Monday, May 31, 2010

The Trouble With Treasure

I once again had the chance to review a book from Kregel Publications. This book is "Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure" by Susan K. Marlow.

Thirteen year old Andrea Carter, called Andi, is home for the summer from boarding school. Her home is the Circle C ranch in California in the late 1800's. Andi and her friends decide to go on an adventure searching for gold. Along the way, they run into plenty of trouble.

I am unsure as to what reading level you would label the book, and I don't think it really matters. I could've easily read the book in fifth grade. My fifth grade son, not so much. But he also wouldn't be particularly interested in the story line, because it's about a girl. There are boys traveling with Andi, and plenty of adventure though. Some boys would probably find the story interesting. After all, it is a treasure hunt. I found the story very enjoyable. I love historical fiction of any kind. I am not really picky about reading levels. I know some of my young friends, that I think will particularly like this story also. Overall I recommend this story.

The book can be found here for $7.99. You can also check out several other stories about Andi and her friends.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Peterson Directed Handwriting - A Review

Peterson Directed Handwriting is a unique method for teaching handwriting skills, both print and cursive. Their creator is very passionate about helping your child succeed by helping you succeed as a teacher. I was given the opportunity to review a couple of their products with my children in exchange for my honest opinion.

My 1st grader has never really worked on handwriting before. Therefore, I chose printing to work with him. He wanted nothing to do with it. "I already know this, Mom." OK, so let's work on cursive. He liked that idea. The program is very simple to use, however the idea of saying things out loud while writing did not appeal to the little one. He likes to work quietly and independently. Unfortunately, the speaking out loud and writing to the rhythm is part of what makes the Peterson program unique and beneficial. If you skip the rhythm part, it becomes the same as pretty much every other handwriting workbook out there. Though it did not work for my son, I can see how the program would work very well with others. I think that it would've worked very well for my older son had he used it at that age.

One of the perks of the program is that it is an e-workbook. They are available for download here for $19.95. Be sure to choose the individual license for home use. You can print the pages over and over again if your student has trouble with a certain item. That is definitely a plus over a workbook that they can only write in once. You can click here to view the workbooks before ordering.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

AP Chemistry Prep - A Review

Cerebellum Corporation produces educational DVDs and media product for students of all ages. I received from them Light Speed Chemistry AP Exam Prep to review.

I have to admit, this was difficult to review as to whether or not it would actually help as my students are still in elementary school. Oh no, my oldest has just started middle school (eeek). I will give you my best impression and tell you what is included. You can check out other TOS reviews here. I'm sure someone was able to use it with their students.

The DVD is hosted by high school (or maybe just out of high school) age students, not a boring old teacher. It goes back and forth between video of the students talking and notes on the screen much like a power point presentation. The format is pleasant to watch and easy to follow. If I knew I had to watch it and pay attention, it would not put me to sleep. As it is, I am a homeschool mom with 10,000 other things that need to get done and so it was a little frustrating for me to just sit and watch. Then again, my college Chemistry class was a lot like that too.

The DVD is broken into three parts. Part one, "Taking the Test", tells all about the parts of the test, what to expect, and how long each section is. Part two talks about the free response section of the test. This goes into more detail about the specifics of that section. Part three goes into the nitty gritty of what information you will need to know on the test. It breaks down the 30 essential topics into 30 minutes. As a bonus, the package includes a CD-Rom with a workbook for extra practice. The workbook contains lesson plans, worksheets, and quizzes. Some of the topics covered include atomic theory and structure, chemical bonding, gases, stoichiometry, thermodynamics, and more. Total viewing time for the entire video is under an hour. However, I'm sure the third section will be watched more than once when really prepping for the AP Exam.

This DVD is regularly $49.98, but you can order it right now for $39.98. Cerebellum Corporation also has AP Exam Prep for History, English Language & Comp, and US Government and Politics. I can't even begin to tell you all the other topics and classes they have available. I know I will be thoroughly investigating the website and looking for some stuff for our next school year.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Instant Oatmeal Alternative

My kids love eating oatmeal for breakfast. The only problem is, they will only eat the instant kind. I can't really blame them. That is what I grew up on, so that is what I always bought. I just cannot get past the texture of "real" oatmeal, even though I know it is so much healthier. Then, you have to love that the instant ones now have "low sugar" varieties - NOT. Read the ingredients. They contain the sugar substitute sucralose (brand name Splenda). There is much debate within the scientific community as to whether or not sucralose is safe or not. I'd rather not take my chances after my personal experience with phenylalanine (Aspartame/Nutrasweet).

Thanks to Five J's blog post I read the other day, I now have an alternative: Baked Oatmeal. Of course, I did change some of the ingredients to make it fit my requirements. It was a winner. Even Mikey liked it. Here's what I changed. Instead of brown sugar I used Sucanat (evaporated cane juice). Sucanat is still sugar, but it is a more natural, less processed form of sugar. It is not lower in calories or some magic formula, just more natural. For the milk, I used vanilla almond milk. As usual, I used coconut oil instead of butter. As good as peanut butter and chocolate are together, I could not do the chocolate chips. Organic chocolate is terribly expensive and quite frankly does not taste very good. I substituted raisins for the chocolate chips.

What's great about this recipe is that not only is it oatmeal that my kids love, but because it also has eggs they are getting the protein they need in the morning. Don't forget that you don't have to always follow recipes exactly. Once you learn what ingredients you can use in place of others, you can make pretty much any recipe healthier or more suited to specific dietary needs.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Madsen Method - Review

English for Life - The Madsen Method is a comprehensive K-12 Language Arts curriculum. This is a multi-sensory approach that the Madsens believe is how the "founding fathers" learned. Their multi-sensory approach uses saying, hearing, writing, and teaching. This is a heavily scripted program that really teaches you how to teach. There are a total of four levels. They recommend a daily schedule (5 days a week) of 35-55 minutes. At that pace, students should be able to complete all 4 levels in 6-8 years.

I received level 1 of the curriculum to review. Level 1 sells for $299.95, but for home educators it is discounted to $219.95. That may sound like a lot, but this is a complete program covering penmanship, spelling and grammar, composition and reading. It takes about 2 years to complete. So really, divide the cost in half and then compare the price to other curricula. Also, it is non-consumable. That means you can reuse it with multiple children. Level 1 starts at the very beginning. It teaches proper body position for learning and writing. Then, it moves on to forming letters. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

What I got in the box:

  • Spiral bound directions for Sections 1-3 of Level 1

  • Spiral bound directions for Section 4

  • 3 spiral bound direction books for Section 5

  • The Madsen Method Standardized Spelling and Reading Tests

  • Spiral bound book with copyable games, coloring pages, and a comprehensive index.

  • Folder containing copyable templates for record keeping, report cards, handwriting sheets and more.

  • 4 "Listen in Library" CD's

  • One "Sounds of the English Phonograms" CD

  • One CD-Rom of the templates.

There is no question that this curriculum has been well researched and planned out. It is very well laid out and fully explained. There is no wondering what to do today or how to teach. Everything is exactly scripted, and all the parent has to do is read and follow the directions. The program is not designated for a specific grade level. It would be great for a Kindergarten student just starting out. However, it is also great for older students who may have gaps in what they've learned. Also, for those who just haven't got it yet. My high energy students are a little beyond this, and got frustrated by the tediousness of the directions. We have a very different education style in our house. If you want to read standing on your head, well, as long as you're reading. Sitting in proper position at the table just did not work here. I know for a lot of people, that is very important and this program will work great for them.

Be sure to check out The Madsen Method web page for all the detailed information on the complete program. There are also videos, samples, and other parent testimonials. You can also click here to find out what other Crewmembers thought of the program.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Beeyoutiful Hair Shine

Beeyoutiful is a company whose motto is "Healthy Living for the Real World." They have a variety of natural products to help you take control of your own health. I got to choose from a few different products which one I wanted to review. I picked the Hair Shine.

About six months ago, I had the opportunity to review some natural shampoo from another company and have been using it ever since. My hair is soft and healthy and didn't really need a conditioner. However, swimming season has started. I love, love, love to swim, but don't love the effects of chlorine on my hair. However, I am not going to swim in a lake, ewww.

Hair Shine is an all-natural spray-on, leave in hair conditioner. It can be used on wet or dry hair for conditioning and detangling. Hair Shine is an organic blend of aloe and essential oils of lavender, rosemary, and citrus. I tried it on both wet and dry hair. On a day to day basis, I prefer to use it on dry hair to get rid of the frizzies and give my hair a little shine. It does not feel greasy at all. After swimming, I put it on wet hair to help condition and detangle after the damaging water.

Last Monday, we spent all day at a water park. I was not able to get a shower before leaving. This was perfect. I sprayed a little on and was able to comb my hair right out. Beeyoutiful says on the website that Hair Shine also helps with sunburn. It makes perfect sense, because it is aloe. This was also beneficial after spending all day at the waterpark. We did use sunscreen, but it appears when we reapplied, both my husband and I missed a couple spots. I got a mild sunburn on the front of my shoulders. His was a little more blotchy. I have sprayed the hair shine on once every day. I noticed this morning that my shoulders look great (more tan than red). My husband did not use anything. He still looks bright red.

Hair Shine comes in a 4 fl. oz. bottle for $15. This is much higher than I am accustomed to paying for hair conditioner, but when you consider that it is organic ingredients and essential oils it is understandable. I am going to order two more to make sure I get through the summer. I have two more trips to the waterparks this month alone.

Be sure to visit the TOS Crew page to read reviews of other Beeyoutiful products.