Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Miracles are for Real (Review)


Do you believe miracles still happen? In Miracles are for Real, by James L Garlow and Keith Wall, this question is explored.

We tend to throw the statement, “It’s a miracle” around quite a bit. We may be referring to something truly unexplainable by the laws of science. Or we may be speaking of an answer to prayer. Or maybe, we just mean, “Wow, I’m surprised that this event happened!”

For the purposes of this book, the authors define a miracle as “an event that extends beyond all known scientific laws.”  Each chapter illustrates, with documented stories,  instances of modern-day miracles, including healings, financial miracles, and even people being raised from the dead. The authors explore ideas about why miracles happen and why they don’t.

I found this book fascinating reading. I enjoyed the stories and found them faith-building. We will never know why God sometimes chooses to act supernaturally while at other times we don’t see an immediate answer to our prayers, but I appreciated the reminder that this book gave me that God does hear us and He is still involved in our world today—whether he acts supernaturally in my life or whether His plan is just to be with me in my trials.

I was provided a free review copy of this book by Bethany House Publishers. All opinions are my own.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Puppy Pictures

Our beloved cocker, Velvet, died on December 1. I had planned to wait a while before getting another dog, but the opportunity jumped in our laps to get another puppy now! So… here is our new cocker puppy, Macy.


Macy is on the left. Angus, on the right, belongs to my sister.





Mathematical Reasoning F (Review)


The Mathematical Reasoning series, published by Critical Thinking Press, helps children devise strategies to solve a wide variety of math problems. The books emphasize problem solving and computation to build the math reasoning skills necessary for success in higher level math and math assessments and are written to the standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The activities take children beyond drill-and-practice by using step-by-step, discussion-based problem solving to develop a conceptual bridge between computation and the reasoning required for upper-level math. Activities and units spiral slowly, allowing children to become comfortable with concepts but also challenging them to continue building their math skills.

We had the opportunity to review Level F, which is a 5th grade book. Emily is in 6th grade, but I though this would be useful for review and for approaching concepts in different ways.

The book is very colorful and the pages provide a large variety of  activities. I like the workbook format—Many materials for this age group use textbooks that require children to do their work on separate paper. For my distractible child, this is a big plus. Many activities include fun puzzles, including Balance Bender puzzles, which Emily loves. The book uses a spiral approach, with periodic review of previously learned concept. It is designed to be used without a teacher’s manual—all the concepts are explained in the book.



My Thoughts:

I really like this book for how we are using it. It makes a good review/ extra practice book. Because the pages are colorful and not too long, it seems “fun” to Emily. The lessons vary quite a bit within a section…you won’t find many pages in a row for multiplication, for example. It provides puzzles and critical thinking activities that go beyond the simple mechanics of arithmetic.

I wouldn’t choose this book as my main curriculum, however. First, it seems too easy for the grade level to me. Although it is designed to the NCTM standards, it is easier than other math programs we have used. Second, because it jumps around a lot from one concept to another, I don’t think there is enough practice to master a concept for many children.

3/5 stars


I was provided with a free book by Critical Thinking Co. in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We Choose Virtues


We Choose Virtues is a character development program that is designed to be used daily to teach and reinforce positive values  such as honesty, kindness, attentiveness, diligence, and helpfulness in children ages 3-11.  A variety of curriculum tools are available, both for classroom and home use. We received a deck of Virtue Clues cards ($7.95).  Each card includes a virtue, the virtue catch-phrase, the virtue antonym and, on the back, a “you can do it challenge.”


The Virtue Clue Cards are one of the smallest items that We Choose Virtues sells.

This is how I chose to use the Virtue Clue Cards. I took one of the Family Character Assessment pages that I had printed and had Emily rate herself on each virtue. Then we picked a virtue to think about and try to improve on for 2 days.  The following day, I review the card and  have her copy the Bible verse from the Kid's Memory Verses and Bible Heroes page (free downloads). I may try to come up with a fun activity or game for each virtue. We are cycling through them all 1-2 days each, then doing re-evaluations on the Character Assessment.

I like the concept. I like the intentional focus on positive character qualities. I like the colorful cards. I think the act of focusing on character qualities daily will be very helpful and the cards provide some structure to doing so. However, the program would have been easier to implement if I also had the Teacher’s Virtue Cards, which include teaching tips, stories and activities.

We also received the Kids of VirtueVille Coloring Book, available as a PDF download ($3.00), a cute coloring book featuring each of the VirtueKids. This provides a nice reinforcement of the characters, but Emily was a bit too old to use this item.

I also received The Teacher’s handbook ($4.95 for the PDF download, $15.00 print) provides teaching tips and complete information for using each of the We Choose Virtues tools. It was packed with information, but much of it was not relevant to me, since I was only using the Virtue Clues cards. It would be a wonderful resource if I had more of the materials.

I give this product 4/5 stars.


To read more reviews of these items, please visit the Crew Blog.

Interested in buying? Here are the current deals….


JANUARY/FEBRUARY-The 100 Days of Virtue Poster and Stickers will be included FREE with any Homeschool Kit purchase during these months. 


These are the only active promo codes. You may use only ONE at a time. 

  • VIRTUE15 for 15 % off the shopping cart
  • FAMILY for $3.00 off the Kids Virtue Poster
  • SHIPFREE for free worldwide shipping

Be sure to like the We Choose Virtues Facebook page for tips on parenting, leadership, and inspiring lasting Virtue.

I received a free deck of Virtue Clues cards, a Kids of Virtueville Coloring Book, and Teacher’s Handbook to write this review. All opinions are my own.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Learn Our History (TOS Review)

Learn Our History: Time Cycle Academy is a new DVD series that teaches American history to elementary aged children. The series follows the adventures of the TimeCycle Academy, an adventurous group of students who build a time machine out of a bicycle and use it to travel back in time to experience history in the making.
The Learn Our History: TimeCycle Academy series uses the incredible lessons of history to present important themes to your child, such as:
  • The need to stand up to bullies
  • The importance of self-respect and respect for others  -including their elders
  • Belief in democratic values such as freedom and equality
  • Faith in God as a key principle in America’s development and greatness
Supplementary materials are available for those who purchase the DVD’s, but I wasn’t able to view those materials.
We watched the “The Birth of a Revolution” and “9/11 and the War on Terror” episodes. Other episodes include topics such as Lewis and Clark, Columbus, World War 2, the Revolution, President Reagan, and the presidential election process.
My thoughts:
I really like the concept. Good information is presented in an engaging format. I especially like that topics are covered that are hard to find other resources for—9/11, Reagan, The Cold War, and World War 1. Emily enjoyed the videos and will want to watch them again.
But…I thought that the animation seemed to be rather low quality. And one of the characters frequently used insulting and rude language and attitudes, such as calling other characters “losers,” “chumps,” and “babies,” complaining about school and learning, etc. I do not think this demonstrates “self-respect and respect for others.” I would be hesitant to continue playing the shows because I don’t want my daughter mimicking this language or attitude.
Learn Our History is a subscription/membership program. The first Learn Our History DVD, “Columbus And The Great Discovery ” is $9.95 and comes with a second episode free. Additional DVDs are $11.95 plus shipping. Any DVD’s purchased from Learn Our History are also viewable online.
I give Learn Our History 3/5 stars.
I received a free DVD and online viewing access for 2 episodes in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Horseback Riding

My sister gave Emily and me a gift certificate for lessons/trail rides for my last birthday. Emily has never ridden, other than a couple of pony rides (and a camel ride!) We picked a nice day last week to go. I hadn’t been on a horse since I was about Emily’s age. It was fun, although my legs were sore for a week and I ended up with a lovely bruise on my knee.



Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Emily, Allison, and I made a trip to the Nashville Zoo last Friday, taking advantage of the sunny, 60 degree weather. It is a lovely zoo with lovely landscaping and shaded walking paths.


Watching the gibbons.P1010513


The Lorikeet exhibit—The signs that warned “These birds will land on you” were correct!


The meerkats are always fun to watch.

It was a fun day. I wish it weren’t a 2 hour drive so we could do it more often!

Wholly Guacamole/ Hormel Winner!


Congratulations to Lora (comment #8) who won the Wholly Guacamole / Hormel giveaway!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Closet Re-do

Last week, I undertook a much-needed closet renovation project. This is one of our master bedroom closets. It started out with multiple clothes rods, one high shelf, and a metal garage shelf.


This is everything that came out of the closet. Yikes!




I painted the closet green, with cream shelves. Then I installed wire shelving on the left side, which is being used to store my Super Star Speech books and supplies. I put back clothes rods on the right side only. P1010504


Then I got discarded a bunch of “stuff” and organized the rest back onto the upper shelf.


The whole project only cost me $13 for the cream-colored paint. There’s enough left over to paint the bathroom cabinets too.

The green paint was left over from several years ago and the shelving was picked up from the side of the road!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Z-Guides to the Movies (TOS Review)


In December, I always like to find some fun and different school projects to work on. We’re getting busy with holiday activities, so it’s nice to change our pace by adding some fun laid-back activities to our usual schedule. This year, the Z-Guide to the Movies by Zeezok Publishing arrived at just the right time. We used it during our last week before our Christmas break.

Z-Guides provide a way to incorporate media into any curriculum. Dozens of movie guides are available, most relating to a particular time in history. Each guide includes:

  • topic overview
  • movie synopsis
  • review questions
  • research activities
  • hands-on activities
  • essay assignments

Critical thinking skills are emphasized in order to encourage the student to think about the worldview of the movie and the techniques used to influence the viewer.

We chose “My Side of the Mountain,”  which is a middle-school level title. Our 32 page Z-Guide arrived in PDF form. I printed it out and we were ready to go!

After watching the movie, there were ten activities to complete. It is recommended that the student complete 2 activities a day. Some of the activities for “My Side of the Mountain” included researching Henry David Thoreau and the peregrine falcon, making detailed plans for a “wilderness adventure,” writing an alternative ending to the movie, and nature observations.

We enjoyed this Z-Guide. I found it very easy to implement and  fun, yet educational for Emily. We will definitely consider using Z-Guides for other movies. (Actually, I’d love to see the company produce an e-book that contained many of the movies.)

Z-Guides to the Movies sell for $12.99 each and are appropriate for a variety of age levels. Most of the corresponding movies are easily available from Netflix or public libraries. Zeezok Publishing sells many other homeschool materials as well, including history, penmanship, and studies of musicians.

To read more reviews of the Z-Guides to the Movies, please visit the Crew Blog.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free Z-Guide from Zeezok Publishing in order to write this review.