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Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Mad Dog Math - The Soap Opera Continues
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


When we last left our two lovely homeschool mom's, Marge and Babs, Babs had introduced Marge to the world of unit studies. This time it is Babs that is having some homeschool problems with her son Jimmie and it is Marge who is doling out the advice. Let's listen in on their conversation.

Scene One - Exasperated Homeschool Mom - Visiting Her Next Door Neighbor


Marge (Answering door) ~ Uh Oh! I've seen that look in your eyes before. What's going on?

Babs (Storming past Marge in the kitchen) ~ Honey, I need coffee and I need it now!

Marge ~ Get yourself a cup and sit down and tell me all about it.

Babs ~ It's Jimmie again! I'm about to wring his little neck!

Marge ~ Has he been tying Sandy's shoe-laces together again?

Babs ~ No! It's worse!

Marge ~ WORSE! What's the cute little fella done this time.

Babs ~ It's what he hasn't done. He hasn't learned his time's tables. We have been working on those things all year long. I've tried everything...flashcards, drills, number games...you name it I've tried it! I don't know what to do! Honey, It's driving me crazy!

Marge ~ I heard about something just the other day that was supposed to help kids with their math facts. Now where was it that I read that? Oh, now I remember, it was on that blog Families Again. Oh, I just love that blog. And that author, Tim Tinkel, is cute...yep he is caaayute! I've seen his picture. I'm telling you if I weren't already married I would go after him in a heartbe...

Babs ~ Earth to Marge, earth to Marge...your running out of oxygen again! Now quit babbling about this Tim Winkel...Dinkel...or whatever his name is and get to the point!

Marge ~ It's "Tinkel", and he's part of the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Babs ~ I told you to quit babbling! What in the world is the TOS Homeschool Crew?

Marge ~ Babs, Babs, Babs! You don't know what the TOS Homeschool Crew is? You mean to tell me that we have been buying the great TOS products and we get The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and you don't know what the TOS Homeschool Crew is? I am shocked! The TOS Homeschool Crew is a group of homeschooling parents like you and me. They get homeschool products to try out and review on their blogs. Tim Tinkel has been the only man on the crew for the past couple of years and let me tell you he is a hunk!

Babs ~ Okay, honey, he's cute, I get it, but what has that got to do with Jimmie's time's table problem?

Marge ~ Well "the crew", that's what they call it, "the crew". Anyway, the crew just reviewed a product called "Mad Dog Math". It's kind of like the old timed math drills that we used to do in class as kids, only this is a download that you use on your computer.

Babs ~ Oh, honey, I've tried those computer things with Jimmie before and they don't work. Besides, how do you know we can trust this TOS team or group or whatever you call them?

Marge ~ Oh, PUHLEEZE, Babs. Remember, this is TOS - The Old Schoolhouse! Have they ever led us astray before? The crew always has a bunch of homeschoolers reviewing each item. Let's go to the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog and see what they have to say about Mad Dog Math.

*One hour later*

Babs ~ Wow, those reviewers really know their stuff. And, you were right about that Tim Tinkel fella. He had some great things to say about how it helped his son with addition and subtraction. I think I'm going to get the one year license download for $19.99. When I first heard about it, I thought it was going to be expensive, but that is cheap!

Marge ~ Yep, it's worth a try. I'm going to get it for little Penny to practice her addition and subtraction. We'll see if Mad Dog Math is all that the crew says it is.

Mad Dog Math 

Scene Two - Two Weeks Later - Exuberant Homeschoool Mom - Visiting Her Next Door Neighbor


Marge (answering door) ~ Well, you sure look a lot calmer today than you did a couple of weeks ago. Why the change?

Babs ~ It's that Mad Dog Math! I can't believe it, but Jimmie is actually learning his time's tables! It's amazing.

Marge ~ I know. I was just about to call you about that. Penny loves the addition/subtraction part. She always laughs when the little dog barks at the beginning. So, what do you think? What's you favorite part?

Babs ~ I love how they keep track of how Jimmie is doing and tell us when he's ready to advance to a new worksheet. They tell us exactly what worksheet to do next. They just keep getting a little harder and keep adding a few new things. The neat thing about it is it's so gradual that Jimmie doesn't even know what's happening.

Marge ~ Oh, I know. Aren't they sneaky. And I really like how they keep challenging the kids. After they get done mastering all the worksheets of 20 addition or subtraction problems in 2 minutes, they go back and do the worksheets again but this time in 1 minute. Eventually they go back and do them another time to see if they can do them all correctly in 30 seconds. Woo! Makes me tired just thinking about it. Penny will surely know her addition and subtraction when she gets done with this!

Babs ~ Well with the multiplication and division it's 24 problems in 2 minutes. And have you taken a look at the different levels. After your Penny gets done with just finding the sums, she's going to have to do worksheets where she has to find the missing addend! I sure wish I would have had Mad Dog Math when I was younger. I still add on my fingers!

Marge ~ Oh my, I didn't see the addend thing!

Babs ~ Well, honey, did you see the Challenge Level that they have at the end? It has addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all on one sheet. And it's not just finding the answers, sometimes the answers are provided and there are missing numbers that they have to find! My little fingers don't work that fast. I'm thinking about going through all of the levels myself.

Marge ~ I was thinking the same thing. I think it's so neat when they get a club sticker. Penny was so excited when she completed all of the worksheets in 2 minutes and became a member of the 2 minute club! Now she can't wait to become a member of the 1 minute club. Those club stickers are sure good motivators.

Babs ~ Honey, I'm so sold on this that I'm forgetting the $19.99 for the one year license and the $29.99 for the two year license. I'm going straight to the $39.99 for the perpetual license. Then I'll have it forever and all the kids can use it when they are ready.

Marge ~ Yep, that's exactly what I was going to do. Which reminds me. I have a friend that doesn't have a computer. Don't they sell Mad Dog Math in a notebook form just like the worksheets that we used to use.

Babs ~ I think they do. Let's look on the Mad Dog Math website. Do you have the web address?

Marge ~ I think I marked it as one of my favorites...let me see...yep, it's http://www.maddogmath.com/index.html . It's right next to the address to the crew blog entry that has all of the Mad Dog Math reviews - http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/783984/. I remember that one because Ida Brubaker was interested in it the other day. Speaking of which, you know that she is on the ladies aide society at church. Can you believe what they want to do with the sanctuary?!? Oh and listen Babs...

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I, the hunk, Tim Tinkel, was given a free download of Mad Dog Math in order to try out and review on my blog.


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Posted by tink38570 at 10:56 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 19 May 2011 11:57 PM CDT
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Monday, 16 May 2011
Wonder Maps - Will Joshua Become a Geography Whiz?
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

Most of you know that our middle child Joshua has Asperger's Syndrome which is on the autism spectrum. Many people call aspergers kids "Mini-Professors" because those kids grasp on to topics and almost become obsessed by them. They learn everything they can about them. Joshua's first obsession was Thomas the Train. He learned everything he could about that great video/book series. That progressed to trains in general, then to helicopters. Before he could even read he could look at a helicopter and tell you right away what kind it was and all about it. The past year or so it's been football and professional wrestling (yes I said professional wrestling - that's a story for another post Smiley). Recently, however, he has been entranced with geography, and I have to give some of the credit to Wonder Maps.

What are Wonder Maps? Well, sit down and let me tell you. I say sit down because I don't want any of you falling over in amazement at this totally awesome resource. Let me start by asking you a few questions (well maybe a little more than a few):

Do you ever find it hard to find good reliable maps for you homeschool use?

Do you ever wish that you could pick and choose what was listed on your maps instead of relying on just what was there?

Do you find it hard to find unlabeled maps for the use of your students?

Do you ever wish that you could see exactly where in the world things happened in Bible times?

What about during the Middle Ages?

What about during the Revolutionary War or the Civil War or World War I or World War II or...?

Did you ever wish that you could turn off all of the colorful stuff on a map and make it black and white so that you could see it more clearly?

Well, wish and want no more because Wonder Maps is here!

Wonder Maps was developed by Bright Ideas Press, the great people who put out The Mystery of History and that fantastic book that I reviewed last year, Hands on Geography. And it does all of the things that I mentioned above and more.



Wonder Maps uses this great thing called layers. You just bring up the maps that you want and you can pick and choose what you want to see. Don't want to see the river names? Just click a button and they are gone. Don't want to see the rivers? Click another button and they are gone as well. Don't like all of the terrain stuff? Poof...it's gone? Want a black and white map with just the borders so that you can test your kids? You got it! What ever you want you can print out with just a few clicks of your mouse! 

And that's just the geography stuff! I haven't even gotten in to the historical maps yet. They have maps for everything. Ever wondered where Abraham really walked? Doing a study on Ruth and Naomi and want to know where exactly Moab was and how far they had to travel? Want to know what modern day countries you would have to visit to see where Paul stopped on his missionary journeys? You can do all of those things with the Bible Map section.


In fact, you can do similar things with all historical eras. Just click a few buttons and there they are. You can turn on and off features that you want or don't want with the historical map section as well. For example - if you were doing a study of the Revolutionary war and wanted to test you child on the names of all of the battles, you could print out a map with the locations marked but not labeled.

You could print out any of those things with Wonder Maps...or...nothing at all. Which brings me back to Joshua. He loves to just get on Wonder Maps and explore. Just the other day he said, "Hey Dad, I see where Marcelo lives!" Marcelo is our Compassion International son from Bolivia. He even asks to get on Wonder Maps just to play. Hey, anything educational that my children asks to get on has got to be good! I'm hoping that this will catch on and he will become a geography/history whiz just like he's a helicopter and...yes...a professional wrestling expert. Smiley

Okay, enough about Joshua! I want to talk about me (isn't that a country song?). Anyway, if you are map challenged like I am, you may wonder what in the world you would do with all of this stuff. How do you really fit it in to your program. Well, if you use one of the Bright Ideas Press history programs, there is a special button for you to push and all of the recommended maps that come with that program are ready for you to call up and print out. No more trying to bend the spine of your Mystery of History book or All American History book to try to copy the maps.


But, say you use another curriculum, or maybe no curriculum at all. Well, Wonder Maps has everything - even a Teacher's Guide! It contains gobs of information like audio and visual downloads of great ways to use these maps and learn to love geography. There are also some great articles that will inspire you like "How to make a salt-dough map", and "Fifty bright ideas for using outline maps". I have had a blast just looking through them and getting excited about how I can teach geography with stickers, current events, and even by following the schedule of my favorite sports team! Really neat ideas.

You may think that a resource like this must cost up toward $100 or more. I mean, after all, a good world atlas at the book store would cost $60, $70 or more and you can do much more with Wonder Maps. Think again! The Wonder Map CD is only $49.95. The only thing you need is Adobe Reader v9.1 or greater and you can download that for free. Check out Wonder Maps by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. Also check out what other TOS Crew Members have said about this great product by clicking here. Happy Home Educating!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free download of Wonder Maps (sold on CD, not available for retail as a download) in order to try out and review on this blog.

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Posted by tink38570 at 7:25 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 May 2011 1:13 AM CDT
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Thursday, 12 May 2011
EIW - Excellence in Writing
Mood:  happy
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

One of the beefs that I have always had about my school days is that I never was taught how to write well. It doesn't matter what type of writing, there was no instruction on writing research papers, short stories...nothing. I only remember one teacher teaching us anything about writing, and that was about writing poetry. Perhaps each teacher thought that good writing techniques should have been taught in previous grades. Maybe it was but I just didn't catch on. It wasn't until college that I finally learned how to write a research paper. I don't recall ever getting any instruction on writing short stories. I've just picked things up here and there.

That's why I was so thrilled when John Allen and I were selected to review the Excellence In Writing (EIW) Student Writing Intensive Level B. I had seen it before but really didn't know much about it. I just knew that it was supposed to be an excellent writing program. I didn't realize just how complete it is or how impressed I would be.

In this 15 lesson/30 week course your student begins by learning how to write a good paragraph, moves to writing a story, then on to the correct way to write a report and finally about creative writing. These are all things that I wish I would have learned in high school but John Allen is learning them in middle school!

And the way Andrew Pudewa teaches it in such a neat way. Who is Andrew Pudewa? Oops! I'm so excited about this curriculum that I'm getting way ahead of myself. Andrew Pudewa is the author of this program. Along with all of the notes, worksheets, lesson plans, charts, etc. that you need (well over a hundred pages) you get a great three ring binder and four DVDs. The four DVDs contain the teaching of the 15 lessons. Don't think, however, that these writing lessons must be totally boring. If you do, you'll be totally wrong!

As I said, each session is taught in a really neat way. Andrew Pudewa is a very entertaining teacher. Each lesson is filmed in front of a classroom of students, so it is an actual teaching session. Everything is taught step by step from the very basics up. You start out by learning what makes up a good paragraph by reading good paragraphs. You learn how to make key work outlines and learn the rights and wrongs of writing a good sentence/paragraph/story.

Have you ever heard of a "who/which clause"? It's a way to "Dress-up" your paragraph to make it look and sound better. You'll learn about a lot of "Dress-ups". Things like using "-ly words" and "adverbial clauses".

You'll also learn about "banned words" - not naughty words Surprised, but words that are best left out of a paragraph and replaced with more interesting and catchy words. Don't you just hate stories that say "he said" and "she said" over and over again? Isn't it more fun to hear "he exclaimed" or "she whispered"? It is more interesting to read, and it sets the tone of what is happening in the story. Can you tell that the word "said" is one of the banned words? There are quite a few banned words and you learn about all of them and you'll learn about better words to use in their place.

Do you know what an "Overlapping Topic" is or how to "Fuse an Outline"? You'll learn all about those things in the report writing unit.

I could go on and on about the different things that you will learn, but this review would soon get to be very long and I'm sure I'll be breaking one of Andrew Pudewa's rules! Let's just suffice it to say that this course is very thorough.

Nevertheless, although this is a full course, the materials are very easy to use and very well laid out. On the first day of a lesson you always watch the video of that lesson. As I said before, the teacher is very entertaining and you never know what he's going to come up with next. Then, for the next two weeks, you simply practice what was taught in that lesson. Each day is very manageable. The longest day is almost always the first day of the lesson. Some of the video's can be up to an hour long. The lessons are very flexible as well. If your child is taking a lot of time to complete each days work, stretch it out. If they are breezing through it in no time at all, double up on some lessons.

And, don't worry, the parent/teacher's part is very easy. Everything is scheduled and explained in an easy way. You can almost just look and see what the student is supposed to do that day, tell him what to do, and hand him the materials. The video's do all of the teaching. If you aren't a writing whiz, you can sit and watch the video with your student (or watch it ahead of time). If you still have problems, there is a plethora of online helps on the EIW website. There are yahoo groups that you can join and even a whole separate Teaching Writing: Structure and Style course that you can purchase. I didn't review the Teaching Writing materials, so I don't know quite what is in them, but some of the crew members did. Check out the link to the other crew member reviews below.

Let me just tell you - we have regular curriculum that we use in our everyday homeschool.  It's tried and true curriculum that we have researched and used over the years. For the most part it is curriculum that we are comfortable with and is a good fit for our family. I've reviewed a lot of things the past two years  with the TOS Homeschool Crew. A few items just have not been a good fit for our family, but overall we have enjoyed or at least tolerated the things we have used. Some we have used for the review period and that is it. Others we have used for a little while after the review has been written, but eventually they got shelved as well. The benchmark in the Tinkel household is whether or not a review item finds it's way on to our everyday/year round curriculum list. That has only happened a few times and when it has, you can tell that it is a good item and is a keeper. EIW's Student Writing Intensive curriculum is a keeper. We like it so much, that we are going to continue on with it.

So, how much does all of this cost? Well, there are Student Writing Intensive courses for all ages - Course A is for 3-5 grades, Course B (the one we used) is for 6-8 grades, and Course C is for 9-12 grades. Each course is just $99. We also received a "Portable Wall" that corresponds with the level B course. It's a tri-fold wall that your student can use to block off distractions. It has many of the hints and lists printed right on it that the student uses in his everyday writing. This valuable tool is sold separately for $7. EIW also has other courses such as a k-2 writing course and an Excellence in Spelling course. You can check out their website by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. As I mentioned, other TOS Homeschool Crew members have reviewed this item and other items and you can check those out by clicking here.

Happy Home Educating!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received EIW's Student Writing Intensive Level B and the corresponding Portable Wall for free in order to use and review on my blog.



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Posted by tink38570 at 4:32 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, 14 May 2011 12:32 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 11 May 2011
The Boy and His Father - A Mother's Day Story
Mood:  happy
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

The father and his son sat together in the shade, leaning against the trunk of the old oak tree. It had been a hard day. They were both tired from working in their large garden and doing yard work. The air was sweet with the smell of springtime honeysuckle and roses - especially the smell of roses.

The yard was full of rose bushes. they were tucked between the azaleas and the hostas. Planted beside the clematis and the iris. There were seventeen to be exact. Nine that his dear mother had planted. Father would buy her one every Mother's Day. The other eight were the ones that father silently picked out and planted on each Mother's Day since she died.

The boy glanced over at the newest rose bush planted just days before. It was a pink variety that he knew that his mother would have loved. He didn't remember much of his mother. She passed away when he was only four years old. His father talked of her very little so the things that he did recall he clung to like a rare treasure. Still they were becoming foggy in his mind.

In the dimness of his memory was the picture of a kind but strong woman. She was full of life and vitality. Always doing for others, but never too busy to love and cherish her own family.

The boy also remembered the day of the accident. He recalled the last time that she hugged him and kissed him. His thoughts turned to the knock on the door and his father's rushing out while the kindly neighbor woman enveloped him in her arms and took him to her house to spend the night. The days that followed were a blur. His father's grieving - the confusion of a young boy who realizes that his mother is never coming back. Those were dark days.

The days had changed however. His father was always a cheerful man who loved living and loved his family. Although things were different, the father soon threw off the appearance of sadness and acted his cheerful self again. The father loved his son and wanted the best for him. He knew a sad home was no place to raise a young boy. So, with the Lord's help, he determined to make their home a happy home. And he did. The boy and his father were extremely happy and loved each other immensely. Still, occasionally, the boy could see a small wisp of sadness in his father's eyes. He knew that at those times Father was thinking about Mother. Those looks became more frequent in the spring when the roses were blooming and especially around Mother's Day when it was time to plant another bush.

The boy glanced at his father. Fathers eyes were pointed toward a beautiful orange rose bush but his mind was far away.

"Should I?" the boy thought. "Is now the time?"

The boy had always longed to know more about his mother, but lately he was yearning to know more about mothers in general. For most of his life he'd had no mother. What were they like? He watched his friend's mothers and how they reacted to their sons. It always seemed to him that a mother's and son's relationship was a special one. He loved his father deeply and never wanted to hurt him, but their relationship was not the same. His face reddened slightly as he thought about the kindly neighbor lady who tried so hard to give him some motherly affection. His lips curved up slightly as he thought about the embarrassing pecks that she would plant on his cheeks and the sudden hugs that she would give him. He knew what she was doing and loved her for it. Still, she was not his mother. She had her own brood to care for and to give her motherly love to. What was a mother truly like?

"Father," he suddenly blurted, "What is a mother like?"

Father's eyes came back to life and he glanced at his son.

"Mmmm? Your mother?" he said. "Oh she had soft brown hair and your beautiful green eyes..."

"No, Father." interrupted the boy. "Not my mother, but...you know...mothers. What are mothers like? What is it like to have a mother?"

"I mean," stammered the boy as he stumbled for words after his sudden outburst, "We just celebrated Mother's Day and I don't even really know what a mother is. Oh father, I don't want to hurt you, but..."

The father didn't have a harsh bone in his body, but somehow his face softened even more than usual.

"Oh my son," he exclaimed as he wrapped his boy in his arms. "It is I that have hurt you. I have tried to be everything to you but in doing so I have failed to teach you about a mother's love."

They sat there in silence for a few minutes and then his father unwrapped his arms, smiled and said in a matter-fact-tone, "But, it is not too late!"

He leaned back against the tree. "How do you teach a boy about mothers?" he mused as he plucked a long blade of grass and stuck the end into his mouth.

He thought for a moment and then suddenly jumped up and exclaimed, "I've got just the thing! Come with me."

He scurried into the house as if on a mission with his boy hurrying behind him. "Now where did I put that?" he mumbled. "Aha! Here it is it. I got this just the other day."


He showed the boy a postcard advertising a special Download-N-Go unit study by Amanda Bennett about Mother's Day.

"I almost threw this away but something told me to put it aside. Now I know it was the Lord convincing me to hang on to it. This will be just the thing to begin our study of what mother's are all about."

"Look at this!" He said as he began typing in the web address on the computer, "Look at all of the things this Unit Study includes. It not only talks about Mother's Day and how it is celebrated here and all around the world, but it also talks about mother's in the Bible. What a perfect way to find what a mother is like."

"Look at the things you'll be learning about each day!" Father said as he showed his son this table of contents:

  • Day 1: What Is Mother's Day?
  • Day 2: The History of Mother's Day
  • Day 3: Celebrating Mother's Day
  • Day 4: Preparing for Mother's Day
  • Day 5: Goodies for Mother's Day

"And there is even a lapbook for you to work on each day," exclaimed the father. "This will be perfect for this week's homeschool. We'll do it together."


And so they did. They had a wonderful time watching the special videos and listening to the songs. They worked on the worksheets together and enjoyed completing the lapbook. Each day they found how Mother's Day is celebrated in a different country and each day they read about a different Biblical mother and what the Bible has to say about mothers. As the week went on, the boy began to understand what a Godly mother was but, as each day passed, the boy became sadder.

The father noticed the change in his boy's demeanor but didn't know quite what was wrong. Finally, on Friday, while they were watching one of the final videos, the boy could stand it no longer. Before the movie was even finished he jumped up and ran from the house. Father found him beneath the same oak tree where they were sitting a few days earlier. The boy was sobbing uncontrollably.

The father put his arm around his son and held him close. He waited patiently for the lad to calm down enough to talk.

"What is it my boy?" he asked softly. "What is troubling you?"

"Oh Father," exclaimed the boy as he fought back another round of tears. "I have enjoyed learning about mothers so much...but...each day the unit study talked about different things that we could do for our mother." "But, " he hesitated and hung his head, "I have no mother." And with that a fresh stream of tears began to trickle down his cheeks.

"My son," said the kind father. "Did we not learn about Ruth and Naomi in our studies this week? Ruth loved Naomi and left her own country to travel with Naomi back to the land that she had come from. Do you remember why she did it? She did it because Naomi was kind to her. She treated her as if she was her own daughter. She was the Godly mother that Ruth had never had."

As the boy listened he stopped crying and looked into his father's face with an inquisitive look.

"Son," continued the father, "You may not have a biological mother here on earth, but you do have mothers. Mothers that are kind to you and that love you. Think of your Sunday School teacher who always has a kind word for you and congratulates you when she hears of your accomplishments. What about old Mrs. Jenkins who always bakes two pies or two batches of cookies ~ one for herself, and the other to be sent home to us? And then, don't forget the kind lady who lives next door. She has five children of her own, but never seems to run out of hugs and kisses for you whenever you are around. They have already shown you what being a true, Godly mother is all about. They are your mothers."

The boy sat and thought and then, suddenly, his face brightened.

"I can't be sitting around here any more, I have work to do." he exclaimed as he jumped up.

"Where are you going son?"

"I'm getting ready for Mother's Day. I know that the holiday is over, but shouldn't mother's be celebrated more than just one day a year? I'm going to honor my mothers today!"

And so he did. He used the ideas from the unit study. He made a special Mother's Day card for his Sunday School teacher. He baked some heart shaped cookies for old Mrs. Jenkins. He lovingly made a Mother's Day craft for the kind lady next door.

That evening his father helped him deliver his gifts. The boy sat with each recipient and thanked them for "adopting" him and being the mother that he didn't have. It never failed that as the boy and his father left, there were tears in the recipients eyes.

As they arrived home and the father was passing the kitchen table he noticed one more wrapped package sitting upon it.

"Son," he called, "Did we forget to deliver one."

Unbeknownst to him, the boy had silently entered the room behind him.

"No," said the boy softly as he picked up the gift, "This one is for you. You see Father, all of those dear ladies have been Godly examples of what a mother should be, but since Mother died, you have been both my mother and father. You are the one most deserving of my love on this special day."

The father carefully unwrapped the gift. Within the paper was the lapbook and the workbook pages he had completed in the past week's study on mothers.  Many of the pages had asked the student to describe different aspects of their mother. For some reason those pages caught the father's eye more than the others. Suddenly he realized why. On each one of those pages his son had not written about his mother at all, but about him. As the father closed the book, he noticed that on the front was a beautifully drawn picture. It was of a rose bush.

Now it was his turn to cry while his son placed his arms around him.

That night, as the boy lay in his bed, it dawned on him that he finally knew what a mother was. And, somehow, the memories of his real mother became all the more clear to him again.

This story/review is lovingly dedicated to my mother, Dorothy Rose Tinkel ~ who left this earth on February 14, 2011 to spend eternity with her Heavenly Father and to spend Valentine's Day with my father, the love of her life for over 50 years.

And, this story/review is also lovingly dedicated to my wife, Sarah Tinkel ~ who loves rose bushes and, yes, receives one every Mother's Day. Princess, may we have over 50 years of loving memories just as my parents did.

As a member of the Download ~ N ~ Go review team, I received a free download of the Download ~ N ~ Go unit study "Mother's Day" in order to use and review on my blog.

This unit study normally sells for $7.95. Although it is written for students in grades k-4, it and all of the Download-N-Go unit studies are easily adaptable for all ages. To find out more about this unit study or any of Amanda Bennett's other unit studies please visit one of the following links below.






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Posted by tink38570 at 3:27 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 12 May 2011 1:24 AM CDT
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Friday, 6 May 2011
Andi's Fair Surprise - Joshua's First Chapter Book!
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


Last year I (actually John Allen Laughing) had the great privilege of reviewing a book from Susan Marlow's Andrea Carter Series. The Trouble With Treasure was a joy to read and I (actually John Allen Laughing) heartily recommended it to "young readers and old readers alike". 

The Andrea Carter Series is geared toward children ages 9-14. I was quite pleased to find out that Susan Marlow has begun a series for kids aged 6-8 called the "Circle C Beginnings" Series. It also features Andrea Carter but in this series "Andi" is just 6 years old and her horse "Taffy" is just a baby.

This time around I had my middle child, Joshua, read the book that we received - "Andi's Fair Surprise". I have wanted for a long time for Joshua to do more independent reading. This beginning chapter book seemed like the excellent place to start. Joshua had never read a chapter book before, so it was a challenge to get him started. After I assured him that I would only have him read a chapter a day, and that the chapters were actually shorter than most of the stories that he was reading, he reluctantly picked the book up to start reading.

He wasn't reluctant for long, however! The very first day he was asking me if he could read a little of the next chapter because he wanted to see what happened next. I was thrilled. Within only a few days he had read through the entire book! He loved it and I loved seeing him love it.


In Andi's Fair Surprise, Andi and her family are going to take a train trip to the California State Fair. Everyone seems to be planning on winning a prize. Andi desperately wants to win a prize too, but how can a little six year old girl win something at a large state fair? You'll have to buy the book to find out!

Now, after John Allen read the book from the older series, I had him write a short review and I included it in my big review. Joshua isn't quite at the stage where he can write a review, but I asked him what he thought about the book and here are some of the things that he said:

"It was really exciting."

"I liked the part where Andi won ..." (I'm not going to spoil the story Laughing).

"Dad, can we buy the rest of the series?"

As you can see, he was really impressed with this book. I was impressed as well. Just like the older series, this book is filled with adventure, surprises and twists. It's also filled with heart warming life lessons that Andi learns and in turn the reader learns.

Okay, I'm going to admit one of my faults. As full time missionaries with an active family, we are often on the road. Many times I will just throw a couple of homeschool books for the kids to read or work on while we travel. After all, that's one of the many beauties of homeschooling. Well, it seems that in our hustle and bustle I lost the letter that came with this book. I remember getting the letter. I even remember reading the letter. I just don't remember what was in the letter! It seems that it had links to some "extras" that we could use while reading this book. I didn't find out about the extras until just within the past couple of weeks - thankfully, not long after Joshua finished the book.

When I began looking at the extras I was thrilled and so was Joshua. Susan Marlow has created some great activities, coloring pages, puzzles, even lap-books for each one of the Circle C Beginnings Series. Many of them are free! I printed out the activity pages and the coloring pages and gave them to Joshua. He has had a blast coloring the pictures, and the author has done a great job at making the activity sheets exciting and fun, but educational as well. She has tucked in vocabulary, spelling, geography and even math in the activity packet. The online puzzles are a lot of fun as well. We haven't tried the inexpensive lap-books yet, but they could very well be included with my purchase of the books that they go along with.


This book is published by Kregel. I've now had the pleasure of reviewing three books from this company and have not been disappointed at all. Kregel is dedicated to publishing good, wholesome, family books. I have never found anything objectionable in anything that I have read from them.

The books in the Circle C Beginnings Series are only $4.99 each, however Kregel is offering a 30% discount from now until August 31. To find our more about these books and the discount just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. There are presently four in the series with two more coming out at the beginning of August. The special activity pages and puzzles are on a special Andi and Taffy website and you can find them by clicking here. Finally, different TOS Crew members reviewed different books from the Circle C Beginnings Series and you can find what they had to say by clicking here.

These books would be great for summer reading or for any free time reading. You won't be disappointed. Happy Home Educating!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent a free copy of Andi's Fair Surprise in order to read and review on this blog.


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Posted by tink38570 at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, 6 May 2011 8:59 PM CDT
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