Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Modern Education

Technology today seems to be moving at the speed of light. Fifteen years ago, I loved all the new technology and being "up" on everything. Twelve years ago, I got married to a man who absolutely loves technology. I became very lazy after that. I would let him do things, because he really enjoyed it. Fast forward to today, I have really lost touch with technology and am a little behind. I hate to admit that there are even times I have had to ask my 11 year old for tech assistance. That being said, I appreciate the importance of familiarizing my kids with up-to-date technology in order to keep them successful in the highly competitive market of the future. The question is, "How do I integrate modern technology into my child's education?"

Educaching GPS Based Curriculum for Teachers is one answer. Allow me to explain. Geocaching is a fast growing outdoor hobby involving a handheld GPS device. Geocachers are on a treasure hunt of sorts. High tech hide-and-seek would be another name. A similar hobby that is very popular in our local homeschool community is letterboxing. A box is hidden somewhere with a logbook inside. You "sign" the logbook with your stamp, and there is usually a stamp in the box to "sign" your personal book to show that you were there. Educaching effectively combines those two hobbies to make a high tech educational experience.

The Educaching curriculum is 128 pages of resources for how to get started. The first section is teacher training. Even if you know nothing about how to use a handheld GPS device, you will be able to learn from and use this curriculum. Next, there are 20 lesson plans for you to follow with your children or class full of children. There are lessons on averages, money, collecting and organizing data, cause and effect, chemical or physical change, paleontology, nature, and more. My kids like the treasure/scavenger hunt idea so much, they don't even realize they're learning. Also included are printable worksheets to go along with the lessons. Though the book is well laid out, it is not the kind of curriculum that you can just hand to your kids and say "go for it". It does involve teacher planning and preparation. It is not difficult, however. I just want to to be prepared.

The curriculum is available in two formats. There is the electronic (PDF) format available for $32. If you prefer, you can get it already printed in a 3-ring binder with CD for printing worksheets. This is also $32, but you must add $6.95 for shipping and handling.

For more information, please visit the Educaching website.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Update on Sarah Books

Author Jim Baumgardner has offered a very special discount to my blog readers. This offer is not available online, only by a special order form by mail. If you are interested in receiving the order form, please leave a comment with your email address or contact me personally. These are great books, and the owner/author is great.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Great Historical Fiction

To me, it does not matter if you sell the most amazing product in the world. If the service is bad, I will not buy your product. However, if you have a good product and good service, I will not only keep coming back but will tell all my friends about it. Sarah Books is one such company. Jim Baumgardner, the author of Sarah Books sent to all TOS Crew members a copy of Sarah's Wish to review. Not only did he send me the book, but also signed it. He went over and above with all his friendly communication and extra touches when sending this out.

Oh, that's right, I'm supposed to be reviewing the book. Sarah's Wish is a story about a girl of 12 years old. Sarah lives with her mother who is a hand on the Underground Railroad. After her mother dies in a tragic accident, the story goes on to tell of Sarah's journey to find a new family. It is a great story to give kids a glimpse into what life was like during the days of slavery. The story is begins in the free state of Ohio. Just across the river in Kentucky, Sarah discovers what life is like in a slave state. I really enjoyed reading Sarah's Wish, and cannot wait to read the other's in the series. It is written at a level perfect for tweens. It can be a great read-aloud for the whole family, too. It's also fun for mom's who can steal a chance to escape and read, without taking too much time. You can read excerpts from all three Sarah Books here. You can order Sarah's Wish here for $9.99.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Guardian Angel Publishing

Guardian Angel Publishing is an online children's bookstore. They have tons of fun, educational book choices for babies through elementary age. All their books are in e-book format. They are even beginning to offer some apps for your i-Pod Touch or i-Phone. I don't personally have either of those, but they look fun. There is even a freebie section on the website that offers some free mini-books and coloring pages. I received from Guardian Angel Publishing seven e-books to review.
Maybe We Are Flamingos by Safari Sue Thurman - I'm starting with this one, because it was our favorite. This is a cute story about two baby flamingos that wonder why they are a different color than all the other flamingos. They found out that flamingos get their color as they grow from what they eat. They go on to imagine what they would look like if they ate different foods. The boys were laughing their heads of by the end of the story (and I was too).

Hamster Holidays (Noun and Adjective Adventures) by Cynthia Reeg - This was a cute story. Even better, was the educational material mixed into it. All the nouns and adjectives are highlighted to help young readers learn about them. It also is a great book to learn about the months of the year.

Stubby's Destiny by Dixie Phillips, Rainbow Sheep by Kim Chatel, and Andy & Spirit Go to the Fair by Mary Jean Kelso were all great stories also.

No Bones About It... by Bill Kirk and Earthquake by Susan J. Berger are not really story books. These are both great science lessons. No Bones About It... is about bones. It is presented in a really fun rhyming manner to really help kids remember the bones of the body. Earthquake covers a ton of information, but is still presented in a way that is fun for kids.

Click on any of the book titles above to link to more information about the books. Also, be sure to check out the rest of Guardian Angel Publishing's website to view all their other e-books. They even have video previews of the e-books to view. Most e-books are around $5. They do have print books available for varying prices plus shipping.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Scrub a Dub, Dub

Reviewing homeschooling products has been a great joy over the past few months. It is always fun to go check the mailbox or email and find a new surprise. You wouldn't believe my surprise when I opened a recent box to find soap.

Virginia Soaps & Scents was developed by a homeschooling family. It started as a school project and has blossomed into a great family business. They make handcrafted soaps from all natural ingredients. In other words, they make good, old-fashioned soap. In the letter that came with the soap, they claimed it to be very good for your skin and could even help clear up acne. That made me immediately skeptical. I have suffered from acne for about 20 years now. I have tried all kinds of products, including prescriptions. About five years ago, I found a product that I loved and that helped dramatically. I was not looking for a new product. However, since they sent it to me, I figured I may as well try it. WOW!!!!!! Now really, my face has been mostly clear for the past five years. The heat and humidity does not work well with oily skin, though. Add in a dab of hormonal issues, and I do still get quite a few breakouts. Virginia Soaps & Scents sent me three of their varieties of soap. The first one I tried was Oatmeal, Milk, & Honey. Within two days, my face was so clear that I hardly needed any makeup. I also received Coconut Lemongrass and Fresh Orange. I do currently have a couple breakouts, but still not nearly as bad as what it was before. When I order, I think I will stick with the Oatmeal, Milk & Honey. The other benefit, is that I have one bar that I use for my face and whole body. I do not have to have two different products, do not have to mess with opening bottles, and actually save water by taking shorter showers. Oooh, and I can't forget that it makes the whole bathroom smell yummy all day. The soaps are available online for $4.50 each or 3 for $12.

I also received from them a Ginger Lime Shampoo Bar. That one really baffled me. How does one use a bar of shampoo? Let me first say, that I have tried for years to find products to add volume to my hair and get it to cooperate with me. I decided, that if I was going to try the all natural shampoo bar, that I would need to try it without adding other products to my hair and just keep it all natural. I was amazed. After just the first washing, my hair had much more volume and I didn't have the need for gel or hairspray. I couldn't believe my eyes. It did point out the fact that I was overdue for a haircut. Once I got a trim, my hair cooperated even more. I can diffuse it and make it curly, use a round brush to make is soft and wavy, or straighten it. All the styles look great, and keep without using any other product. Unfortunately, I ran out and had to use my regular shampoo and conditioner this morning. My hair is once again out of control. I will definitely be ordering more and soon, possibly in some different scents. The shampoo bars are $5.50 each or 2 for $10.

But wait...there's more. I also received a kit to make laundry soap. The kit consists of a grated soap bar, along with a powder mixture of washing soda and borax. This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time, but just have not gotten around it. The kit made it very easy. I was a little nervous about how well it would work. I have some seriously tough laundry. My husband works outside in the Florida heat. His work shirts get just a little stinky (sorry honey). We have to buy the expensive laundry soap, or it doesn't even begin to take the smell out. My little one also still has some bathroom issues that make for stinky laundry. I was very eager to try the soap out on my laundry. The first load I did was the kids clothes. I really liked the clean, fresh smell. The next load was the stinky work shirts. It did not completely take the smell out. But to be quite honest, the expensive soap does not completely take the smell out either. So in my opinion, it did not work any better or worse than my normal brand. I think once I use up my supply, I will be switching to the homemade permanently. It is a great feeling to not use all the added chemicals and preservatives from the store bought products. The kit sells for $4.95 and makes 2 gallons of soap. They say this is enough to do about 64-72 loads of laundry. There are also other options for added savings, so be sure to check out the website.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mystery of History

What does the U.S. government have in common with Ancient Rome? Who was Nero? What do heart shaped cookies have to do with St. Valentine? These are just some of the questions answered by the "Mystery of History, Volume II". Bright Ideas Press sent me a copy of this book to review and explore with my kids. (Volume III is pictured below)I was thrilled to get this. I have been searching and trying various programs to try to find a history curriculum to fit. My boys are four years apart, and have very different needs academically. Regardless, in the end, they need to know the same information. There are some classes like language, reading, and math that need to be taught seperately. History, on the other hand, is something that can be shared if it can be made adaptable for each level. "Mystery of History" is exactly the kind of program I've been searching for. The book is designed to be used with students from Kindergarten through 12th grade. There are 28 weeks worth of lessons. Each week contains a pretest, three lessons, review, and excercise or quiz. The lessons all include a short reading and activities. The activities are what make the curriculum customizable. There are some activities recommended for all students, but do include some adaptation for the younger ones. Then each lesson has activities listed that are broken into younger (K-3), middle (4-8), and older (high school) categories. I have been able to do some of the middle activities with my 5th grader, or sometimes I just have them both do the activity for younger students. It is great to have the suggestions and options available. Volume II starts at Pentecost in A.D. 29 and continues to the invention of the printing press in 1456. I love how it integrates Bible and church history in with what was going on in the rest of the world. When I was learning history those were very seperated. We learned about church history at church and world history at school. It is very cool to see them interact with each other, because they are not seperate. For example, Nero was Emporer of Rome during most of Paul's journeys. This curriculum is also not overwhelming. I was able to add books from the library and add some projects to suit our needs. In a book my son was reading he came across a character named Nero who was modeled after the Roman Emporer. I had him write a paragraph to compare and contrast the two "Neros". That is not something he will soon forget.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the timeline. Part of the review activities is to create a timeline to hang on the wall as a visual reminder of what we've studied. Here is a picture of what we've done so far. (Sorry, it's not a very good picture.)

Bright Ideas Press also has tons of other great products for history, geography, and even a bit of science. Mystery of History Volume 2 is available in book form for $49.95. If you prefer, you could get an audio CD for $48.95 and CD-ROM with printables for $19.95. Visit the Bright Ideas website to see all the other products they have available, including Mystery of History Volume 1. I will absolutely be looking at the other volumes when we finish this one. I am also looking forward to going back through it in a few years and doing the projects for older students along with it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nature Friend Magazine

Nature Friend magazine "Helping Families Explore the Wonders of God's Creation"

I recently received two issues of Nature Friend magazine to review. My boys and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring nature through the pages of this magazine. I personally am not much of an outdoor person, and do not like hands on contact with animals. I do, however, love learning about animals. My boys also really love learning about animals. The articles in Nature Friend are all presented in a way that is easy to understand, but does not talk down to the students. The target audience is 8 - 16 year olds, but can be enjoyed by younger siblings, parents, and grandparents. We had a great time going through and working together on some of the activities as a family. It was a great spark for some fun conversation. We were going through a word search, finding names of animals. We came to the word "gorilla", and my six year old bursts out with, "Male gorillas over the age of 11 are called silverbacks." He sounded just like a documentary. My fifth grader's favorite part was the learn to draw segment. He learned how to draw a sunflower. Both the boys love looking at the submissions from other kids their age. Nature Friend is also filled with amazing nature photos. A one year subscription will run you $36.
For an additional $2 per issue, you can get a study guide to go along with the magazine. The study guide is a great way to find out what your children are comprehending. It is filled with fun activities plus features on writing and photography. Right now through November 30, 2009, you can get $3 off a new subscription. Simply use coupon code BLOG93 when ordering. Visit the Nature Friend website to view some of their nature photos and for ordering information.