Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Experiencing the journey of Paul

In the Footsteps of PaulExperience The Journey That Changed The WorldBy Ken Duncan

Book Description
Follow a trailblazer’s path and see for yourself all the places that Paul visited . . .
Paul’s missionary journeys are much more than mere dotted lines on rough maps at the back of your Bible. His travels changed the world, and when you, too, follow In the Footsteps of Paul, you’ll experience those amazing journeys more powerfully than ever. The lens of renowned photographer Ken Duncan traces everywhere Paul is known to have traveled. Ken’s stunning photos, combined with Scripture and writings from noted authors, creates an exciting platform for experiencing the life and times of one of the apostles who introduced Jesus to the Roman world and beyond.

Who is Ken Duncan?
Ken is a recognized photographer around the world. He travels to search the stunning panoramic pictures that he is best known for and works on book projects in various locations like Africa, Malaysia, China, Hollywood, and the Middle East. He is well known for his books Where Jesus Walked, Walking with God in America and The Passion: Lessons from the Life of Christ.

My thoughts on the book
As soon as I received this book, I devoured it. Literally! I was impressed by the colors of the pictures and while I read I walked with Paul discovering the roads he travelled throughout his ministry. The pictures in this book are stunning. It made me want for more every time I was turning the pages of this book. I learned about the man, his mission and his destiny while seeing where he would have been. We often heard an image can express a thousand words. I believe it! I had goose bumps while going through the book and immersing myself in the footsteps of Paul.
At every page, a significant scripture is written to remind us the story of Paul. Also, you will find insights from various well know Christian leaders. Reading this book was a breath of fresh air for me. I experience Paul’s travels in a special way thanks to Ken and his talent in photography. I love photography myself and I hope that one day I can truly experience Paul’s journey by travelling where he went and bring back my own memories of it.
Thank you Ken for this marvelous book! Continue to bring other ones like this. In the meantime, I am looking forward to get your other ones to complete my collection of your works.
I plan to use this book to teach my children about Paul’s travels as well as showing to friends visiting my house. This book is a must in every Christian home as it depicts the journey of the apostle to the Gentiles.
You can get In The Footsteps of Paul at amazon.ca for 19.39$ Cdn or indigo.ca for 19.75$ Cdn if you have the ireward card.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

SpellQuizzer - a resource for spelling bees!

SpellQuizzer is a tool available on the internet which will help your child to get prepare to spelling bees or simple spelling challenges you want to give him or her.

The software is easy to use and very versatile. It is very user-friendly and even a child could populate the spelling lists. I strongly recommend that you get yourself a little microphone when you create the spelling lists. It will ease the process and will permit the child to hear your pronunciation at the same time during the testing. You can easily find one at a dollar store near you. No need to spend a fortune on a microphone!

When you double-click on the icon of SpellQuizzer, you will get a window with a bunch of buttons on it. Honestly, at first I was wondering how effective the product would be as it didn’t have fancy screens. But the design is not what makes a program work right? So I decided to use some of the existing lists to test my oldest son. I must say that SpellQuizzer is interesting as it gives you the opportunity to redo the words you have missed during a specific test. It also shows you the errors you have made while you are doing the test. When you are able to go through a list without any errors, you are cheered on. Quite interesting…

My next step was to create some spelling lists. I decided to try to create a list in a different language than English. I tried Latin and French. I am very impressed with the flexibility of the program which allows you to create new spelling lists in a different language. I see this as an added value to the program when you are learning a different language. The process is a bit long and I prefer not having too much noise when I am creating a new spelling list. But when you are done, it will be worth it. You can test your child on various subjects going from vocabulary to verb tenses if you like.

However, I would like to see a report indicating the results of my child when he is done with a specific spelling test. That could show me the areas where he/she have trouble. Honestly, I wouldn’t stay behind my child when he/she is doing the test. So this could be an interesting feature to add in the future.

I can see potentials with the SpellQuizzer and I am looking forward to use it on a regular basis in the future. As we will incorporate Spanish in our school next year, I will use SpellQuizzer to test my child on this language as well. For now, I will juggle English and French. Latin will also be added to the spelling lists as we advance our lessons on this interesting language.

SpellQuizzer is available for 29.95$ US. You might think it is a bit expensive to test spelling with your child but with the possibility to build your own spelling quizzes I think it is worth it.
Try it for free at http://www.spellquizzer.com/download.htm !

You can see video demos on their website. Check it out at http://www.spellquizzer.com/SpellQuizzer-Demo.htm .

Some spelling lists are also available on the site. You can obtain them at http://www.spellquizzer.com/Spelling-Lists.htm .

Book Review: Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti

What the book is all about…
When her plane is hijacked and crash-landed outside Bogota, Emma Cauldridge, a biochemist for a cosmetics company who is on a special mission of her own, is thrown safely from the wreckage. She watches as guerillas march the surviving passengers away, heading toward a ransom rendezvous point. An ultra-marathon runner, Emma follows closely behind, using her athletic skills and her experience in identifying wild plant life, to stay alive. Her skills become even more valuable when she finds an injured passenger, government agent Cameron Sumner, on the jungle path, separated from the group.

As news of the hijacking and kidnapping breaks in Washington, the Department of Defense contacts Edward Banner, a former military man and current CEO of a company that provides special forces personnel in times of international crisis. Banner pushes the limits of his influence in order to find the hostages, Sumner, and the woman who stayed a step ahead by staying a step behind in the race for her life through the Colombian jungle.

Who is Jamie Freveletti?
She’s a competitive (speed) runner. She’s a teacher and black belt in aikido. She’s earned degrees in law, political science and international studies. She’s been a trial attorney. She’s the author of the book. She is looking forward to write more and to learn to throw knifes and pick locks. This is her first published work.

My thoughts of the novel
WoW! I was able to read this novel in one week and I am really impressed with it. The suspense is intense and existent from the beginning to the end of the book. I must admit that I am very surprised by the quality of the story and the writing. Jamie was able to keep me hooked on the book the whole nine yards and I was always look forward to what would happen next. The main character is very courageous. Personally, I wonder if I would be in the same position I would be able to just survive in the jungle. Reading how Emma adapted herself in this situation made me want to be even more in shape so I can survive any situation too. The character of Emma also made me remember things I had learned when I was a girl guide on how to survive in the forest. Emma is a source of knowledge that is good to have. I wish I had a Emma in my life!

I was not expecting the theme of faith and prayer in this book. To my surprise, the author handles this specific subject pretty well without going through too many details. Faith and prayer is a touchy subject sometimes but as a Christian I was pleased with the fact that Emma was covered in prayer and faith by another character. God did guide her steps and actions throughout the whole ordeal.

This book is worth the read. I recommend it 150%to everyone who loves suspense and thriller! It will keep you wanting more and discovering what will happen to Emma, Cameron and the passengers. Don’t hesitate. When you see it at the bookstore, buy it. It is a wonderful book full of adventures. At the turn of each pages, you will find yourself sitting more at the edge of your chair.

The book is available at amazon.ca and indigo.ca in both hardcover and tradepaperback. Official release of the book is end of April. Until then - be patient...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A review of the book "Christianity in Crisis 21st Century"

After spending about 9 months reviewing some homeschooling products, I must honestly say that I love it. Consequently, I started to wonder how I could continue this adventure after the TOS Crew would be finished… I was very happy to learn – via other members of the crew – that various publishers offer a program “write a blog get a free book” kind of deal. So I contacted some of them and most of the time I was able to choose the product to review myself.

The first publisher I was able to contact was Thomas Nelson. And after signing up and being accepted (they do verify your blog), I was able to choose the product I wanted to review. Back then there were about 5 books available and one jumped out to me. The title is Christianity in Crisis 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff. After reading a little bit more about this book, I was highly interested in learning more about the subject. So I selected this book for my review.

Within a week the book was home and immediately I dove into it.

Who is Hank Hanegraaff? He is the president of the Christian Research Institute and author of many books. He also can be heard on the Bible Answer Man around the US and in Canada. Two decades ago, he wrote a best-seller titled Christianity in Crisis which was alerting about the dangers of a cultic movement within Christianity. Today, during the 21st century, new dangers – new teachers have emerged and this time the damages might be worse.

This new book is about the dangers of the Faith theology which can teach fallacies to a multitude of Christians. Unfortunately, many fall for the teaching of these people and get hurt in the process when things are not happening as what they have been taught. The consequences can be difficult especially when their belief in God is touched to the point that they reject Him at some point.

But how can people fall for false teaching? Because we are looking for easy answers sometimes and the Faith teaching can be easily taken. Unfortunately, many of the teachers will twists the scriptures and apply it in ways that are not truthful…

At first, Hank Hanegraaff presents the basis of the Faith theology and the various players in this movement. Then he decorticates the beliefs of the Faith movement and gives plenty of examples of why the teaching is erroneous. Going through what Hanegraaff called FLAWS, he exposes the fallacy of the teachings versus the truth of the scriptures. You could see that he is really passionate in bringing back Christians on the right path of their faith in God. Finally, at the end of the book, he brings back the reader to the basics by going through the ABCDE of faith (Amen, Bible, Church, Defense, and Essentials) The importance of prayer, bible, being connected to a community of believers, defending the various aspects of Christ and the scriptures as well as the essentials aspects of Christianity as so important that I think every believers should go through a special course so that we would be fully equipped to face resistance.

During the past year, I was exposed to some Faith theology and inside me there was something telling me that this didn’t add up totally. Now I understand why. I think the Spirit was stirring something in me to not completely and totally believe what I was seeing and hearing. Personally I learned a lot while reading this book and I will revise the ABCDE’s regularly so I can easily converse with a non-believer on these subjects.

Interested in reading more about Christianity in Crisis 21st century? Or do you know someone who has been “burned” by the Faith movement and that you know need to read this book? I strongly recommend it to everyone who wants to know more about this movement and how to keep ourselves from falling into it. You could easily find it at Amazon.ca for 18.14$ Cdn or Indigo.ca for 18.14$ Cdn if you are a ireward member (which is totally worth it – believe me!). Both stores offer free shipping in Canada when you buy for over 39$ Cdn.

Rediscovering the Noah's Ark story with One 2 Believe

We had the marvelous surprise to be able to review a toy while being on the TOS Homeschool Crew. The toy we received comes from a company called One 2 Believe. One 2 Believe is a company who wants children to learn Bible Lessons and come to faith in Jesus.

The toy is part of the Toy of Glory series that One 2 Believe has. We received the Noah’s Ark (based on Genesis 6-9) and as soon as the box was open, the kids disappeared with the boat and the figurines. Funny enough I got a couple of animals in double. So we just pretended that the animals already started to reproduce in the ark *grin*.

The ark was a huge hit in our household. They are using it in various ways – not always as the story of Noah – as they are using their imagination often. But the ark is quite solid. So solid to be honest that it took me a few minutes to figure out how to open the boat to store the animals. It wasn’t quite evident at first but I finally was able to separate the top from the bottom to put the animals in the ark. OUF! Sadly, the ark is only coming with one person ie Mr. Noah. It is a bit sad to see that Mrs. Noah is forgotten so often as well as his sons and daughters-in-law. After all, Noah wasn’t alone to take care of the animals…
The Tales of Glory figurines are made of PVC. Each ark comes with a mini-book which tells the story of Noah’s Ark in a few words. Someone from the crew also mentioned that you could get some Tales of Glory figurines at the Dollar Store in the States. Back in February, we took a drive to Ogdensburg, NY and there was a Dollar Store. So I decided to take a peek just in case I could find some of the figurines. I was able to get Jesus, Mary, David, Goliath and Moses. The kids love the figurines especially the Jesus one! It was great to be introduced to a company who is creating toys based on biblical stories.
Would I recommend One 2 Believe for someone who is looking for toys based on the biblical stories? You bet. The figurines are quite sturdy and easy to manipulate for little hands. Even though the animals look a little bit funny (they make me think of cartoon animals), the toy can easily be used an homeschooling environment or even as a Sunday school tool to illustrate the story to little ones.
The Noah’s Ark is available at the One 2 Believe website for 29.99$ US. While being there, check also their other products. You will be amazed by what they are offering…

Discovering the world of Narnia a little bit at a time

I recently discovered an interesting vendor of homeschool products. Cadron Creek has three very specific literature-based studies on series of books that I just loved. If you love the stories of Laura Ingalls, Anne of Green Gables or Narnia, you will be delighted to see what Cadron Creek has for you and your students.

I was given a choice of which curriculum I wanted. I selected the one that I thought would speak more for my oldest son. And I was very surprised to see what I got in my mailbox a week later. Further Up and Further In gave me goose bumps as I was scanning the pages of this study. What is Further Up and Further In you wonder?

Further Up and Further In is a full-year curriculum based on the study of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. It brings together English literature, social studies, geography, Bible and character building, cooking, and art with a bit of science and history at times. However, to complete this curriculum, parents are strongly advised to supplement with more history, math, grammar and spelling.
Specifically aimed for readers of grade 4-8 level, Further Up and Further In can easily be adapted for younger children. Each book of the Narnia series is covered in this literature study. You will find recipes, directions for activities, other books to read, and poems. I personally used it with my 2nd grader and he enjoyed the time we spent together reading The Magician Nephew and learning new words. I must admit that I too learned interesting things while using Further Up and Further In the past few weeks. We took it slowly as we were discovering this together. We had discussion about scriptures and about we had read in the chapter, we learned new words and their definition, we applied these new words in a different context to make sure we understood them, and so on. I must admit that I skipped some acitivities that I found too advanced for a 7 year old but generally speaking we had fun. We are both looking forward to continue reading the Narnia books and to learn more new words. Too often I find that we don’t stop to look at the words when we don’t understand it. This study helps us to slow down and discover new vocabulary.
Cadron Creek also have other products including a literature-based unit study on all nine books of the Little House on the Prairie called The Prairie Primer (grades 3-6 )and one that brings the student in the Victorian Era and the world of Anne of Green Gables called Where the Brook and River Meet (junior high and high school students). If you are interested in reading reviews about the other two literature-based unit study that other members of the crew were able to used, please feel free to check out the TOS Crew blog at your earliest convenience.
Further Up and Further In is available for 56$ US in paperback or 62$ US in spiral-bound. However, please remember that you might have to buy other resources to help you with this study. I personally recommend ROAR! A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia which is out of print but you can still find it in sale sections of at Christianbook.com and also a book from Paul F. Ford titled Pocket Companion to Narnia. The author also suggests other books for older students as well.

Struggling with math? Check out Math Tutor DVDs!

When I first received the Math Tutor DVDs, my first impression was thinking it would be cheesy… Well I was totally wrong. Yes it looks like a homemade video of some guy explaining mathematics but honestly it is well done. If you have a child who is having problems with a specific notion in mathematics, the Math Tutor DVD is there to help!

The DVDs are what I call “learn by example” lesson which means that the instructor explains the problem in terms that are easy to understand. All the topics are taught with examples and an easy step-by-step approach. We received two different DVDs to review. The first one is Basic Math Problem. The second one is Algebra 2. I must honestly say that I focused more my attention to Basic Math Problem since my kids are so young. But I like what I saw. I even spend some time on the Algebra 2 DVD to see if the instructor is still making it simple to understand. And he does…

The instructor is Jason Gibson and he takes the time to explain the viewer how to resolve a problem. He assumes that the viewer doesn’t know anything about it and take him/her in a step-by-step process to resolve the problem. He even explains the mathematical terms in simple language for children to understand. You can see that Jason has a passion to decorticate complex topics into simple ones. He always starts with easy problems and slowly directs the student toward harder ones.

I asked my 2nd grader to sit down and watch two specific sections on the Basic Math Word Problem DVD with me. So one afternoon, during the nap of the younger ones, we watched Adding Whole Number and Subtracting Whole Number. My son quite enjoyed it and wanted to watch the rest but since he hasn’t learned the other notions yet, I told him we will have to wait a bit. He loved it because he taught it was easy and he was able to answer the problems before Jason was finished explaining the resolution of it. I thought it was funny to have my 7 year old saying the answers out loud even though the problem wasn’t solved yet. That’s my boy! He just loves mathematics… which is great because personally I had trouble with it when I was in high school.
That’s why I wanted to look at the Algebra 2. Teaching high school mathematics is something scary for me. I’m not there yet but I am always looking for any kind of help possible. I just remember how much difficulty I had to understand math during my teenage years. Well, after watching some of the Algebra 2, I wish that I had this in my hands while I was doing high school. Honestly, I don’t think anyone could make it easier to understand than Jason.

Most DVDs on the website are 26.99$ US. I think it is pretty reasonable when you have a child who is struggling with some specific notions of mathematics. If you want them to succeed, it’s important to invest in various ways so they can get it. You can also order some CDs containing worksheets to help resolve the problem seen in the DVDs for certain subjects. I recommend Math Tutor DVD not only for kids but for the parents too as it can give you some tips and tricks on how to explain in a simpler way.

Let's sing about the book we love! Let's discover Bible Story Songs...

When I first heard from Bible Story Songs I was wondering what it would bring to my home school. Being part of the crew helped me to discover new vendors that otherwise I wouldn’t have been exposed too. This vendor gives the opportunities for kids and families to learn about the bible through songs about it. What a neat idea! Bible Story Songs initially started when two moms wrote songs to match some lessons from a summer Bible camp. The kids would pick up the songs easily and remember them for a long period of time. I know that singing is a good way to learn because I personally remember some songs that I used to sing in the girl guides and believe me when I say it has been ages since I sang them….

So I was more than curious to hear what was on my The Bible CD which covers stories from the Old and New Testaments. Honestly I have mixed feelings about the CD after we listened to it. Don’t get me wrong, the songs are pretty peppy and teach about the bible but I feel that they are a bit too much on the choir side for my taste. However, my oldest son loves it end enjoys listening to it which means a lot to me. After the CD is for educational purposes and while hearing the songs my kids will learn more about the bible.

What I particularly like about this CD is that before each song, they give a scripture or a little explanation about it. It also presents various books of the Bible in a creative way. The CD I received contains 32 songs about the Old Testament and the New Testament. You can also get sheet music and song books from their website. Other CDs available are Matthew 1, Matthew 2, Matthew for young singers, Moses 1, Moses 2, Moses for your singers and David. To hear some samples of the CD, simply go to http://www.biblestorysongs.com/songs.htm and look for The Bible CD songs sampler in the middle of the page. The CDs are available for 9.99$US directly from the vendor site.

Learning to read at the speed of light with Rocket Phonics!

Rocket Phonics is a program to teach – yes you guessed it – phonics and reading for children. Created by a husband-and-wife team, this program was used to do a UCLA study with homeschool children. The 2001 UCLA study found the students using Rocket Phonics learned about 4 months of reading skills for every month they used it! That is impressive coming from a brand new program created by an MD and a former teacher.

Geared for children ages 4-10 the curriculum of Rocket Phonics is research-based and scientifically proven as a method to teach reading. It uses games and a multi-sensory approach to encourage the child to read. My son, who will be 5 years old at the end of the month, is now asking me regularly to do Rocket Phonics. He loves the bingo games and the cards. We use the cards to make the words and he is able to read them. Before I was wondering how I will approach reading with him. Today, I feel confident that we can make it. I also discovered since September that he is more a kinesthetic learner which means he likes to move when doing something or hold a toy. He is very interested in learning how to read as many 3-5 years old. He sees his older brother reading and even playing with the Wii and now he wants to be able to do it. He would like it if it could happen overnight but this is not the case. At first he was frustrated because it wasn’t happening fast enough. With Rocket Phonics, he is having fun at the same time and doesn’t complain as much anymore. He is so happy to tell his dad that he learned new words at the end of a day!

It doesn’t take a long period of time to use Rocket Phonics. All it takes is about 30 minutes a day! Mind you, I am not doing it diligently every day since we also do french as well as math and having 4 kids under the age of 7 is quite demanding. But the lessons we did so far are fruitful. I like to see what it will be in 6 months and even 1 year from now! According to the creators, Rocket Phonics will help the child to go from non-reader to a 5th grade reader in 2 years or less.

I had a bit of trouble with certain sounds at first but after e-mailing Maureen Guffanti, one of the creators of Rocket Phonics, she strongly suggested that I check out the YouTube videos which give some tips on how to use the program. You can get some ideas on how to use this phonic program on YouTube.com as well as on their yahoo group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/rocketphonics/ .

The price is 160$ US plus shipping. It is a big chunk of money during this difficult time in the economy but let me list you what you will get when you order it.

2 big Rocket Phonics readers
2 sets of play & read symbol cards
bingo chips
Rocket PeekerBingo sheets and Word lists for testing
Big-movements games
Free 28 supplements via e-mail a 69.95$US value
Free 2 Rocket Phonics Treasure Hunts a 16.95$US value
Free Rocket Phonics Word-Find Treasure hunt
Rocket Phonics Phrase Game a 19.95$US value

So far our experience with it is quite impressive. Dominic is enjoying learning how to read. In 6 months from now, I will give another review of this product to let you know how he is progressing. Then again, I will be reviewing Rocket Phonics in February 2010 which will be a year later to give another update. By then, maybe my 3rd son will be starting learning on it as well… Right now, he sometimes sit with us and repeat as well. He is also enjoying the Bingo games but I do it a bit differently with him as I show him the card and ask him to show me the same letter in the Bingo card. At 3 years old, he is quite good at spotting the proper letter.

I discovered a great product with Rocket Phonics and I enjoy it a lot. I also learn personally as I discover the real sounds behind the letters… (you see I am French Canadian from birth and picked up English from school and never did phonics!) We shall see if there will be an improvement in my own learning when we are done.

I would recommend that you visit their website and discover Rocket Phonics!

Discovering the World of Schleich!

You know a toy is attractive to kids when you get a box in the mail and when you opened it, the kids grab it and disappear with it. That’s what happened one Thursday morning, when the Schleich package arrived and my kids saw what was in there. A total of 12 wild animals came into our house. My children took them and even said “Now we have real animals to put on the ark!” and off they went to play with the ark and the animals. My 2nd son was so excited to see that a baby black bear was in the package because he already owns a Webkinz black bear. Do you think that much school was done after the package was in the house that day? Not book work obviously but a different kind of teaching starting with the Oh-So-Precious lesson of sharing (for my youngest son) and interaction between the animals. Here's a picture of my older kids discovering what was in the box (after I remove the packaging of each animals.).

Some of you might be wondering what is Schleich? Schleich is a leading manufacturer of animal figurines and imaginative play worlds. It was founded in 1935 and is headquartered in Germany. Today, they distribute their products to over fifty countries! The products can be found in specialty toy stores, Micheal’s, Toys R Us and so on. Their passion is to create educational products that promote imaginative play. And they did! It a joy to just hear my kids playing with the animals (and the ark we already had).

The toys are crafted with great care and attention to detail. They are durable and easy to handle by children. Schleich’s products are manufactured in both Germany and China. I was curious because I saw that all the animals had Germany and Made in China under them. Since there was so much recalls from China last year I asked the vendor about the testing made on their products. I have been told that all the design, including sculpting and modeling, takes place in Germany. As for the testing, Schleich does an extensive testing of all their products with a third-party testing laboratory which tests every single paint color. Pretty impressive don’t you think?
Personally, I plan to expand our new collection of Schleich action figures. Why? Simply because they are so realistic. I can see ourselves using these as we learn about animals and their habitat. It’s so nice to see that Schleich not only create one animal for a specific kind but made the effort to create the male, female, and baby version of it. Each has their own particular characteristics and it’s easy to point them out to the kids.

We don’t have a zoo in the city where I live. In fact, the closest worthwhile zoo there is can be found 4 hours away from our place. To introduce the zoo menagerie to the kids, we look at books and also DVDs but now I think I have discovered another way to do so via the Schleich action figures of wild animals.

Schleich do not only do animals as figures. As a matter of fact, Schleich offers over 500 items in their collection. They have a whole bunch of themes from which you can use as teaching elements.

Specific play sets
Farm animals
Farms buildings and accessories
African animal nursery and accessories
Prehistoric animals including dinosaurs (which would be a hit with boys!)
Sea animals
Land animals
World of Knights
World of elves
World of the American Frontier
The Smurfs (remember the little blue guys? Well a movie is in the making believe it or not!)

I’m so glad that we are not in the medieval time yet in our studies because it will give me some time to get a few characters from the World of Knights. I am planning to use them as we go through our history lessons. Same goes with the World of the American Frontier. Like it or not, Canada has a similar history than the States so I could easily use some character of the World of the America Frontier to simulate a more Canadian history lesson.

I am totally impressed with the quality and the realistic details on the figures we have received. And the kids love them. They are having a blast with them and already are asking if we will get more in the future. This product is already much loved in our house and we are looking forward to discover more of the Schleich world!

Schleich do have a presence on the web at http://www.schleich-s.com/ . Please note that they are looking into expanding the educational aspects of their site. Consequently, new features will be added in 2009. Also, the have a photo contest right now so check it out www.schleich-s.com/hobbyfarmhomecontest. Now until March 31, 2009, send in a photo of your family's farm diorama using Schleich animals and accessories, and you could win a Schleich Red Barn valued at $159.99!

The prices of the Schleich Action Figures vary depending of the model you want to get. Visit your local store to know how much they are. You will be impressed with them. Guaranteed!

The One Year Adventure Novel - A wonderful writing curriculum

Do you know what makes a novel interesting? Have you ever started to write something to find out later that you were bored with it or just couldn’t go further after a while? Or do you have a child who loves to write and would like to go further in this gifting? If so, I have a great homeschool writing curriculum for you. It is called the One Year Adventure Novel and it is printed by ClearwaterPress. Initially geared for teenagers (grades 8-12), it can also be used by adults who would love to write and expand their creativity.

I was given the opportunity to review the product with an adult perspective and I must say that I am quite impressed with the curriculum. The lessons are on video and a textbook called The Compass complete them. The student will also have a workbook called The Map in which he/she will be able to answer the questions about the story that he/she wants to write. Also coming with the package is a book titled The Prisoner of Zelda which we have to read following some lessons. This entire curriculum is very well done and I am totally impressed with the quality of the lessons on DVD and by both The Compass and The Map.

Let’s concentrate on the video lessons for a second. The author is Daniel Schwabauer who is an award-winning novelist. Being himself a novelist, he must know what he is talking about no? Well he explains the process of writing a book in simple terms and guides the student in a step by step process of 78 lessons to complete an adventure novel at the end of the program. He also included a teacher guide to help parents to evaluate the work of their student. Finally, he completes the curriculum by including a CD which contains quizzes, videos as well as 14 classic adventures novels to read!

As I said previously, this curriculum is geared for teenagers but it can also be used by adults who would like to write a book. How many times, do you hear the comment “I started a book and I can’t seem to be able to finish it.” from friends or loved ones. This curriculum can help them to complete it. I had an extreme fun to go through the video lessons I have done so far and it got me seriously thinking about the bases of a novel. WoW! It is quite some work… I am personally juggling homeschooling and raising 4 kids (ages 7 and under) as well as other tasks like housework, business and church that I think it will take me more than a year to complete the novel. It doesn’t matter though because I am learning so much with the videos that I prefer taking my time in doing it so that the novel is worth reading. Also, I must specify that English is not my first language and I think I am meeting some road blocks because of this. Consequently, I am seriously thinking I should restart the lessons I made so far but answer the question in French so I can create a French Adventure Novel instead. I love the example that Daniel is showing in the videos and even in the books. He uses old classics as well as well as TV shows or movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and so on… Also he makes you think of all the different aspects of writing a novel. When someone never wrote one, it is good to have a mentor to guide you on the proper path so that you don’t get lost in your writing. And Daniel is that mentor for teenagers and adults who love to write!

A student forum is also set up to help you with various aspects of your writing. I accessed the forum and immediately some friendly users welcomed me. After introducing myself and telling them what I was reviewing the curriculum, they only had praises for the program and they seemed excited about it too! When this happens, you know that the curriculum is special and worth trying…

The price is 199$ US which is quite a lot of money to spend but it includes everything you need to write an adventure novel within a year. And if you have more than one student who would like to go through this curriculum, more student books can be purchase for the price of 25$ US each. One advantage of this curriculum would be that your student could re-use it from year after year (with a new workbook obviously) and write a new adventure novel every year as part of his schoolwork. Imagine finishing high school and have 5 adventure novels under your belt… I think it would be totally awesome! Also, I think this curriculum is also great for the fact that it can be used by multiple people – teenagers and adults alike. Why not participating as a parent in this program at the same time as your teenagers? Make it a little competition at the same time, the adult revise the student work and the student revise the adult work. Then the student would have an idea of what mom or dad go through while teaching them… Really for 25$ US to buy a workbook I would encourage the parents to go through this curriculum with their student(s). It’s a great way to share thoughts and ideas between each other.

We don’t have teenagers yet but my husband and I will go through the videos and create each our novel as a special project as a married couple. I think this is a great way to do something different together. And I am keeping this wonderful curriculum for when my kids will be old enough to use it. I’m totally sold out for The One Year Adventure Novel and encourage everyone to look into this wonderful gem to include in their homeschool. The One Year Adventure Novel is worth the price and you will be very impressed with it. And if you divide the amount of the curriculum by the number of students/adults as well as number of years used, I think the cost-value is more than acceptable because you can reuse the DVDs more than once. The only book you will need to purchase for every use would be the workbook called The Map.

So if you want to develop your creative side and discover which stories are hiding in you, get the One Year Adventure Novel and launch a wonderful quest for yourself.

Want to read some novels created with the program? Simply go to http://www.oneyearnovel.com/showcase.html .

Sample lessons are also available to watch at http://www.oneyearnovel.com/samplelessons.html.

You can order a free demo DVD by going to http://www.oneyearnovel.com/dvdrequest.html.

The yearly contest form is accessible here http://www.oneyearnovel.com/contest.html.

The syllabus is available online so you can see what this curriculum will teach during the year. Go to http://www.oneyearnovel.com/OYAN_Syllabus.pdf .

A wonderful writing tool to help the creativity of your children.

WriteShop is a company who wants to help student to write well. And as part of their products they have create something called WriteShop StoryBuilders. What is WriteShop StoryBuilders you might wonder? It’s simply a stack of card decks that help the student to use creative writing by giving him/her basic elements of a story – character, character trait, setting, and plot. Whether you have a student who loves to write or one who needs a little push in the back to do so, StoryBuilders will help!

These are so versatile that you can use them in addition of your writing program or just for a fun activity to do with your student. Guarantee that you will have some little surprises and the student will have fun with them. Anyone can use them – from a kindergarten to a high school student and I would say even mom and dad can join the fun at writing a story! Each StoryBuilders are e-books that you can download easily on your PC. No shipping involved which is fantastic! Your e-book will contain 192 StoryBuilder card either in black print or colored print as well as 48 blank cards for your imagination! You will also find instructions and ideas on how to use the StoryBuilders cards.

The instructions are very simple and you can use the cards in various ways. Every card included in a StoryBuilder is different which means you can easily mix them and create a wonderful story… By mixing the different decks of cards of other WriteShop StoryBuilders, the student can have more character options, settings, or plots.

We had the opportunity to review the World of Animals which features animal characters and the World of Sports which features sports characters. My 2nd grader is enjoying them so well that the first thing he does in the morning is to pick the envelopes containing the different elements of a story. He sits down for 5 to 10 minutes with his notebook and creates new sentences. He told me that he really like doing this. Afterwards, I take his creation and make corrections if necessary and try to direct him in modifying his sentences a little bit. Here are some of his creations:

“An aggressive body surfer competes in a foreign country track while an ignorant
wrestler forgets the uniform or gear to go to the golf course. A snowboarder
tests his skills of underwater snowboarding and he’s in danger because there are
sharks. An unfriendly football player enters a football race in the park. A
moody surfer with a black top invents a new kind of energy food. An
argumentative fisherman competes in his own hometown in a boat while a spirited
sailor left behind a letter that said he’s going to a sport camp.”

From the WriteShop StoryBuilders World of Animals:

“ A curious snail meets a man in blue disguise under the couch. A restless
eagle went to school because he was trapped in a sudden storm. A puzzle octopus
in an amusement park can turn into a human. A nervous worm under a tree stump
becomes a stuffed toy. A shy raccoon hiding in the pantry was stalked by a
predator. And a ridiculous spider went in his spaceship with his toy box and
landed on the moon.”
I know the text doesn’t make sense but to see his smile when he comes to me with his new sentences is priceless. This morning, he even asked his younger brother, who is 3 years old, to choose some of the elements from the piles. They had fun together. What a great way to include the little ones!

I can easily see the fun of bringing these on a trip just to practice writing and creativity. I realize that I need to sit down with my son and help him to expand more on his paragraphs in the future. I’m really impressed on how easy to use the StoryBuilders are and how little it takes to sparks the imagination of a 7 years old!

Other WriteShop StoryBuilders are available on their website. You will be able to find People which feature a bunch of human characters and a mini-builder about Christmas. However, the authors didn’t want to encourage children to re-write the true Christmas story so the creativity will be more holiday-themed oriented with characters like snowman, nutcracker, etc. Also, the World of Imagination is announced as coming soon on their website which will include fantasy and fairy tale characters.

You might be wondering how much the StoryBuilders are. Their regular price is 9.95$ US but right now on the website they are on sale for 7.95$ US. Seeing how much my son enjoys them, I will go get the People StoryBuilders since it is the one we are missing. Please note that the price of the Christmas mini-builder is less because it is smaller than the other StoryBuilders.

Have you heard of the company Heads Up! ?

Do you have a child who has special needs like ADD, ADHA, autism, fine and gross motor and sensory issues? If so, you might want to check out a vendor who helps families with these special needs. Heads Up! is specialized in providing materials and information for families and workers with children who have developmental issues, learning disabilities, or other special needs. They also have some products to help reduce the distractions or for kids having visual issues like in reading.

As part of my participation with the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a bunch of frames from Heads Up! And at first I was wondering what I should do with them. I decided to check what the frames are meant for and suddenly understood the potential for these. Some of the frames I received have colored stripes and I was seriously wondering how someone can read with these… Well I since learned that there is a disorder called Irlen that makes it difficult for people to read black and white printed words. Isn’t it interesting? If a family can’t afford to buy colored glasses to a child who has this disorder, the frames are an interesting option…

The Top of the Line and the Double Time frames will help a reader to stay in track with the text that is read. The colors will help to the student to stay focus and remove the distraction.
The bigger size frames can help a child to concentrate on a specific section of a book or page. If your child is overwhelmed when seeing a whole page of text in front of him/her, use these so you can separate the text in sizeable chunks.

Finally, the Reader has a strip of color between two stripes of grey. It helps the student to stay in track while reading. My son was having trouble to keep track while reading some text in his bible so I thought this could help him to stay focus on his lines. It helped! Since he is using one, he didn’t skip on his reading and is following his lines without problem. I think these are just wonderful. One even found its way inside my bible! *grin*

These little tools are affordable for everyone. See for yourself!
Top of the Line 1$ each available in yellow or blue
Double Time 1$ each available in yellow or blue
Frame 4 x 4.5 1$ each available in various colors
Frame 4 x 9 1$ each available in various colors
Reader 1$ each available in various colors

Mom, what's a homophone?

Written by Marie Rippel, who is behind the program All about Spelling, the book All About Homophones is a simple tool kit to help you teach your kids about – you’ve guessed it – homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same but written differently and having different meaning. The lessons are quite simple to follow and you will find interesting activities for your kids which complete the lessons. Learning while having fun!
Included in this resource are worksheets, games, activity cards and a impressive list of homophones. It is specifically designed for grades 1 to 8. All the activities are separated by grade and you will find fun games about homophones in them. My son is only in grade 2 and he had lots of fun to do the exercises and activities for his age. Since then, not only does he spot homophones while doing his homework in English but he also spots them in French! And he does it with a huge smile on his face. So nice to see that a lesson did went through his brain and that he applies it elsewhere.
On the website you can also sign up for a free report called “The 5 Secrets for Teaching Homophones” as well as access the homophones machine. In the machine you can type any sentence of paragraph and click on convert button so the machine can convert it using homophones. Lot’s of laugh guaranteed with this little tool!
So you must be wondering how much for this fun book? I think it is pretty reasonable. The softcover book is 32.95$ US and the e-book is 27.95$ US . I personally vote for the e-book because once you have it, you can print the pages you need for your child and use it multiple times. To top it off, the author is so convince that you will like it that she offers a 30-day, no-question-asked, money-back guarantee.
So go ahead - try it out! Your kids will have fun learning about homophones.

A review for a new e-book: Creative Nature Study

I recently had the opportunity to read the new E-book titled “Creative Nature Study – Ideas to Jump-start or Invigorate Nature Study in Your Homeschool”. I was excited about being able to read this before it becomes available on The Old Schoolhouse store.

What a book! I love it. It is actually pushing me to go out more with the kids. We are so blessed in our city to have a multitude of walking trails in what is known as the green belt! I wonder why I didn’t go explore these trails more with my children – ok I know why a little bit 1) I hate mosquitoes in the springs (my kids have some sort of reaction to their bites and I hate bug spray) and 2) I’m lazy. There I said it! Isn’t the first step to change is admitting it? Here you go… I’m going to change in 2009!

I honestly love the various articles in this e-book. However, I especially enjoyed the one about nature study through the seasons. I’m the kind of person who will delights in all the seasons. It’s something that we in Ontario go through every year – spring, summer, autumn, and winter. There is something to enjoy no matter what the season. So why not taking advantages of them? This year, we are not planning to park the trailer at a specific campsite. Consequently, I need to explore more the forests surrounding our city. I love bird watching and this will give me the opportunity to teach my kids about birds. I even learned some things from the bird watching articles! You are never too old to learn new information on a specific subject.

While reading the e-book, I also learned to create a scavenger hunt while exploring nature. I never thought of that! Geeez! I discovered the wisdom in having a nature bag with us and a perpetual journal to note specific nature sighting or discovery. These are wonderful ideas and I can’t wait to try them.

I also enjoyed the article “I See God” Walks. God created everything and I’m excited to see how creative He was when I see the trees, birds or animals. He thought about everything didn’t He? Just watch a blue jay diving in a pine tree or explore a beach in the fall to find a turtle nest… these are teaching moments!

One of my dreams would be to have a little garden in the backyard so the kids can grow flowers and vegetables in it. Our problem right now is that there are “wild” rabbits living around and last time we had tomato plants…. Well let’s just say they enjoyed them before we did!
The little e-book is packed with wonderful ideas like listening walks, taking a walk during nighttime or creating a nature bracelet using masking tape. The article Nature Study with Food in itself is a little gem of discovering nature where food is involved… 2009 will be a stepping stone for me. I have no honest reasons not to go out more and explore the nature trails in our city. Nature activities will become a regular thing to do – I promise! My kids are used to go fishing with dad… now it will be discovering the nature around us with mom. *grin*

I will also make the effort to bring them strawberries picking for a new tradition to start. We already did the blueberries and apples picking but we never went to pick strawberries and then make jam… New adventures and discoveries await us in 2009! I’m excited about it. Can you tell? And coming from a former girl guide, who used to be able to tell the difference in the kind of clouds in the sky and found some constellations in the night, it means a lot… I will rediscover my lost skills and find new ones on the way...

Thank you so much for all the writers in this e-book for pushing me to go out more and enjoy the nature around me (mosquitoes and all!).

Drawing and Painting with the Crayola Art Studio software (Core Learning)

CoreLearning is an educational publisher of software and books which is located both in the States and in Canada. And they have sent me a copy of the new Crayola Art Studio to review.

Crayola Art Studio is now available in Canada! When I first was selected, CoreLearning had to wait for authorization to produce the software for Canada and it took a little bit longer for me to receive the product. But now it is available for anyone who loves drawing and painting with digital tools!
Crayola Art Studio is packed with interesting activities for children to use. They will be able to pick between pencils, markers, crayons, paints and pastels to create anything they want. From decorations to greeting cards, this software has it all. The kids can use a multitude of tools and starters to bring their imagination to life.
The appropriate age to use this software is 4 and up. Even an adult can have fun with it! I tried it a bit and found it easy to use. My oldest son created some interesting art with it as well. While experimenting with the software, I discovered, with joy, that you could easily blend the colors as you draw. While using the pastels I realized that it was easy to mix the colors just as if you were using real pastels.
Mind you, as real as they can make it, it doesn’t give you the satisfaction of having colors on your fingers and feeling the paper while you are working with real pastels. I’m a Give-Me-The-Real-Stuff kind of girl and I love holding the pastels/crayons/pencils while I draw. I’m just like that. Using a software remove the touching part of the whole process. I am also at lost when I am in front of a screen to create some art. However, give me some paper and colors and I will create. Not sure why I am like that but I know that not everyone is like that. I discovered in the user manual (which comes in a pdf format) that even though the software could be use with a mouse, it is better to use mouse pen accessories or a tablet PC to obtain a better control over free-hand digital drawing and painting. Now I am seriously considering looking into getting a mouse pen accessory to try the program with more freedom in drawing and painting!
Crayola Art Studio is a cool software that children can use while exploring art. I have never seen something this fun to use and so realistic at the same time. You can easily see that they have taken a lot of time to think about what they wanted to have as a product before producing it. The colors are vibrant and even the stamps are very interesting! Once interesting tool that I likes was the symmetry tool. With this tool you could draw and create immediately in the symmetric part of it at the same time. I had fun experimenting with this and creating the following. Okay I admit it doesn’t represent anything specific but some famous painter drew some weird things and their paintings are sold for expensive prices…
Crayola Art Studio is affordable. For less than 25$ you can have a fun drawing software for your kids to use. If you have a child who loves to draw and to experiment with new things, I highly recommend it!

You want to try it? No problem, simply go to the CoreLearning website and download the demo. They also have a little video to explain how to use the software and some screenshots.

KinderBach - Learning music and piano for little ones!

Back in October 2008, I was given access to the online lessons of KinderBach – a site who teaches piano to young kids.

Karri Gregor decided to teach piano when her own children were 4 and 7 and she couldn’t find a piano teacher because they were too young… Karri had a background in music education and she decided to teach music to kids. Back then she had started a music studio but because the family was moving she lost her students (except her own kids…) and didn’t feel like starting over again. Previously, she had made some tapes to teach the children about music and piano. While unpacking she stumble on these tapes and Karri started to think about another way of teaching piano to children. KinderBach was born!

What is KinderBach? It is a preschool piano lessons for kids ages 2-7. It introduces the children to music and rhythm as well as using a piano. Children will go through learning the notes on the piano with characters. They will also be introduced to music theory, note reading, ear training, hand position and other important piano techniques.

At first I was really excited to get access to their new online lessons. I had gotten a demo DVD before we decided to homeschool but never pursued it. I was really curious about this curriculum of piano lessons. My kids loved Frisco and Dodi and the other characters who are teaching them the lessons. They have fun experimenting with the characters and with the piano! Even my now 3 year old can find the Dodi’s houses and the Train Stations on the keyboard. I am so relieved that they are enjoying it.

KinderBach offers their lessons on DVDs or via the Internet. Make note that a high speed connection is necessary for the Internet lessons! Also, the internet lessons only cover the 1st year of the curriculum while with the DVDs you can get the whole two years of lessons.
I was fortunate to be set-up with a computer hooked on our TV so we could watch them comfortably sit on the sofa. However, I think it would be more complicated for other families with many little ones to be all around a computer screen to watch the lessons. I am more inclined to use DVDs also. But the lessons are the same whether you choose to get the DVDs or the online lessons.

The online lessons are easy to use. There is always an introduction of the week and then four lessons for the week. Depending of the level of attention of your children and their ages, you might choose to do more than one lesson in one sitting. I personally printed the activities related to the lessons beforehand so I was ready to do more if the kids were attentive enough. But very fast, I realized that they were having so much fun that it would be difficult for them to stop… My three oldest kids learned an introduction to piano with Frisco and Dodi. They love it and unfortunately our access to the site is expiring. So now I am looking into getting the DVDs so that we can continue the lessons…

KinderBach is fantastic and I strongly recommend that you check them out! You will be amaze on how fast children learn about music and piano.

Online access to the lessons is available for 85.95$ US for a whole year. You can try a first lesson free at this page: http://www.kinderbach.com/Learn/index.html . Enjoy!

Learning to write with Peterson Handwriting

Peterson Handwriting is a company located in Pennsylvania who is specialized in providing a writing program to everyone who wants to improve their writing or learn to write. The objective is to provide a research-based, developmentally-organized, time-efficient and cost-effective curriculum for the integration of fluent American symbolic language patterns. Don’t be scare with this way of saying things. Bottom line is that they have researched for the best way of doing thing in the writing world and they believe that they have found it. To learn more about their method and their background, you can look at the explanation of their method on their website. This is handy to know because their method is quite overwhelming at first but once you understand it... piece of cake!

Since I was part of the crew, I received a kit for my junior kindergarten and a kit for my 2nd grader who was starting to learn to write in cursive. The cursive part in itself is difficult… It’s a new way of learning to write and I am wondering if I am gifted in this area. This is the main reason why I asked them to send me the Introducing Cursive so I can review it. As for my junior Kindergarten, he was at the beginning of learning how to write and read so this was a bonus for us. Finally some guidelines for me to teach him! My oldest had learned how to write in preschool, junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten and I had little involvement in this specific task. Will I be able to pull it with my 4 year old?

I must admit that Peterson Handwriting is well organized. Let’s start with the program “Get Ready for Writing and Reading”. This program comes with lessons plans, a book for the child to write in called ABC’s and 123’s as well as a CD with animated Letter cards which will show the child how to print the letter. The CD is easy to use - you simply open up your file in the Internet browser and it will show you how to write a letter. The program for kindergarteners start slowly with making sure the child knows his left and right side and with fingers exercises. There are also exercises for coloring so you can determine with which hand your child is using the crayons. I think it is wise to start like this as it gives you an idea on how your child is holding the crayons. Then comes basic exercises of tracing and eventually the child can start tracing the letters in his book. So it is a work in progress and it doesn’t take a long time every day. Eventually the child will be able to write his letter with no problem. I am not done with this specific program with my 4 year old and I am planning to continue it and eventually use it for my younger kids as well.

Now, about the Introducing Cursive curriculum... I have mixed feeling about this one since my son already had a base of writing under his belt. Honestly, it was difficult to include in our daily school plan. Why? I don’t know – mostly resistance from me and him I guess. For example, just the fact that he had to place his paper while using the guide. That is still a work in progress between you and me. In this package, I received the teacher handbook as well as the children booklet. Mind you, it is well explained and easy to follow but when you have a child that already had learned a way of doing things, it a bit hard to change things around. Again, I am planning to continue pursuing this program to see if at the end my oldest will write in cursive more fluently than he is right now.

Also included in both packages are the famous triangular pencils and some position guides to help you get the proper position to writing. The triangular pencil is a must I think. This little tool is wonderful as it help the child to hold the pencil properly in their hand. I also liked the position guides even for myself. I realized that with the years, I might not have gotten the proper position while I was writing. The guides are easy to use and can be adaptable for left or right hand writing.

According to their website - The difference is rhythm! But to get rhythm I think someone should start at the beginning of this program (which unfortunately wasn’t the case for my oldest!). And honestly, I think that if you already started with something else, then you need to brace yourself and found lots of patience to go through it with your kids.

Finally, just to give you an idea on how much you should expect to spend to get this curriculum, let me tell you the prices for the ones I have received. The “Get Ready for Writing and Reading” curriculum is listed for 44.70$ US for the complete kit and the “Introducing Cursive” Basic package is listed at 15.05$ US. I think the prices are quite reasonable.

Math Mammoth - a mathematic curriculum worth discovering!

Math Mammoth is a company that produces fully reproducible math books and worksheets. The author, Maria Miller, had a master degree in mathematics with the Teacher educational studies as well as minors in physics and statistics. The Math Mammoth books became a product based on her experience in tutoring homeschooled children. Her objective with the books is to help parents and children to understand mathematics. The math is explained using simple terminology and even the mom who is not strong in math can use it!

Math Mammoth is divided in 4 series. The Blue Series explains a specific topic for example multiplication, clock or fractions. They are perfect for remedial or supplemental work. The LightBlue Series is organized by grades; the books contain a complete mathematics curriculum for a specific grade. Each book covers the topics for that grade and also contains tests and a worksheet maker. The Golden Series presents workbooks for a grade-level. These are great for homework, for general review, reinforcement, or practice material. Finally, the Green Series is similar to the Golden Series bu organized by topics.

Because we already had our math curriculum for the year, I decided to pick specific books from the Blue Series that I thought the MathUSee curriculum was lacking. I had sent some ideas to Maria and she sent me a bunch of them. I received via e-mail the Early Geometry (grades 1-3), Introduction to Fractions (grades 2-4), Canadian Money (grades 1-3), Clock, and Measuring (grades 1-3).

I must honestly say that I am quite impressed with the quality of the books. They are easy to use and very colorful! The images are bright and clear and the instructions are very simple to follow. You will find a variety of exercises going from drawing shapes in Early Geometry to more complicated problems in Introduction to Fractions or Canadian Money. As for the Clock book, our math curriculum does introduce time lessons but I felt that more practice wouldn’t hurt.

This vendor really made the effort to reach out to Canadians because they created books specifically for us like Canadian Money and incorporated the metric systems which we use in Canada. The Canadian Money book has clear images of our money and even made sure that the Loonie and Toonie were there and not the old 1$ and 2$ paper bills!

In each book, you will also find free online resources related to the subject as well as a revision section and an answer key for the exercises found in the book.

I love the fact that you can purchase the books and receive them on e-mail. You can then save them on your hard drive and print them when you need it. PDF documents help you save on multiple purchases since you buy it once and can use them for as many children you have in your family. In our case, we have four kids which means I will be able to use these books four times during our homeschool journey! Each book in the Blue Series is quite affordable going from 2$ US to about 5$ US. The best part is that the author is always adding some new books as she writes them.

I discovered a vendor that I want to keep contact with because it is a nice supplement to have in hand for our math curriculum. I strongly suggest that you give them a try so that you can see how easy these books can be used.

Review on the January module of The Homeschool Planner.

The January module of the Homeschool Planner is packed with activities related to the USA. In Cruisin’ the Country, you will find some of the landmarks related to a specific state. As usual the module has a copybook so that your child can practice writing. The copybook section contains facts about landmarks found in the States. The January module also has a capital matching game, a word search, a crossword, a state information search, a multiple choice test, a landmark matching game as well as a symbols chart. To top it off, a blank map of the USA is included so that anyone can test their knowledge on the States. Finally, you will also find some coloring pages of important landmarks in the US.

This module is very exciting for us because we will be able to carry it with us when we go on a trip across the border – you see we live in Canada about 40 minutes from the border and we are planning to visit the US often with our trailer in the future. As a matter of fact, we are planning a trip for 2009 (just have to decide where exactly we are going *grin* ) which means this little module will find its way in our luggages so we can keep the kids busy (coloring for the young ones and games for the oldest). Once again, the authors have pull out a wonderful module on the USA.

My only negative point for this module is that I would have liked to have more information in the Cruisin’ the Country section… It would have been great to have ALL the States covered in this module but it isn’t the case. Personally, I love learning more about our country’s neighbor and this module gave me a bit more information about the US.

Finally, one thing I would like to see in future modules would be cursive copybook so that older kids can practice their writing while having fun at the same time. I guess this is something close to my heart since I have a child who is learning cursive writing at the moment.
In a nutshell, the January module is a must to learn more about the different States in the US. You can get it via the OldSchoolhouse Store for 7.95$ US.

Puppetools - a new way of using puppetry in your lessons?

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have received access to a product called Puppetools. What is Puppetools, you may ask? Simply, it is a tool that uses creativity to teach some subjects that might be hard for kids. Puppetry is an old age way of communication that attracts children since forever I would think. Even my husband sometimes takes a stuff animal and make it interact with our kids. The children are all eyes to the animal and don’t care who is talking. He did that often when his sister was younger to keep her entertained and now he is using it on his own children. I can see him doing it to his grand-children in the future… but let’s get back to the review.

Puppetools was inspired by Jeffrey Peyton and his website provides resources to teachers and students to experience with educational play. On the website you will discover some videos to explain how to create your paper puppet as well as patterns if you need some ideas. I experienced in making one puppet but I had to modify the instructions for the hinge because I only had 8 ½ x 11 cardboard. So I decided to make a fish and as I was doing so I was wondering how I can use it later on… then I thought of the scripture about Jesus telling Peter to throw his net in the water and they caught a fish with money in its mouth to pay the taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). Maybe I could glue a Loonie (our Canadian dollar) in the mouth of the fish to make it more real and use it during the children lesson at church.

It took me a while to do my puppet. But once it is done, you can use it multiple times. I used some scrapbooking cardboard to make it as it is stronger than construction paper. But if I would let the kids do one I would use construction paper as it is cheaper than scrapbook cardboard.

Even though it wasn’t that bad, I found it was a bit time consuming. So if you decide to create a puppet, you will need to plan some time without being disturbed. Honestly, I can see the advantages to use this kind of active-play for a classroom setting but in a home school setting I am still wondering how to use this. The best idea I came with right now it to use it as a craft activity. Mind you I’m sure that some ideas will come to me when I attach subjects related to animals and other things like how light bulb works.

As I am writing this, there are two types of subscriptions available on the website. A 20$ US trial are designed for individual users (like home school moms!) and gives you access to all the resources for a full 60 days. A regular subscription is also available for 99$ US and this type of subscription is designed for small & large groups.

Salem Ridge Press - Great books for the family!

Salem Ridge Press is a publishing company which is dedicated to bring back the best in children’s books of the 1800s and early 1900s. Established in November 2005 by Daniel Mills, Salem Ridge Press operates from Pennsylvania and is in the business of republishing books who respect the qualifications outlined in the Bible based on Philippians 4:8. The founder of Salem Ridge Press is a homeschooling graduate who dedicates his work with the company to the Lord. He hopes that giving others the opportunity to read well-written books which have strong moral values and encourage positive character. His love for reading and for history make it that he really enjoys what he is doing with Salem Bridge Press.

As part of the review process, I received three books that I had to read and write about. I must admit that I didn’t know what to expect from books written in the 1800s or 1900s but I was pleasantly surprised by them.

The first book of the package is Mary Jane – Her Book written by Clara Ingram Judson and originally published in 1918. This little treasure that many little girls would like tells the story of a five-year-old as she helps and learns various tasks. She goes on a picnic, plants a garden with her father, learns to sew and more. She is curious like any five-year-old can be and eager to learn new things like sewing for example. This book is written for 6 to 10 years old but I think it is more for children age 5-7 years old. It is a very good book to put in the hands of an early reader once he or she has mastered the basics of reading. Now mind you the book is about a little girl doing little girl things so I am unsure on how a boy would react to this book. My oldest son is above this level of reading and I doubt he would be interested in reading it…

The second book of the package is The American Twins of the Revolution written by Lucy Fitch Perkins and originally published in 1926. Geared for readers ages 8 to adult, this historical novel recounts the adventure lived by the Priestly family during the war between the America and Britain. I enjoyed reading about this period of time and learning how the family evaded the soldiers so that they can bring the food and money to the ones who were fighting for them. Even though it was not about Canadian history, I think it was a good read and very informative.

Finally, the last book I received from Salem Ridge press is Glaucia the Greek Slave written by Emma Leslie and originally published in 1874. This book is part of a series called the Church History Series. It is a tale of Athens in the first century and is an historical fiction. Glaucia is the first book of the Church History Series and is for anyone ages 10 to adult who would love to read more about how Christianity was able to attract followers in a time where there was so much corruption and many gods... Here’s what Emma Leslie says about the book:

“In the pages of the following tale I have endeavored to show some of the many
difficulties with which Christianity had to contend, on its firs introduction to
the centers of civilization, not only from paganism and philosophy, but from
every mode of life and the whole tone of thought then prevailing. It was an age
at once of atheism and superstition; of boundless wealth and the most abject
poverty; of reckless luxury and selfish cruelty; and against all these, with the
long train of evils they bred and fostered, the simple Gospel story of the life
of Jesus, as told by a few fishermen, was all this new power could boast.That it
would make any progress in such a world of corrupt, luxurious, cruel
pleasure-lovers, or proud, self-satisfied, disdainful philosophers, seemed
impossible; for what chance had a religion whose whole teaching ranged itself
against everything that the popular mind accounted as worthy of notice? It had
no gorgeous ritual, there were no feasts or games in its service, it held out no
hope of wealth or power; but, on the contrary, was despised, sneered at, and
contemned by the rich and powerful, and yet, in spite of all the abounding
corruption on the one hand, and the proud disdain of Jews and philosophers on
the other, this “grain of mustard-seed” grew so mightily, that before its first
founders had passed away its branches had spread into many lands, and weary soul
were resting beneath their shadow.”

During the story, Glaucia is introduced to the Gospel and is told early on that she has to choose between Jesus and the other Gods she serves for her mistress as she cannot worship both…. She decides to worship to God of the slaves who loves everyone who comes to Him. The story is set up during the times of Nero and the famous (or should I say infamous) fire of Rome. The story starts in Rome and finishes in Athens. You get introduced of the way of living in that period of time and also the difficulties that were present for the ones who decided to follow God – persecution. Persecution still exists these days in other countries. The faith of those who are persecuted is so strong. While I was reading I was impressed of how the characters didn’t rejected God even though they had hard times and their lives were in danger. I also appreciated the boldness of the characters to share their faith with unbelievers. It was refreshing to read this.

I personally enjoyed all three books. However, I must admit that I had a bit of trouble “translating” the slang of the slaves in the book The American Twins of the Revolution or the King James way of talking in Glaucia the Greek Slave. I totally understand that it makes the book more interesting but not being used to reading it (and English not being my first language…), I had a hard time figuring out the words… but once I had caught the slang/King James then I was able to read it with more ability.

I loved the books I have received from Salem Ridge Press and I plan to get more of them. Believe it or not, I discovered that they are available at Amazon.ca! And Daniel also told me that he is working to make them available with other bookstores like Indigo in 2009 as well as potentially making them more affordable for us, Canadians. The Church History Series is certainly on the top of my list!