Friday, October 30, 2009

ABC Teach

Before I was officially a homeschooler, and was teaching preschool, I frequently searched the internet for themed activities to involve my little charges. My hubby had been using the net at work one day and called home to tell me about a cool website he'd happened upon.

In the free part of this website alone, there are 5000+ printable pages to choose from! The school subject categories are numerous, and they include (but are not limited to) Art, Handwriting, Math, Music, Science, Social Studies and Writing. There are printable flash cards, center ideas, and sections for Early Childhood, Elementary, Junior High and High School! My favorite is the Theme Units. There are worksheets for every theme imaginable! I recently used printables from Native Americans, Piligrims and Pumpkins. Hey, I just noticed there is a section on the Kentucky Derby! Very cool. See, no matter how much you go to the site (or how long you stay!), you'll find something new!

Now, those are just some of the things you'll find in the free section. Those 5000+ pages are pretty amazing. But can you imagine 30,000 more!? That's right. When you become a member for $40 a year, not only will you get over 35,000 printable worksheets, but you'll be able to create fully customized worksheets with the advanced worksheet generator, you'll see new activities every week, you'll have access to a huge clip-art collection, and you'll be able to talk to customer service reps about any concerns! You can check out abcteach's video tour here to learn more!

I try not to use too many worksheets in our homeschool. But when we do, I typically want something fun, with a theme. abcteach is just the place to find what I need!

If you'd like more info, click here.

If you'd like to read more reviews, click below.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Beat Mommy in Chess... It was Easy!

How I got roped into playing a game of chess with Butterbean today, I'll never know! There is something about strategy and me.... we just don't get along! But I'll tell you, after today, I certainly understand how he earned his chess belt loop in Cub Scouts! You know something is strange when your 7 year old tells his 4 year old brother "We have to go easy on her. She doesn't really understand how to play!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Virginia Soaps and Scents... Yummy!


Virginia Soaps and Scents sent me a package full of handmade goodies to review. When the box full of bed and breakfast-sized Handcrafted Olive Oil Soap bars arrived, my two littlest men (4 and 23 months) literally had a mini quarrel over it! You should see them in the bathtub when I let them loose with a bar. They love it!

The boys should be glad I even let them touch this deliriously yummy stuff. I mean, the way it smells it oughtta be edible! I received three soaps... Oatmeal, Milk & Honey; Fresh Orange and Coconut Lemongrass. The Oatmeal, Milk and Honey is my favorite! Typically I'm not much of an herbal smell girl. My allergies can't usually handle scents. But I wasn't bothered a bit by Virginia Soaps and Scents! If you'd prefer unscented, however, they make them too!

These gorgeous family-crafted bars, are made from "all natural ingredients with no added chemicals for hardening or lathering properites." They are also made with a generous amount of coconut oil, which is probably why I didn't have to use a ton of lotion after my shower like I typically do. They lather up wonderfully on my little bath puff, and they leave skin feeling soft and smelling delicious!

I also received a Ginger Lime scented shampoo bar to try out. Since it contains no fake lathering chemicals, it didn't lather up for me like I'm used to. But from what I understand, that's a good thing! The first time I used it, my hair felt different, but after using it several more times (which I didn't have to do every day like my normal shampoo) I realized that it was moisture. My hubby said my hair looked great, so for me, that's all that matters! I tried out the shampoo bar on Middleman and Babyman too. Babyman's uncut locks were left so soft and beautiful. Middleman wasn't so lucky. We apparently didn't rinse it out well enough, because his hippie hair looked pretty oily! We've done a better job since. I've also used the shampoo bar for shaving. It left my legs smooth, soft and silky!

I have always wanted to make my own laundry soap. But I thought the process would be a bear. With Virginia Soaps and Scents' laundry kit, it was a breeze. They sent me everything I needed for a half-gallon size jug of laundry soap. Now mine didn't gel up like it was supposed to, but that could, of course, be user error! My kit was unscented, so after each load, I got a whiff of nothing but pure clean clothes. And I mean clean. Even Hero's paintball cammos came out spickety span!

My family and I love the products we got to test out for Virginia Soaps and Scents. We highly recommend you check them out. They would make great gifts!

Be sure to check out Virginia Soaps and Scents' website. They have oodles of scented as well as unscented soaps in their varied product line. You can get your own hand-cut 4.5 ounce soap bar for just $4.50. The 5.5 ounce shampoo bar is $5.50 and also comes in an oily hair/clarifying formula (which I'll probably order!). You can get the laundry soap kit for $4.95 and it makes a whopping two gallons of gel! They have tons of other items to choose from. If you want to read what the other reviewers had to say, click here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bible Charts and Maps

Bible Charts and Maps sent me a huge World History Chart to review . I thought this 35" x 45" card stock poster of world history would be a great chance to see all of history thus far. I put the chart under a clear table cloth on our kitchen table. Our table wasn't quite wide enough, so I trimmed the chart up to the border.


The World History Chart begins at Adam and takes its studier up through the year 2000. I'm not sure why it doesn't come a bit closer to present day. It uses color coding to denote races and religions of people groups. It's cool to be able to see that Confucius lived at the same time as Nebuchadnezzar. There is a lot of stuff on this chart that I had never heard of. Of course, that is to be expected. No one knows all of history! But after hunching over the table to study more, I discovered some data was gleaned from religious sources other than the Bible. I did wonder why they are included. Since I try to use Bible based history sources, that would have been confusing for my boys, if they had noticed it!

I am not a history buff, but I am trying to learn with my children. I am not sure if I was more confused before or after I received this timeline. It definitely provoked debate, questions and thought, which, as a homeschool mom and teacher is a good thing!

I'm not sure if I'd purchase the chart, although parts of it have definitely been interesting! To check out more for yourself, go to the Bible Charts and Maps website. You can purchase the chart for $29.97.

To hear what other reviewers have to say, check them out here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sue Patrick's Workbox System


Sue Patrick and I must be kindred spirits of a sort. For years teaching preschool, I have used management systems to have children "clock in and out" of learning centers. I have organized materials into little boxes for them to complete in a certain order. I have used picture symbols since I was a child, helping my mom contact paper and velcro her speech and language educational materials.

Ms. Patrick has created an educational organization system that should fit all types of homeschooling families. It's called Sue Patrick's Workbox System. In fact, I think even classroom teachers could use this system to some extent. Even if I weren't homeschooling, I would use this system with my home childcare and preschool.

When I first heard of the Workbox System through homeschool blogs and yahoo groups, I thought the idea sounded familiar. When I saw Ms. Patrick's name on our list of The Old Schoolhouse reviews, I said "oh, please, please, please, let me be chosen for that review!"

Imagine how thrilled I was to open my inbox and see a download for Sue Patrick's Workbox System! This system of organizing a child's schoolwork into clear shoeboxes is detailed in Ms. Patrick's User's Guide.


Some of the chapters are titled
The Benefits of Homeschooling, How a Day Works, Breaking Down a Curriculum for Success and Life Skills Foundations. There is also has a fantastic section on creating centers. I had not thought of using posters as centers, and I cannot wait to make some!

The Workbox System uses a specific physical structure that enables children to see the work that they are accomplishing. Although I plan to purchase clear shoeboxes for this purpose (in KY I have yet to find them for cheaper than $1 apiece, and I refuse to spend $36 on shoeboxes!), we have a little wooden shelf that holds 16 colored boxes that have worked just perfectly. As my hubby would say "Why buy something, when you can use what you already have!" We have two shelves, so as soon as I find the space, we'll separate them. But for now, Butterbean has the top 8 (yellow and blue) and Middleman has the bottom 8 (red and green).

Having taught preschool for many years, and using Circle Time as part of my homeschool/home childcare routine, I have tons of little calendar numbers in varying and seasonal shapes. To make things more appealing to the boys, I have used those cut-outs for the numbers on our boxes. Everything is personalized and I will probably change out the numbers every month or so!

The educational philosophy presented in the System allows for organization, well presented school materials, peace and independence. We have found in our house that it does just as the book suggests in regards to discipline. Butterbean is excited to get to work each day, and he doesn't get bored and frustrated. Middleman gets so excited to see what fun things are in his workboxes each day. He loves to find play-dough, stringing beads, lacing cards and dry erase boards for printing practice. We have even set up a little box for Babyman, who loves to do his "wookbock." I know he will do well when we have the larger system set up for him!

I could probably go on for days talking about Sue Patrick's Workbox System. I love the idea, and I hope to continue using it with all three of my boys. I think it might even work with my childcare with a bit of variance! Overall, I highly recommend this book. I am so glad I had the opportunity to review it!

Now if you're interested in finding out more about Sue Patrick and her fabulous Workbox System, you can check out her website. She has the basic forms you'll need to download and they're free once you order the book ($19.95 print, &19 ebook). There are also several different packages available for purchase, including the Starter Kit that includes the basic forms already laminated and velocroed (velcro can be used as a verb, right?!).

If you'd like some more opinions, check out The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Educaching Review


If I didn't already know about Geocaching, I certainly would after having done my latest review.

Created by 5th grade teacher, Jason Hubbard and the staff of SDG Creations, Ltd., Educaching is an "innovative curriculum that uses GPS technology to teach all subject material including math, science and social studies." Using this 128 page activity guide and manual, students and their teachers are given the opportunity to "hunt for their learning," and the "ability to interact with the world around them..."

My family has used geocaching educationally since we began in August of 2008. So, when I received the digital version of Educaching in my inbox to review, I was excited, to say the least. What a great idea Mr. Hubbard had to use this up and coming world wide phenomenon to create a curriculum!


The digital version that I received contains five sections titled:
1. Teacher Training
2. Lesson Plans (including beginner, intermediate and advanced)
3. Field Sheets
4. Acquiring GPS (including Fundraising and Grant Writing 101)
5. Beyond the Basics

I loved the manual's layout. It is concisely written and very well organized. Before introducing the Educaching lessons, Mr. Hubbard describes in great detail what a GPS receiver is and does (Global Positioning System that basically tells you where you are on Earth!). He lets you know what features to look for when buying a GPS.

Educaching teaches you everything you need and ever wanted to know about geocaching; what a geocache is, travelbugs and geocoins (that reminds me, I need to drop my coins and travelbug in a cache somewhere!), and how to conduct his fabulous lessons.

And then... come the lessons! There are 20 planned lessons for you to use; 12 beginner, 6 intermediate and 2 advanced. The lessons can be used with a relatively large group of children, or just one child and they are geared for grades 4-8. Some of the beginner level lesson titles are
Grand Slam!
Dino Discovery!
Which Tree is Which?

Section 3 contains oodles of Field Sheets to go with the lessons. Your student or group of students will take these out into the field to use while he's searching for his cache. I think the field sheets were probably my favorite part of the curriculum! We have used a couple of them for our traditional family geocaching!

There's an invaluable section at the end that tells you how to obtain your GPSs; be it through fundraising, borrowing, purchasing (keep in mind, the more features, the more pricey!), and writing a grant to receive the receivers for your school.

Well, I can't tell you everything about Educaching, you'll have to get your own copy! I can tell you, though, that we absolutely love geocaching, and Educaching has been a super supplement to our already educational high-tech treasure hunting!

To purchase Educaching for $32 check it out here. I definitely recommend the 3-ring binder with CD version! Of course, you can get the electronic version as well. Read more about Educaching here. If you want to know what the other reviewers have to say, check it out here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reading My Library starting with Verna Aardema

Well, we've done it. We have started Reading our Library! Our first author is Verna Aardema. The three books we have read are

Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears

Who's in Rabbit's House?

and What's So Funny, Ketu? It's a shame I couldn't find an image for this one, as it's a really cute cover, and illustrated by Marc Brown, one of our favorites (think, Arthur!). There are a few more books by Verna Aardema that we didn't have at our local library. But I'd really like to read them. We'll do a search and keep you posted!
As I'm already busy enough reviewing for The Old Schoolhouse, I won't do full reviews here. But I will say, we enjoyed these books, immensely, even though they did contain a few "no-no" words! They are classics, and worth checking out!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sarah Books Review


As part of being a reviewer for the Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I received a book via mail to review for Sarah Books.

In Sarah’s Wish, Jim Baumgardner has crafted an historical story about a twelve year old named Sarah. Through a life changing event that begins the tale, Sarah learns some pretty hefty lessons for a girl so young. Taking place during the time of the Underground Railroad, Sarah’s Wish was written for storyteller Baumgardner’s grandchildren. The book “introduces them to the institution of slavery and sheds some light on those who opposed it.”

I really enjoyed this wholesome piece of literature. It was easy to imagine myself part of the story. It was very realistic. I could almost hear Granny talking! I think my boys enjoyed my portrayal of Granny’s accent too!
I read the book aloud to my boys, ages seven and four. We read books to them that are above their personal reading levels. However, I felt that this book was a bit beyond their years. They understood more than I would have expected, even though we have yet to discuss slavery. I suppose in a way this introduced the issue! This book is a great read for older children. I would not, however recommend this book for seven and four year olds!

For more info on Sarah's Wish and the sequels, Sarah's Promise and Sarah's Escape, check out excerpts here.

You can purchase Sarah's Wish here for $9.99 which includes an autograph, a downloadable audio version and a subscription to Sarah's newsletter.

To read what other reviewers have to say, go here.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Guardian Angel Review

As part of being a reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, I received five e-books to review for Guardian Angel Publishing.

The Sum of Our Parts: No Bones About It by Bill Kirk probably could have replaced a good portion of my human anatomy and physiology class in college! In this informative book, you learn all about your bones, how they work, their names, and much more! There are also little rhymes to help you remember the info. Eugene E. Ruble uses an almost creepy style of illustrating this book and my boys loved it! This got a great rating from our family!

Hamster Holidays, a humorous story by Cynthia Reeg is simply adorable! The cool part is, it's not just a story. Ms. Reeg uses delightful rhyme to teach readers about nouns and adjectives. The illustrations by Kit Grady are sweet enough to hold my 4 & 22 month olds' attention, and the text is just challenging enough for my 7 year old to work on his grammar skills! At the end of the book, there is a noun/adjective study guide, as well as puzzles and games for further practice. We really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. Get your copy here.

Mary Jean Kelso has created an inspirational tale of friendship between a child and his horse. In Andy and Spirit Go To The Fair, we learn about facing our fears, patience, perseverance, making friends, determination, and that it's okay to be different. The author provides oodles of resources at the end of the book, as well. If you want to know how to volunteer with wild horses, or how to join 4-H, it's all here! Who's the hero of this story, Andy or Spirit?
You be the judge!

Maybe We Are Flamingos is a picture book about being different. Safari Sue Thurman tells the story of two flamingos, who, through hilarious illustrations realize that being unique is a good thing!
Butterbean and Middleman thought this book was a riot! They recommend it for all!

Once again the illustrated stylings of Eugene Ruble caught our attention in this Earthquake book written by Susan J. Berger. This book is very informative. From charts, to activities, to earthquake preparedness, Ms. Berger fills our minds in a fun way with everything earthquake. It even won Honorable Mention at the 2009 Green Book Festival! Want to know more? Check out Ms. Berger's book here.

These books are priced to sell at just $5 each for the ebook. However, I'd go for the printed book version if I were you. You can never have too many books on the shelf! To order your copies, check out Guardian Angel Publishing's website.

Reading My Library

What a great idea! A fellow blogger (with a great name, by the way!) has started a blog about reading through all the picture books in her local library. I decided to take the challenge with her! So check out what she's doing here. And follow me to keep up with our books! We'll start at the A authors next week!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Nature Friend Magazine Review

Problem: You want your children to read more. You would like them to learn a little more about nature. You'd like to get them a magazine subscription for Christmas, one that you don't have to edit because of its evolutionary views on Creation.

Solution: Nature Friend Magazine.


What fun this has been to review! The first thing that struck me about Nature Friend is the sturdiness! The pages are not like your average every day magazine. They are nice and thick with the cover sporting original photography of what else.... nature! I received the August and September issues to review.

Each of our issues began with a scavenger hunt for things to look for while you peruse the pages. Butterbean (7) especially liked searching for the butterflies, acorns and deer tracks. But since we've been discussing camouflage, Middleman (4) has been quite interested!

Our August issue explored the topics of owls, locusts (called cicadas in our neck of the woods, and how perfect as we heard a lot of them around the time we were reading this!), and soft-shelled turtles, among others. Babyman (22 months) absolutely loved the owl photos. He has learned what owls look like, and that they say "Hoo hoo" thanks to Nature Friend's amazing photos!

Smaller Size

Nature Friend contains plenty of activities for our children to explore. Things like reader-submitted letters & pictures, word searches, monthly You Can Draw art lessons, and detailed articles written about God's awesome-ness that are NOT dumbed down.... a definite PLUS for me! Now I cannot guarantee this, but I can come pretty close in saying this magazine is a one-of-a-kind, in that it is a biblically based scientific magazine that is "helping families explore the wonder of God's Creation."

We also had the opportunity to sample the Study Guide. It's an 8-12 page insert that reinforces what you are learning in the magazine. It contains games, puzzles, research questions, a motto of the month, a creative writing lesson and a neat Photo Critique section where readers' photos can receive photography tips. If you choose to order the Study Guide with your subscription it costs $2 per month.

We love Nature Friend Magazine and highly recommend it!

Visit the order page to get your subscription for $36 for one year (12 issues).

To hear what my bloggy reviewer friends have to say, visit them here.