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Thursday, October 24, 2013

2014 Schoolhouse Review Crew Application!

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Are you interested in joining the TOS Review Crew?  

Do you want to get great homeschooling products for free in return for your honest review?

Do you want to share the exciting new curriculum with others?

Do you have a current blog?

If you answered yes to all these questions, click the icon above to fill out your application for the 2014 Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

VocabularySpellingCity TOS Review

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I received the 
from VocabularySpellingCity for review.

Price per year for the Premium Membership:
Families - $29.99 up to 5 students
Classrooms - $49.99 up to 25 students
Schools are priced per student - click HERE for prices on the entire school. 

Recommended for K-12'th grade.

What Is This? -

This is an online program mainly for spelling & vocabulary to help teach children to learn while having fun.  You, the educator, control what spelling lists, vocabulary and games the student(s) learn and play.  This program is offered to classrooms as well as homeschoolers and private schools.  

There are 3 options on how to use this site.

1) The no registration option.  With this you just go to the site and start with the word list, and let your child explore.  They offer tests, teach me, and games.  This is free and you do not need to even register to use this portion.

2)  The basic (free) membership option.  This is very close to the above with the exemption of that you register so you can save all your lists.  There is also no limit on how long you can use either option (1 or 2).

3)  The Premium Membership option.  This gives you one year access with the ability to create assignments, student log ins, access writing activities, student progress tracking, and premium games and activities.  The costs are listed above or click HERE

Option 3 is the option that I received for review.

In this chart below, you can compare the Basic package to the Premium package.  

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One of the great things about this website is that you can sign up for the Basic package and try it for a while.  If you like it and want to upgrade to the Premium package, you can.  

The site has several 'Teacher Resources' for you to choose from.  Below is a peek on what is offered on the site.   

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Are you working on 'parts of speech' this week?  In the blue above, there is a link for that with games, video lessons, printable worksheets and more!

They have 'holiday' lists to give your student(s) some holiday fun worksheets, lists and games (in the green box above).

They also have the 'Dolch-Sight Words' lists on this site as well (also in the green box above).

The company has won several awards for their great learning website! 

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The website also offers mobile apps for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhones.  Click HERE for more details.

How We Used This -

I had my 10 year old son get online with this program 3-4 times per week.  I created the spelling list for him.  We were on this first list for about 2 full weeks, then we moved onto the next list that I created for him. 

I am a firm believer that a child shouldn't get a new spelling/vocab list weekly unless he/she has mastered the previous one.  So that is why it took us (at times) a few weeks on one list like mentioning above.  It doesn't make sense to me to give a child a new list of words, when he/she cannot spell the words on the current list.

Anyway, with each of these lists, I had him do the 'teach me' portion.  This section, gave him the word, spelled it for him, used it in a sentence, then said the word again.  If you don't like the sentence it gives, you can create your own sentence as well as 'tweak' the definition to their understanding.  He then played several activities and games using words from my list.  There are several activities to choose from as you can see below.  

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Here are our two favorite games:  


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Letter Fall

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After he played these games for a few days (depending on how he did), I then had him take the 'practice test'.  This was a preparation for the main and 'final test'.  This program keeps the student(s) scores as well as the progress and time spent on the site for you.

One thing I need to mention is that it seemed that if I didn't 'assign' things to my son, it didn't show that he was working on the site.  I knew he had been, because I had watched him.  So if it is important for you to show documentation and/or progress, you need to make sure you have the student sign in and follow the assignments that you create.  If not, it will not show that he has been on the site and has completed any work.

What I Thought -

Overall, I think that the website was pretty good.  It had several different methods of teaching words and vocabulary.  For the teacher, there isn't much prep time involved in this program just assigning work.  For example, for the spelling list, you just create the list and assign it to the students.  You can assign it to 'certain' students or all of the students.  You can choose to do the assignments in a certain order as well.

If you have any problems or questions with the website, there is a 'Frequently Asked Questions' page that will easily address any issues.  (The company offers phone support as well.)

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I would recommend this to anyone who has children (or a classroom) that are in need of the hands on learning experience.  I feel that kids learn more when they can physically use their hands.  Let's face it, we live in a 'gaming' world so why not let them learn with the games they love to play?  


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Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall is visiting West Virginia

I cannot believe that FALL is finally here!  This is my favorite season and October is my favorite month.

We moved to the beautiful state of West Virginia from Florida 5 1/2 years ago.  Although Florida is a beautiful state, it is very congested, HOT and HOT.  lol.  Did I mention it is hot?  It's very stuffy, suffocating hot. 

Anyway, we didn't have the beautiful vibrant colors in FL like we do here.   Trick or Treating / Fall and Harvest festivals just aren't the same.  Here, we have the most beautiful breathtaking colors in our leaves!  I grew up in Michigan, and the colors are beautiful there as well.

Here are a few WV fall pictures.  Of course my camera doesn't show it's true beauty.

This one below is a small creek close to some property we have.  It really is beautiful in all seasons.

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Here is one taken while walking down our road.  It is a beautiful, quiet, curvy country road.

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This one was taken coming from the opposite way down our road looking over in a pasture.

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And this last one (below) is our same road.  I love all the gorgeous colors.  God is so wonderful and amazing to create such beauty.

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If you ever get a change to visit this "Wild & Wonderful" state, you must!  There are so many things to do and see.  And the views......well,......they are amazing!

Click HERE, or any picture above, for hundreds of things to do here in state of West Virginia.

Disclaimer:  All these photos were taken and belong to me.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Homeschoolopoly Game" Review

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I had the wonderful opportunity of receiving Homeschoolopoly Game in return for my honest review on my blog.

Price:  $24.99 each or buy 3 for $49.99!  
These make great gifts!

Recommended for ages 8 and up.  
*Although homeschoolers tend to be advanced, so ages may vary. ;)

For 2-6 players.

This is what is included in the game set:

game board
2 dice
Stacks of Books pieces
Keys to Knowledge pieces
stack of "Mercy" cards
stack of "Grace" cards
play money
6 tokens  (boy, girl, world globe, rocking chair, bicycle, and a dog)

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What Is This? -

This game is similar to the original Monopoly game which is how many years old?  Well, I remember playing the original game when I was a kid, which tells about how old I am, hee, hee.  But, this particular game is a little different.  It was created with homeschoolers in mind and has some pretty neat features. 

The "Mercy" cards & the "Grace" cards, that you may have to draw during the game, are pretty funny and realistic.  Here are a few below.

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Here is a favorite from each of the stack.  I love the HSLDA 'get out of court free' (shown above).

We all know that the library is a huge part of homeschooling so this one (to the right) hits home!

The real estate / properties are all of homeschool curriculum that were hand picked by the creator.  Some are very popular like these below.

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There are some that I have never heard of which is great.  Most homeschoolers are always up for new curriculum to try!

Here are some other great features of this game.  If you remember, the original game has hotels and houses to place on the 'property' after they are purchased.  Well, instead of the hotels, there are "Keys to Knowledge".

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Instead of the houses, there are "Stacks of Books".

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The concept of the game is pretty similar to the original as far as the playing rules.

What I Thought -

This game is awesome!  My son wanted to play this game EVERY DAY!  

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Some days he was the banker, which is so great for tweaking his math skills.  I am so glad that we found a game that is fun and educational.  I think that the 'Mercy' & 'Grace' cards are hilarious!  

This game is full of great colorful design with Christian (or neutral) curriculum companies.  I really liked that too.

So if you are looking for a family game to play on family night, I highly recommend this game!  

Changes are you know other homeschoolers and/or have families in mind that love to play games.  Christmas is coming up quick and this game would make an excellent Christmas gift; not to mention a great price!

All the opinions are mine from my personal experiences.  I was not paid in any way other than receiving the product to review.

Barbour Publishing TOS Review

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by: Annie Tipton 
from Barbour Publishing for review.

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$5.99 - but on SALE now for $4.49!
Paperback, 192 pages 
Recommended for ages 8 and up. 

This is book one in the series.  Watch for book two called 'Church Camp Chaos' in March 2014!

The author is Annie Tipton.  She loves to write and made up her own first story at the age of two!

What Is This? -

This is a child's book about a girl with a huge imagination.  Her name is Emma Jean Payne.  Her friends call her EJ.  She is starting fourth grade in the town of Spooner, Wisconsin.  Her father is a pastor and her mother is an elementary teacher at EJ's school.  This story is filled with funny situations, that usually involve her wild imagination, through summer camp and through the fourth grade.  Her relationship with her brother Isaac (who she calls 'the space invader') starts a bit rough in the beginning of the book, but they become a bit closer and realize just how cool each other really are. 

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One of the really neat things about this book is that EJ writes in her diary.....every chapter.  So we get to experience the life of EJ, through her eyes.  In the picture below you can see how each chapter starts, with a diary entry.  There are a total of 15 chapters.

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There are several great illistrations in this book.  As you can see in the picture below, they are cute, funny and child like.

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How We Used This -

I read this to my 10 year old son.  I had him read one page each chapter to me.  Being in the fifth grade, he struggles a bit with reading so I wasn't sure how he'd do.  He read it pretty easily with a little help here and there.  It's a pretty easy read.  We read about a chapter a day several days a week.  

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What my son & I Thought -

My son really enjoyed the book.  He laughed quite a few times while I was reading.  The book really is funny.  He really liked the daily situations that EJ's imagination got her into.  

I liked that the book kept my son's interest.  Some books we start reading and by the second or third chapter he has lost interested and doesn't want to finish.  This book was different.  I liked that he could really relate to the things she was going through even though he is homeschooled.  They were 'real life' things going on in EJ's life that are so realistic to children.  

Another great thing about this book is that it is a Christian book.  EJ's dad is a pastor (like mentioned above) so it was great to have that 'Christianity' mentioned in there at times.


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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interested in being a 2014 TOS Crew Reviewer?

For more information on becoming a TOS Crew Team member & reviewer, click on the icon below.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Homeschooling tips....

I thought I'd share some homeschooling tips that I do with my boys.

Have you ever got out of bed and weren't feeling well?  Maybe woke up with a headache or just didn't sleep well?  I have learned along my journey of the past ten years of homeschooling, that the children will pick up your attitude.  So if I am short with them, and crabby.....they will be too.  So these are a few ideas to keep a good control of your day without giving away your attitude.

1.)  You can have a 'home economics' day.  Make a game out of cleaning, cooking...whatever you need to absolutely get accomplished that day.  Now, this may not work for all ages, but even high schoolers would rather do a few chores than Algebra.  Ha,ha.  This is how I do it, I put on a good CD (fun and lively) and turn it up really loud!  Then I give each of the boys a task to accomplish and we act goofy while singing, dancing and cleaning. ;)

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2.)  Ask the children what they would like for dinner.  Have them look in the freezer and choose something.  Then get the recipe out and start planning.  My youngest gets really excited when we get candles out.  He always asks if we can eat by candlelight.

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3.)   Grab a great book and make it an errand day.  Have the older child read aloud in the car to the other children.  Give each of the children a list of items to get for the cart (pair younger with older if needed).  Then, reward them for good behavior with a special snack on the way ice cream.

Of course if you have a headache or don't feel good, taking a trip to the store or doing errands may not be a good idea for you.  If you are just tired, a quick strong cup of JO would get you through the 'shopping day'.  So if you aren't up to this, you can get a good book for yourself (or the latest Country Living magazine), a cup of your favorite beverage and take the kids to the park!  Let them explore, play, 'socialize' (saying the word socialize very sarcasticly) while you take a day off.  You can have the older ones pack a lunch for all.  This can be easy with a loaf of bread, knife, peanut butter, jelly and some juice boxes and maybe a few apples. 

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Remember, it's ok to ditch a day or two here and there.  YOU set the school mood for your children.  Don't cheat them by having a non-productive day.  At least ditching the whole day once and a while, you'll have good mojo in the air and some fresh air with sunshine!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chess House TOS Review

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 I received the Starter Chess Learning Set 

from Chess House for review.

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Price: $49.99 
Sale price of $39.99!
Ideal for ages 6-12 yrs. DVD indicates ages 4 and up.

The Starter Set Learning Set includes: 

A carrying case
Chess mat
2 sets of game pieces (1 extra Queen for each player)
The DVD (containing 6 levels)
instruction booklet
A shoulder strap for the case

Note:  You have your choice of color for the carrying case.  The color choices are: black, green, navy, tan camo, or green camo. (Ours is black, pictured below.)

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What Is This? -

This isn't just a play 'Chess Set'.  This is a Chess learning set.  This comes with a DVD that teaches you step by step how to play the game.  It explains and teaches what each piece is and how to use it in the game of Chess.  In the DVD, the instructor gives you scenarios on moves and what effect it will have in the game.  He gives you tips on how to use these pieces to your advantage and hopefully beat your opponent!

How We Used It -

I have to admit, I am NOT a chess player.  I have never been interested in the game, but my boys love it!  I have three sons.  My youngest son, who is 10 years old, received this for my review.  Within minutes of delivery, he had the DVD in the player, the chess game set up, and he was ready to learn.  

There are 6 levels to the DVD.  The levels are Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, Queen and King.

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He has played this game with his older brothers in the past, but lets face it, they are not going to teach him everything about the game because they love to win!  He watched this DVD and followed the instructions step by step.  During the video, he says, "Mom, I didn't know you could do that"!  He was very excited about learning new things about the game.  

After watching the video, he played this game with his brothers again and even taught them a thing or to. ;)  Then, being the good mom that I am, decided to let him teach me. (Hee,hee.) 

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He is a very good teacher!  I was very impressed on how much he knew and how well he was applying it to each game played.  So I did learn how to play the game, but I have to admit, it isn't my favorite game.   For those who like the game however, this would be great to freshen up your skills!  For those of you who want to learn how to play.....this is great!

Below is another picture of what the case looks like from the inside.  It has 3 different compartments that zip.  The two smaller zip compartments are for the pieces.  The one larger zip compartment (in the middle of the other two) is for the DVD.  The mat is easily folded up and placed in the top open compartment (see picture).

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What I Thought -

This is great!  My son just loves it!  He takes it with him to several places.  With the case and a compartment for each and every thing, it is very convenient to take with you.

A few weeks ago, my son was hurt so he couldn't play soccer for a few weeks.  I made him go to the the games anyway, to be supportive.  He took this Chess set along and had it all set up on the sidelines.  When the other kids (between games) seen the set, they came over and wanted to play.  It was a big hit!

Overall I would highly recommend this to all who want to learn how to play or want to learn more about the game of Chess!  Great job Chess House!

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New to homeschooling? Don't know where to start?

We have several new members in our local homeschool group.  We live in a small community so this is really big news.  I'm so excited to have new members weekly!

So, you are new to homeschooling and you need to know where do you start?  Here are 3 tips for you to read and apply.....

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#1.  Know your states homeschooling laws

People make huge mistakes when they don't know the laws before starting their homeschooling.  There are certain steps to follow.  You do not want to be truant in any way, shape, or form with your local BOE/state.

To find out what your laws are go to HSLDA.org - You will have to put in some info. to get those state laws, but that is  normal if you are not a member.  HSLDA (Home School Legal Defence Asso) is a team of lawyers who support and help citizens fight for their homeschooling rights.  To find out more click HERE.  Another little tip, DO NOT ask your local BOE for help or tips!  They more than likely do not know the laws.  Remember, they want your child in the public school system, so asking them for help is never in your best interest.  (I am not against public schooling, I just believe that as parents, we should have a choice on how OUR children are educated.)

#2.  Find a local homeschooling support group

It is really important to find a support group.  Homeschooling can be so overwhelming at times and remember, another mom has more than likely been through the same thing you are going through.  So you will want to discuss things with other homeschooling moms so you know that you are NOT alone!  There are wonderful homeschool groups out there.  There are several links that can help you find a group.  Just 'google' - "find a local homeschool group" and there will be a list of sites to find a group in your area.

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#3.  Relax and have fun

There are so many curriculum choices out there that it can be very overwhelming and exciting at the same time.  So read the reviews.  Click HERE to read some reviews from the TOS Review Crew.  (When you scroll down, on the right they will have the vendors listed.)

Remember, if you choose something that isn't working for you, change it.  Yes, in the middle of the year.  It's ok.  RELAX!  Don't stress out.  You won't mess your child's education up if they are learning something.  When we get a bit stressed, we change our routine a bit.  Here are some things to do to 'change it up'.

day of baking
paint an outside building
let them choose, cook and serve a meal
let them teach you for the day
nature walk
movie day (educational - National Geographic & Animal Planet are 2 of our favorite!)

There are so many ways to make homeschooling fun.  But you must relax.  When mom is tense, the kids can feel it and they don't respond well.  Make learning fun. :)

All of these are my own personal opinion and experiences.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Zondervan Homeschool Mom's Bible TOS Review

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I received the Homeschool Mom's Bible (NIV) from Zondervan for review.

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ISBN 13: 9780310421054
Hardcover - 1,536 pages.  365 of those pages are uplifting devotions for homeschool mothers.

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Click HERE to view 44 sample pages.

What Is This? -

This is the original Bible (NIV) for homeschool mothers.  This Bible is special.  It gives an uplifting, encouraging devotional for every day of the year written by Janet Tatman.  Janet has four children and has more than 25 years of homeschooling under her belt.  She has a great devotion filled with inspiration and encouragement for every day.  She shares her homeschooling experiences to let all of the homeschool moms out there that we are not alone!  Janet has also spent years writing the 'Daily Focus' at AOP (Alpha Omega Publications).  She is a very wise and talented homeschool mother.

Every daily devotion has a scripture for you to focus on.  She shares a little bit of her experience of homeschooling with you and then gives you a prayer prompt at the end that goes with that days thoughts and scripture.  

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Some days you may not be able to come up with what you really need to pray about or talk to the Lord about.  She gives you this prompt to give you a jump start on your walk with the Lord for every morning.  

At the bottom of every devotion has the words 'go to' at the bottom so you can turn to that page for the next day's devotion.

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There are also pages in the back with a place to write 'notes' that you may want to write down in your Bible study.

The foreword of this Bible was written by Vickie Farris.  She is the wife of Michael Farris, who is the founder of HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association.)  She has some great words of compassion and wisdom.  She shares with you the challenging, but fulfilling, life of a homeschool mother.  She has ten children that she homeschools.  She has some great insight and advice for all the homeschooling mothers out in the world.

What I Thought -

I have to say that I was so excited to get this for review.  I have been looking for a devotional to help me get my day started for some time.  As a homeschool mother of two high energy boys, most devotionals just couldn't relate with what I was going through or what I was feeling.  I feel that homeschooling is a reward from the Lord but it is also a challenge as well that not many mothers can relate to unless you are in the same situation.  These devotionals have really inspired my homeschooling this year.  I look forward to my time with the Lord every morning before I begin my homeschool day.

I blogged about our first week of homeschooling a few weeks ago and mentioned that I had the 'key' to a successful homeschool.  I couldn't reveal what that 'key' was then, due to the review wasn't out yet, but I said that I would mention it when I could.  This BIBLE is that 'key' to my successful homeschool day!  Of course is isn't just the Bible, but it is the time with the Lord and this Bible has given me that inspiration to spend that special time each and every morning to start my homeschool day off right!

So if you are looking for someone to encourage you, relate to what you are going through, and looking for that special time with the Lord..... this Bible is what you really need.  I would highly recommend and encourage every homeschool mother to have this book in their everyday lives!  I wish I had this when I started homeschooling 10 years ago!

I give this special Bible an A for AMAZING !


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