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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Explode The Code Homeschool Review

Disclaimer:  This review is contains the opinion of myself and my own homeschooling experiences with this product.  I purchased this myself and was not asked by the company or any other person(s) to write this review.  My purpose of writing this review to help other fellow homeschoolers.


Explode The Code series 
by: Nancy Hall 
Educators Publishing Services

Price:  @ $9.40 per workbook
For 6 or more, the price $6.60 (classroom)
Also available online.
Recommended for grades K-4.

What Is Explode The Code? - 

This series has been phonics best seller for over 30 years.  It contains lessons to help children learn the necessary literacy skills needed for reading, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, spelling, etc. 

We use this at our own pace along with another Language curriculum.  We are on book 5 1/2 (seen in the picture below).

My son, who is 9 yrs. old, has Dyslexia.  We use this because it helps him visualize the word he is learning.  The workbook contains several pictures and he relates the word with the picture.  With traditional learning I wouldn't like this concept, but with his disability, it works wonders.  In the start of each lesson, (I am using the book above as an example), it gives the directions that are very short and to the point, which is what children of this age need to do on their own.  It shows the endings to some words and then there are several pages of different types of work to do to help the child retain these word endings.  For example:  In Lesson 3, it has words ending with -ild and -ind.  The child has to read the word listed, write the word and then write an 'X' on the picture of the word.  The student has to do 7 of these down the page. The next page has an entirely different worksheet but goes along with the -ild and -ind lesson.

My son seems to enjoy this type of work.  When we started using this curriculum a few years ago he was behind in reading, grammar and spelling.  But now, he seems to be catching up quite nicely where he should be.  This curriculum has given him the confidence to start a new page and even a new lesson on his own!

The website (EPS, listed above) has a placement test for the student to take if you are unsure of where he/she should start.  We started with book 1 and also used Beyond The Code, starting with book 1 as well.  I believe this is our 3'rd year using this.  Again, we use it with another curriculum.

EPS offers several different books for  grammar, spelling, comprehension, writing, handwriting, phonics, word study, etc.

What I thought -

I loved this!  Looking at the workbook it is all black and white inside.  I thought it was (at first) a bit dull.  However that is what my son needed!  He was being distracted by colored pages, colorful busy pictures, etc. and wasn't able to keep his eyes and mind focused on the words.  This is a great curriculum for young elementary children - highly recommended!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Activity Bags TOS Review

Check out the website above!   
Fill out a survey and get a FREE e-book sampler!

"Where fun and education fit in the same bag." 

We received 4 products to review:

Science Experiments In a Bag - eBook 1 -  $15.00
Recommended for ages K-8'th grade.
There are 25 experiments in this e-book.

Science Experiments In a Bag - eBook 2  -  $15.00
Recommended for ages K-8'th grade.
There are 25 experiments in this e-book.

* Save $3.00 on the bundle of eBooks 1 & 2 for $27.00! *

Science Experiments In a Bag - eBook 3  -  $15.00
Recommended for ages K-8'th gradeThere are 25 experiments in this e-book.

* Save $6.00 on the bundle of eBooks 1, 2 & 3 for $39.00! *

Math Games In a Bag - eBook  -  $15.00
Recommended for elementary ages.  There are 33 math games in this e-book.

What are Activities In a Bag? -
These are fun, educational activities made up for your child and homeschool.  They can be done while you help an older student with their work or they can be done by the student alone (if age appropriate). They come in pdf form / eBook.  You print out what is needed for your family.  Each activity has a list of things needed (simple household or homeschool things), instructions on how to do the activity, and an answer key.  These are very easy to use and you can place them in a binder or folder to use later if needed.

Included in each activity are instructions on how to conduct a "swap".  This is where you put together each activity in their own individual baggies with their own instructions.  Then you swap them with your friends.  We didn't participate in a swap, although I think it is a wonderful ideaThis would be great for a co-op setting with lots of families with different age groups of children! 

My son (who is 9 yrs. old) is using these activities 3 days a week with his science and math.  Each of these days we look through our folder, that contains all the activities that I printed out previously, and I let him pick a science experiment and 2 or 3 math games to play.  

In the picture above, my son is playing a math game with dice.  He rolls 3 dice and places each number is the correct place value on his worksheet.

In this picture above, he made a "Geodesic Design" out of toothpicks and mini-marshmallows.  We learned how the Epcot Center (in Disney World) is made of several triangles to create the dome shapeWe researched the engineer, Buckminster Fuller, who was famous for making these 'dome' structures.
In this picture, the math activity is to cut all the different times out and place them in a pile.  The child (or children) take turns picking from the pile and then move the hands of the clock to that time.  We improvised a bit by flipping a penny onto the time sheets.  It was really fun!  These games are easy to 'tweek' to your style, which we love.
This company also offers Reading and Travel Activities In a Bag.  You can view examples of their products on their website.

What I thought -
This worked out really well for us.  'Life' sometimes invades our homeschooling day.  This is really nice to have at our fingertips so when mom can't seem to fit 'school' in our normal lesson plans or we have an unexpected trip to take (like to the doctor's office) this is easy to grab and go!  My son enjoys playing games and doing the experiments instead of the same curriculum day after day.  It really brakes up our normal school week and we like the change.  We will continue using these activities until we have finished them all.   

I would recommend these to anyone of any age!  Great hands-on fun! 

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

To see other TOS Crew reviews on this product, click below:


Thursday, October 25, 2012


When we come face to face with major life changing issues, we have a choice: worry, scramble to change it, worry more or trust God and move forward.

Our family has had a major changes these past few years.  Trails come and go.  But our Lord has carried us through each and every one of them and always will. 

My grandmother was a worry wort.  I say 'was', because she died 7 years ago.  She was a good Christian woman.  She was always there to listen and she was a wonderful grandmother.  The one fault she had was worry.  I thought I inherited  the worry from her, if that is possible.  But I have come to realize that worry does come from Satan.  It has to because God did not create such thing.  We, man, did not create worry. 

Here is what the Bible says about 'worry'.

Matthew 6:25
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?"

I never have to worry about what we will eat, God has always provided.

Matthew 6:24
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. "

God is telling us that there will be plenty to worry about in life.....but not to.

Mark 13:11
"Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit."

I do not have to worry about confrontation with others, meetings, etc.  For the Holy Spirit is with me.

Luke 12:22
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,..... "

I do not have to worry about MY LIFE, God has got my back.

That in itself is very comforting.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Samson's Classroom TOS Review

Samson's Classroom is an online program that helps students become better readers.

Recommended for grades K-5

Home  - 1 user  $30 per year
Family -  4 users  $50 per year
Classroom -  30 users  $80 per year
Grade Level -  150 users  $250 per year
Small School -  400 users  $500 per year
Large School -  1,000 users  $1,000 per year

I received a family subscription to this online program to review.

What Is This? - 
This is an online program to help students become better readers.  Students play engaging games that focus on 3 main building blocks: sight words, spelling, and reading comprehension.  Samson is a friendly dog who helps and teaches them in this online classroom.  The student is able to work at his/her pace while playing fun interacting games!

The 3 main building blocks are:

Sight words-
This program is to help early readers master the 224 most commonly used words in the English language.  This section teaches the student sight words.  Samson (the dog) shows the word, spells the word, and uses it in a sentence.  Then the student gets a chance to type the word into the computer.  Samson will tell the student if their answer is correct.

The picture below is one of the fun lessons for the sight word portion of the program.  Samson reads the sentence and the student puts the correct word in the blank by clicking on it with their mouse.  The sentence is read to them by Samson.

Samson awards the student with virtual Karate Belts.  There are 8 different colored belts to earn.  They start at the color White and work their way up to the Black Belt.  The student can check their belt status at any time and keep track of their progress.

With more than 5,000 words and counting, Spelling with Samson is the most comprehensive spelling product on the market.  You enter the students current spelling words into the program or use the ones they provide.  The student then gets to play fun games to help learn how to spell and master these words.

In this picture below, you'll see a fun spelling game.  The student must spell the word to get to the other side of the ice before Wally the walrus eats the ice from under Samson and he falls into the icy cold water! 


Reading Comprehension-
This program helps students analyze reading material and learn how to draw conclusions and answer questions based on that material.  The student reads a short story and answers questions (multiple choice) about the story they read.  Depending how many questions the student answered correctly determines how many 'swings' at the carnival game they earn.  In this picture below you can see the game.  They earn points with their swings.

This program keeps a scoreboard with the students record of what they mastered or what they might need improvement on.  You can monitor their progress daily and have them re-do a lesson or skip over a lesson that may be too easy for them.

They also have a resource center that has printable lesson plans, awards, flash cards, bingo cards, games, worksheets, etc.  They give you the option to print your sheets in black & white or color.  The program even have progress letters to send home to the parents if necessary.  For homeschoolers, you can print these for your portfolio!

What I thought -
I have to say, I have tried other online programs in the past and my son got very burned out on them quickly and I didn't find them helping him that much.  When I got the chance to review this program, honestly, I wasn't expecting the outcome I received.  It is great!

My 9 year old son has Dyslexia.  It was a daily struggle to get him to sit and read any book for me.  With the reading portion of this program, he reads the story on the screen without giving me any protest.  He stays alert and is interested with this interactive program unlike the other reading programs we have tried in the past or with the traditional style learning with a workbook.  He loves playing the games.  I would say it was learning, disguised as fun! ;)  This program is the first thing he wants to do everyday in our homeschool!  Bottom  line, we LOVE this program!  It offers so much. We plan to continue our homeschool year using Samson's Classroom!

I highly recommend this program to anyone who has a struggling student or wants their student to become a better reader.  I give it 2 thumbs up!

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

To see other TOS Crew member reviews on this product, click below.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Crossbow Education Reading Rulers TOS Crew Reivew

Crossbow Education
P.O. Box 1977 Davidson, NC  28036
#704-987-1501  Fax#704-987-1989 

Crossbow Education are specialists in teaching aids for children with Dyslexia and Visual Stress.

Item I received for review:  
Duo Window / Eye Level Reading Rulers
10 color / 10 pack
Colors are yellow, celery, grass, jade, aqua, sky, purple, magenta, pink & orange.
Recommended for all ages. 
The reading rulers are 2.75 in. wide by 8 in. in length.

SALE price of $16.95 pack of 10.

What Is This? - 
These reading rulers are placed over the text that the child is reading.  They help to keep focus on the single line or paragraph the child is on currently.  As children learn to read, they are learning to focus on one line at a time and to read from left to right.  This reading ruler helps them keep focus on which line or paragraph they are currently reading to reduce visual stress.  They also reduce the glare and blurring of text.

These duo windows have one narrow window to read one line, and a wider window to read a paragraph.  In the pictures below, both my sons are using the narrow window of the reading ruler.

In the picture to the left, the ruler being used is the purple color. 

In the picture to the right, the ruler being used is the celery color.

About the company -
Crossbow Education are specialists in teaching aids for children with Dyslexia and Visual Stress.  They also were the award winners of the Educational Supplier of the Year 2012 in the UK.  These reading rules are used in over 40% of schools in the UK.  

They sell many other reading tools as well.  For example, also available are these colored overlays. Note: I did not receive these colored overlays to review.
These are available in 10 colors and can be purchased individually, pack of 5 or pack of 10.  
Sale price on these reading overlays are 
$35.00 / 10 pk
$17.50 / 5 pk (selected colors)
$3.75 / individual

What I Thought -
My 9 yr. old son has Dyslexia.  This really helped him focus on what he was reading.  He could easily follow along with these rulers as they highlighted the line he was on.  They helped him read at a faster pace without the the visual stress.  His eyes seemed to keep focused on the individual line instead of being all over the page.  It definitely boosted his reading and gave him the confidence that he needed!  He likes the purple and blue rulers best.  

My 13 yr. old used these as well.  Although he excels in reading, he thought these reading rulers were pretty cool.  He liked the green best.

I myself also used them.  I liked the green color ruler under the bright fluorescent lights.  I used that color in our local gym.  I liked the pink the best for at home under normal lighting.  My eyes didn't seem to get as tired while using these rulers.  I felt that I could read for longer periods of time, which is great because I do a lot of reading!

You may have a different experience with the many different colors, but that is what is so great about this product!  You get 10 colors to choose from.  You can try each color and see which ones works best for you. These reading rulers reminded me of highlighted text.  I find it easier to read things that are highlighted in a book such as my Bible, than to read text that is not highlighted. I leave one in my Bible, and several throughout our homeschool textbooks for easy access!

I give this product an A+.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

To see other TOS Crew Reviews for this product, click below.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

What does your husband expect out of you and homeschooling?

Every homeschool mom has a different style of homeschooling their children.  Some like to stick to a schedule and some like to be more casual. 

I have a schedule and we TRY to stick to it ;)  Try of course being the key word there.  We seem to be up later this time of year due to soccer, church activities and the weather so sleeping in is a must. 

My husband has another outlook on our homeschooling.  He thinks that we should be up at the crack of dawn, at the table, working in our textbooks.  He works full time outside the home so he isn't here to see our real progress throughout the day.  When he does have a day off and we are homeschooling, we are a bit more relaxed because dad is home, which doesn't make my life any easier.  I explain to my husband that we get all our work done on time so I don't think his schedule needs to be put into force.  I do compromise though.  I make sure that school is finished by the time he gets home, dinner is on the table or at least cooking, and the house is clean.  No father wants to come home to utter chaos, a messy house and a kitchen table covered in papers, books and crayons!  So to keep him content this is the compromise I make.  I am not complaining by any means.  I AM home all day with the kids, and he is out working providing for our family so these compromises are not hard to do. 

They say that when momma isn't happy, nobody's happy.  Well, that goes for daddy too.  When my hubby comes in the door and sees all the books and homeschooling put away, the house clean and the smell of a good home cooked meal..... he is happy.  And it makes us happy that we please him.

What little things does your family expect out of you in your homeschool?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Homeschool visit to the farm

This month our homeschool group went on a field trip to a local farm.  We had a great time.  We got to go through a corn maze.

This year the corn maze was in the shape of some spiders from the nursery rhyme 'Little Miss Muffet'.  We got to see the aerial view of the awesome!

We also got to pet and feed some goats.....

observe cows eating.....

and went on a cool hayride!  The farm is in Vincent, OH.  It was very reasonable in price.  For $5 each child (and adult) got to do the things above as well as tour the herb garden, and pick their own pie pumpkin out of the pumpkin patch! 

The weather was really good.  The beautiful fall colors, and the crisp air made this day perfect!

These homeschool days are days to cherish forever!  THIS is why we homeschool!  So our kids can learn and explore hands on.  To read things our of a book is good, but learning hands-on ...... that is why homeschooling rocks! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


A few words of encouragement.  Homeschooling can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming at times.  I am in my 9'th year of homeschooling and I still lock myself in my bathroom a few times per year with frustration.  lol.  Really, I do.  This year I have not had to do that yet, and hope not to. 

I am trying to get the point across that whether you are new to homeschooling or have been homeschooling for several years, you WILL face times of trial and challenge. 

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6 ~ Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I believe this with all my heart.  Focus on the character traits of our children, not always the academics.  

Proverbs 25:15 says "Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone."   When we get irritated that our children may not be getting the key point of a lesson, or just not understanding, we need to have patience.  

When the parent is calm, I believe that the student is calm.   My number one pet peeve is my son dropping his pencil!  Day after day, several times a drives me crazy!  Reprimanding, yelling, etc. didn't help the situation.  I had to take a deep breath and figure out what to do about this before I exploded, lol!   The solution was simple really.  I keep extra pencils on the table so when he drops one, it stays until after the lesson is complete.  Wow, who would have thought it would be that easy to take care of?  Staying calm was not, and still is not, an easy trait for me.  I am a yeller, my mother was a yeller, my grandmother was a yeller.  Not a mean crazywoman-like, just a yeller.  With God's help, I am working on this still.  ;)

So be encouraged!  If you are having a bad homeschool day, take a breath, let the kids take a 15 minute break, have a cup of joe and relax.  My grandma (who has passed away) used to tell me, "this too shall pass".  Years later I found that in my Bible.  It is in scripture!  I just thought it was something grandmas said, but she was speaking the word of God to me every time.  That is encouraging to me.

Matthew 7:7-8 says  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hot chocolate, hoodies and smores!

Love this time of year!  Hot chocolate, hoodies, campfires and smores!

What is your favorite thing to do in fall?  I absolutely love the pumpkins and scarecrows!


I love seeing this crafty scarecrows, pumpkins and corn stalks in peoples yards and entry ways.

The hot chocolate w/ lots and lots of marshmallows is so good.....yum!


And here is a great recipe for smores... the easy way! 

You'll need:

marshmallow creme
graham crackers

I think you'll know how to put them together, lol.  They are sooo good!

Enjoy your fall traditions, keep warm and have a HAPPY FALL!