## Monday, March 29, 2010

### Spring!

It is definitely looking like spring here in Alabama! Here are some photos from our yard…

This is our apricot tree. It is covered with blossoms. I don’t think it has ever bloomed before (in 15 years). Maybe we will actually get some fruit from it!

And last, but not least…

…..

….

…..

….

Katie is ready for warm weather!

## Wednesday, March 24, 2010

### Math Galaxy

Math Galaxy is a computer-based math program for Grades 1-12. The program includes tutorials that teach each concept and games to reinforce  the concept and provide practice. The individual programs (\$29.95 each) are:
Decimals, Proportions, Percentage Fun (Grade 6)
Word Problems Fun
Pre-Algebra Fun
Algebra Fundamentals
Each of the preceding topics has a corresponding Worksheet Generator (\$29.95) Several e-books (\$14.95) are also available that contain many of the math riddles and worksheets from the Worksheet generator.
My experience:
-I like the way the problems are graphically depicted and break each problem into steps. For example, when adding unlike fractions, the program asks what the new denominator will be. When the student types in the correct answer, the fraction pies are divided by dotted lines into the correct number of pieces. Then the programs asks for the new numerator of each fraction. Finally, it asks for the sum of the two fractions.
-Students earn robots by answering problems. These robots can be used to play the labyrinth game.
-Four games are included. These are very simple games and remind me of the old DOS games from years ago. In most of them, the student is solving problems to fill in a letter (hang-man style) or to build a space on a bridge across a pond. Still, Emily did find them entertaining and got a lot of math practice in while she was playing. I never heard complaints from her about using this program.

The Math Galaxy programs are simple—not a lot of “bells and whistles” and new technology, but they do provide good solid teaching and many hours of  math practice.  Emily has been using the fractions game and I believe that she will have a VERY thorough grasp of fractions and their operations after more time with Math Galaxy. The Math Galaxy website has an extensive and free sampling  of math instruction and games, so you can try it out to see if this is something that is a fit for your family!
I received a free set of Math Galaxy programs in exchange for my honest review.

### Making Money From Home, by Donna Partow

More and more women are looking for opportunities to work at home these days. The reasons are varied—layoffs in the workplace, the desire to stay home with children, the desire to be one’s own boss, and so on. I have a home-based business, myself, writing and selling my Super Star Speech books. I also provide occasional speech therapy from my home. Although I have both the desire and the financial need right now to increase my income, I want to continue staying home with Emily and homeschool her.

So, when I had the opportunity to review Making Money From Home, I jumped at the chance.  The author, Donna Partow is a successful entrepreneur herself,  having started dozens of businesses, some very successful, and some not so.

The book is full of, not only great ideas for home businesses, but good information about how to implement them. Each chapter ends with assignments for the reader to aid in choosing a business, making a business plan, organizing a home office, structuring the day, and more. A majority of the book is dedicated to the internet—e-books, marketing, blogging, and other topics that are critical to operating a business in 2010. She even encourages women to operate more than one business at a time. Throughout the book are numerous links to additional information at her website and websites of others. She also helps the reader to identify the work-at-home scams that are so prevalent on the web.

I came away from my reading of the book with several new ideas to market Super Star Speech better and for other income producing activities. I now plan to go back and read the book more carefully, doing the assignments, and looking up the links.

If you are a woman who is interested in making money from home, I highly recommend this book.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.

## Tuesday, March 23, 2010

### Easter Egg Hunt at Currclick

Currclick is one of my favorite sources for downloadable curriculum. They have thousands of e-books, lapbooks, unit studies and so on. Their Spring Sale, with many items up to 70% off runs from March 23 to April 5. My Super Star Speech books are all 20% off for this sale.

But….even more fun….18 Easter Eggs will be hidden around the site. Find one and click on it to win a free curriculum download! I remember them doing this two years ago and finding great stuff. One of my Super Star games (I’m not saying which one!) will be hidden in one of the eggs this year.

Head over to Currclick today and start hunting!

### Tyndale House “Break Through to Clarity” Contest”

Tyndale House is running a huge contest and giveaway on their Facebook page with prizes that include the New Living Life Application Bible and Apple iPods. The details are as follows:

Visit www.facebook.com/NewLivingTranslation and click on the tab that says “Sweepstakes”

Fill out a simple form, take a quick Bible clarity survey, invite your friends to join and you’ll be entered to win one of our exciting prizes.

With each fan number milestone a new prize will be given away.

Grand Prize

Apple iPad 64G and a Life Application Study Bible
Awarded when the NLT Fan Page hits the fifth milestone
Retail Value: \$829.00

32G iPod Touch and a Life Application Study Bible
Awarded when the NLT Fan Page hits the fourth milestone
Retail Value: \$300.00

3rd Prize – Will be awarded when fan count hits: 3500

Kindle DX and a Life Application Study Bible
Awarded when the NLT Fan Page hits the third milestone
Retail Value: \$489.00

4th Prize Will be awarded when fan count hits: TBD

Apple iPad 16G and a Life Application Study Bible
Awarded when the New Living Translation Fan Page hits the second milestone
Retail Value: \$499.00

5th Prize Will be awarded when fan count hits: TBD

Apple iPad 32G and a Life Application Study Bible
Awarded when the NLT Fan Page hits the first milestone
Retail Value: \$599.00

Prize Eligibility – Recently updated to include more countries

Sweepstakes participants and winner(s) can be U.S. residents of the 50 United States, or residents of any country that is NOT embargoed by the United States, but cannot be residents of Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India.  In addition, participants and winner(s) must be at least 18 years old, as determined by the Company.

Sweepstakes Starts

March 17, 2010 @ 10:24 am (PDT)

Sweepstakes Ends

April 30, 2010 @ 10:24 am (PDT)

Wait, there’s more!

Visit http://biblecontest.newlivingtranslation.com/index.php for a chance to win a trip for two to Hawaii!

Here are the details:

Choose one of six passages of Scripture from the New Living Translation and consider:
How do these verses encourage you to know God better?
What is God teaching you in this passage?
How does this passage apply to your life?

Just for signing up: Everybody Wins! Win a Free .mp3 download from the NLT’s new Red Letters Project. It’s the dynamic, new presentation of the sung and narrated words of the Gospel of Matthew. You win the download just for entering! Or choose to download the NLT Philippians Bible Study, complete with the Book of Philippians in the NLT.

Every day, one person will win the best-selling Life Application Study Bible!

The grand prize: One person will win a fantastic trip for two to the crystal clear waters of the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore in beautiful Hawaii.

## Monday, March 22, 2010

### How Can I Teach That???

This week’s blog cruise topic is, “How do you teach advanced subjects?”

Honestly, I think the two questions I get asked the most are, “How do you know what to teach?” (meaning, is there a set of books or list of topics that your fourth grader HAS to learn this year or he will be BEHIND AND NEVER CATCH UP!!!) and, “How can you teach a subject that you are not an expert in?”

My short answer is, “I learn along with my kids.” I suppose that if I were using a typical public school type curriculum, with text books for every subject, I could read the teacher’s manual every night and prepare a lecture for the next day. Frankly, that would bore me and my kids silly AND would be too much work!

Instead, I use hands-on and literature-based studies. I have used packaged curriculum (Sonlight, Five in  a Row, etc.) and I have put together my own unit studies. For example, if we wanted to study Westward Expansion, I would first pull everything off my bookshelves that fit into the study. Then I might go to the library to find more materials. Then we sit down on the couch and read together. I would assign the kids projects to reinforce what we learned—maps to draw or mold from salt-dough, cooking, field trips, reports or creative writing. We read both factual and fiction books about the time period. There is not excessive preparation time for me, nor do I have to be an expert in every topic before we study it. As children grow older, they become more competent at learning on their own.

Also, there are many many texts and curriculums that do an excellent job of teaching directly to the student. Why not learn directly from the experts? My kids actually needed me less as they grew older due to the excellent resources we found.

But what about science labs? We’ve managed just fine using mostly household supplies and easy to obtain equipment for science. I’ve also ordered owl pellets, dissection specimens and equipment and fruit flies/ether/supplies for genetic studies at very reasonable prices.

I’ve homeschooled children through the eighth grade and have never been concerned about being in over my head. My older three children went to public high school, but if I were to homeschool Emily through high school, I would not be concerned about the advanced subjects—we would find good texts and resources and learn together or she would learn on her own.

Some other good options for high school include classes offered for homeschoolers, video and online classes, and dual enrollment at community colleges. There are so many resources these days for homeschoolers that the options are almost limitless!

Read more moms’ ideas for teaching difficult subjects at the TOS CREW blog!

## Sunday, March 21, 2010

### Winner! DNA/Genetics Science Kit

Debra is the winner of the Science kit giveaway! (Comment #3 was chosen by random.org.)

## Saturday, March 20, 2010

### Homeschooling for the Rest of Us

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, by Sonya Haskins, is a how-to-homeschool book geared for new homeschoolers. The book covers not only academics, but socialization, routines and schedules, housework, family relationships, and special needs children. The author provides sample schedules and many ideas about helping children master chores and social skills.

I think this would be a useful book for parents who are just beginning their homeschooling journey or who are considering teaching their children at home. The author answers many questions that those new to homeschooling might ask. I like the emphasis given to family relationships, responsibility, and obedience because these issues are just as important as academics and even affect the success in the academic areas. At 172 pages, the book is a fairly quick read.

As an experienced homeschooler, however, I didn’t find any new information in the book. The issues covered are the same ones covered in many other homeschooling books and on internet message boards. My opinion is—beneficial for new homeschoolers, but pass it up if you are an experienced homeschooler.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.

## Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What Am I? a collection of short stories is a second reader by Marie Rippel and Renee LaTullippe that corresponds with All About Spelling Level 2.  I reviewed All About Reading’s Beehive Reader (soon to be renamed Cobweb the Cat) here. My all About Spelling review is here.

What Am I? has the same beautiful illustrations as the Beehive Reader. The authors have skillfully crafted stories that use only the phonics skills taught in All About Spelling, Levels 1 and 2, turning the thorough All About Spelling program into a complete language arts curriculum.

Early readers are often stilted and even boring, but this is not the case with What Am I? Each of the ten short stories is creative and entertaining. I even found myself chuckling at times. Emily, whose reading skills are far beyond the second grade level enjoyed the book too.

Here is an excerpt from “Jake the Snake.”

I can bend my spine into lots of shapes, gulp an egg or a bunch of grapes, chase an insect up the drapes…can you?……..slip, slide, twist and glide…..I am Jake the Snake. Sssssssssssssss!

The book itself is a quality 160 page hardcover edition that will last through many children and feel like a “real book” to an early reader.

What I Am? will be available for purchase on April1.

I received this book free for review purposes from All About Reading.  No other compensation was provided.

### Schoolhouse Expo

I’m all signed up for the Schoolhouse Expo. The official dates are may 12-14, but the bonus pre-registration sessions begin on April 13. I’ve already downloaded the free goodies and they are amazing! Just a few of the free downloads included in this conference are:

Magnificent Marine Life e-book/lapbook

Penguins Project Pack e-book/lapbook

Dan’s Doodles

Colonial America Study

Creative Nature Study

Many of these resources are valued at \$10 to \$15 each!

I’m excited about hearing the speakers at this conference, including Susan Wise Bauer, Amanda Bennett, Todd Wilson, and Diana Waring. If I’m busy when they are speaking, I even can download the MP3 files to listen to later. I’ll probably do most of the sessions this way—I can get to that spring yardwork and go to my homeschool convention via ipod at the same time.

### Winner-Rubbermaid Giveaway!

Lori (entry #1) is the winner of the Rubbermaid giveaway. (Winner chosen by random.org.)

## Tuesday, March 16, 2010

### More Giveaways

Michelle, at Delighting in the Journey, is sponsoring a giveaway for a 1-gallon pail of dried coconut. Yum. I like grocery story coconut, but would love to try this organic, unsweetened and unbleached shredded coconut.

Homeschooling Hearts and Minds blog is sponsoring a giveaway for an Uberstix construction set. This looks like fun.

### Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God, by Sheila Walsh

In Sheila Walsh’s latest book, Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God, she examines the lives of ten Bible characters who chose to trust God. These men and women were flawed human beings. Some exhibited lives of faithfulness (Anna) while some had mere moments of trust in the midst of sinful rebellious lives (Samson).  Woven throughout the stories of God’s people are lessons about trusting that Sheila has learned in her own life and challenges for the reader to trust God more fully.

I enjoyed learning from the lives of these Bible characters, especially some that are seldom discussed or studied, such as Joseph of Arimathea and Tabitha. Beautiful Things Happen….does an excellent job of making not only the stories, but the feelings, the pain, and the dreams of  God’s people real.  If you have been in a season of life when God seems silent, or when you are struggling with pain, fear, or broken dreams, this book will have encouragement for you.

I received a free review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers through BookSneeze.com in exchange for my honest review.

### Spring Break

AllPosters.com

We are taking our Spring Break this week. It looks like spring weather is actually arriving in Alabama after a very cold winter. Although it is in the 40’s and 50’s now, we had a few nice days last week in the 60’s and 70’s and it should warm up again later in the week. My daffodils and saucer magnolia trees are about to bloom, so it is really beginning to look like spring!

I hope to spend lots of time in the yard this week pulling weeds, pulling that pesky ivy off trees, and preparing the gardens for planting in a couple of weeks.

Emily may spend the entire week cleaning her room—It is a MESS!

Mostly, though, I am hoping to relax, play, read and have some family fun time and to start school next week refreshed and with renewed enthusiasm!

## Monday, March 15, 2010

### Seasons of Faith Picture Book Series

I just received a set of four Seasons of Faith picture books published by Children’s Bible Hour Ministries. These beautifully illustrated storybooks gently teach faith lessons about salvation, forgiveness, sharing God’s love,  and holding on to faith in hard times. The stories are adapted from CBH radio scripts and are accompanied by read-along CD’s.

The illustrations in the books are wonderfully realistic watercolor paintings and show children of varied races.  The storylines were engaging. Emily (9) enjoyed them very much and I think they would also be enjoyed by a child as young as three or four.

I especially enjoyed the book, Seventy Time Seven, which illustrated in a modern story Jesus’ lessons about accepting and giving forgiveness—over and over again--a good reminder for Christians of ALL ages who have a tendency to hold onto grudges!

Each Season of Faith book and cd sells for \$10.  When you buy all four books (\$40) by April 15, use discount code FREESHIPAPR15 for free shipping on your order.

I received these four books free for review purposes from Children’s Bible Hour Ministries. No other compensation was provided.

## Sunday, March 14, 2010

### The Secret to Being a SuperMom!

Just kidding! I have no idea how to be Super Mom!

This week’s TOS CREW Blog Cruise topic is: “How do you find time for everything?”  I would love to have a great answer for this question! Adding an extra 4 hours to my day might be a good starting point. :)  Sometimes I feel like I am barely keeping up, putting out fires all day long, then I look back to say, “Where did the day go?”

Overall though, I guess I do keep up pretty well.

I….

…homeschool Emily.

…keep up the house and yard and parenting stuff without a husband to help.

…help choose and lead music every week at church.

…direct children’s choir at church.

…attend a weekly Bible study and do the daily homework for it.

…write and market my Super Star Speech books and Super Star homeschool games.

…review and blog about 8-10 books and homeschool curricula a month.

It actually makes me feel better to look at this list and see that I actually am accomplishing quite a bit! A few things that help keep me on track….

….starting my day in Bible study and prayer helps to keep my focus on what is important.

….making lists—Actually, I tend to just do this in my head, to keep me on track for the day or week. But when I am feeling overwhelmed, I do actually write out a list. This gives me a feeling of accomplishment as I mark things off.

….staying off the computer—Well, I need to do this more. :) I know the internet can be a big time waster for me!

….making priorities. I can’t do everything. Sometimes I have to make the tough choice to drop what is urgent for what is most important. My kids won’t be here forever. Spending precious time with them and enjoying them each day is more valuable than most of the other “stuff.” Truthfully, I slip up here far too often.

### Artistic Pursuits

Artistic Pursuits is an art curriculum that is perfect for homeschoolers or other independent learners. The series, which has books that cover Kindergarten through high school levels, teaches about famous works of art and artists as well as technical skills, color theory and composition. The lessons in the books for grades 4 and up are directed toward the student and can be done with minimal parental involvement. Each book provides art instruction for a school year—two lessons a week.

Emily tried out Book 2 (Color  and Composition) for grades 4-6.  Although I could have handed her the book to do independently, I felt that she would learn more with some discussion, so we read through each day’s lesson together and talked about the assignment before she tried it.  Each 4-lesson unit includes an art theory lesson,  a famous art print and artist biography, a technique lesson, and a final project. Examples of student work are pictured throughout the book.

The authors encourage use of quality art supplies, but the required supplies for this volume were not difficult to obtain. We already owned brushes, watercolor paper, and Prismacolor pencils and only had to purchase a set of watercolor pencils.

The authors suggest allotting an hour for each lesson, but Emily never spent that long. Unfortunately, she has NO tendencies toward perfectionism and is happy slapping down something quickly. On several occasions, I made suggestions for improvement or even had her redo a picture if she seemed to have forgotten to use the techniques she was supposed to be practicing. She did seem happy with her finished works, though and very much enjoyed using the program. I am hoping that continued use of Artistic Pursuits will help her learn to pay a bit more attention to the details.

My Thoughts….

I have used several art programs and this is my favorite. I love the balance of art instruction with creativity with education about the art masters. I love that it is easy to use and requires little daily setup. I appreciate that it is written to the student and doesn’t require the parent to have artistic knowledge and experience (because I don’t!)

Emily says…

“It’s the best art program ever! I like to draw and paint and this inspires me to paint better. I hope there are more books!”

Each Artistic Pursuits volume sells for \$42.95 and is entirely reusable for other children.

I received this volume of Artistic Pursuits free in exchange for my honest review.