Thursday, March 29, 2012

F is for Family!



Family….that’s pretty much the focus of my life at this point. My decision to homeschool  and to work from home is about family. I want to spend quality time with my daughter instead of sending her to school for most of the day. My older three kids are grown, or close to it, and I cherish the memories that I have….homeschooling, family vacations, game nights, and so on.

As Emily gets older, I’m making an effort to make those memories with her. I know how quickly these days and years pass. Even though our family only includes Emily and me most of the time and looks very different from the two-parent, multiple-child family I used to have, it’s what I have and I am grateful!

I’m linking to Blogging Through the Alphabet at “Ben and Me.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

E is for Emily

Emily is my only child left at home now. She is eleven, loves to play outside with our puppy and to ride her bike around the neighborhood. She is enthusiastic, active, and wiggly…when she’s not moody and argumentative. Aah…the ups and downs of pre-teens!

We adopted Emily from Guatemala when she was 3 1/2 months old when the pull for “just one more child” got too strong! Our other kids were 8, 10, and 12 at the time. I can’t imagine life without her!



This post is linked to Blogging Through the Alphabet at Ben and Me.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Action Alert (TOS Review)


Action Alert is an internet safety program. Its features include:

  • access control
  • activity notification alerts
  • activity video recording
  • time allowance
  • site blocking
  • content filtering
  • keystroke logging
  • chat and e-mail logging

  Alerts can be sent to a cell phone or computer. We received the maximum protection package to try out.

My Thoughts:

Action Alert works very well in the area of accountability. I like the ability to receive email alerts whenever a questionable word or phrase is typed. Action Alert is pre-programmed with alert words, but the user may add additional ones. I added some innocuous words just to test it and it worked fine.

I liked the ability to shut down Emily’s computer remotely. I don’t know that I’ll need to use the feature, but it’s pretty cool!

The ability to see screen shots of daily activity was also useful. For example, I could see that Emily had been sending emails and doing non-school-related searches during school hours one day and discuss that with her.  She also found the slide show entertaining! I think that in a few years, when she starts to get involved on social networking sites, this feature will be great! I had to go to her computer to see the activity, though. That particular feature is not available remotely.

The accountability features are useful not just for safety, but also for maintaining family rules and standards, whatever they may be. I think that just knowing that their actions can be monitored will keep most kids honest.

Searching from the Safe Search filter included with Action Alert prevents offensive sites from even showing up in the search results. Hundreds of thousands of sites that contain adult material or virus threats are automatically blocked and the user is able to add additional sites to block. For younger children, a blocking option is available that only allows parent-listed sites.

We did have trouble with the computer this was installed on having frequent un-explained shut-downs. These started occurring just after Action Alert was installed.

I was less than impressed with the FAQ and help sections on Action Alert’s website. Although I found the program very easy to set up and use with the basic instructions given, the “help” section of the website seemed to be outdated. Much of the information pertained to a previous version of Action Alert and was simply confusing.

Conclusion: I love the idea of Action Alert. I love that the company provides the basic program for free, providing both blocking and reporting. I am also a bit concerned about the random shut downs it seems to be causing on the computer. I think perhaps the program needs a few bugs worked out before it is the ideal child safety software for us.

The basic version of Action Alert is free. The Maximum Protection version, which includes multiple user protection, is fully customizable, and has full social network monitoring, has a one-time fee of $29.99. To read more reviews of Action Alert, please visit the TOS Crew Blog.

3/5 stars


As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free software download from Action Alert in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

D is for Dreams


I have dreams of what I think homeschooling should be like. What I would like my day to look like.

First, I would always wake up early and have my Bible study and prayer time before I woke Emily up. She would wake up happily and actually make her bed, clean her room and remember to brush her hair(!) before breakfast. Her seat work would be done quickly and independently. Then we would spend lots of time doing hands-on experiments, snuggling on the couch with good books, taking nature walks and playing educational games. This dream child would always be enthusiastic about learning, cheerful, and helpful. Oh, let’s add an always-clean house to this dream!

All of these things do happen in our home, but not all on the same day. I deal with dawdling and bad attitudes and laziness. And honestly, some of that comes from me as well as Emily! We get bogged down in school books and don’t leave time for the delight-directed learning that I’d like. After bad days or bad weeks, I get discouraged, but I think the dreams are still important in order to give me goals to work for and a vision of how I would like our home to look.

What dreams do you have for your homeschool?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

C is for Curr-Click



C is for CurrClick. If you haven’t investigated this great source of downloadable curricula, you need to check it out! You’ll find lots of mom-made books as well as items from larger publishers. Many items are even free! Be sure to sign up for the newsletter so you’ll hear about their promotions.

My Super Star Speech books and games are sold there as well.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Trying Out Children’s Advil


We recently received a bottle of Children’s Advil from Pfizer and Smiley360. The thing I love most about Advil products is that each dose lasts for 8 hours. Emily had a headache yesterday and I gave her a dose. It cleared up her headache quickly. As you can see, she loved the White Grape flavor and I loved that it was dye free. I hate those dribbles of colorful medicines on clothing!


I received this product free in exchange for sharing my honest opinion.

If you’re interested in trying out new products and sharing your opinions with others, you can sign up for Smiley360 too!

B is for Bookshelves


I’ve been a book-lover since childhood and homeschooling has just magnified that, resulting in a house full of books. We have bookshelves in nearly every room! Our study/homeschool room has built in bookshelves along two walls that are great for organizing homeschool books, although I confess that my “stash” spills into the family room and kitchen too!

The study….



The kitchen hutch—cookbooks, some school books and art supplies


The family room—school and parenting books, magazines, and library books.


Emily’s room—She has 2 bookcases like this.


The guest room/ sewing room/ Allison’s room when she’s here—teen books, Chris’s books


I have a bookcase headboard—mostly Bibles and devotional books here


Katie’s room—This used to be a porch. When we closed it in, we added a built in bookcase, of course!


Do you think I might have a book addiction???

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A is for Amazon


I’m joining in (a bit late) with Blogging through the Alphabet with Marcy from “Ben and Me.”

So…A is for Amazon—the site that sells everything! These days, when I am looking for the best deal on something in particular, Amazon, along with ebay, are the first places I look.

My most frequent use of Amazon is shopping for Kindle books. There are so many free books offered that I may never catch up reading all the books I’ve downloaded. I have about 200 on my Kindle right now!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Progeny Press Study Guides (TOS Review)


Progeny Press sells over 100 literature study guides for Kindergarten through high school levels. The guides concentrate on comprehension, literary analysis, critical thinking, and Christian application. I used (and loved) several of them with my older children in the past. Until now, I hadn’t used one with Emily.

The guides are available in print, cd, or pdf form. I’ve had many curriculum materials in pdf form before and the printing is always a bit of an expense and hassle. I was thrilled to see that I didn’t have to print this guide. All of  Progeny Press’s pdf or cd versions are interactive! Emily was able to type or mark her answers directly on the computer. This made it fun and easy for her as well simpler for me!

I thought that the Bronze Bow study guide (grades 6-8) was very well done. Emily enjoyed the work and I felt that the activities both reinforced basic skills and added to her understanding of the novel.  A few outside research assignments were included as well. We will continue to use Progeny Press guides in the future.

The email and cd versions of the Bronze Bow guide sell for $16.99. Print edition is $18.99.

5/5 stars


Read more reviews of other Progeny Press guides at the TOS Crew blog.

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free study from Progeny Press in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.


Science Fun

When I think back over years of teaching science, I really don’t have any one favorite science curriculum. We’ve really used quite a piece-meal approach to science and I have a lot of favorites. Here are a few that we have enjoyed:


Bill Nye the Science Guy show—My older kids frequently watched this when it still came on PBS every afternoon and loved it. I really think they picked up a lot of knowledge effortlessly from this very entertaining show. We have some of the episodes recorded and clips from the show are available online, but Emily’s hardly ever watched it. I need to change that! Note that there is a lot of evolution-based content on the show.


TOPS (Task Oriented Physical Science) – This company publishes dozens of topical books with hands-on learning activities. Activities are presented in a clear sequence and students keep journals of their observations. Very meaty, but fun! We’ve done the Electricity and Corn and Beans books and have several more on the shelf to do soon. I wrote about our experience with TOPS several years ago.


I reviewed Christian Kids Explore Biology by Bright Ideas Press a couple of years ago. We really enjoyed this user-friendly course. I’ll be posting a review of Christian Kids Explore Chemistry next month.

We also enjoy doing a lot of experiments, watching and identifying the birds at our feeder and other nature study, and Curiosity Files studies.

What are your favorite science curricula?

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Art of Argument (TOS Review)

imageDoes your student like to argue? Then he or she might love the idea of this course by Classical Academic Press and you might not!  However, the course doesn’t actually teach your child to talk back! Whew!

The Art of Argument: An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies, is actually a logic course for 7th graders and up.  It teaches teens to identify 28 informal fallacies, enabling them to detect misleading advertising, political campaigning, and so on.

The text includes dialogues, worksheets, real-world applications, phony advertisements, dialectic discussion questions, tests, and fun extras, including a short story and a skit.  The teacher’s guide includes the complete student text plus answer keys, quizzes, and tests. The DVD set features teachers and students discussing each of the 28 fallacies.

We enjoyed using The Art of Argument. Emily is in the sixth grade and I think the curriculum would have been a better fit if we had waited a year, but she was still able to understand the concepts and we had some good discussions. The chapters are short, but meaty enough to provide good discussion about each fallacy. Emily especially enjoyed the “ads” in each chapter that provided examples of each fallacy.

We also found the DVDs to be very helpful in cementing the concepts and providing additional examples. They are not a necessary component, but I appreciated having a “teacher” covering the basics and hearing several students giving their own examples was helpful as well.

After covering the first 7 fallacies, Emily (and I) are beginning to be able to pick out and label fallacies that we see in advertising. I think this will be a useful tool in developing her critical thinking skills.

If you are looking for a beginning logic program for your middle schooler, this might be a great choice for you!

5/5 stars


The Art of Argument is $21.95. The teacher’s edition is $24.95 and the corresponding DVD set is $54.95.  To read more reviews of the Art of Argument, please visit the TOS Crew Blog.

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this book set free from Classical Academic Press in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Creek Edge Press Task Cards (TOS Review)


Task Cards Sets, created by Creek Edge Press, offer an alternative to traditional curriculum and pull together aspects of Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Montessori methods. They are non-consumable and are designed to facilitate discovery based, research oriented, independent learning. We tried out the Ancient World Task Card Set ($20.00). This K-8 course is comprised of discovery-oriented tasks designed to facilitate engaged learning about the Ancient World.

Each card has 6-10 assignments on it, which include reading about a topic, drawing or labeling maps, making collages, writing summaries about a topic, timelines, crafts, etc.


I set up a study area for Emily with reference materials that she would need to do the assignments. Included on the shelf are an atlas, globe,  and various history books.  The Ancient World Task Card set came with a list of suggested resources, but any available resources may be used.  Nearby are paper and art supplies. I put the task cards in a small decorative box.


I had Emily spend 1 hour a day working at her task cards. Each day, she chose which activities to work on, worked independently, then showed me her work at the end of the hour.

Emily enjoyed the independence and control over her day that Task Cards allowed her. We use a similar literature/activity based approach to history, but I usually read the books aloud, then assign her a task to work on independently—a report, chart, craft, etc. The Task Cards required her to work alone, budget her time,  and to make choices about which tasks to complete first.

Here are a few of Emily’s completed projects:


I wouldn’t use Task Cards for every subject. I like to have more interaction with my student and the format would burn a child out if it was ALL he or she did. But…I do think it is a good way to do one subject, to encourage independent learning, and to work with many learning styles because of the variety of tasks assigned. Since we’ve been using the task cards, I’ve seen Emily show more creativity in coming up with assignments for herself that may not even be on the task cards. For example, I’ve been able to say, “Go read from some of these books about Egypt for 30 minutes, then do something (report, drawing, project) to show me what you’ve learned” and she’s able to think of a creative way to demonstrate what she learned.

I think that  Ancient History Task Cards could work well either by themselves or as a supplement to another history  curriculum. Just remember that you will have to gather together your own resources for each unit. If you prefer a pre-planned, scheduled, packaged curriculum, this isn’t for you. But if you are looking for a flexible, hand-on resource that promotes research and writing skills, this might appeal to you!

Task Card sets are available for history, geography, culture, science, art, music, and grammar. To read more reviews of Task Cards by Creek Edge Press, please visit the TOS Crew blog.

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free set of Ancient History Task Cards from Creek Edge Press in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.