National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) Topic: General
Recently I was introduced to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where you are challenged to write a novel during the 30 days of November. Their website has a lot of helps and encourages you to set a goal of so many words per day until, at the end of the month, you have completed a whole novel. John Allen and I gave it some serious though, but then decided that, with our busy schedules, we really don't have the time.
Then I heard about National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and decided that this might be just what I am looking for. I have been dissatisfied with my blog for a long time. Oh, don't get me wrong, I really enjoy being on the TOS Homeschool Crew and receivingÂ free homeschool products to use and review, but it seems like that is all I have been doing lately. I've been asking myself, "What happened to the core values of my blog? The values that I began my blog with - strengthening my own family and the families of others?" I need to get back to that.
NaBloPoMo encourages you to write a post per day for the entire month of November. Since I started late, I'm going to attempt to write up until Dec. 8, which would be 30 days for me. I'm looking forward to it. I don't know what all that I am going to write about. I know that I will continue writing reviews. They have really helped me improve my writing. I'm going to write about some other things, though.Â I'm going to try to add some pictures, posts about ministry, posts about things that I care about. Who knows what I'll blog about? But, I do know, that it will be about the things that I care about...faith, friends and family. Make sure you keep checking my blog every day. There could be something about you!?!
I have always loved geography! I love to travel, and I always enjoyed learning about our United States and about different countries. I even enjoyed learning about peninsulas and islands and the difference between a gulf and a bay etc. etc. !
With all that being said, though, it seems like geography is becoming a lost art. I don't think it is being taught as much or focused as much on in the school system these days. Perhaps that is why the US is trailing behind in this area. Some folks couldn't even tell you what continent the US is on let alone where to find some other countries on the map. That's why I was so thrilled to receive the book Hands-On Geography free from Bright Ideas Press in order to use and post a review on my blog.
Hands-On Geography is not a curriculum, but a plethora of ideas that you can use to teach geography in a very hands on way! I took it with me to peruse recently while we were traveling. Sarah enjoys driving when we travel (that's a topic for another post), so I usually have plenty of reading time while sitting in the passenger seat. The first thing that caught my eye were the many ways that you can creatively teach your child about your own country and other countries from around the world. Some of the ideas mentioned included:
How to make a game to help you learn geography.
Learning geography by making books.
Beginning a postcard collection from different states or countries.
Even...using the book "Around the World in Eighty Days" to help learn Geography.
When we got home, one of the first things that I did was to assign John Allen a project to make a game for Joshua to help him learn his states and capitals. After thinking and reviewing things for a couple of days, he decided to create a matching flashcard game that Joshua could use to play "memory" with. John Allen was saved from having to design it when we found something for free that we could download off the internet. All he had to do was cut them out. It was, however, his idea and he was excited to be able to help out his brother. Joshua loves it as well, and is learning more about the states than I could have ever dreamed of for a first grade student.
For John Allen I chose one of the book ideas. Hands-On Geography had everything that I needed. Even the pages that you are permitted to photocopy for your own use. After we get done with his present study on WWII, we are going to embark on a journey learning about various countries around the world.
Later I would like for Joshua to write to the tourism departments of every state to gather information and for John Allen to correspond with various embassies to learn more about the countries that he is studying.
I was thrilled to have received Hands-On Geography. There are ideas that we can use to teach that often forgotten subject for years to come. It was another one of those products that I would never have dreamed of buying until I saw it myself. It sells for $14.95 from Bright Ideas Press and says for grades K-5, but you can easily adapt the ideas to older students. Check out their company by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. Bright Ideas Press also sells many other history, geography and science products that some of the other crew members received. You can check out what they had to say about them by clicking here. Have fun browsing, and remember - Happy Homeschooling.
Vantage Learning's MY Access! Writing Program Mood:
caffeinated Topic: Homeschool Product Review
I have a confession to make. I never learned how to write a good sentence, let alone a good paragraph. I don't know why. I'm sure the school district that I went to taught us. I loved the schools that I went to. I have many fond memories and many of the teachers made a huge impact on my life. I just never learned how to write until I went to college. It was there that I finally learned how to do research, put together an outline, and write a good paper.
My lack of good writing skills in school was one of the reasons why I was determined that I would teach my children how to write while they were still young. I was thrilled when we received Write With the Best to review earlier this year, and even more thrilled when I was offered Vantage Learning's MY! Access online writing program to check out. As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free one year subscription to Vantage Learning's "MY Access! Home Edition" writing program to use and review on my blog.
MY Access! has everything that you could think of to help you teach good writing skills. In fact, they even score your child's writing assignments for you! The first thing that you do with you child is set a goal as to how many points you would like them to learn. You earn points when you complete a writing assignment or complete an activity that helps you improve your writing skills. They encourage the parent to come up with some type of reward when their child reaches their point goal. This encourages them to continue trying to improve their writing skills.
The next thing the student does is choose a writing assignment. There are four different levels of writing assignments that you can choose from: Ages 8-10, 11-14, 15-18 or Bonus Writing Prompts. They have ready made prompts, as well as an option where the parent can add their own writing topics to the list. The writing assignments are divided into three categories - Narrative, Informative, and Persuasive. One of the selections in John Allen's age 11-14 category for Narrative was "A Day in the Life of a Bird". In the Informative category he chose "A Favorite Hobby" to write about.
I'm going to walk you through what happened when he chose "Banning Dangerous Pets" from the persuasive category. The first thing that popped up was a brief description of what the topic was about:
Banning Dangerous Pets
While many people enjoy the company of common pets, such as fish, cats, dogs, and birds, others prefer more unusual pets such as ferrets, spiders, and snakes. There are others who choose to own more dangerous pets, such as tigers, monkeys, or even sharks. Imagine your town council is concerned about people owning these dangerous animals and has decided that they should be banned. In a multi-paragraph essay, write a letter to your town council expressing your opinion on which pets should be banned. Be sure to include specific details and examples to persuade your readers.
John Allen then went on to write the following (you'll soon see that he needs a lot of help not only in the creative writing area but in the spelling area as well ).
While many people enjoy the company of common pets, such as fish, cats, dogs, and birds, others prefer more unusual pets such as ferrets, spiders, and snakes. There are others who choose to own more dangerous pets, such as tigers, monkeys, or even sharks. I think that these dangerous pets should live in the wild, and not have to be tortured in cages. Most of these animals are becoming extinct. Plus ceeping these dangerous animals is very costly
The first reason I Think they should live in the wild is becouse they need fresh air. Another reason is becouse I think they should be with their families. The final reason is becouse they should learn to live on teir own.
These animals are also becoming extinct becouse of hunters. The next reason is I think is becouse of trapers. The last is becouse of pouchers.
One of the reasons it is costly is becouse their food is cotly. They need to live in their environment. Third is becouse their just plain dangerous.
So finely I come to my conclustion. Some of you probaly changed your minds. But for those of you who didn't please don't keep these dangerous pets.
After submitting his essay, he recieved a score of 2.8 out of 6.0 and earned 72 points. AND, he discovered that he was below on all five of the score criteria: Focus, Content Development, Organization, Writing Style and Conventions. In there report they include a "Revision Plan" with detailed examples of how the student can improve his essay. They then allow you to go back and improve your essay for more points. You can also earn more points by doing short fun activities that help you develop good writing skills outside of writing an essay.
It's all very simple and very fun for the student. John Allen loved it and was challenged to work harder each time to see if he could achieve a proficient score and perhaps even an advanced score some day! I love it because he loves it. It makes life a lot easier for a homeschool parent when a child is challenged and enjoys doing a particular subject. I also liked the fact that a parent can add a topic to the prompt list. If your child has a writing assignment that needs to be done in history or science, just add it to his MY Access list and assign it for his next topic. You can kill two birds with one stone!
Vantage Learning's MY Access! online writing program sells for $99.95 and supports up to 3 students. This includes weekly reports that the parent receives via email concerning their child's progress! The company also sells a MY Access! College Edition and a MY Access! Professional Edition. To find out more about Vantage Learning and it's products, just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. You can also read reviews from some of the other TOS Crew Members by clicking here. Happy writing!
ABC Teach - Should I Laugh or Should I Cry Mood:
not sure Topic: Homeschool Product Review
I have come to a dilemma in my life. Recently, as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a free membership to the ABC Teach website in order to try it out and post a review about it on my blog. But, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry! Oh, don't get me wrong! The site was fantastic! Let me try to explain it by breaking it down into two categories - the laughter and the tears. First:
I had a wonderful time with my free ABC Teach membership. ABC Teach is a website for teachers. But, before you tune me out and press the exit button, what have I always said? Even if you are not a school teacher, even if you are not a homeschooler, even if you don't have any children living in your home, if you are involved with children in any way, you are an educator. And, that's what ABC Teach is all about. It has everything you could think of to educate or help in the education of a child.
I downloaded everything I could think of.
Unit studies - John Allen was doing a Unit Study on WW II and they had everything I needed.
Math pages - Joshua is working on skip counting. They had skip counting dot-to-dots that were perfect for him. They also had math folder games, board games, higher level math helps, even high school!
Calendar and Chart helps - I found perfect chart cards for chores, our workboxes, calendars - you name it.
Science pages - I had been looking for science things for Joshua, and found some perfect things for him. Things that he was interested in and wanted to study.
History sheets - Not only do they have unit studies for history, but extra history page that were great compliments to what John Allen was studying.
Preschool - I couldn't believe how many things they had for even Jacob's age. Worksheets that go along with preschool books that we are reading. Ideas to help him learn his letters and numbers. Phonics games. You name it!
They had everything! And what you couldn't find, you could make yourself. They had worksheet makers, puzzle makers, spelling list makers, math worksheet makers, printing and cursive page makers! And I had it all for free!
I was in homeschool parent paradise. I downloaded and I downloaded. I did it as quickly and as furiously as I could for I knew my time was limited. We were only given two months to try this out. They have a free section of their site, but nothing to the extent of their member ship section. So I hoarded all that I could. And then...it happened...
...my laptop crashed ! It was only six months old. I didn't think I needed to back up my files with Mozy...but I did. My hard drive malfunctioned and I lost it all. My games, my dot - to - dots, my worksheets, my unit studies, my calendar cards...it's all gone. What I was able to print out and use was great, and the ABC Teach website was fantastic! Oh, don't feel sorry for me. The membership isn't expesive. I (or you) could have it all again for only $40 per year or $70 for two years. I can go to the ABC Teach website by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. I might even click here to go and see what the other TOS Crew members are saying about ABC Teach and to read about all of the things they are doing with their downloads. The downloads that they still have because their computer didn't crash. But I'm not bitter.
Oh well. Now you see my dilemma. Should I laugh or should I cry? Hmmm? Is anyone there? Ah well...they're gone. They've already clicked out to the ABC Teach website. I can't say that I blame them...it is a great website...I guess I'll head on over there myself. For those faithful few who may still be reading...Happy Homeschooling!
Virginia Soaps and Scents Mood:
smelly Topic: Homeschool Product Review
Granny's in the cellar
Lordy can't you smell 'er
I was thinking of that song tonight. Before I reveal why, let me just tell you that I have loved being on the TOS Homeschool Crew so far. Yes it's been hectic, and sometimes I haven't felt like writing a review, but I have met so many new friends; tried out so many new homeschool items that I would have never thought of trying; and done so many new things that, if you would have told me a year ago that I would be doing them, I would have called you "crazy".
Tonight was one of those nights. That's why I was thinking about the song. I, Tim Tinkel, yes, little old me, along with the help of John Allen and Joshua, made laundry soap! Don't get excited! I didn't destroy the house! I didn't even destroy any of Sarah's pots and pans. And, no, it wasn't really home made from scratch, it was from a kit...let me explain.
Several weeks ago, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I recieved a box from Virginia Soaps and Scents with three different types of home made soap, a home made shampoo bar, and a small kit to make home made laundry soap. I received them free of charge in order to try them out and review them on my blog.
And, boy was the TOS Homeschool Crew treated royally! All of the items in the box were especially packaged just for us, and came with a three page letter explaining the company and their products. Great treatment from a company always gets a plus in my book, so they were already ahead of the game.
Let me just preface this review before I start. We have been using home made soaps for many years now. We have a friend who also has a soapmaking business and we buy from her and have been gifted with many products from her, so hand crafted soaps are not new to us. We love using them and we love that most of them don't irritate our kids sensitive skin. But, I was anxious to see how Virginia Soaps and Scents measured up, and, the shampoo bar and the laundry kit were definitely new to us.
In 2008, the homeschooling Spargur family was doing a unit study on Colonial Life in Virginia and, lo and behold, what should be included in the study? Soapmaking! The soap was a success and they continued experimenting until, six months later, Virginia Soaps and Scents was born. They vowed from the start that everything about their new business would be done in house, from the soap to the printing to the web site, and they have stuck by that vow.
So how did their soap stack up against our friends soap? Very well.
The Virginia Soaps and Scents website says "Our soaps are made with all natural oils – no chemicals. Each bar is hand cut, so no two are exactly the same." I am not a smelly soap type of person, so I chose the Oatmeal, Milk and Honey bar to personally use. It was the most manly smelling of the bunch that we received . I really liked it! It lathered well and did it's job. According to the rest of the family the rest of the soaps were a hit as well. We set the Coconut Lemongrass bar by the sink, and John Allen, just today, said to give the soap two thumbs up. If my thirteen year old son likes it, it's got to be good!
Now for the Shampoo Bar. I was a bit skeptical of this one. Some of the other members of the crew received their packages before I received mine, and their was quite a lively discussion about the Shampoo Bar on the crew forum. Most liked it, and said that even their husbands used it. That piqued my curiosity, and I was anxious to get the package. I was not disappointed. The letter claimed that all you had to do was wet your hair, rub the bar over it a couple of times, and "you'll have lather clear to your toenails". And, they were right. It did lather well, and got my hair just as clean as using shampoos with a bunch of additives that aren't needed. The Virginia Soaps and Scents site says that their shampoo bars are made with "no added color - only a light oil-based fragrance or no fragrance at all." They also claim that, depending on your type of hair, you may not have to use conditioner anymore after using their Shampoo Bar. John Allen tried it out and gave it two thumbs up as well. He's really getting into this homeschool review stuff !
Finally, the Laundry Soap. We were sent a kit that made half of a gallon of the liquid soap. Their normal kit, however, makes two gallons. The boys and I had a blast making it. It came with simple instructions and you use everyday pots, spoons and buckets to make it in. The final product is heavier than most laundry detergents, and finally thickens into a gel like substance. But, the litmus test was whether it got our laundry clean or not. I tried it with a bunch of towels first. I measured the required 1/2 cup in the washer, and put the towels in. Sure enough, the towels came out clean and fresh. It was also unscented which made it excellent for our boys who, as I mentioned, have sensitive skin. And, once again, we gave this one two thumbs up.
Wow, three out of three isn't bad! Virginia Soaps and Scents is a hit in our book. And their prices are a hit with us as well. Their 4.5 oz. soap bars sell for $4.50 a bar, 3 for $12.00, or 10 for $35.00. They also have a special - buy 4 bars and get one free. Their larger 5.5 oz Shampoo Bar sells for $5.50 for one or two for $10.00. According to their letter, each bar should give you as many washes as a regular 32oz bottle of shampoo. Finally, their Laundry Soap kits sell for $4.95 or six kits for $25.00. The website says that "you should get 64-72 loads for less than seven cents per load."
Please check out their website for these and many other products. You can find it by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. You can also check out what the other TOS Homeschool Crew is saying about this product by clicking here. And, finally, as the Virginia Soap and Scents Website so aptly puts it "Happy Lathering"!