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Tuesday, 29 November 2011
What is the absolute neatest, coolest, most original toy that you can get for your kids this Christmas?
Topic: Homeschool Product Review

You'll find out December 1st!

Okay, I know it's lame, but there really is a neat gift

 that I'm going to be blogging about on Thursday.

 It's a TOS review that isn't a curriculum. It's actually

 a toy. But it's one of the neatest toys. We got it today

 and the kids love it. I'm pledged not to say anything

 specific until Thursday. So, tune in on Thursday to

find out what that absolute neatest, coolest, most

original toy is!?!

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Posted by tink38570 at 9:54 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2011 10:09 PM CST
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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Time Timer - A Marge and Babs Saga!
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


Have you ever used an egg timer to time things with. We've used one before. The problem is it only works for two or three minutes at a time. I've often needed something to time longer periods than that. Marge and Babs have a similar situation. Let's eavesdrop as they discuss it. We can do that, you know, since I'm the one that created them anyway :-). Here's the scoop:

Scene One: Marge and Babs Running on Treadmills

Babs ~ Honey, *huff-puff, huff-puff* I can't believe you got me into this exercise thing. *huff-puff, huff-puff*

Marge (obviously in better shape than Babs)  ~ Me! Babs, you know that we both made a New Year's promise last year that we would exercise! Don't blame it all on me!

Babs ~ *huff-puff* Well, stop jabberin' and tell me how much longer we've got to run.

Marge (looking at the treadmill timer) ~ Three...two...one...stop!

Babs ~ Thank Goodness! I've got to sit down. This is about to kill me!

Marge ~ Babs, we've only been running for 15 min.! I can run all day. What would you do without this timer. Boy I wish I had a timer at home to keep my kids on track. The kids are always complaining - "So and so's been on the computer longer than me...I want to play now...it's not fair." or "I have to to bed now? Why didn't you warn me?" Penny is the worst with that. You know with her aspergers she needs time to prepare herself. If I don''t remember to give her a five minute warning, then she just falls to pieces!

Babs ~ Well, Miss "Run All Day Exercise Buff", it looks like I know something that you don't! We've been using something called "The Time Timer" at home for a few months now and it has really helped a lot! The kids don't argue, they're getting their school work done, and I'll bet it will help with your Penny! Let's get home and I'll show you.


Scene Two: Thirty Minutes Later at Babs' House

Marge ~ So this is the Time Timer, huh? Where did you find this thing?

Babs ~ Where else? The TOS Homeschool Crew!

Marge ~ Well, I like the TOS Homeschool Crew, but how is this little thing going to help me with Penny. It doesn't even keep the right time!

Babs ~ Earth to Marge! It's not supposed to keep time, it's supposed to count down time! Watch me. You just set it to any amount of time that you want - up to an hour - and let it go. It will ding when the time is up!

Marge (looking confused)  ~ Well, how's it supposed to help Penny? And what's this red thing that's showing?

Babs ~ That "red thing" is one of the things that I think will help. You've always told me that aspergers kids need a schedule and they need to be aware of how much time they have left to do something. Well, the Time Timer will help with that. As the timer goes down, the red disappears. Penny can actually see how much time she has left. Even if she can't read the numbers, she can tell by how much red is left. A lot of red means a lot of time left and a little red means a little time is left. It's even helped my kids and they don't have aspergers.

Marge ~ How's it helped your kids?

Babs ~ It's helped with a lot of things. There's no more fighting over the video games because we set the timer for 30 min, each.

Marge ~ Well that's good...

Babs ~ And, you know my little Timmy has a hard time sitting still. I just set the timer and he works for 15 min. and then does 20 jumping jacks and then he works for another 15 min. and he runs in place for five minutes.

Marge ~ Penny would like...

Babs ~ And we use it for science when we have to time an experiment. We use it for math drills. Instead of me giving them a two minute warning, the can just see how much time they have by looking at the Time Timer.

Marge ~ Wow! I'm going to have to...

Babs ~ And chores have gone so much smoother. We set the timer and challenge each other to get everything done within the time limit. I've got three timers. One for the living room, one for the school room and one for the kitchen.

Marge ~ Three! Well you've convinced...

Babs ~ Oh, and speaking of the kitchen! Cooking is a breeze. I just...

Marge ~ Earth to Babs! Earth to Babs! You're running out of oxygen! Now you're sounding like me. I'm usually the one that goes on and on! Calm down so that I can get a word in edgewise!

Babs ~ Oh. I'm sorry Marge. Talk away!.

Marge ~ Well... I'm still not sure. I mean, it sounds good, and I trust the TOS Homeschool Crew, but...

Babs ~ I'll tell you what. Take this one and try it for a week. I'm sure you'll be convinced.


Scene Three ~ One Week Later ~ In Babs' Kitchen

*Knock, Knock*

Babs ~ Well, Honey, you look excited, what's going on?

Marge (comes in carrying a box and Babs' Time Timer) ~ I've come to return your Time Timer. My box just came.

Babs ~ What box? And what does it have to do with my Time Timer?

Marge ~ My box of Time Timers, of course! I ordered seven of them!

Babs ~ Seven! You must really like those things.

Marge ~ Like them?!? I love them! We use them for everything now. They not only have helped Penny, but the whole family!

Babs ~ So what convinced you?

Marge ~ Well, I went home and read some of the TOS Homeschool Crew reviews (which you can read by clicking here) and then I just started using them the way some of the Homeschool Crew reviewers did. And it really worked. But, Babs, you left out the best part!

Babs ~ What was that?

Marge ~ The price! When I got to the website (which you can get to by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above), and saw the price, I was speechless! I couldn't believe that the 3" ones were only $30, the 8" ones were $35 and the 12" ones were just $40! And did you know they even have Time Timer watches? They even have special stickers that go on the Time Timers and a Time Timer puzzle! And you seen the software that you can put on your computer or tablet! I knew about the software because some of the TOS Homeschool Crew members reviewed it. I ordered a couple of each size timers and a watch for when we go running! Oh, and listen Babs...

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent a Time Timer for free in order to try out and give my honest review on my blog...Oh, and Happy Homeschooling!

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Posted by tink38570 at 8:34 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2011 11:12 AM CST
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Tuesday, 15 November 2011
College Prep Genius - The No Brainer Way to SAT Success!
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


I remember my college testing days from high school. The nerves. The "not understanding what I was really doing". The unpreparedness. Ugh. I get queasy just thinking about it! I was never a good test taker. I really wish there would have been something back then that would have helped me prepare for taking tests like the ACT and SAT. Even, now, I think about my own kids and how difficult it will be for them. I was thrilled when I found out that I was going to get to review College Prep Genius - The No Brainer Way To SAT Success.

College Prep Genius is a group of things that you can use to help you be prepared for the SAT. We received the College Prep Genius (Second Edition) Textbook, the College Prep Genius (Second Edition) Workbook and the College Prep Genius (Second Edition) DVD. They could be used separately, but we have been using them together, and, really, that's the best way to use them. John Allen isn't a real fan, but, what can you expect. Studying to get a good score on the SAT or PSAT is serious business. I really don't think John Allen fully comprehends what the SAT is all about yet.. College Prep Genius offers some great ways to prepare. Let me go through each item one by one to explain what it's all about.

The core item is the Textbook. This 325 page book is divided into six parts.

  • Part One: Introduction to the SAT
  • Part Two: The Critical Reading Section
  • Part Three: The Math Section
  • Part Four: The Writing Section
  • Part Five: Scholarship Search
  • Part Six: Journal for Test Success

As you can see just by the section titles, this book is full of good information. What makes this different than other SAT prep materials, though? One of the things is College Prep Genius' use of Acronyms. They have taken almost every scenario that you could think of and mad an acronym out of it. For example, one of the acronyms for the Reading Section is S.O.N. College Prep Genius suggests that you should:

Avoid answer using S.O.N.

  • S - Strong
  • O - Opinionated
  • N - Negative

They then discuss why you shouldn't choose those types of answers.

That is really another plus about this textbook. They have a lot of examples for each acronym's rule. They basically tell you step by step how you can score well on the test by using these acronyms to remember key things that will help you.

The next item is the DVD. The DVD is really DVD's. There are four of them that have four lessons on each. These lessons are really the core of this curriculum. I mentioned the Textbook above first, because it could be used alone, but it is really better to use it with the DVD. I made John Allen begin by just reading the Textbook, but I quickly recognized my mistake and have begun using the DVD's first.

Each lesson on the DVD is about 45 min. long. Along with the DVD are homework assignments. One of the assignments is always to read a section of the Textbook. That was my mistake. John Allen was reading the Textbook without the benefit of the DVD but, even though the teacher on the video says to read the textbook first, in my opinion, it is much better to watch the DVD first. I also suggest (and so does the teacher) to follow along in your textbook while the teacher is lecturing. It is always better to hear and see rather than just to hear or just to see. The DVD goes right along with you textbook.

The teacher on the video has a pleasant voice and seems very nice, but she gets right to the point. There is no messing around. Be ready for a packed full of information lesson whenever you watch the video. Have everything ready, such as your homework assignment printed out (you download them from the College Prep Genius website), all of your books, and several pencils.

Finally, the last item is the Workbook. It has reviews of the different acronyms,  a lot of sample problems for you to work out, and a few fun things. The Workbook really can't be used as a stand alone item.


As you can see, College Prep Genius is full of good stuff. I am so blessed that we were chosen for this review because it will be a great tool for John Allen to work through. I am sure it will raise his SAT score. The pricing for College Prep Genius is very reasonable. The price for the whole set of Textbook, Workbook and DVD's is $99. The three items can be purchased separately as well - Textbook $49.95, Workbook $19.95 and DVD's $59.95. You can find these and other great items from College Prep Genius by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. To find out what some of the other TOS Homeschool Crew members thought of this item and another great College Prep Genius item called "Vocab Cafe" click here. Happy Home Educating.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free set of College Prep Genius material - Textbook, Workbook, and DVD - in order to try out and give an honest review on my blog.

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Posted by tink38570 at 12:02 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2011 12:27 AM CST
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Sunday, 13 November 2011
Keyboard Town Pals - A Unique Approach to Learning to Type!
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


I think that I have said before that one of the things that I appreciated learning the most in high school was how to type. It's probably one of the things that I use the most every day. I was blessed to have a typing teacher that taught me how to type properly. I've determined to find a way to teach my children how to type correctly because I feel it is that important.

Now the problem is to find the right keyboarding program to us in a homeschool setting. I have searched and found free ones. I have even reviewed some. They have all been good. John Allen learned some basic keyboarding with one, but I still hadn't found anything for my youngest two until now.

Keyboard Town Pals is a very unique program that I feel younger kids who are learning to type would be drawn to. Joshua, our asperger's syndrome child, has been using it and loving it. It is like no other typing program I have seen. Why? Because it uses puppets to teach how to type!

They use an associative approach. An associative approach is when you train your mind to think of two things together. I learned the 10 plagues that God cursed Egypt with by using the associative method. I associated the number one with a pen and the number two with a coat hanger, etc. Here's how it worked.

I picked up a pen to write but instead of ink coming out there was blood. (The first plague was the plague of turning the water into blood).

Then I went in to my closet to get a shirt out but instead of a shirt hanging on the hanger there was a giant frog. (The second plague was the plague of frogs).

Okay, I know it's kind of different, but that's how I learned them, and it really worked. Later on, in my therapist days, we used the keyword (associative) approach to teaching the sounds of the alphabet. So, I know that the associative approach really works.

With Keyboard Town Pals the association is with puppets. Let me show you a little example. This is a preview of lesson one:

Now, I'll admit, the characters, like Miss Sunny, Amy, the Zebras, etc. looked a little silly at first. And the humor is somewhat corny. But, you have to realize that this is not for us, as adults, but for our kids and trust me, it really works.

Because my son is asperger's and doesn't sit well for long periods of time, he only does a couple of lessons at one setting but I could see how a child could sit and do all of the lessons at once. All of the lessons together only take about an hour. So, your child child could actually be  fully typing in an hour! It may not be fast, but it's proper typing and the more they practice, the fast they will become.

Joshua is really enjoying Keyboard Town Pals and I really like the associative approach. It may not be for every child, but I can really see it working for younger children and special needs children like my Joshua.

The other thing I really like about Keyboard Town Pals is the price. The cost is only $30 for either the web based version or the CD ROM version. Keyboard Town Pals also has several "companion" items such as coloring books, finger puppets, a concentration game and stickers that you can purchase. AND it comes in an English, Spanish or French version! To get to the Keyboard Town Pals website, just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted posts above. To find out what the other TOS Crew Members had to say about Keyboard Town Pals just click here. Happy Home Educating!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given limited time access to web version of Keyboard Town Pals in order to try out with my children and give my honest review on this blog.

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Posted by tink38570 at 10:38 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 13 November 2011 10:40 PM CST
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Tuesday, 8 November 2011
The Person I Marry
Mood:  happy
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


The father wasn't expecting this question. The boy and his father had been finishing up the dishes. Father was putting the dishes away as his son dried them.

It was a beautiful fall evening. The colors of the autumn leaves were at there peak but the air was warm and the roses were showing their last blooms. All seventeen rose bushes had bloomed beautifully that year. There were nine that Father had bought for Mother every Mother's day. She would painstakingly search - sometimes for days - for just the right place to plant it. The other eight bushes were bought and planted every Mother's Day by Father after her death.

Perhaps it was the sweet smell of the roses that made the boy ask the question. Perhaps it was the beauty of the autumn leaves. Perhaps it was the chore of washing the dishes that was often shared by a husband and wife. Perhaps it was all of those things. Whatever it was, the always thinking, wondering and exploring boy asked it.

"Father, why did you and Mother marry?"

"Marry?" exclaimed the suddenly bewildered man. "Well, because we loved each other."

"Father," the exasperated boy blurted out. "I knew that. I mean... I figured that you and mother loved each other."

"But," the suddenly pink cheeked boy said as he shyly looked at his father, "Why did you marry Mother? Why her? Why not any other lady?"

"You know," said the boy in usual twelve year old fashion, "I'm getting older now, and I need to know what to look for in a girl."

"Well, this is a new one. Why do boys have to grow up...especially inquisitive ones?" thought the father as he loosened the collar around his neck with his finger. "Oh, Lord, please give me wisdom."

Finally the father hesitantly answered, "Well," he said while clearing his throat, "You need to make sure that she is a Christian. That's first and foremost. And, you don't always marry for beauty. I mean, you will always think that your wife is beautiful, but good looks aren't really why you should marry. Neither is money. You should never marry for money. Love should always be the main thing..."

The boy looked at him intently, sometimes with a furrowed brow. He seemed to be soaking everything in, but the more his father said, the more bewildered he became.

"Why is nothing coming out right?" thought the man. "Why did my son have to ask such a question without giving me some warning."

Finally the father stopped, looked at his son, and suddenly said. "Did you finish the science project I assigned to you today?"

"No sir," replied the boy. "But, I'm almost done."

"Well, go finish it." the relieved man answered. "We'll talk about this more tomorrow."

As the boy left to finish his school work, the father said a silent prayer. "Lord, please give me something. Send me something that will help me explain what to look for in that special one he will marry. And, Lord, if it's your will, send it to me quickly! Amen."

All that evening that thought filled the fathers mind. What am I going to say? How do I describe what to look for in a wife? He searched for lessons from the Bible. He tried to think of historical examples. Nothing seemed to fit.

"This is a job for a mother." mused the man. "Why did mother have to die so suddenly? Why must I be the one left to explain such things to my dear boy?"

Finally, just before turning in for the night, the father checked his email one last time. Glancing through the messages he noticed one that he had missed earlier. It was a message from Brenda. Brenda is the dear lady that is the vendor liaison for the TOS Homeschool Crew. It is her job to match the vendors with just the right homeschool families for them to try out and blog about the vendor's products. There was a new product listed. It was a book called "The Person I Marry", by Gary Bower, illustrated by Jan Bower and it was scheduled to arrive at their home the very next day.

"Thank you, Lord." exclaimed the boy's father as he went to bed that night. "Thank you for sending just what we needed at just the right time."

All morning and early into the afternoon.the father could hardly contain his excitement. Finally the mail man showed up and left the much awaited for package. The father sat it aside until he and his son could sit down to read it together when there were no distractions.

Later that evening after all of the school books were put away and the chores had been done, the father carefully unwrapped the gift from God. In it the beautifully illustrated book, "The Person I Marry" was contained.

"Son, " the father called, "We got something in the mail today that I think will help answer your questions from last night."

"What is it Father," exclaimed the boy as he entered the room.

"It's a book. Come and let's read it together."

The boy sat beside him on the couch and they began to read. The book was written in a poetic fashion that, at first, irritated the young man. He was almost 13 years old he thought to himself. Nevertheless, he persevered, and as his father read, he would stop and they would discuss things that were written in the book.

They discussed how you should choose someone for what they are like inside and not because of what they look like on the outside. They talked about how a mate should be gentle, kind and gracious. They read how your future spouse should be generous, thoughtful and appreciative. With the help of the book, the father explained how life wouldn't always be easy, but a couple should persevere and be courageous. They should look at the bright side of things. The book talked about how a couple should be joyful and enthusiastic when things are going well, but be patient and forgiving when things are not.

As Father read he began thinking of his dear wife. His face softened as he read the part where a future mate should be humane and respectful to humans and all of God's creatures. That fit his wife perfectly. She was always taking a meal to the sick or elderly, or taking in a stray that someone had cruelly abandoned.

Suddenly tears began to fall down the father's cheeks. The book had unexpectedly become harder to read. For they had come to the part where a couple should honor marriage "'til death do us part". As he was reading the words on those pages, his voice began to falter. Soon he was no longer able to finish the sentences. His son gently took the book and began reading for him.

The boy finished reading the book. He read through the pages that said that some disagreements would be small, but some they should measure against what the Bible said. He read about keeping himself pure for his wife, and how he should always be honest and trustworthy. He was glad that his father had taught him to be hardworking but fun loving, because that is what the book said was important as well.

The boy noticed fresh tears upon his father's face as he read that a husband and wife should be encouraging and sympathetic toward one another. The boy knew that those were some of the qualities that his father appreciated so much in his mother.

Finally, the boy read something that he didn't need to be told. He read how a person's future mate would always be number two in their lives. Why? Because Jesus should always be number one. All of his life the boy had been taught that God should always be first in his life. Those words were not unfamiliar to him.

As the book came to a close, the father silently got up to allow the boy some time to reflect on what had been read. He would discuss the book more with his son in the days to come.

That night, as the father tucked his son in and turned off the light. He heard his son call his name.


"Yes Son?"

"Father. Thank you for reading that book to me today." the boy quietly said. "I've been thinking, and I think I know who I want my future wife to be like."

"Who is that, Son?"

"I want her to be just like my mother. I don't remember her much, but I know she had all of the good qualities that we read about. Thank you for marrying her."

Father turned quickly away. He was glad the light had been turned off for tears were once again forming in his eyes.

"Thank you, Lord, for my son. And thank you for this special book that you sent us. Amen."

The story you have just heard is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Oh, Ok, you caught me again. The story is really about Joshua and I and not all of it is true. Thankfully my wonderful wife is still with us. The part about the tears and precious boy's responses were true, however. Happy Homeschooling.

The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

If you are interested in purchasing The Person I Marry just click here or on any one of the links above. This 36 page hardcover book is available for $11.99 on the website of the author and illustrator, husband and wife team, Gary and Jan Bower. To find out what the other TOS Homeschool Crew members thought of this book, just click here.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent a download copy of "The Person I Marry" in order to try out with my family and give my honest review on this blog.

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Posted by tink38570 at 8:29 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2011 1:20 AM CST
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