Thursday, December 31, 2009

Molly’s Money-Saving Digest (January 2010)


Molly’s Money-Saving Digest is an e-book series published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Each monthly issue is packed with money-saving tips for shopping, organization, decorating, and more.

  1. The focus of the January 2010 issue is “evaluate, prioritize, organize”—a great theme for those of us who are eager to turn over a new leaf for the start of 2010!

This issue includes dozens of tips and tools to help you organize your money, time, and stuff. Numerous record-keeping and organizational forms are included to get the new year off to a good start. Each issue of Molly’s Digest this year will have additional forms to add to your household organizer notebook.

The “Begin With the Basics” column for this month features a pie-baking tutorial, complete with several crust recipes, including one that freezes well. I love the idea of having  up to 8 pie crusts ready to use in the freezer! Learn how to avoid runny pie fillings, how to roll out a perfect crust,  how to make special pie crust toppers, and how to make turnovers. The recipes for Mother’s Strawberry Pie and German Chocolate Pie sound delicious as well. I can’t wait to try out the recipes!

Another monthly regular feature is decorating ideas—my favorite idea this month is using a kitchen cooling rack as a jewelry organizer. Easy, cute, and practical!

Molly’s Money-Saving Digest sells for $4.95 at the Schoolhouse Store. The January issue can also be purchased in a bundle with “Molly Gets Organized,” a compilation of all of the organization related articles from Molly’s Digest 2009 for $9.95.

imageFor additional tips, freebies and frugal decorating ideas, visit Molly’s blog at I have it bookmarked and visit regularly!

I received a free review copy of Molly’s Money-Saving Digest as my only compensation for this review.



Kinderbach is an online music and piano instruction program for 2 to 7 year olds. Emily is 9, so she is outside of the recommended age range, but I had her go through the program to check it out. The entire program, which costs $95.88   for a one year subscription or $19.99 per month, includes 60 lessons. Throughout the 22 hours of video and interactive coloring pages, children will learn about the Grand Staff clefs, play simple songs, rhythm notes and their beat value, hand and finger position and staff note reading by pattern.

I found Kinderbach to be very child friendly and fun. I loved the way concepts were explained and practiced in a pressure-free manner. The lessons were very short—Emily typically did a week’s worth in one sitting. Of course, a younger child would go through the material more slowly, possibly doing each lesson more than one time. The presentation reminded me of Blue’s Clues or Dora the Explorer, so if your kids enjoy these shows, then they are probably just the right age to benefit from Kinderbach.


As children watch the brief videos in each lesson, the children  are encouraged to play along, using rhythm instruments, a keyboard, and coloring pages that are printed from the site.

Emily enjoyed using Kinderbach and I think that it reinforced her beginning piano skills. It was obviously geared toward preschoolers, though, so I would not recommend it for children over 7. I would have LOVED access to this when she was three or four, though! I think the annual subscription is an excellent value and would be a great introduction to music for any preschooler as well as providing a nice head start for future piano lessons. 

If you are interested in Kinderbach, you may use the code, “KBFriends” for a 10% discount.

 I received a three month subscription to Kinderbach in return for my honest review. Also, I just joined the Kinderbach affiliate program, but that in no way affected my review.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Cruise Photos

We are back from our Christmas cruise. Chris chose not to join us, but we had a great time with all the rest of the family. It was wonderful to escape the cold weather for a week and to spend time with my sisters and their families.DSC07764



All the cousins (except baby Lydia)










Playing at Fort San Cristobel in San Juan.






Katie has one day of cell phone service in San Juan!









At the beach in St. John, Antigua.




Friday, December 18, 2009

Cruising for Christmas

image We are leaving Saturday morning for a Christmas cruise with my parents, in-laws, and my three sisters and their families—a big family reunion! We have always been home for Christmas and I know we will miss our Christmas traditions, from the candlelight Christmas Eve service to our annual photo on the stairs to stockings, but we’re all excited about the trip and eager for a week of warm weather!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday—Alabama Snow


Our first (and maybe only!) snowy day of the year—a couple of weeks ago. We get excited here over a 1/2 inch of snow!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Instant Challenge—Leaning Tower

Emily attempted another of Delightful Learning’s Instant Challenges today. Her task was to build a tower that leans against the wall within the 5 minute time limit.  Her leaning tower had to be as high and as far from the wall as possible. The materials she was allowed to used were:

20 toothpicks

3 mailing labels

6 straws








First, she made a basic structure of straws, using the mailing labels as tape.







Then she tried to lengthen the tower.


She discovered that she could stuff toothpicks into the straws to attach two straws together.

DSC07672She took 8 minutes to complete the project.  The tower was 19 inches from the floor (38 points) and 7.5 inches from the wall (13 points). She gave herself 15/30 points for “creative use of materials” for a total of 66 points.

If you visit Delightful Learning, you can see how others completed this project and try it for yourself!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


image Do your kids love video games? Tektoma is an online tutorial  that teaches kids ages 7 to 17 to program video games using GameMaker, a free download.

The Tektoma tutorial consists of online videos that teach, step by step, the process of adding game elements using GameMaker. The videos can be paused as often as needed, allowing the child to go back and forth between GameMaker and the Tektoma video. I found the instructions to be very clear, although I wouldn’t expect most 7 to 9 year olds to able to create the games without adult assistance.

GameMaker is a stand alone program, but I can see, especially for children, teens, and those of us who don’t grasp technology intuitively that the Tektoma tutorials could be valuable for getting started in video game programming.

Programming video games isn’t something that Emily has a great deal of interest in—she hasn’t yet completed her first racing game, so we won’t be continuing with Tektoma, but I think it would be wonderful for a child who had interest in this area. I also think that the skills that are gained in the process will carry over to general computer literacy.

Membership to Tektoma costs $14.95 a month or $140 a year. They also offer a free 14 day trial membership.

I received a free  3 month membership to the Tektoma site for review purposes.

Visit the TOS Crew site to read more opinions about Tektoma.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Instant Challenge—Cup Holder

Emily attempted another of Delightful Learning’s Instant Challenges this week.  Her task was to design and build a structure that would hold 2 cups off the table as high and as far apart as possible in seven minutes.

The materials she had to work with were:

2 chenille stems

5 penniesDSC07645

1 piece of paper

3 mailing labels

6 straws

2 paper clips

1 piece of foil

1 envelope


She eagerly set to work…DSC07647

She made a framework from the straws, using the mailing labels to hold them to the foil, wedged an upside down cup over them, then balanced the second cup on top.

Ta da!!


She scored herself:

0/10 points for finishing on time (It took her 10 minutes.)

10/20 points for creative use of materials

16 points for inches off the table (one cup was 6 inches and one was 10 inches high)

0 points for separation of cups

  0/10 teamwork N/A

If you visit Delightful Learning, you can see how others completed this project and try it for yourself!

Favorite Ornaments

I meant to post this on a Blog Hop and missed the deadline! Oh, well. I thought it was a fun topic anyway….

I had a hard time choosing a favorite ornament—we have a LOT of them! This is one of a set of 6 glass angels that I love.  Chris gave me them to me early in our marriage.  I think it was the year that Allison was almost 2 because I remember that she got to them before they even made it to the tree and broke one. Getting into things and breaking them was uncharacteristic for her, even at that age, which is why I remember the incident. The other five are still intact 20 years later, though!


I really love angel ornaments. One year, we put up a second tree in the family room with only angels on it.  This is another favorite—one of a collection of beautiful ornaments made by my sister from shells.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We are continuing to enjoy using workboxes in our homeschool. It is providing more structure to the day and I do think that it helps Emily to have a concrete view of all her assignments. The first thing Emily does every morning is to look in all of her boxes to see what she’ll be doing that day.

I am finding myself having to be a bit more vigilant, though, to make sure she “follows the system.” For example, this morning, she was working away and had completed several tasks. When I looked at her number board, I saw that she had completed tasks 2, 4, 8, 9, and 10. Hmmm.


I have also caught her re-arranging boxes and even adding things (like games). This mom needs to keep better tabs on her child!

The “school is in session” card hasn’t been used in a while either. This was an “extra” touch that I added for fun and has pretty much been forgotten about.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Mathletics is an online mathematics site that provides both instruction and drill at every grade level. In the practice mode, students can choose from a list of topics to work on. When the student correctly answers 9 out of 10 questions, he or she is awarded a “gold bar” and is one step closer to mastering the grade level. In addition, points are awarded, which may be redeemed in the cyber-store. Emily found this very rewarding and was more motivated toward accuracy than I have ever seen!  The list of topics is quite comprehensive. You can see the pie chart in the picture below how much of the content Emily has mastered so far.


Her favorite activity on the Mathletics site was the Live Mathletics area, where she was actually able to compete in speed drills with kids from all over the world.


A parent’s area on the site allows the parent to monitor the child’s progress, set assignments in the task manager, and print worksheets. The second through fourth grade worksheets are not yet available, but I printed some of the fifth grade level activities and was pleased with the quality. (I did have trouble viewing them on Firefox, however and had to open them in Internet Explorer.) 


A subscription to Mathletics also provides access to another math program, Rainforest Maths, which also provides a wide level of colorful and fun math activities.


A one year membership to Mathletics costs $59.  However if you know the “human calculator’s favorite number”—9, the membership will cost you only $49. I think this is a a great value for the amount of material that is covered in a way that is fun and motivating for kids!

 I received 45 days of online access to Mathletics in return for my honest review.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin


Though Waters Roar, by Lynn Austin opens with the main character, Harriet, in jail. It is the 1920’s during prohibition and Harriet has just been arrested for transporting bootleg liquor. The mystery of how she got to that place is told through a series of flashbacks chronicling the lives of her grandmother and mother and their experiences with the Underground Railroad, the struggle for women’s rights, and the fight to outlaw alcohol. Both Harriet and her grandmother, Bebe, are women who struggle to find meaning for lives in which they don’t feel that they fit in with society’s expectations for women and their desire to make a difference in the world.

I recently “discovered” Lynn Austin as an author and she has become a new favorite. Though Waters Roar did not disappoint me. I enjoyed the way the author intertwined the characters’ lives and gradually helped the reader figure out the mystery of what motivated each character.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Maestro Classics

image As part of the TOS Crew, I recently received one of Maestro Classic’s CDs, The Tortoise and the Hare, to review. Maestro Classics’ new classical music CD series for children combines classic stories with symphony music.

Titles currently available at Maestro Classics are:

The Story of Swan Lake

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel

Jaunita, la langosta espanola

Peter and the Wolf

Casey at the Bat

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

I was highly impressed with the quality of this product. The narrator was excellent and the background music was also wonderful. The CD included several tracks….the story itself, background information on Aesop, fables, and the story, an explanation of the the music by the composer/conductor himself, and a sing-a-long of one of the musical pieces.  After Emily heard the background information, she wanted to immediately play the story again to listen for the music selections that she had learned about!

The CD is accompanied by a colorful 24 page booklet with information about instruments, the orchestra, notes and time signatures, words and music for one of the songs in the recording, crossword puzzles, and more.

Maestro Classics CDs sell for $16.98 for individual titles or 3 CDs for $45. These would make great Christmas gifts!

I received this item free for review purposes.

Visit the TOS Crew site to read more opinions about Maestro Classics.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

All About Spelling

image All About Spelling is a comprehensive spelling program based on proven strategies to teach spelling using the best and easiest method possible. It gives parents, homeschoolers, and teachers strategies that work, including:

  • Lessons with crucial concepts explained in easy-to-understand language
  • Multisensory methods for different learning opportunities
  • Effective techniques to teach both beginner and remedial spelling

Emily and I were sent Levels One and Two of the All About Spelling Program to try out. Each level includes a teacher’s guide and a student packet, which includes sound and imagephonogram cards, word cards, and key (rule) cards. Also required for every level is the starter kit, which contains letter tiles and a phonogram cd.

I will admit to being a bit disappointed at the levels we were sent, since Emily is a fourth grader and an average speller. Her spelling certainly needs improvement, but I don’t consider her a “remedial” speller either. Level One begins with learning the letter sounds and moves on to short vowel words. Some of the rules and concepts taught include: compound words, plurals, blends, open and closed syllables, and how to determine whether to use “c” or “k” in a word. The author recommends beginning at Level One for beginning spellers or remedial spellers. Children who are older can begin with Level Two, since it does have a quick review of most of the Level One concepts.

We did begin with Level One, completing one to three steps a day. We finished the whole book in about three weeks! Most of the material was very easy for Emily, but I did find a few areas in which she benefited from the review or in which she didn’t understand the “why’s” of spelling patterns, even though she could easily spell the words.

Level Two covers dividing words into syllables, silent “e,” hard and soft “c” and “g,” spelling multisyllable words and much more.

All About Spelling is certainly a unique program that covers much more than “just spelling.” I think the skills learned would be very advantageous in helping children to sound out unfamiliar words. When using the program, we sat on the floor with a magnetic board containing letter, “consonant team,” and “vowel team” tiles. The concept for each day was explained and practiced using the tiles. Only after the concept was mastered, does the child take dictation of words and phrases that reinforce the concept. Review of previous concepts is also built into the program. This approach is excellent for multi-sensory learning. The child practices each step until it is mastered, which may be just one session or up to a week or more.

I think that All About Spelling is a wonderful program that really teaches the rules of spelling, giving children the ability to tackle words that they have not studied before. Highly recommended!

The pricing for All About Spelling is as follows:

Starter Kit (required for all levels) $26.95

Level One (teacher and student) $29.95

Levels Two-Five $39.95

I received this levels One and Two of All About Spelling for review purposes.

Visit the TOS Crew site to read more opinions about All About Spelling.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Friday Sale at Currclick, one of my favorite sites for homeschool resources is having a BIG Black Friday Sale. Hundreds of downloadable books, lapbooks, and other homeschooling resources will be available, beginning Friday, Nov. 27 at 10am central and ending 24 hours later. I always find some wonderful treasures at their “free” promotions!


In addition, Currclick’s annual “Stocking Up the Shelves” sale also begins on Friday and runs through December 15.  All of my Super Star Speech books and homeschool games will be 20% off at this sale.