Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Monic Books Review


If you or your kids are "word lovers" (or would like to be) then you will love New Monic Books' Vocabulary Cartoons!  This book uses one-frame cartoons to teach the meanings of new vocabulary words by associating a familiar word and a silly picture along with the new word.  Above each cartoon, you will find the "new" word and its definition along with the "familiar" word.  Then you will see the cartoon frame with a caption underneath it.  At the bottom of the page are several sentences using the new word in context.  These sentences are usually "regular" sentences, not silly ones. 

My 7-year-old daughter just loves this book!  In fact, she reminds me to get it out and use it every day because she enjoys it so much.  She has been a "word lover" since she was tiny, and I had no idea that books like this one were available.  I'm sure this won't be the last New Monic Books book that we use in our homeschool. 

I think the thing that Mary Grace likes so much about the book is the cartoons.  Most of them are really silly, and that makes them easy for her to remember.  I like that each new word is introduced by referring to a word that is probably already familiar.  This combination seems to work very well!

Some of the word associations are kind of a stretch, but to me that doesn't matter.  It seems that the sillier and more far-fetched the associations are the better they are remembered.  For example, when teaching the word "remainder," the familiar word that is associated is "reindeer."  The cartoon shows a reindeer at the North Pole being left behind as the other reindeer fly off with Santa in his sleigh.  The caption says, "Because Santa couldn't take all the reindeer, Comet became the remainder."  Although the word "remainder" doesn't sound an awful lot like "reindeer," it is close enough (and funny enough) to make it easily remembered. 

There are books for older students as well which I didn't get the chance to review, and I think the older students' books are meant to help prepare students for SAT tests. To me, though, it is a great idea to begin introducing new words and instilling a love of learning new words in the elementary years. If we can do that while our children are still young, I think they will seek out new words and enjoy learning them for the rest of their lives.

If you are interested in ordering a copy of this book (or the levels for older students) you might want to take a look at the Vocabulary Cartoons website.  You can see samples of the cartoons at this link.  This book is sold for $12.95. 

You can see more reviews of this product here
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NOTE:  I received this book in exchange for writing this review.  I did not receive any other compensation.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us Book Review

Homeschooling for the Rest of Us, Sonya Haskins, 978-0-7642-0739-6

As a homeschooling mom, it is always interesting to me to read books about homeschooling and about how other families homeschool.  Part of it is just curiosity because, after all, it is often quite interesting to get a peek into other families' lives and see how they do things.  Part of my reason for choosing to review this book, though, is that I often pick up little tips and bits of information that make my own homeschool run better and smoother when I read books like this one. 

When I was considering reading and reviewing this book, I took a look at the chapter titles first to be sure they sounded like they would be about things that I would be interested in reading more about.  I scanned down the chapter titles until I saw one called "Living in a (Very) Messy House."  At that point, I knew I had to read this book!  Yes, it may be kind of funny for me to say that, but unfortunately, it's also the reality at my house!

The author explained that, when she was writing the book, she asked her children to look over her chapter titles to see what they thought of them.  One of her children saw the "Living in a Messy House" chapter title and told her that perhaps the title should be "Living in a Very Messy House."  :)  She went on to give lots of tips for age-appropriate jobs that kids can help do.  I love lists like that because they make it so much easier for me to assign jobs.  I get bogged down trying to think which jobs the kids are capable of doing.  Reading her lists made this much easier for me! 

She also explained that, since we and our kids are home most days, the house is probably going to tend to be a bit messier than the homes of those who go to school outside the house.  This can be especially true for moms (like me) who have a work-from-the-house job.  At times, there is a project that has to be done right away, and the housework has to be put on hold.  I knew that already, but it was nice to read it from someone else too!  It made me feel like it's not just me who has this problem (because it's not). 

Another chapter I particularly liked in this book was "Extracurricular Activities, Support Groups, and Co-ops."  I have read other homeschooling books that really push for homeschoolers to attend lots of co-op classes and to be involved in many outside-the-home activities.  This author seeks to be very balanced on this topic.  While she does explain that it is good to be involved in some outside activities, she also stresses that it is very possible to be involved in too many outside activities.  I have often heard moms jokingly say that they don't homeschool, they "carschool."  I think those moms are doing way too much outside of the house!  This chapter was very helpful to me, and I think most moms could benefit from reading it--whether you do or do not participate in many extra activities.

Also included is a chapter about socialization.  It has become kind of a joke with many homeschool moms that so many non-homeschoolers are so concerned about our kids' socialization skills.  Those of us who homeschool know that, while there may be a few homeschooled children who don't have good socialization skills (just as there are some publicly and privately schooled children who don't have good socialization skills), by far the majority of homeschooled children have excellent social skills!  In fact, many homeschooled children are much more comfortable socializing with not only other children their own age, but also people of other ages from babies to the elderly.  Mrs. Haskins addresses this issue very thoroughly including signs of good social skills that we should check for in our own children, suggestions for improving social skills if that is needed, and even possible responses for use when we are questioned about our children's socialization skills. 

The last topic that I will cover a little more in-depth in this review is the chapter about developing positive relationships.  Many homeschool how-to books don't cover this topic at all, and to me it is one of the most important reasons to homeschool!  I want to develop close relationships with each of my children, and I want each of them to develop close relationships with all the other members of the family as well as with God.  While Mrs. Haskins does not cover the concern about helping the children develop a close relationship with God, she does discuss and suggest ways to help our children become closer to each other and us as parents. 

Some other topics covered are routines and schedules, academics, homeschooling on a budget, and homeschooling special needs children.  While I don't necessarily agree with every single thing included in this book, I do definitely agree with most of what the author says.  I absolutely recommend this book to those, like myself, who enjoy reading and learning more as current homeschoolers.  I also recommend it to those who are considering homeschooling since it gives such good, basic information. 

You can buy this book from Bethany House publishers at this link.  You can also see an excerpt, the table of contents, and more at the same link.
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NOTE:  I received this book free in exchange for writing this review.  I received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Schleich Review

Ever since my children were age 1 or maybe age 2, they have loved to play with little animal figures, action figures, and those sorts of toys.  My son, now age 13, used to have lots and lots of small animal figures like bugs, zoo animals, safari animals, and so on.  He played with them until he either tore them up (which, being a boy, he often did) or just outgrew them.  My younger daugher, now age 7, inherited a few of them that managed to make it through her brother's younger childhood days!  Noah liked to play with the toys outside in the dirt, and Mary Grace prefers to play with them in her doll houses or the bath tub.  (Ah...the differences between boys and girls!)

Several weeks ago, I received a package of little animal figurines from Schleich.   In the package I found a piglet, an elephant calf, two horses, an okapi, a "mommy" and "baby" gnu, a donkey, and a zebra.  Each one was individually wrapped and had a little tag around its leg.  Those tiny tags around their legs were mighty hard to get off a few of the animals, but I managed.  Also in the package was a little booklet showing many other animals and other kinds of figures that Schleich offers. 

I could immediately tell that these are high-quality toys!  Many      
little toy animals are very light-weight and can be easily broken
or the paint scrapes off easily and the toys don't look so nice any
more.  That is certainly not the case with these toys!  I could tell
 from the weight of them that they are well-made and very sturdy. 
These are the kinds of toys that will last through many children
and through years and years of hard play. 

I was also very impressed with the accuracy of the animals.  They don't look like little toys at all--they look like tiny "real-life" animals!  Many times I bought little animal figures for my son when he was small, and when we got them home and opened them up, they really didn't look much like the animals they were supposed to be at all.  These are beautiful, life-like animals. 

I was afraid my daughter might be unhappy with the animals she received because, at age 7, she is "into" playing with dolls, little doll figurines, Littlest Pet Shop toys, and Calico Critters.  I was very happy to see, though, that she loved them!  I wasn't sure how a girl would play with such toys, so I was very interested in seeing what she did with them.

At first, she put them in a little basket and carried them around, talked to them, played with them in the bath tub, drew pictures of them, and just sort of generally kept them in the area wherever she was.  Then, a few days later, she added them to her dollhouse.  It was really cute watching her play with those animals right along with her dolls in that doll house!  I suppose they must have been some lucky little doll's exotic pet collection or something.  :)  I was pleased to see that she was creative enough to find various ways to play with them even though normally I might not have chosen these particular toys for her.

After she had had the animal figures for a couple of weeks and had played with them quite a few times, I asked her how she liked them.  I wanted to be sure the "new" had worn off a little so that her opinion would be honest and not just words said because it's fun to get something new.  She looked at me with a big smile on her face and said, "Oh, Mommy!  The only way they could be any better is if they came with dress-up clothes!"  Spoken like a true girl!  :) 

I am very happy with Schleich and the high-quality toys they offer.  They offer several different "categories" of figures.  They offer farm life, wild life, dinosaurs, the world of knights, the world of American Indians, Smurfs, and a fantasy line called Bayala.  The toys are a bit more expensive than what I normally buy on a regular basis, but for the quality, I think they are wonderful toys if you can possibly afford to buy them.  The prices range from a few dollars each for some smaller items to around $12 or $15 for a knight on a horse, for example.  There are also, of course, some really large items like castles or other large pieces that may cost over $100.  It is not necessary to purchase those larger items, though, for your kids to have a wonderful time playing with the smaller ones like the animals. 

To buy Schleich toys, you can either order online or use their store locator to find a store close to you that sells them. 

If you want to know how the other Crew members' families liked their Schleich toys, check this link.
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NOTE:  I received these toys in exchange for writing this review.  I received no other compensation.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Daybook Entry

I participated at least once before in the Simple Woman's Daybook meme, and I thought I might do so again this week.  I really enjoy occasionally taking a look at the daybook entries of other women just to get a little peek into what their daily lives are like.  It's fun to me to read their entries and to see that, while we may be miles apart, have a different number of children, have different jobs, and have different lifestyles, there are still so many things that we women (particularly those of us who are moms) have in common! 


Outside my looks like it might rain a little.  The sky is beginning to get a little dark and overcast.

I am thinking...that I need to get the rest of my appointments and "things to do" copied over into my new planner that I bought yesterday.

I am thankful for...being home with my kids and for the opportunity to homeschool them!

From the learning rooms...We are having such a good school year so far!  We have completed about 6 weeks of school, and we are doing great.  We aren't procrastinating so much this year, and we are keeping up and where we need to be in most subjects. 

From the kitchen...I need to do better at menu planning.  It is so much easier on weeknights when I have a menu plan so I don't end up with a short time to cook and no idea what I'm going to make! 

I am wearing...a red shirt and bluejean capri pants and flip flops.  It hurts my feet and ankles to go barefooted too often on this stained concrete floor.

I am creating...hopefully a menu schedule!!

I am help my 7-year-old clean her room when I finish this post.  You should see it!  It's a total disaster!

I am reading...several books--which drives my hubby crazy!  He can only concentrate on one at a time.  I need different books for different times.  I am reading Boy, an autobiography by Roald Dahl.  I am also reading Homeschooling for the Rest of Us by Sonya Haskins (which I will review when I finish).  I am also continuing to read the Bible in 90 Days. 

I am hoping...that we can finish our school work today before my sister and her kids get here to visit.

I am that one of my kiddos is listening to.

Around the house...everyone is doing something quiet right now!  Wow!

One of my favorite staying up after the kids are in bed to just read and relax for a few minutes before I go to bed myself. 

A few plans for the rest of the week:  to make that menu plan, to finish the homeschool book I'm reading and hopefully get the review written, and to get some work stuff done that I should have finished last week.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

This is me with my little 5-month-old nephew, Silas, in the front carrier that he likes to snuggle in.  (Sorry about the mess in the background at my house!)  Last night I went with his mommy (my twin sister) clothes shopping.  I held Silas in the same carrier that you see in the photo while Melissa tried on clothes for both of us!  :)  I told her that I got the better end of that deal!  I love to carry Silas in this little carrier because he's always looking up at me and smiling at me! 
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Monday, September 20, 2010

These Are a Few of My Favorite (Homeschool) Things!

This week's Homeschool Crew blog topic is, "What are your favorite resources for the ages and grades that you are teaching?"   When I read the topic, I knew I had to post on it!  There are several resources that I am using with my two 8th graders and my 3rd grader this year that I would love to tell you about!

I have probably mentioned (maybe more than once) that I love Apologia for science.  In particular, I love the elementary level books by Jeannie Fulbright and the upper level books by Jay Wile.  There are quite a few books written by Jeannie Fulbright for students from about 2nd-6th grades.  For younger students, the parent will probably need to help read the material to the child and help her do the "experiements," etc.  Students who are 5th or 6th grade could probably do these books more independently.  I recommend working with your child even if she is capable of doing the work independently, though.  To me, an important part of homeschooling is building relationships with my kids.  By working with them whenever I can, it is definitely easier to build relationships with them while getting a good idea of what they do or don't know. 

The elementary level science books are all called the Young Explorer Series:  Exploring Creation with . . .  The books in the series so far are Exploring Creation with Astronomy;  Exploring Creation with Botany;  ECW Zoology 1;  ECW Zoology 2;  ECW Zoology 3;  and ECW Human Anatomy and Physiology.  My 3rd grader and I are doing Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 this year, and we are both loving it!  The lessons are interesting to her, and she is learning a lot just because the information is presented in an interesting way.  It is written in a kind of "conversational" style that is easy for her to understand.  She also loves the activities and experiments.  None of them require lots of time or materials, and they are all pretty easy to do.  We are also using the Notebooking Journal this year (that goes along with this particular book), and that adds even more fun to the study.  We are absolutely planning to do as many more of these elementary level science books as we can--hopefully all of them.

For my 8th graders, we are using the junior high and high school level books written by Dr. Jay Wile .  They also begin with "Exploring Creation with . . ." but these are not part of the Young Exploreres Series.  Last year (for 7th grade), we did Exploring Creation with General Science.  This year we are doing Exploring Creation with Physical Science.  These aren't as much fun as the elementary books, and they require a good bit more effort and study.  That's just the way it is, though, as students get a little older!  This is a fantastic series and contains so much wonderful, interesting information!  I especially love that both the elementary and jr. high and high school books are written from a young earth, creation viewpoint.  These aren't just books with lots of Bible references and a bit of science thrown in, though.  These are quality, top-notch science books with Bible references and lots of "real-life" scientific information included to reinforce that God created the world and made it an orderly system.  I always recommend these books to Christian families who are looking for great science materials.

I also really love what we are using for math this year.  I am doing Math Mammoth with my 3rd grader.  She is not a "math person" at all!  She is great at all subjects that require lots of reading or even writing.  Math, however, is not her favorite, nor is it her strongest skill.  I love using Math Mammoth with her because it has proven to be just right for her.  It's not too terribly difficult, nor is it too terribly easy.  It seems to progress at a nice pace, too, so that she isn't frustrated by feeling like she's progressing too slowly and needs to be moving faster.  I tried several other math curriculums with her, but this one is absolutely the best one for her that we have ever tried.  I plan to stick with Math Mammoth right now.  I may re-evaluate as she gets older, but for now we are sticking with what works!  Another great thing is that the books are really inexpensive and are sold as downloadable products.  I don't have to spend a lot of money on them, and I can print them out as I go along so that I'm not spending a lot (even on printing) all at once.  I feel like she is getting a very good, basic math background right now so that, if she begins to like math more and want to do a more difficult curriculum later, she will be able to do that.  If not, then she will at least have a good, basic math background. 

My 8th grade son uses Teaching Textbooks.  He has gotten to a point where I can't really help him much with his math unless I really study and prepare a lot ahead of time.  Since I don't often have much time for that, I decided to try out Teaching Textbooks this year with him.  He watches the lecture/explanation part of the lesson (from a DVD) on his computer.  Then he does his work out of the textbook.  Then he uses another DVD to check his 5 "practice" problems before completing the 20 or so "lesson problems."  Then I check the lesson problems for him (so I know he did them correctly and to keep him from being tempted to peek at the answers instead of working the problems himself).  If he misses any, he has to re-do them once, and then I check them again.  If he misses them a second time, I have him use a separate DVD to watch how to correctly work the problem(s) that he needs to correct.  Every single problem that he has to do is on one of the included DVDs so that, if he doesn't know how to do any problem in the textbook, it can be found and he can watch the correct way to work it.  This has worked well for him!  It allows him to be much more independent with his math, and I don't have to worry about whether or not I know enough to help him!  :)

I suppose I could keep going and mention some more of the resources we are using this year, but I won't right now.  I don't want this post to be too incredibly long!!  I will mention very quickly, though, that I will be doing a review of the online classes that both my 13-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter are using for history this year through Veritas Press.   I will let you know about that review later.  It may end up being included it the "reviews" section of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine later this school year.  :) 

To see this blog cruise topic addressed by other Crew members or to see some of the other blog cruise topics covered this year, click here
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Five Questions Friday

Have you ever read the Five Questions Friday meme at the Five Crooked Halos blog?  I don't participate in memes on a regular basis, but I thought this one might be fun, so today I will answer her five questions, and I invite you to read my answers and to hop over to her blog and read some other folks' answers as well if you're interested. 

1.  What is the first nightmare you remember?

I remember a nightmare I had when I was very young.  I'm not absolutely sure it was the first one I remember, but it is the most vivid.  I dreamed that I was at my grandmother's house hiding under an enormous mushroom in her back yard.  There was a big black bull roaming around in the yard, and I was hiding from it.  Then I was suddenly walking down the road that passes by her house.  I passed by a house and heard dogs barking in some kind of enclosure that was built into the ground so that I couldn't see the dogs but could only hear them.  I threw a conch shell into the enclosure where the dogs were.  I was afraid the dogs would chase me, so I tried to run.  I felt like my whole body was made of lead, though, and I could hardly move--much less run.  Then, thankfully, I woke up and realized it was all just a dream.  I think I actually had that dream more than once.

2. Even if you're not a sports fan, what's your favorite sport to play/watch?

I enjoy watching figure skating and women's gymnastics when they are available--especially during the Olypmics.  I also enjoy watching swimming and diving events.
3. If you could pull off one piece of trendy fashion, what would you want it to be (jeggings, hats, thigh high boots, etc.)?

I actually would rather my hair be trendy and fashionable than my clothing.  I have always loved long hair that is rather straight but layered so that it curves around the face and kind of goes in all directions.  (I'm not a big fan of hers, but Jennifer Anniston's hair is--or at least used to be--that way.) 

4. Did you make good grades in school?

Yes, I always made very good grades in school.  I actually enjoyed doing my school work most of the time.  I still love learning.  In fact, that is one of the reasons that I particularly enjoy homeschooling my kids.  I completely enjoy teaching them and learning right along with them.
5. What magazines do you subscribe to?

I suscribe to the Reader's Digest and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  I also subscribe to a cooking magazine called Simple and Delicious (by the Taste of Home folks).  If I had to choose just one magazine to subscribe to, it would definitely be The Old Schoolhouse (a Christian homeschooling magazine). 

I hope you enjoyed this meme!  Maybe you would like to post your own answers.  If so, please remember to link back to the Five Crooked Halos blog with your post.  :)

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pyramath Card Game Review


Have you ever heard of Pyramath? Well, I hadn’t either until I received the Pyramath card game to review for The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. Since math is not a favorite of my kids and this item was given to me to review with my 7-year-old daughter who isn’t super good at math, I really wasn’t looking forward to reviewing this one. (Just being honest!)

Before I received my set of cards, I took a look at some information about the cards online. You can do that here. Even after checking out the information, I wasn’t convinced that it would work for Mary Grace. Math is probably the subject that she likes least of all. I was afraid that it would be frustrating to her to “have” to use the cards for me to be able to write the review. I knew I needed to have her give it a try, though, so I put on a happy face and showed her the cards.

As I showed her the cards, I pretended to be excited about them (after all, I didn’t want my negative opinion to influence her opinion). Mary Grace loves to play games, especially with her daddy and me, so I knew that would work in my favor. She seemed mildly interested in learning to play, but she did say that she thought it would be too hard for her.

One thing I really like about this game is that the rules can be adjusted based on the child’s math skills and ability to reason, etc. The card game is designed to help students improve skills in basic math such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. I explained the rules to her, told her which math operations we would be using (addition and subtraction for her age level, but more advanced math students could certainly add multiplication and division or even square roots and powers and other higher-level math skills). Then we began to play the game.

I was totally surprised that Mary Grace loved the game!! In fact, she learned right away that, if she was going to win, she would have to pay close attention to the game and do her best. She hardly ever pays close attention to her math work because she just isn’t very excited about it or interested in it. For this game, though, she actually concentrated and even enjoyed it! Instead of hating math, she was enjoying it! In fact, she asked to play it over and over and over. Normally I get tired of playing the same games with her time after time, but in this case I was glad to comply. We were both having fun!

You can see what the cards look like and take a look at the rules here. The card game costs $6.95 and can be purchased on their website. They have other card games that help improve other math skills too.

Another thing I’d like to point out is that ANY student can benefit from these cards--not just homeschoolers. And at $6.95, this is an affordable way to have some fun with your child while building math skills at the same time!

Other Homeschool Crew members reviewed the Pyramath cards just like I did, and some reviewed I See Cards by the same folks that do the Pyramath game. You might like to see what the other Crew members have to say about their experiences with either Pyramath or I See Cards. Click THIS LINK to read their reviews.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How Is Your 90 Day Bible Reading Going?

I haven't been posting regularly about my 90 Day Bible Reading, but I hope you've still been reading!  I got a few days behind when I went out of town last month, and I haven't managed to make up all the days yet.  I actually took my 90 Day Bible with me on the trip and read it on the flight to San Francisco and on the flight back.  The problem, though, was when I got back home.  I was so tired from the trip that I was pretty useless for several days.  Several times I tried to read and literally found myself falling asleep before I'd gotten very far. 

Finally I decided that I would take a rest for a few days and get "back to normal" before trying to catch back up.  That was about a month ago now, and I haven't caught back up yet!!  I think the most important thing, though, is to keep reading every day.  I did miss a few days altogether when I was so tired, but I can forgive myself for that.  :)  I got discouraged trying to catch up on the "extra" days, so I decided it might be better to just keep doing one reading each day rather than getting bogged down and feeling like I "had" to do two reading a day to make up for what I missed. 

Are any of you who are reading along with me having any trouble?  Are you doing great?  I'd love to hear how you're doing! 

When I first looked into the possibility of doing the 90-day reading, I remember reading that part of the benefit of reading the whole Bible in 90 days is that it allows the reader to see the "big picture" and how one event leads to another, etc.  It has been really neat reading and seeing that for myself!  There are so many little details in the Bible too that we never learned about in Sunday School and probably never heard a sermon about.  It has been fun reading those little details, though, and finding a few brand-new-to-me things. 

A few weeks ago I finished reading a children's version of the Bible with my kids.  I may have mentioned it.  I began reading it to them 2 years ago during our morning Bible reading and family story reading time.  It was a version that was written more in a conversational tone, though, rather than a chapter-and-verse-type Bible.  Since beginning my own daily Bible reading, I think I'm going to start having each of the children read a chapter in his or her own Bible each morning too.  Since we finished reading the children's version all together, I think the next reasonable step would be to have them begin reading a little on their own each day. 

I'll let you know how it goes!  In the mean time, I hope you are still doing your reading and enjoying it!  Don't for get to leave me a comment!

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