Monday, September 28, 2009


There a lot of blogs doing some fun giveaways right now:

Here are a few that I’ve come across in the last week:

Random Line Squiggle Connect game at Kiddie’s Corner.

Carolina Pad –fun notebooks and other office accessories—at Kiddie’s Corner.

Corrective Skin Care products at Three Boys and a Dog.

Joyful Bath Bath Company (Bath salts) at Three Boys and a Dog.

Bowdacious Hair Bows $25 gift card at Three Boys and a Dog.

Switchflops (customizable flip flops) at Three Boys and a Dog.

My Pair Tree (flip flop organizer—really cute! at My Four Monkeys

A  Healthy Home starter kit from Seventh Generation eco-friendly cleaning products at Mission Mommy.

Educaching: GPS in the Classroom

What child would say “no” to a treasure hunt?

Educaching™ is a curriculum, inspired by the popular “geocaching” hobby,  that uses GPS technology to create an innovative learning atmosphere.  Children use GPS receivers to locate hidden “caches,” while learning technology and geography and reinforcing skills and knowledge in other curriculum areas.

The 140 page Educaching manual  ($32) begins with a teacher training chapter that explains educaching and GPS lingo, teaches the use of GPS receivers and suggestions for what features to look for when purchasing a GPS receiver. The chapter then covers the educaching concept. I found everything to be very well explained. This was important to me, since I had never used the GPS receiver before and was a bit nervous about tackling this project. By the time I had finished reading the training section, I was eager to start—This is a very fun concept!

DSC07486The remainder of the manual consists of lesson plans and field sheets. Twenty lesson plans are included, covering topics in math and science. After reading through just a few of the plans, I could easily come up with a dozen more idea for activities that would reinforce what we are already studying.

Most of the lesson plans require the teacher to first hide the “caches” and enter the “waypoints” into the GPS receiver. I attempted to do this in our yard and neighborhood,  but quickly found that, because of all the trees, the GPS receiver was not giving me accurate results. Bummer! It would be convenient to do this from home! Hopefully in the winter, when the trees have shed their leaves, we will have better results.

My next attempt took place in an open field. Much better! I was able to hide the small containers, show Emily how to use the compass feature of the GPS receiver to lead her to a waypoint and she was able to do it easily. This was just a practice session—the point was to practice setting and finding waypoints.

On to the actual lesson plans: We spent a long weekend at my sister’s lakehouse a couple of weeks ago, which gave us a good opportunity to spend some time on educaching projects. The property was wooded, but I was careful to set each of the waypoints in clear areas, such as the driveway, road, and dock. Although there was  tendency for the GPS receiver to lose its bearing at times, the setting was doable.


The first lesson plan involved finding averages. I hid pencils of 3 different lengths at the various waypoints. Emily had to note the waypoint coordinates, locate the “cache,” measure the pencils, find the average length, and record the data on her lab sheet.

The second lesson plan involved solving money riddles at each waypoint and again recording data on the lab sheet.

For our third activity, I introduced Educaching to some kids in our homeschool group at a local park. Again, we had some issues with the GPS receiver, possibly due to tree coverage. When dh comes from Korea next, I need to make sure I’m not missing something in the GPS receiver operation. I had the kids locate particular trees and collect leaves to be identified. In hindsight, I should have flagged the tree, so that the kids could be sure that they were at the correct waypoint.  It would have also been nice to have 2 or 3 GPS receivers, so that the kids could have broken into groups and competed to find the “cache.” I plan to do this activity again with Emily, in conjunction with a fall leaf study project.

The activities were met with great enthusiasm and we look forward to doing more of them. 

 Verdict: This is fun fun fun! If you have access to a GPS receiver, I think the $32 price for this book is a great value. It is a creative idea for using technology to both learn new skills and to reinforce existing curriculum.

Now that I know how to use dh’s GPS receiver, I think I’d like to try geocaching next….

Friday, September 25, 2009

Christmas Book giveaway

April, at ElCloud Homeschool Blog has a review and giveaway of a Christmas fiction book, The Great Christmas Bowl, by Susan May Warren, that sounds great...Check it out!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Studypod book holder


DSC07476 As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a Studypod to try out. This is a cool gadget that props a book upright and holds it open.  When not in use, it folds like a book for easy storage. The Studypod was designed to help students stay more organized and to make make studying more comfortable. When a textbook is propped in an almost upright position, the reader doesn’t have to hunch over to read, improving posture and efficiency and reducing neck and eye strain, making reading, writing, and typing easier.  The inside of the Studypod has a pocket that would be useful for carrying a pencil, calculator, or note cards.  Clips hold the pages in place. I keep thinking of additional ways to use the studypod around the house. Here are some of the ways we have used it….


We found it to be useful for propping up cookbooks and recipes in the kitchen. It  allowed a bit more counter space and kept the recipes from getting dripped on.

I used it one morning to read a magazine while I straightened my hair.DSC07480

I was also able to prop it up on the handlebars of my exercise bike.

This would also make a great portable music stand.

It is also useful for holding a book when I am at the computer and need to be looking back and forth between the book and screen.


I think having her book propped upright helped improve Emily’s focus on her work. She does seem to be less distractible and to work more efficiently when she is using it.

Katie (17) tried the Studypod briefly and didn’t care for it. She is a creature of habit and likes to do things the same way, though. She did say that she thought it sped up her work, but that working faster made her messier, so she preferred to work more slowly.  Hmmm.

The Studypod comes in black, blue, or pink. The same product is also sold in black, brown, or gray from the same company under the name Bookpod. The Studypod/Bookpod sells for $19.95. If you purchase two or more, they are $16.95 each. Also,  Genio is currently offering a $5 discount on any order to TOS Crew blog readers. The discount code is: TOSBLOG5.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nutrition 101: Choose Life!


Nutrition 101: Choose Life! , published by Growing Healthy Homes, is a Health and Nutrition course for all ages. It is a full-color book that covers the major systems of the human body, many health issues and their causes, and foods that are good for and bad for the body. Nutrition 101 is a wonderful blending of anatomy, physiology, and nutrition. It is packed with hands-on activities, healthy recipes that reinforce the lessons in each chapter, wonderful illustrations, and information that is detailed enough for a thorough high school level human anatomy, physiology, and nutrition course. The book is newly published and contains many of the latest findings on nutrition. There is a thorough appendix that includes information about the food pyramid, buying the best fresh produce (a full-color chart that covers about 70 fruits and vegetables), food safety precautions, vitamin charts, cooking with whole grains, and much much more! Every chapter concludes with activity suggestions for both elementary and secondary students and a healthy recipe that includes foods that correspond with the chapter.


Making healthy potato salad with flaxseed oil

The short video on the Growing Healthy Homes site gives a great introduction to the course.

The book is 448 pages long, which gives you an idea of how thorough it is. I would LOVE to own the printed book. I felt that it would be too expensive to print the e-book from my computer, so we are using the course by reading it from the computer. Emily is making her own notebook with notes from each chapter, illustrations, photos, activities, and recipes. I did print some of the appendices to keep in a three-ring-binder and am printing the recipes and some of the illustrations for Emily to use in her notebook.


I love this course! It is well written, very thorough, and colorful. It is, however, quite difficult for a fourth grader and much of the information is over Emily’s head. Although it does include adaptations for different ages, I think middle schoolers and up would gain the maximum benefit from from the course. We completed the first unit (Nervous System) and will be doing one more unit (Digestive System) this year. Then we'll pick it up again next year when Emily will be able to dig a bit more deeply into the in-depth information the book provides.

Nutrition 101: Choose Life is available on CD-rom ($79.95) or an a printed book version ($99). Read more reviews of Nutrition 101 by the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Nature Friend Magazine


The first thing I need to say about Nature Friend Magazine is that I didn’t get to look at it for the first week! The day our first sample copy arrived in the mail, Emily claimed it and disappeared with it! She loves mail and she loves animals, so this product was sure to be a hit!

We were treated to two issues of Nature’s Friend with the study guide. (Nature’s Friend magazine is published in two formats—imagewith and without the study guide ($36 to $60 per year). The study guide is an insert bound into the center of the magazine and contains quizzes, crossword puzzles, writing instruction, and a really cool section with photography tips and pictures that are submitted by readers and critiqued by the Nature Friend editors.

Nature’s Friend Magazine began in 1983 with the goal of  encouraging children to “believe in God as their creator and to appreciate His handiwork.” The magazine avoids being confrontational, but rather aims to showcase God’s Word and His creation.

Nature Friend Magazine  includes beautiful photography,  fictional stories, articles about animals, a monthly art lesson (that uses different art mediums—colored pencils, chalk, acrylic paint, etc.), and hands-on projects or science experiments. We really loved this magazine and the study guide and highly recommend them either as an addition to your curriculum or “just for fun!”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Journey Through Learning Lapbooks



Emily just completed A Journey Through Learning’s Reptile Lapbook kit ($13). We found this to be just the right balance of learning and fun. The instructions were clear and the projects were easy enough for Emily to complete with minimal help. The lapbook kits each include a study guide as well as corresponding mini-booklets, which allow the child to demonstrate what he has learned. The child cuts out the mini-booklet parts, answers the questions or explains the topic, then assembles the booklet and attaches it to a file folder. I loved having the study guide  included. We supplemented the Reptiles book with additional study materials about reptiles to flesh it out and to make it more substantial, but it is not at all necessary to do so.

Reading the directions….


Cut, assemble, and paste…


The finished product!


 image Emily is just beginning to work on the Autumn Lapbook. We will continue to work on this one off and on throughout the fall. The format is similar to the Reptiles book and some of the topics include: fall recipes, the first Thanksgiving,  the fall equinox, why leaves change color, and an autumn scavenger hunt.

Note about the recommended age levels: The suggested age levels are for second through seventh grades. I think the lapbooks we did were perfect for third to fourth grades. A second grader would enjoy them, but might need more adult assistance. In my opinion, the materials seemed too easy for a sixth to seventh grader.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Guardian Angel Publishing

Guardian Angel Publishing publishes books for kids, schools, and families. Their many books are available in both e-book and print versions and sell for $5 (e-books) to $11. I reviewed the following books:

image The Sum of Our Parts: No Bones About It, by Bill Kirk is a delightful introduction to the skeleton. The text is in rhyme and names most of the bones of the body. This would be a fun and easy way for a child to memorize the names of bones. The margins contain “factoids” with more even more information about the skeleton. This is a book we will surely read over and over!  I love anything that makes memorization more fun!


Stubby’s Destiny, by Dixie Phillips, is a cute story told from the point of view of the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem. The illustrations (by Kim Sponaugle) are charming and the story has the inspiring message for little ones that “even the small and insignificant can be used in great ways.”

      image Earthquake, by Susan J. Berger, is a great fact-filled explanation of earthquakes and their causes. We studied earthquakes last year, so this was a good review book for Emily. Earthquake contains scientific explanations, facts and figures and emergency preparedness information, including a lengthy list of items to put in a  earthquake emergency kit. Generously sprinkled throughout the book are colorful pictures—both serious and humorous—and silly touches to keep the child’s attention. Also included are hands-on projects like science experiments and crafts. I think you could easily use this book for a mini-unit study.

 image Hamster Holidays: Noun and Adjective Adventures, by Cynthia  Reeg is a month-by-month rhyming storybook featuring kite-flying, dancing, reading, hat-wearing hamsters. The pictures are cute and the nouns are adjectives are color coded. The use of nouns and adjectives is explained to help the child pick them out in the story. The last several pages of the book contain worksheet-type activities for identifying and using nouns and adjectives. I think this is a fun way to learn or reinforce grammar for first to third graders.


We Are Flamingos, by Safari Sue Thurman, is a cute story about two baby flamingos who are alarmed because they don’t look like the rest of their flock. The story is a bit predictable (reminiscent of The Ugly Duckling), but most preschoolers would enjoy having this as part of their library.  It  is a feel-good story with some funny touches that also educates  the reader  about the life cycle of the flamingo.

To read more reviews of these and other books from Guardian Angel Publishing, visit the  TOS Crew site.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Write With the Best, Vol. 1

imageWrite with the Best, by Jill Dixon,  is a writing curriculum published by Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services for grades 3-12. The focus of the course is to zero in on the skills that produce great writing and to practice using those skills. Students are taught to write descriptively by “emulating the great masters of writing.”

Volume One covers writing descriptive paragraphs, dialogues, short stories, fables, friendly letters and poetry. Volume Two is for older students who have completed Volume One, or who are already competent writers. It covers business letters, essays, literary critiques, newspaper articles, speeches, and dramatic monologues.

I have tried several different writing curriculums over the years, but haven’t found anything that I was thrilled with. Some were too tedious to use, some didn’t seem to have obvious carry-over into other writing and some provided writing assignments, but no real instruction. Honestly, my main approach with my three older kids was to just have them do a lot of reading and writing. They have all become fairly competent writers, but I’m not sure if I actually taught them much.

After completing Unit One, I am very pleased with the program. 10 days of activities are all based on one reading passage by Jules Verne, culminating in the student writing his or her own descriptive paragraph. The assignments included analyzing the example passage for specific qualities of good literature, locating all of the descriptive nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs and learning the components of a 5+ sentence paragraph. Before Emily wrote her own paragraph, she had to not only choose her topic and write the topic sentence, but make lists of descriptive words that could be used in her paragraph. This made the actual writing easier and we were both pleased with the results.

I liked that the program incorporated grammar review into the writing, making it relevant. This is a program that I intend to continue using through the year.

Write with the Best sells for $19.95 to $24.95. The e-book version is currently on sale for $14.95. The first two units (out of a total of nine) can be downloaded as a trial version at the EDUDPS site, so that you can determine if the program is right for you!


Fearless—Imagine Your Life Without Fear, by Max Lucado


“Can you imagine your life without fear?”

We live in tough times right now and most of us have one or more burdens that weigh us down and cause us to live in fear—financial problems, conflict with others, divorce and illness. We fear for the safety of our children, fear that our lives don’t matter, and so on. Max Lucado addresses many of these issues in Fearless. Fearless tackles the reader’s fears, issue by issue, encouraging us to step out in faith, trusting that God is both stronger than our troubles and faithful to bring us through them.

Max Lucado’s writing style is down to earth, practical, and full of  personal illustrations, real-life stories, and good advice. He acknowledges that trusting in God won’t make all of our problems go away, but he does assert that making the choice to trust rather than to dwell on our worries will lead us to lives that are joy-filled despite our circumstances. I found this scripturally-based book  both challenging and thought-provoking.

 Fearless—Thomas Nelson Product Page

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Subscribe to The Old Schoolhouse™ Magazine for only $7.95!

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Roots and Fruits (Vocabulary)

 image Roots and Fruits is an easy-to-use vocabulary program for grades K-12. The manual includes an alphabetized list of  673 Greek and Latin roots and prefixes with their meanings. Under each root or prefix, vocabulary words are listed that contain those roots.

A student is expected to learn 2 “roots” and the accompanying vocabulary words each week. The basic procedure each week is:

Monday: Post the roots and vocabulary words on a chart on the wall. Write the roots and vocabulary words on index cards with definitions.Tuesday – Friday: Review the roots, words, and meanings. Make sentences with the words. Choose from a list of activities and games  to reinforce the words.


--One book ($14.98-$19.98) covers many years of study and can be used by multiple children. This would be great for a family with several children who could study the same words and/or roots each week.

--It is easy to use. It can be done fairly independently in only 15 minutes a day.

--Learning Greek and Latin roots is a great vocabulary builder, enabling the child to figure out the meanings of words he or she has never seen before. It would also give teens a leg up on SAT preparation.


--I would want to do some additional vocabulary work at some point, since many English words are not derived from Greek and Latin roots.

--I personally would not use Roots and Fruits with children under third grade.  I think it would be more advantageous with children who are already competent readers and can work somewhat independently.

Our use of Roots and Fruits:

We own the game, “Rummy Roots.” The older kids used to play it frequently, but Emily has never used it. I am choosing word roots each week that correspond with the roots in the Rummy Roots Game. This is giving us another option for practicing and reinforcing the roots and vocabulary she has already learned!

I have the e-book version of the book. I printed it and put it in a three-ring binder. The index cards are kept in a pocket in the binder. Emily does her sentence writing in a spiral notebook, although I suppose I could have added loose leaf pages to the binder for that.

A sample of Roots and Fruits can be downloaded free at the EDUDPS site.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Let Go by Sheila Walsh


Let Go is a call to all women to “let go” of whatever is keeping them from living the life of peace and joy to which God has called them. As Sheila shares her personal journey, she encourages the readers to identify which issues are holding them back—difficulty forgiving someone, lack of trust, fear, temptation, shame. She makes a convincing argument that God is trustworthy and that only by giving up these burdens to God can we find freedom.

Sheila Walsh blesses the reader with her vulnerability as she openly shares both her pain and her love for God. Because she is one of my favorite authors and speakers,  I knew that I would enjoy this book, but I did not expect it to be as much of a blessing as it was.  I am dealing with several issues in my life right now that I know I need to give to God. Let Go was exactly the encouragement that I needed.

Let Go-Thomas Nelson Product Page

Book Preview