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Sunday, 6 November 2011
Hey Mikey! He Likes It!
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


Some of you smiled when you read the title of this post. Others of you have no idea what in the world I'm talking about. Here's a little help to you unknowledgeable ones.

I don't know that we have a "Mikey that hates everything" in our house, but whenever a product comes along that my children really like, it makes me stand up and take notice. Ooka Island is one of those products.

With all of the review items that John Allen and Joshua have been getting lately, poor Jacob has been left out. Well, this game was made just for him. Since Jacob is five years old now, we decided to begin doing more formal school work with him. We found a curriculum that we thought would fit him to a "T" at the homeschool convention last spring. Sarah looked it over carefully and liked it better than what we had used with Joshua, so at the beginning of the school year she was excited about teaching him. Unfortunately, he was just not ready for it yet. Maybe we'll try again in January. However, when Ooka Island came around he took to it right away.


He loves that it's a computer "game" that he can play just like his big brothers do. After an easy sign-in process, where the child is given a special picture that is his "password" for the game, you are ready to play. The characters, from things that look like pigs...to robots...to elves...to real people...all are really appealing to him. And, the way the game is set up, you can see the different areas of the island on your 3-D map. It's very tempting to jump around and try something new, but the program won't let you. It's set to only allow a child to move ahead whenever he is ready. Since Ooka Island was developed for children that are emergent readers to second grade, the game automatically adjusts to where the child is. It's really a very controlled but fun game. Watch this clip and I think you'll see why he likes it so much.

It's really hard to tell you what all Jacob has accomplished because he likes this game so much that the little bugger has snuck the laptop to go play when I haven't been around. So, I can only give you a brief synopsis of what I have seen him play, and what he has told me he's played.

Jacob began by traveling through a mine tunnel to listen for a sound. Every time he came to a stop, he heard a sound. If it was the special sound that he heard at the beginning, then he could click the mouse and it would allow him through that gate. If he clicked when the wrong sound was heard, then the game patiently repeated the sound until he heard correctly. All this was done with just the sound. No letter was connected to the sound yet. This was excellent for him because he has a speech problem and this is teaching him to hear the sounds correctly.

Next, they put a letter to the sound. And there are several games that he played to make sure he knew what letter goes with that sound. I've seen him play the magnifying glass game that you saw on the video plus a matching game that he loves.

He has gone through a series of those same games with different sounds and letters. Now, after he completes so many tasks, he gets to unlock a book. The books start out simple - right on the level that he is at - and, as he learns, they become more difficult. The book is read to him or he could (if he were able) to read it himself.

Finally, after he's done reading his unlocked book, he gets to have some free play around the island and have some fun!

When we talked about all of the games that he had played, he mentioned two games that I haven't seen him attempt - the skateboarding game, which he said was a lot of fun, and the cake decorating game. When talking about the cake decorating game he sadly hung his head and said "Dad, I didn't do too well with that one."

Jacob absolutely loves Ooka Island. This is a keeper for us, and I'm sure it will be a keeper for you as well. The only downfall that I found was that it does take a long time to download. But, after downloading we had no problem whatsoever. Although, you download the game onto your computer, in order for the game to know how your child is progressing, you need internet connection. Our DSL connection has worked fine.


Pricing for Ooka Island is also a plus. If you choose to purchase one month at a time, the cost is only $12.95 for one child or $19.95 for up to four children. Six month pricing is $59.95 for one child and $99.95 for up to four children and twelve month pricing is $99.95 for one child or $129.95 for four children. BUT WAIT...if you use the PROMO CODE: LAUNCHSPECIAL30, you will save 30% on a monthly subscription! To find out more about Ooka Island, just click here or on any of the hi-lighted links above. And to find out what other members of the TOS Homeshool Crew has to say just click here. Since this game is wonderful for homeschoolers - it can be used as a complete curriculum - or for non-homeschoolers who just need a little extra help in reading, then I'll close by saying "Happy Home Educating"!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free limited time membership to Ooka Island in order to try out and give my honest review on this blog.

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Posted by tink38570 at 10:39 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 7 November 2011 8:31 PM CST
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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
Reading and Writing but not 'Rithmatic
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


You all know that we are big readers around our house. We read all of the time, and we read almost anything. Thankfully, because of the curriculum we use, John Allen reads a lot of living books. Living books are the books that are usually rich in morals and rich in history. Unfortunately we have not delved into many classics. Last year I had to review a book that suggested a lot of children's classics to read, and that helped a lot. I even began to read some of the great authors myself. Still, with all that we have to do with our regular studies, it's been hard to find time to read some of the classical literature that we should be reading.

Until, this year when we were chosen  to review Janice Campbell's Excellence in Literature English One: Introduction to Literature. Excellence in Literature is a fantastic program where you not only read the classics, but you learn HOW to read the classics. You also learn a better understanding of the classics by writing approach papers, literature summaries, author summaries, and other essays.

We received Excellence in Literature (EIL), English 1: Introduction to Literature and I have many likes and some dislikes regarding EIL. Let me take them one by one beginning with the likes:


I really like how this course is laid out. It is very easy to follow. Really, it's made for a student to do on his own. I haven't been brave enough to do this with John Allen yet, but soon I'll let him loose and just check up on his work as he completes assignments.

Each unit takes about a month (four weeks) do complete. What needs to be accomplished is laid out week by week, but it doesn't say what is to be done each day. This makes the student learn time management. He knows what must be accomplished during that week, so he must divide it into reasonable amounts to do each day. Of course, this is meant to be a high school course. If you chose to do this with an advanced middle school student, he may need some help with managing his time.



I really like the literature that John Allen is going to read this year. Unit One is all short stories including:

"A White Heron" by Sarah Orne Jewett

“The Diamond Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant

“The Ransom of Red Chief” by O’Henry

“The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allen Poe

“A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber

The student is also required to read a short online biography of Sarah Orne Jewett. John Allen's favorites were "The White Heron" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". Such good literature!

For each unit there is also an honors option. For unit one the honors student was required to read short online biographies of each author as well as a second short story, of the student's choice, from each writer.

After unit one, things really get hopping! The students are then required to read good classical novels from great authors. Here's John Allen's list for English One:Introduction to Literature.

Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

I read Jane Eyre a few years ago and, of course, I read Animal Farm. I just got done reading Treasure Island and I'm now reading Around the World in Eighty Days. I can't wait to discuss them with John Allen!


I really like the writing element that this course has. It's only going to make John Allen a better writer. He's already a good writer. More than once I've scolded him because I thought he had copied book reviews from the back of books, only to find out later that he had, indeed, written them himself.

The first approach paper that he wrote for Excellence in Literature English One: Introduction to Literature was no different. I thought he had copied it from someplace. I really need to learn! Of course he hadn't. In EIL the approach papers, summaries, comparisons, etc. will only make him even better. The author makes it so easy with plenty of examples in the back of the book, and recommendations on where a student can find even more help.

I'm not sure that he is looking forward to it, but I'm looking forward to what he is going to produce. He is already working on another writing course, and these compliment each other! It's going to be a lot of fun.

Un -

There are several things that I didn't like about this course. For instance...no, that was that math program last year...Oh! I know...no, that was that history book that I didn't like...Hmmm...I got it!...I knew there was somthing...I didn't like that...no, that was that bologna sandwich that gave me heartburn last night!

You know what? I can't think of anything! There is nothing I can find that I disliked. Nothing! Excellence in Literature English 1 is really an excellent course.

If you think that your student is more advanced then there are four other courses that you can choose from. Here's a complete list of all of the levels complete with links to the Excellence in Literature page for each.


  • English I: Introduction to Literature
  • English II: Literature and Composition
  • English III: American Literature
  • English IV: British Literature
  • English V: World Literature
  • Not only is it an excellent course, but it sells for an excellent price. Each level is only $29 + $4.95 shipping for the physical book, or $27 for the downloadable ebook that you can print out and put in a three ring binder. OR...you can purchase the entire five volume curriculum for $139 + shipping for a bound copy or $135 for the ebook version. For more information on Excellence in Literature just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. Other TOS Homeschool Crew members tried other levels and you can find out what they had to say by clicking here.

    Happy Homeschooling!

    As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free downloadable ebook version of Excellence in Literature's English One: Introduction to Literature to try out and give my honest review on this blog.

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    Posted by tink38570 at 9:59 PM CDT
    Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2011 12:18 AM CDT
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    Thursday, 27 October 2011
    We Interrupt This Programming...
    Mood:  loud
    Topic: Homeschool Product Review

    Alert! Alert! Warning! Warning!

    Do not allow your children to watch the following mentioned video in the car while you are driving!


    I repeat!

    Do not allow your children to watch the following mentioned video in the car while you are driving!

    That's what I did and it was a big mistake! I kept looking in the rear view mirror and almost clicking on my turn signal to pull over.


    What video? The Marshall Publishing "Lots & Lots of Fire Songs & Safety Tips" video, of course! My youngest son, Jacob, had to watch it the day that we got it. Unfortunately, the day that we got it we had to make a trip to the town next to us which is about 20 minutes away. So I foolishly popped it into our van's DVD player. Every time a firetruck siren would sound off on the video, I would be looking into my rear view mirror to see if a firetruck or police car was coming up behind me.

    Jacob faithfully carried around that DVD and the accompanying book - "Lots & Lots of Fire Trucks & Firefighters" - for days on end. That's how much he liked it. Which is really a tribute to Marshall Publishing because Jacob can sometimes be picky!

    I'm also appreciative that Jacob liked it because this 30 min. long DVD is actually comprised of 9 or 10 short clips that present everything from fire safety to how a fire truck is built.

    Jacob loved how "Fireman Joe" talked about the proper way to use 911. He learned the number one rule of fire safety. He saw how to "Stop! Drop! and Roll!". And, he was taught how we, as a family, should make a plan so that we can get out of our house safely if it should catch on fire. Those were just some of the neat things that "Lots & Lots of Fire Songs and Safety Tips" teaches with catchy songs and creative short videos.

    But that's not all! Jacob also learned all about what a fireman does from how he puts on his fireman's gear to how he uses all the equipment. Then he learned why we should appreciate firemen and what they do. Finally he learned how they build fire trucks. This video is creative, fun, and very well done.


    But that's still not all! Along with the DVD, we also received a companion book - "Lots & Lots of Fire Trucks and Firefighters." This large and colorful, paperback book has a lot of pictures and information about firefighters, fire trucks, fire equipment, fire safety, fire facts, fire history, fire museums...you name it! If it's about fire fighting, it's in this book. Jacob (and big brothers, Joshua and John Allen, too) loves looking at the pictures. Some of the things, like fire safety and fire equipment, we talk about as he is looking through the book. Other things, like the "Greatest Fires In History", I'll save until later when he is more emotionally ready to learn about them.

    We love this DVD and book package! And, the price of $29.95 for the DVD/Book set is great. But you don't even have to pay that much! Marshall Publishing is offering a deal just for all of the great TOS Homeschool Crew blog readers. If you enter the code "TOSF1" then you will get $10.00 off of the regular price! Quick! Click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above to get to the Marshall Publishing website. They also have educational videos like the George Washington Carver video that I'm going to review at a later time. But don't wait until my later review. Check the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to see what the other great crew members said about the Carver video and the Firetruck video by clicking here.

    So, after seeing all of the great videos about firefighters and fire safety, and looking at all of the pictures of shiny fire trucks, what was Jacob's absolute favorite thing? Well I was talking to him about that today, and, you know what he said? "I really like the fire helicopters Daddy!" Well, to each his own, I guess. That must comes from his older brother, Joshua's, love of "whirlybirds" since he was even younger than Jacob is now.

    Hey, that reminds me...Marshall Publishing also has a video series called "Lots & Lots of Jets and Planes". I'll bet it'll have something about helicopters on it. And, I think they have something about trains that John Allen would love. Oh, and look at what else they have...!

    Happy Home Educating!

    As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent free copies of Marshall Publishing's "Lots & Lots of Fire Songs & Safety Tips" DVD and "Lots and Lots of Fire Trucks and Firefighters" book in order to use at home and give my honest review on this blog.

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    Posted by tink38570 at 1:28 PM CDT
    Updated: Friday, 28 October 2011 12:25 AM CDT
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    Sunday, 23 October 2011
    Educating the WholeHearted Child
    Mood:  a-ok
    Topic: Homeschool Product Review


    It's funny. This is the forth time that I have reviewed a book for Apologia that I have found the book not necessarily to be read straight through and put down, but to pray through and ask God for guidance as you read. That's the beauty of so many of their books. The book will fit with the Lord's leading. Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson is no different. God may guide you to read it straight through. God may guide you to read it slowly and pray over each section as you read it. God may lead you to jump around and read the sections that He feels you need at specific times. He may just want you to use it as a reference book.

    One thing that I am certain of is this is one of those "must have" books for your home library. Notice I didn't say "homeschooling library". Educating the WholeHearted Child is primarily for homeschoolers, but is really for all families if they care about their children's education. Well, really, it's for all families that just plain old care about their children period.

    I really don't know where to start when writing a review of this book. In the weeks that I have had it, I have barely started to glean from it. It does have a lot of homeschooling things in it, but, it is so much more than a homeschooling book. It is a book that you will go back to time and time again just for Godly direction in raising your children.

    Godly Direction - that's probably the key to what I like about this book so much. It is not full of some persons theories or what they have done that works, it's full of scripture. There is scripture all through the text, and in the margins. Then, there are quotes and statistics from other Christian authors and sources that back up the scriptures that are in the text. Finally, the author gives what he thinks and gives examples from what has worked in his family. You can tell that Clay Clarkson with the help of his wife Sally, has prayed for God's leading in writing this book.


    Educating the WholeHearted Child is divided into four sections:

    1. Section 1: Home
    2. Section 2: Learning
    3. Section 3: Methods
    4. Section 4: Living

    Home - If you don't start at home - correction - if you don't start with a Christian home, then all of your other efforts will be futile.

    Favorite Bible Verse included in the text: Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. - Psalm 127:1a (NASB)

    Learning - Talks about the different approaches to homeschooling and learning. Including understanding the approaches that will work with your unique child.

    Favorite Bible Verse included in the text: By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established: through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. - Proverbs 24:3-4

    Methods - Not necessarily approaches, but the different methods of teaching the different subjects - including the Bible.

    Favorite Bible Verse included in the text: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. - Colossians 3:16

    Living - Now that you've built the foundation and started the homeschool, how do you keep it alive? How do you continue living the way you should live?

    Favorite Bible Verse included in the text: He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. - Proverbs 14:26

    And, generously sprinkled throughout the text are lists of websites, books, authors, places, etc. that will help you on your journey of walking with the Lord, raising your family, homeschooling, and having a home that is Christ-centered.

    It really is hard to give this book justice. You really have to see it to appreciate it. Now I know why some of my fellow TOS Homeschool Crew members were so excited to get this book. Many mentioned that Educating the WholeHearted child had been on their "must have" lists for a long time. I really feel like this should be on everyone's "must have" list if they truly want to have a home - not just a homeschool - that is Christ centered.

    To find out more about this book just click here or on any of the hi-lighted links above. The price of $22 is well worth it. Don't forget to also check out what the other members of the TOS Homeschool Crew thought about this book by clicking here. Happy Home Educating.

    As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free copy of Educating the WholeHearted Child in order to try out and give my honest review on this blog.

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    Posted by tink38570 at 2:02 PM CDT
    Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2011 7:19 PM CDT
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    Thursday, 20 October 2011
    As the Homeschool World Turns - The Continuing Saga of Babs and Marge
    Mood:  lazy
    Topic: Homeschool Product Review


    If there's a homeschooling problem Babs and Marge have been plagued with it. They always, however, seem to work together to solve it - usually with the help of The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) and the TOS Homeschool Crew. TOS and the Crew have even helped them with non-homeschool issues. In fact, the Crew has helped them so much that you'd think that would be the first place they would go when difficulty arises. Sometimes, though, they forget. Let's listen in on their discussion as they discuss their most recent dilemma.

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


    Marge (from outside the door) ~ Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!

    Babs (hurries to the door and opens it) ~ Honey, your still standin', but you look terrible! Let me help you in! What in the world happened?

    Marge (plopping down at the kitchen table) ~ I just carried in $200 worth of groceries.

    Babs ~ $200 worth of groceries! What in the world did you buy?

    Marge ~ Oh a little of everything. I couldn't stop myself! I just kept piling and piling into my cart. In fact, it took three carts!

    Babs ~ Honey, you have got to do something about this spending. Don't you take along a grocery list or something?

    Marge ~ Grocery list! Babs, I hardly have time to put my coat on as I go out the door let alone make a grocery list. You know with all of the kids to homeschool and a house to clean, I'm just barely keeping my head above water.

    Babs ~ Oh, don't I know it! I always hear about these young beboppers who clip coupons, make out menus and shopping lists. Who has the time? Pretty soon it will be time for supper and I have no idea what I'm going to fix. The kids'll kill me if I open up another can of soup. There has got to be a better way. *sigh*

    Marge ~ *sigh* Well, sister, if you can come up with one then I'm all ears. I've never found a better way and I don't know where we could find one.

    (Babs and Marge sit dejectedly for a while but then excitedly look at each other.)

    Babs and Marge together ~ The TOS Homeschool Crew!

    Marge ~ They've never let us down before, I'll bet they've reviewed something that will help!

    Babs ~ Where's that laptop?!?

    Ten Minutes Later

    Marge ~ Let's seen now... I know they just reviewed a new Latin program. I saw that last week, I'm thinking about getting that for the kids. Oh, and look at this, they're going to review another math program...do you remember that one last year that helped Penny? It was just...

    Babs ~ Earth to Marge! Earth to Marge! We're looking for a way to help us in the kitchen. Give me that computer! Here's something called "E-Mealz". That sounds interesting. (Babs clicks on the website) Look here what it says..."Manage your food budget and enjoy delicious dinner recipes at home. Menu plans based on weekly grocery store sales, seasonal discounts
    or diet preferences. Be meal-wise and money-wise with E-Mealz." This sounds really interesting.

    Marge ~ And it's recommended by Dave Ramsey. Oooo...I've always thought he was good looking, but not as good looking as that hunk Tim Tinkel. He's back on the crew this year and...

    Babs ~ Focus, Marge, focus! Let me see how this works. Okay...it says that you pick a plan, choose a grocery store, and they will base a week's menu off of the sales of the week for that store.


    Marge ~ Well, that does it for my family. You know they won't have a gluten free plan. And you always shop at ALDI's. There is no way they are going to have that. You may as well turn...

    Babs ~ Calm down, Marge. Let's keep looking...Well look here! They have a gluten free menu. As a matter of fact, they don't just have a gluten free plan, but they have a low fat plan, a low carb plan, a portion controlled plan...even a vegetarian plan! And they have plans for large families and small families.

    Marge ~ Yeah, but what stores are those plans from? I'm not going to drive twenty miles to one of those specialty stores just to use the E-Mealz gluten free plan.

    Babs ~ Nope, you don't have to! They have a gluten free Wal-Mart plan. There are Wal-Marts all over the place! And look at this...their regular family plans are available for Wal-Mart, ALDI, Kroger, Publix...even some store called "Ralph's" in California.

    Marge ~ Yeah, but how do these meals taste? My family is really PICKY with a capital P!

    Babs ~ Well, they have sample menu's. Let's print a couple out and try them for a few days. (*click-click*) AHHH! What is this!

    Marge (Jumping up on her chair) ~ EEEEEK! Is it a bug?!?

    Babs ~ No, it printed out two pages for each of our plans. Not only does it have a menu, but it also includes a shopping list! Honey, this is my kind of plan!

    Marge (Getting down off of her chair) ~ Let me see that. Hmmm...Chicken and Black Bean Stew and Pork Chop Florentine sounds good.

    Babs ~ My meals look good too, but...a weeks worth of meals for under $100! I'll believe it when I see it!


    One Month Later


    Marge (from outside door) ~ Quick, let me in, I'm worn out!

    Babs (Quickly opening door) ~ What's wrong, honey? Have you been out buyin' $200 worth of groceries again?

    Marge ~ Lands no! I've just completed my two mile run for the day!

    Babs ~ Two mile run! Honey what's gotten into you? What happened to the "I barely have time to put on my coat"?

    Marge ~ Sister, I've got gobs of time since I've been using E-Mealz! I just print out the menu, grab the shopping list and go! No more worries and no more $200 a week!

    Babs ~ I know! It really has been a lot cheaper using E-Mealz. We've saved enough money to go on a real live vacation this year! AND...since I told Mom and Dad about the two person plan, they've saved enough to come with us! Hubby isn't too thrilled about that, but the kids are excited! And the food is delicious. We tried something called "Swiss Chicken" last night. It was to die for!

    Marge ~ Ooo...that does sound good. We had Russian Chicken the other night. I just threw it in the crock-pot and was out the door for my jog! My family loves the meals. My husband was a little skeptical until I showed him the savings and told him that it only costs $5 a month to join E-Mealz! That's just $1.25 a week! And that's 28 recipes. You can't buy a cookbook with 28 recipes in it for $5, let alone the shopping lists, etc. Oh, and listen Babs...

    Could it really be true? Could there be such a plan? Don't just take the word of Marge and Babs, try it out yourself. Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above to find out. And, don't forget that some of the other TOS Crew members (other than that hunk Tim Tinkel) reviewed E-Mealz as well and you can find out what they had to say by clicking here. Happy Homeschooling...err...and Happy Eating!

    As a Member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free three month membership to E-Mealz in order to try out and give my honest opinion on this blog.


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    Posted by tink38570 at 12:01 AM CDT
    Updated: Friday, 21 October 2011 12:43 AM CDT
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