Monday, October 31, 2011

My puppy is cuter than your baby?!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Puppies vs. Babies for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


We've all seen pleas to "vote for my baby in this online contest."  Looking at and voting for cute babies seems to be a popular pastime.  And how many emails have you received that link to videos of cute pets or babies?  Now, Animal Planet is sponsoring what they are calling, "the ultimate showdown:"  Puppies vs. Babies.

The Puppies vs. Babies online contest features adorable babies and puppies--both in photographs and videos. Visitors to the site can rate all the submissions for "cuteness." Three elimination rounds will ultimately decide which is cuter--babies or puppies, with the winner taking home $5000!

I love dogs and think my cocker spaniel is adorable. Yes, puppies are cute. But I think the mom in me will always go for the baby when I have a choice! There's nothing like snuggling up with a sweet baby. Even though my youngest child is 11, there's still a bit of baby-longing in me that goes, "Aahh" whenever I see a cute baby! I watched some of the videos and the baby videos, particularly, just made me smile if not laugh out loud. (Don't miss the "Baby Can't Stop Laughing clip!) If you enjoy watching cute videos, you will enjoy viewing and voting in this contest.

What do you think? Are you a puppy person or a baby person? Which would you vote for?

Visit Sponsor's Site

Friday, October 28, 2011

Old Schoolhouse Magazine–New Digital Format

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is moving to a digital format.  Personally, I like printed magazines that I can curl up on the couch with. But…this new format is going to be really cool!

  • It will be published 12 times a year instead of 4.
  • The new digital format will be interactive—including videos, slide shows, active links, etc.
  • Many leaders in the homeschool world are coming on as new columnists, including Mary Hood, Diana Waring, Karen Andreola, Andrew Pudewa, etc.
  • My family and homeschool will be featured in the November issue—That’s cool to me at least!

The Old Schoolhouse is running a great subscription offer right now. Included with a $39 two-year subscription are over $500 worth of free subscriptions to online learning sites and curriculum!

Click on the banner at the top of the page to learn more.

If you are a military family, you can get a free subscription!

As a preview, the fall edition is now online for a limited time. Be sure to check it out to get an idea of what the new digital edition will be like!

First Form Latin (TOS Review)


First Form Latin is a new program published by Memoria Press. Emily (and I) have been using it for the past month. This is how the website describes the program:

Based on twenty years of teaching experience, this revolutionary "grammar-first" series will be your guide as you and your students successfully climb the mountain of Latin Grammar all the way to the top! The uniqueness of the First Form Series lies in two features:

  1. It is committed to the trivium model of teaching grammar systematically in order to facilitate retention and understanding, rather than topically, to facilitate translation.
  2. Extensive workbook exercises ensure skills mastery and rapid recognition of inflected forms.

Features include:

  • Designed for students and teachers with no Latin background
  • 8x8 inch Student Text, small, concise, unintimidating with 34 two-page lessons on facing uncluttered pages
  • Limited vocabulary of 185 words
  • Full-size Student Workbook with 4-6 pages of exercises per lesson
  • Vocabulary derivatives and detailed explanations of Latin sayings
  • Grammar catechism for daily rapid-fire review
  • Milestone markers for each grammar objective
  • Everything-you-could-possibly-need teacher manual
    • Organized for easy access
    • Student Text inset with answers in color
    • Chalk-talk scripted lessons
    • Recitation schedule
    • Pronunciation reminders
    • Workbook with key
    • Unit tests and lesson quizzes booklet
    • FYI section for extra background

We received the complete First Form Latin kit that includes DVDs and flashcards. This is a lot of material! It appeared complicated at first, but these components work together to create a very complete program.


This is a very thorough, organized Latin program. The pace is fast—each of the first weeks teaches the conjugation of another tense along with 10-12 new vocabulary words. The work load wasn’t too hard, though. Emily spent about 30 minutes a day doing the assignments, which are broken up into 1 page worksheets that are easy to do in 10-15 minutes. We also spent time reviewing the vocabulary with the flashcards and orally reciting the conjugations each day. By the end of each lesson (which took us 6-7 days), she had mastered yet another tense and was ready to move on to the next lesson. I think a student who completes this course will have learned a LOT!

I found First Form Latin easy to use (with some preparation), even for a teacher (mom) with no Latin background because the teacher’s guide is excellent. The DVD’s are optional. The teacher’s guide definitely gives enough instruction to teach the material without the DVD’s, but they were very nice to have. I enjoyed having an “expert” doing the teaching for the first day of each week! I did think that the DVD teacher talked a bit too fast, especially for the recitations that the students were supposed to keep up with.

If you are looking for a good, solid, well written Latin program, First Form Latin might be just what you need.

Cost: $55 for teacher manual, student text, student workbook, quizzes and tests and pronunciation CD.

    $115 for above plus flashcards and DVDs

Grades: 5 and up

Memoria Press publishes and sells a variety of curriculum, including other Latin programs, several logic and rhetoric programs and classical studies.

I give  First Form Latin 4/5 stars.


I received  First Form Latin  free  for review purposes as a member of the TOS Crew. Please visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Barber Who Wanted to Pray (Review)


The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, by R.C. Sproul, is a children’s picture book about Martin Luther and a method of prayer that he taught, using the Lord’s prayer, The Apostles Creed, and the Ten Commandments.  The story is enjoyable and the lessons in prayer are very helpful, even for adults!

Here is a prayer that Emily wrote after reading the book:

Our God who art in heaven hallowed be thy name… Lord help me to remember who is in charge. Please drag me away from bad temptations. Please take care of those who have not even heard of you. Let me read your word and believe in it. Please let it dwell inside of me. Amen.

The paintings in this book (by T. Lively Fluharty) are absolutely beautiful and really add to the message of the book.

I love good quality children’s books and highly recommend this one as an addition to any home library! The Barber Who Wanted to Pray retails for $17.99 ($9.99 e-book).

5/5 stars


I received a free copy of this book as a member of the Crossway Book Review Program. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

$5 off a $10 purchase at CVS has a great deal today for CVS/pharmacy.

$5 for $10 CVS/pharmacy Gift Card:

You'll receive $1 for signing up if you are new to SaveMore.

Studying Ancient History This Year?

We are! Actually, we’re doing some unit studies right now and plan to begin Ancient World History in January. I plan to use Diana Waring’s Ancient Civilizations and the Bible as a spine. We will be using these Super Star Games as a supplement. Galloping Through Ancient Greece and Roaming Through Ancient Rome are fairly new—I designed them this summer in preparation for this year’s study. All 3 games are available individually for $3.50 or $6.75 for the set at Currclick.


Galloping Through Ancient Greece

Reinforce your study of ancient history in a fun way! Players of Galloping Through Ancient Greece will compete in this board game by answering questions about the geography, politics, and daily life of ancient Greece. A few question cards about Greek gods are included, but these can be easily excluded if desired. Designed for 3rd to 8th grade students.



Exploring Egypt

Players of the Exploring Egypt Game will race to be first to the top of the pyramid by answering the most questions about ancient Egypt. Game question topics cover geography, politics, daily life, and religion of ancient Egypt. The game can be adjusted to accommodate players of different ages and abilities. Designed for 3rd to 8th grade students.



Roaming Through Ancient Rome

Reinforce your study of ancient history in a fun way! Players of the Roaming Through Ancient Rome Game will compete in this board game by answering questions about the geography, politics, and daily life of ancient Rome The game can be adjusted to accommodate players of different ages and abilities. Designed for 3rd to 8th grade students.

All 15 of the games, which cover science, history, Spanish, grammar, and Bible, are listed on the Super Star Speech-Games page.

Excellence in Literature (TOS Review)


When I have thought about homeschooling through high school, the subject that has concerned me most is English/Literature. I’m fairly confident that, with a good textbook and some lab supplies, I could teach science—the fearsome subject for many parents. But I have not been so confident about teaching literature and writing. Although I took AP English in high school, earned credit for a year of college English, and took a year of college literature, that was a long time ago! I enjoy reading, but just don’t feel confident about my ability to analyze literature or to teach my children to write about literature.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review the Excellence in Literature program. When I first looked at the Excellence in Literature website, I was impressed by the great books that were included. Many are favorites of mine—Jane Eyre, Around the World in Eighty Days,  Treasure Island, and Animal Farm are some of the selections in the first year program, which is intended for use in the eighth or ninth grade. (Much better selections than some of the books my older kids had to read in public school!)

Excellence in Literature is written to the student and is intended to be largely self-directed, with the teacher/parent serving as an advisor and grader of papers.

Since Emily is only in 6th grade, I knew the program would be a stretch for her, but we gave it a try. I thought she would enjoy the literature, but knew that her ability to write or to analyze it are far from high school level.  I was pleasantly surprised by her ability to do the work. The first unit consists of short stories, which the student reads before writing an approach paper or literary summary about. Instructions and models for writing each type of paper are included in the text. Emily enjoyed all the stories, although “The Purloined Letter,” by Edgar Allan Poe, was quite difficult for her to understand. She enjoyed writing the papers and did a nice job for her age, with only minimal help from me. We plan to continue through the next unit (Around the World in Eighty Days). Then we will probably save the rest of the program for next year, when I expect her writing skills to be stronger.

The only thing I would like to see added to Excellence in Literature would be more resources and helps for writing and more thorough directions for essay-writing. The curriculum requires Writer’s Inc., or another writer’s handbook. I understand that, but, for example, when my student was assigned a compare/contrast essay, I would have liked to see more complete instructions and examples than “look in your writer’s handbook to learn how to write this…”  Other supplements or prerequisites are also suggested, such as the Teaching the Classics DVD course.

I think that Excellence in Literature is an excellent program, especially for college-bound high school students and am thankful that I had the opportunity to review it.

I recommend this program and give it 4/5 stars.


Excellence in Literature:: English I: Introduction to Literature sells for $27 (ebook) or $29 (printed book).

I received this program free for review purposes as a member of the TOS Crew. Please visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our New Family Member

Two weeks ago, a neighbor came to our door to ask if we knew of anyone who had lost a parakeet. We assumed that the bird belonged to another neighbor (but it turned out that he actually owns parrots). Emily eagerly volunteered to catch the bird. So, the next thing I knew we had a parakeet (in a dog crate, eating wild bird food)! We put up signs around the neighborhood, but were unsuccessful in finding its owner. I wasn’t in the market for another pet, but Emily has become attached, so apparently the bird is here to stay.


Surprisingly, Katie—our animal hater—thought it was cute and actually held it!



She (the bird) is a cute little thing and very friendly. She rides around the house on Emily’s shoulder. She is still nameless, though.  Any suggestions?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Say Anything Family Edition (Review)


This has been a fun review year for our family, with so many games to review. As I’ve said before, we LOVE games, so we were excited to receive another game from Northstar Games to try out, Say Anything, Family Edition.

Say Anything, Family Edition is for ages 8 and up and can be played with 3-6 players. Since my older kids are away at college right now, leaving only 2 of us living here full time, we had to wait a bit before we could get a group together to play Say Anything.  Finally, after about two weeks of the game sitting on the kitchen counter taunting us Smile, we gathered my parents, John Michael, Emily, and me together to try it out. The next week, Katie was home for fall break, so she and my father-in-law  joined us for a game.


The rules are quite simple—One player serves as a judge for each round. He draws a card, reads one of the 3 questions from the card, and the other players answer the question on their mini white boards. The object is to choose an answer that the judge will consider the best. After all players have answered, they may use their tokens to bet which answer they think is correct.  After the judge picks an answer, points are awarded for the winning response and for correct bets.



We had a great time playing, “Say Anything!” It was fun to guess which answer the “judge” would choose and we had fun picking imaginative or goofy answers that would attract the judge’s attention! I think this is a game that will get even better with time as we learn to be more creative with our answers. Questions like “What would be the weirdest secret to learn about my mother?”  and “What would be the worst job ever?” kept us laughing.

Northstar Games produces several other games, including Wits and Wagers, which I also had the privilege of reviewing. Say Anything, Family retails for $19.99.

5/5 stars for this fun family game!


I received this game free for review purposes as a member of the TOS Crew. Please visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wits and Wagers Family (TOS Review)


Another game to review! Fun!

Wits and Wagers Family is a simplified version of the award-winning Wits and Wagers game. To play, one player reads a question from a question card. Each player has a mini white board to record his or her guess, which will always be a number. Then, the guesses are laid out on the table and each player bets on which answer he or thinks is correct or closest to correct. He may choose his own guess or someone else’s. Bets are made by placing the adorable “meeples” on the answer. Then points are awarded for correct guesses and bets.


One thing I love about this game is that any age can play. Some of the questions require academic knowledge (i.e. “How many feet are in a mile?”), but others (“How many colors of Trix are there?”) are just as easily answered by a child as by an adult. Someone who has no idea can still make a guess and then bet on someone else’s answer.

Another thing I appreciate is that a source and year are given for each answer. I have often played other trivia questions and have been skeptical of the answers given at times. And my mother will challenge anything she misses in a game!

The game specifies that it is for 3-10 players, but Emily and I were anxious to try the game out when it first arrived. We played with only two players and the game still worked well.

Emily says: I love Wits and Wagers because it is fun and competitive. It is especially fun to play it with family and friends. I think my new motto is: “ It’s not about winning it is about having fun.” I think my family members really like Wits and Wagers as well. I am very grateful for my mom because she gets all these free things! I am really glad that I have awesome review things to play with.

Wits and Wagers Family currently sells for $14.58 on and is for ages 8 and up (although I think younger children would enjoy playing as well).

Northstar Games produces several games, including Say Anything (Family Ed.), which I also had the privilege of reviewing.


5/5 stars for this fun family game!


I received a free game  for review purposes as a member of the TOS Crew. Please visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Memories Suite—Free Templates and Coupon Code

First, congratulations to Michelle (entry #6) for winning the My Memories giveaway!

If you didn’t win,  My Memories Suite is offering you a coupon code toward the purchase of My Memories Suite v.2. Use the code, “STMMMS41016” for $10 off the $39.97 purchase price. Plus, the software comes with an additional $10 coupon toward add-on packs! That’s a $20 savings!

And…one thing I love about the company is all the free add-on packs and templates they offer. Here is a free template pack for this week only. All you have to do is drag your pictures into the frames and your page is done—Couldn’t be easier!  This freebie can be accessed at:

I am an affiliate for My Memories and will receive a small percentage for sales that use the above coupon code.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Always Ice Cream

Kids tend to love online games and communities. As a parent, I want to make sure my child is safe on the internet. I also don’t like her computer time to be “just play.” I much prefer that she is learning. If education is incorporated into the play, we are both happy!

I recently learned about Always Ice Cream through the TOS Crew. This play site incorporates everything I like for an online activity and it’s designed just for girls aged 7 to 12! The games, activities, and even the colors are chosen to appeal to girls. Girls complete educational activities and are rewarded with “ice cream scoops” that can be used to purchase items in “Pet World” or “Mini World.”

  • Typing
  • U.S. States
  • Math
  • European Countries
  • Bible Quiz
  • U.S. presidents
  • Anatomy
  • African geography
  • Language Arts
  • and lots more!
Safety features:
  • No ads
  • Community feature may be turned off by the parent.
  • All communication is monitored before it is published.
  • Parent reports are sent weekly. Parents can see at any time what activities their children play on and with whom they interact.
  • Traceable membership
Our Experience:
I love the variety of educational games on the site.  It is easy to find an activity to reinforce what Emily is studying in our home school. The games are generally a multiple choice quiz or “click on the location” format. Playing the games rewards the child with ice cream scoops to spend for cyber pets or home furnishings. She has enjoyed the educational games just as much as the reward activities. The site would be even nicer if I could assign a particular activity to her.

I wish the program didn’t award ice cream scoops so generously, though. I’d like to require Emily to play the learning games a little longer before she could play in Pet World or Mini World.  Not a big problem, but I’d tweak the program in that direction.  Always Ice Cream does have a nice feature that enables parents to award their daughters extra scoops for schoolwork, chores, or whatever. I would use that feature, but she hasn’t been “needing” extra scoops, since she earns them pretty quickly!

Emily says: “I like Always Ice Cream because it’s educational and fun at the same time!  I don't like to sit around and chat all the time like I did on another online game. I have learned my lesson: You don't have any fun when you just sit around and talk! I love this program because it is so much fun! I like the presidents game best because I get to learn my presidents in a super fun way. I love learning things and working for stuff too!”

I think the creators of Always Ice Cream did an excellent job of creating an online experience that appeals to girls. My daughter will get a lot of use from this site!

The cost for Always Ice Cream ranges from $4.99 a month (first month is only $0.99) to $99.99 for a lifetime membership. They even guarantee satisfaction that your girl will have fun and learn!
Read more reviews of Always Ice Cream at the TOS Crew Blog!
I received a free membership to Always Ice Cream  through the TOS Crew in exchange for my honest review.