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Monday, 9 November 2009
American Heritage - A Great Curriculum at a Great Price!
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

I have mentioned before how much I love history and teaching history. I must admit, however, that when I saw that we would be receiving the American Heritage CD: America's Heritage: An Adventure In Liberty, I was not excited. I had already downloaded their curriculum years ago, and couldn't recall getting a lot out of it. In fact, I never used it. But, I gave it the old college try and, when, as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free CD from American Heritage to try out and review on my blog. I opened it, previewed it once again and really liked it. I was thinking about something for Joshua, but after looking it over, decided that it was something that John Allen might actually benefit from. Especially since he is studying American History right now.

According to the CD America's Heritage: An Adventure In Liberty was:

Developed and provided by:
The Houston Independent School District
in cooperation with
The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation
The American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc.

They go on to say that:

Teachers are provided these resources as a supplement to school resources as they
deliver instruction focused on developing an understanding and teaching of our
nation's factual and philosophical heritage to promote Freedom, Unity, Progress, and
among our students and citizens. (Emphasis mine)

The American Heritage curriculum focuses on our American history by dividing historical events into four themes which I emphasized above - Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility. They teach these themes by using games, puzzles, and, factual historical documents. The topics are divided by age level. The Elementary Edition is for grades k-5, the Middle School Edition is for grades 6-8, and the High School Edition is written for grades 9-12. There are some overlapping topics and some topics that are unique to the age group. Some of the elementary topics include:

  • 1776 - The Declaration of Independence - Theme:Freedom
  • 1782 - The Great Seal - Theme:Unity
  • 1864 - The National Motto - Theme:Progress

The middle school topics include:

  • 1776 - Lives, Fortunes, Sacred Honor - Theme:Freedom
  • 1791 - Bill of Rights: Rights and Responsibilities - Theme:Responsibility
  • 1776-1791 - Our National Documents - Theme:Progress

Included in the high school topics are:

  • 1622 - The Mayflower Compact - Theme:Responsibility
  • 1794 - Entrepreneurs in History - Theme:Progress
  • 1998 - Religious Expression in Public Schools - Theme:Unity
  • 2000 - What is an American? - Theme:Responsibility

So much of history today is what is called "revisionist history". It is rewritten to fit the needs of a specific people group, or of a certain philosophical group. Things are added or taken out in the name of "political correctness". I really like the fact that this curriculum doesn't water down what our country was founded on. The authors weren't afraid to mention that our founder's religious beliefs were behind much of the decisions that they made. Don't let the fact that this curriculum was written for a public school system fool you. This is no typical public school curriculum. It is very diplomatic in it's teaching, but overall tells it like it is. It is great for homeschooling, and I could see a public school parent using this to supplement what their child is learning in school. I'm definitely going to continue using it with my kids.

America's Heritage: An Adventure In Liberty is very well laid out and written in an easy to use way. And, everything is included on the CD's but the pencils! All you have to do is download and print out what you need for the day. But, do you want to know what the really, really neat thing is about this curriculum? It is totally FREE!  Yes, I said free!!!. Their website claims that the curriculum would sell for $150 but they are able to provide it for free because of donations and grants. All you have to do is go to the website to download the entire curriculum. If you would rather have the CD version, they will send that to you totally free as well! Or, you can order the printed binder editions for $19.50 per level. What could be better than that? What have you got to lose? Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above to go to the American Heritage website. If you are still not sure, then click here to find out what the other TOS Homeschool Crew members are saying about this curriculum.


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Posted by tink38570 at 11:10 PM CST
Updated: Monday, 9 November 2009 11:56 PM CST
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Sunday, 8 November 2009
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 receiving  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.  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!?!

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Posted by tink38570 at 4:09 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 8 November 2009 6:56 PM CST
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Friday, 6 November 2009
Bright Ideas Press - Hands-On Geography
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

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.


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Posted by tink38570 at 11:17 PM CST
Updated: Friday, 6 November 2009 11:23 PM CST
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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 Wink).

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! 

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Posted by tink38570 at 9:52 PM CST
Updated: Friday, 6 November 2009 10:29 PM CST
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Tuesday, 3 November 2009
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:

The Laughter

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...

The Tears

...my laptop crashed Frown! 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!   


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Posted by tink38570 at 12:51 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 3 November 2009 10:57 AM CST
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