Thursday, May 31, 2012

TOS Crew Blue Ribbon Award Winners

The TOS Crew reviewers all voted on their very favorite curricula for the 2011/2012 school year.  This is  a list of the review items that we most loved! Click on the links to learn more about any of them.

Favorite Reading Instruction Product: Reading Eggs

Favorite Writing Product: Write Shop

Favorite Language Arts Product: Progeny Press

Favorite Social Studies Product: TruthQuest History

Favorite Science Product: Amazing Science

Favorite Math Product: Math Mammoth

Favorite Online Math Product: Math Rider

Favorite Foreign Language Product: Visual Latin

Favorite Fine Arts Product: Artistic Pursuits

Favorite Christian Education Product: Apologia: Who Am I? ~~~ Favorite Preschool Product: Before Five in a Row

Favorite Elementary Product: All About Reading

Favorite Middle School Product: Write with WORLD

Favorite High School Product: Excellence in Literature

Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Excellence in Literature ~~~

Best Online Resource: Reading Eggs

Best e-Product: Heritage History

Best Homeschool Resource: Apologia: Educating the Wholehearted Child Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: Apologia: How to Have a HEART for Your Kids

Best Children's Book: Amazing Animals by Design

Best Game or Toy: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything

Best Hands-On Resource: Pitsco Education ~~~

Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: eMeals

Best Customer Service: K5 Learning

Most Adaptable Resource: Creek Edge Press

Most Family-Oriented Resource: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything ~~~

Kids' Choice (favorite of CHILDREN ages 0-12): Reading Eggs

Teens' Choice (favorite per the TEENAGERS): Pitsco Education

All Around Crew Favorite: Visual Latin  

Each winning vendor has received this wonderful award to display with pride:

  Congratulations to our winning vendors! We hope you will sail with us again! Click here to see the Crew Blog Posts...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

N is for Noteworthy

Whew! Another school year is winding to a close. I have been so blessed to be on the TOS Homeschool Crew this year. It has been so much fun to try out lots of new (to me) homeschool products and share my thoughts about them. The friendships and fellowship with other Crew members has been a huge blessing as well.

I am amazed when I look back at all the products I have reviewed in the past year. I counted 33 items for TOS reviews alone, plus a handful of book and curriculum reviews for other companies!

As I look back over the year, I’m trying to pick out my very favorite items—a very hard task! Here are just a few that rise to the top, in no particular order:

Wits and Wagers and Say Anything games—These have provided hours of fun for our family!


PhotobucketExcellence in Literature—This is a very solid literature curriculum.  The literature selections are excellent and I was impressed that my 6th grader was able to actually analyze literature using the instruction in this program.




Christian Kids Explore Chemistry—This science program is very easy to use and hands-on.


Write With World—A solid writing program that is stretching Emily’s abilities.


Visual Latin—We had no intentions of even studying Latin, but Emily loved this one so much that I’ve purchased the next level!


The entire Crew voted on their favorite items of the year. I’ll post a listing of the Crew favorites tomorrow.

I’m Blogging Through the Alphabet with “Ben and Me.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

M is for MD and Moving!

My oldest daughter graduated from medical school last week (at age 24). It has been a long journey for Allison and I am so proud! In July, she will begin her 4 year residency in Mobile, in both internal medicine and pediatrics. She also closed on a house 2 days before graduation. We just spent a week with her for graduation and to help her move.  I’m excited for her—new career, new home, and a paycheck!



Here are a few photos of her “new” home during the moving-in process. It’s a charming 1920’s house in an historic neighborhood.





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

Heritage History (TOS Review)

Since I bought a Kindle last year, I have been on a hunt for quality public domain (free) books. There are quite a few available on the internet, but I have found that free versions may not include pictures and the formatting may not be well done.


Heritage History has collected hundreds of classic public domain (pre-1923) history books, arranged them into collections, and enhanced these collections with study guides and maps. Heritage History has done the work of choosing books that are well worth reading and providing volumes that display well on e-readers. The added timelines, maps and study guide make these collections into curriculum.

We received the Young Readers collection to review. This collection includes 86 books!

The Young Readers collection is the introductory unit of the Heritage Classical Curriculum. It includes easy-to-read, introductory selections from many historical periods and provides a broad introduction to Western Culture. Specially featured are short stories from American, European, Ancient, and Biblical history. Perfect for grammar school students who are reading at the “chapter book” level and up.

Our Thoughts: This collection of books was a nice enhancement to our current study of Ancient Greece. Because most of the books at this level are in story form, they were enjoyable  for Emily to read, but gave her a deeper understanding of life in Sparta and Athens. We prefer a literature-based approach to history, so I like to have a large selection of historical novels and biographies available. These  books were written before 1923, so the language is old-fashioned and a bit more difficult to read, but this wasn’t much of a problem. The original illustrations added to our enjoyment in reading these classic stories. We will continue using these books to supplement our studies of other historical ages.  I think this collection is a great value and am considering purchasing more Heritage History collections.

The other curriculums available are:

  • Ancient Greece
  • Ancient Rome
  • British Middle Ages
  • British Empire

Each curriculum sells for $25. Also available are “classical libraries” which are book collections of other historical eras and locations. The “libraries” do not include study guides or additional learning resources.

To read more reviews of Heritage History, please visit the TOS Crew Blog.

5/5 stars


Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free CD and study guide in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Go Science DVDs (TOS Review)

The Go Science DVD’s, sold by Library and Educational Services, feature the high-energy science demonstrations of Ben Roy.  These short science clips were originally produced for a Christian TV show. Each short episode shows Ben Roy performing science demonstrations for a group of children. He usually has the children help him and/or answer questions as he proceeds.
I have mixed opinions on this series….
What I like:
  • Mr. Roy is excited about his topic.
  • The demonstrations are exciting and dramatic. Many are experiments that we would not or could not do at home—involving explosions, fire, or expensive equipment.
  • Mr. Roy uses every demonstration to point to God as the creator and often uses the principals to illustrate a Biblical concept, such as forgiveness of sin.
What I didn’t like:
  • Mr. Roy talks to the audience as if they were preschoolers. The questions he asks are very simple and sometimes silly. I think most older elementary aged kids would be insulted by the show. Children in the primary grades would probably love it. Emily(11) did like it, but if I told her to watch Barney or Dora as a school assignment, she probably wouldn’t complain either!
  • The demonstrations  are cool to watch, but  the scientific principals behind them often aren’t explained. I had to frequently stop the recording to talk about the science with Emily. Without that, the puffs of flame and color changes of liquids are just magic tricks.  In one demonstration, Mr. Roy explained that, “These two test tubes hold different chemicals. When I mix them together, there is a chemical reaction.” He did so, and the result was an instant color change. It was fun to see, but I wanted to hear what the chemicals were and hear him explain the chemical reactions.
  • I think this might be better marketed as a series of Christian lessons than of science. This emphasis on faith is good, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected from the series title.
What Emily says:
I love these DVD’s because they are so awesome. They were awesome because the man was blowing up stuff! What’s not cool about that? The man did not teach us so much about science, though, but that is fine to me! To me, it was sort of like a Disney Channel show because you did not really learn about why this scientific experiment happened. This program would be great for eight-year-olds, I think. Well, just remember, “Every time we learn something about science, we learn something about our Creator---God!”
The Go Science DVD’s sell for $8.97 each or $47.95 for the 6-volume set at Library and Educational Services.
I’ve been a member of Library and Educational Services for several years. They offer the best prices I’ve seen on many Christian and educational materials, including Adventures in Odyssey videos, sets of historical biographies, and the Drive Through History Series. If you are a homeschooler, you qualify for membership and I recommend that you see what they have to offer!
To read more reviews of Go Science, please visit the TOS Crew Blog.
2/5 stars
Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received 2 free DVD’s in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.

Disciplines of a Godly Young Man (Review)

Disciplines of a Godly Young Man  -     
        By: R. Kent Hughes, Carey Hughes, Jonathan Carswell

Since I don’t have any boys or young men at home now, this initially wasn’t a title that I was thrilled about reviewing. But, even given these circumstances, I am very impressed with this book.

Disciplines of a Godly Young Man, by R. Kent Hughes and W. Carey Hughes, discusses, as the title suggests, 14 disciplines that need to be developed in Christians. I was immediately drawn into the book when the introduction described the lives of men that we consider geniuses in their respective fields.  Leonardo da Vinci is known, among other talents,  for his amazing drawings of the human figure. But he drew thousands of hands as training for this skill. Mozart tallied up 3500 hours of piano practice before his sixth birthday! Thomas Edison invented the light bulb after a thousand failures. The authors make the valid point that if we Christians want to achieve Christ-like character and an intimate relationship with God, then we need to put effort into achieving these goals. (Although we are not saved by our works, our actions can help us develop a closer walk with God.)

The disciplines discussed include: purity, friendship, mind, devotion, prayer, perseverance, church, giving, witness, ministry, and tongue. A chapter including scripture references and real-life examples is devoted to each.

Although the intended audience of this book is young men, I found these disciplines applicable for my life as well. Many chapters were both convicting, motivating, and applicable to my life. I highly recommend this book for young men of high school or college age who desire to become godly men and are motivated to work toward that goal.

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book as a member of the Crossway Review program. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

K is for Kindle

I’ve had my Kindle for a little over a year, now. I love how portable it is. I can stick it in my purse and have a large selection of books to read right there. I can go on a trip and take my small Kindle instead of a tote bag full of books! On a few occasions, I’ve put the same book on my Kindle and on Emily’s, so that we can easily read the book together and discuss it.

One somewhat unexpected advantage I’ve found with my Kindle is the access to so many free books! There are many many free public domain books that were published prior to 1923 available. But there are also many new books that are available for a short time by both new and bestselling authors. I currently have around 250 unread books on my Kindle and have only paid for 4 or 5 of them! I’ve gotten very particular about what I download anymore because I already have so many on my to-be-read list.

These are some sources I’ve found that notify me of free Kindle books:

Free Kindle Books and Tips This is the first Kindle blog I subscribed to. As the name indicates, the author provides Kindle “tips” as well as announcements of Kindle books. I found the tips especially helpful when I was a new Kindle owner.

Inspired Reads This Facebook page features Christian fiction and non-fiction.

EReader News Today features an assortment of free Kindle books.

Pixel of Ink-Young Edition lists books for kids and teens. I’ve found several here, just in the past week, that I haven’t stumbled across before and that look very good. It is harder to find quality children’s books that are free for Kindle, so I was excited to find this Facebook page.

Tip: If you see a free Kindle book that interests you, download it right away. Many are only free for a very short time and will revert back to regular prices without notice.

What do you use your Kindle for? Do you know of any other free book sources?

I am linking to Blogging Through the Alphabet at Ben and Me.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homeschool Library Builder- Sale!

Homeschool Library Builder

This isn’t my typical product review for The Old Schoolhouse Crew. Instead, on behalf of the Crew, I’m passing along some information about a site that might be of help to you as a homeschooler.

Homeschool Library Builder offers a large selection of books, both new, but discounted, and used. If you are looking for books for a particular curriculum (Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Beautiful Feet, Five in Row, etc.), it is easy to head for that section of the site to see which books are available. Or just browse through the categories of science, geography, new arrivals, and so on. Hundreds of books are available and the condition of each is clearly noted.

From now until May 31, ALL purchases from Homeschool Library Builder are 25% off. The discount will be added at checkout.

As a  budget-conscious homeschooler, I have spent a LOT of time over the years looking for the best prices on curriculum, great books, and supplemental materials. Homeschool Library Builder’s prices seem very reasonable and I’m glad this option is available when I’m searching for books!

See what others have to say about Homeschool Library Builder at the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: I am publishing this review as a TOS Crew Reviewer. I received no compensation for this post.