's Animal ABCs for her to play with.

I printed a C do-a-dot page for her to put magnets on.

I printed a "C" cut and paste page and let her cut out the pictures and glue them around the C.

I printed and laminated the letter C  pattern block page from this site. That page also has the pattern blocks you can print out. We already have pattern blocks similar to these, but this week we took it with us to MiniMe's piano lesson, and used our magnetic pattern blocks instead.

We played with the letter C beanbags from the sets of alphabet bean bags the grandmothers made for Little Bit for her birthday.
She continues to love the salt box (salt in a plastic shoe box), but generally just sifts it through her fingers and draws random designs in it,  or covers my hand with it. 

I printed a couple different C coloring pages for her to color, and we added them to her ABC book. 

We read "C" themed books. I went through our bookshelves and pulled out any that seemed in her age range. I also got some from the library.

On Friday we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and she added a C sticker to her  "Coconut Tree" (inflatable palm tree from the dollar store).

This last picture is only a "C" thing because it's made out of crackers. Little Bit was eating crackers for a snack and came up with this flower all on her own. She was soo proud of herself :) 

To see what other Tots are doing, check out this link.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekly Wrap-up - May 6

Well, it's finally warming back up, but we're getting all those April showers we didn't get in April, sigh . . .

Despite that, we had a good week.

This week was our first time of Sassy and Little Bit coming with us to MiniMe's piano lesson (daddy was available to watch them the last 2 weeks). It worked fine. I brought a selection of things from Little Bit's "school" and worked on them with her quietly on the floor while MiniMe had her lesson, and Sassy read a book and knitted. Of course, it got Sassy inspired to decide SHE wants music lessons too. But she wants violin lessons. I told her that might have to wait abit . . . It doesn't seem "fair", but that was why I talked to her about if she was going to want lessons, before I agreed to MiniMe's lessons. I knew the budget wouldn't allow for adding 2 sets of music lessons right now, so if she wanted them too, we'd have to decide how to handle it. But at that point she assured me she did NOT want lessons, so we went ahead with MiniMe's lessons. Now that MiniMe is already going on her lessons, I'm not going to mess with that for right now, so we'll see what the future brings . . . I'm guessing it will mean asking the grandparents to contribute to both girls' lessons for xmas presents, but we'll see . . .

For the new month, I came up with a new way of menu planning. I wrote out a whole month of meal suggestions and then the girls get to use that list to choose the meals for each week. They take into consideration what we have scheduled that week, and then they choose meals, and come up with the shopping list. So far it's worked well. The girls are "owning" the meals more, and having fun with it. And, of course, learning tons of important life skills like menu planning and shopping skills, besides cooking. This coming week will be more challenging, we have alot going on to keep in mind while figuring out meals, we'll see how it goes . . .

My "spare time" has been spent pulling things together for the girls' end-of-year evaluation for homeschool (coming up this Thurs), and also pulling things together for homeschool convention (coming up this Friday).

In school we are:
Enjoying learning about the ocean for science

Using a computer program for the girls to practice their math facts

Notebooking through the Old Testament for Bible

Reading tons of fun books about the War of 1812 for history

As part of getting the girls' homeschool portfolios together, I listed out all the Junior Ranger badges they earned this year. While I may have missed one or two, it still is a rather impressive list, thought I'd brag on my kids abit and share it here (in no particular order):

Valley Forge
Hopewell Furnace
Assateague Island National Seashore
Clara Barton
Glen Echo Park
C&O Canal
Ford’s Theatre
Monocacy National Battlefield
Fort Necessity
Rock Creek Park
Cherry Blossom Festival

I think I mentioned a few months ago that Little Bit decided one day, to start sleeping in "Sissies' room" and never looked back.  Well, she truely HAS never looked back. Once or twice when she's been congested or something I've brought her to our bed, but she's completely transitioned to her bed in "the girls' room". Sabbath morning I peaked into the girls' room on my way to the shower and this picture is what I saw (Sassy was awake and reading her Bible on her bed, on the other side of MiniMe). Don't mind the clutter by MiniMe's head, poor child is related to her mommy, so I've given up on convincing her to keep that area uncluttered, sigh . . . 

Given the size of our house we don't really have a choice about sharing bedrooms, and it was the older girls' choice to move down and sleep under the loft when I started talking about setting up a bed for Little Bit there, but I LOVE this! I love that they can cuddle together! This morning I woke up to find Little Bit sleeping in Sassy bed. Sassy said she woke up fussing and wanted to cuddle, awww . . . 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book Review: Heaven in Her Arms

In Heaven in Her Arms by Catherine Hickem looks at the relationship Mary, the mother of Jesus, had with her Son.  Hickem offers practical applications for mothers today to learn from Mary.

I don't think I've ever reviewed something that I found it necessary to say do NOT buy this! But I feel like that's what I need to do with this book. I was soo excited about this book from the description. I love digging deep into the PEOPLE of the Bible, and seeing what we can learn from them, as we look at them as people, not just 2-dimensional words on a page of an ancient book. So I had high hopes for this book. However, as I began to read it, I was not only disappointed, I was appalled!

I knew this wasn't a book for me when the author shares a story in which she tells of a mother bringing her 4 year old daughter with her to a counseling session. The child was, according to Ms. Hickem, out-of-control. Not obeying when her mother asked her to come sit quietly. Ms. Hickem proceeds to describe, in the book, how she, the counselor, whom the child had just met, physically held the child, "kicking and screaming" to keep her in the corner for more than half an hour, until she "made a different choice" (as an adult, I'm not clear on what that different choice was, I  assume it meant sitting quietly instead of kicking and screaming, though I'm pretty sure that I don't want anyone teaching my child, at any age, to submit quietly to a much bigger/stronger stranger physically holding them down) . The author ends this description with these words "When the little girl finally broke, I bent down and told her she had just made a really good choice . . ."  I am appalled at this kind of "parenting advice" especially implying that this is how Mary parented Jesus! I am quite certain I do NOT want my children described as "broken" as if that's a good thing! If this was just a book I had purchased or borrowed, I would have closed it and been done with it as soon as I read those words. But since this was a book I had agreed to review, I felt I needed to continue reading.

The next chapter described how the author and her husband,upon deciding to adopt, gave their lawyer a list of "criteria" for the child, and the child's birth parents, that, again, left me appalled. Here's a woman who put in her "order" for a child with "higher than average intelligence" and a whole list of other things I won't go into, WHAT?!?!?! The great irony of this to me is, had Mary chosen to put her Son up for adoption, JESUS would not have met this woman's criteria for a child to adopt!!! Why should I read this woman's ideas about what kind of a mother Mary was if someone meeting Mary's description isn't even qualified to be the birth mother of her own adopted child?

Still, I pushed on through another chapter or two, trying to "follow the rules" and read the whole book. But what I found was, at this point, I was so ANGRY at what I'd already read, the disrespect toward children and adoption, that even when she made a point that, on it's own, would be good, all I could see was how it contradicted the very thing she had described in the earlier chapters. I finally gave up, there may very well be some good points in this book, but the horrendous parenting advice and attitude toward adoption, that is present in those first few chapters negates any good that might be found in the book, in my opinion!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

TOS Review: Homeschool Library Builder

Those who know me "in real life" already know this, but for the rest of you, I have a small obsession with books! The entry area of our home has some pretty little shelves, complete with lighting recessed into them, you know, for displaying prettily arranged knick knacks. But from the second I walked into this house, I was calculating just how many books I could fit on those shelves. They are PACKED FULL of books. I even had my dad add an extra shelf to make sure I fully utilized the space, no big, lit, decorative shelves for me, just let me fill those shelves with books.Lest you think those are ALL the books in my house, nope. I have 2 big bookcases in the dining room, a smaller book case in the girls' room, boxes of books I don't have room to unpack (things like Shakespeare, that the girls are too young for), and piles of books in most rooms just because, either I'm reading them, or I don't have room for them on the shelves.  Every few months I sit in my living room and contemplate adding a shelf all the way around the top of the room, just to give me more space for books.

So, I think you get the idea, I kinda like books.  We use our public library EXTENSIVELY, but books, not textbooks, but "real" books, are still one of or main homeschool expenses, and I *always* have a long "wishlist" of books I want to get but haven't found at a price I'm willing to pay.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear of a new-to-me, website all about books, to build homeschoolers' libraries! What more could I ask for?!?!?!


Homeschool Library Builder is a site that sells books to homeschoolers. They have a variety of books, some new, some used. From what I've seen on the site, the prices seem reasonable. One thing that I think is really cool is that they have a category called "Search by Curriculum" this would be IDEAL if you are using a curriculum like Ambleside. Just click on the curriculum you're using to see what books they have for that curriculum. Isn't that handy? Too bad we're WAY too eclectic to follow a curriculum LOL.

When you become a member of HLB (which is FREE to join!), you'll receive a monthly newsletter with information about sale items. For May, the special is a 25% off sale! Membership also allows you to earn points toward future purchases, and some other great benefits!

So, if you're looking for books for your homeschool, or just for your family, this is a great place to check!  And if you decide to become a member, or make a purchase, if you don't mind entering "Broad Horizons" as your referral, I'll get some extra book points for my own future purchases!

See what other Crew members think of Homeschool Library Builder here.


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I was asked to promote HLB. I did not receive any compensation. I will receive book points from HLB for anyone who lists me as a referrer when they purchase from HLB.  Additionally, I was given a coupon code to use for my own purchase, if any, during the month of May. All opinions are my own.