Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bountiful Baskets: April 28

So I have posted about practically every Bountiful Basket I have received.  I figure even though I didn't like this one, I needed to post.  Because if nothing else, *I* want to be able to look back and see what types of trends there might be.

Fortunately for me, I chose not to purchase the extra strawberries.  Because those didn't get on our truck.  It sounds like some of them were intended to be in our baskets as well.  Strawberries would have helped me have a better attitude this week.

No pictures.  Because the idea of figuring out how to arrange a bazillion potatoes just doesn't do it for me.  I suppose I could take one photo of potatoes and broccoli and one of everything else.  Hmmm.

I got two baskets this week, but am listing what was in one basket.

So, in the baskets this week, we had the following vegetables:
  • a 10 pound bag of butter red potatoes
  • Plus another 16 potatoes, totaling another 6 pounds (the other basket contain 13 potatoes, weighing 5 pounds) (and yes, I got out my kitchen scale)
  • 4 heads of broccoli
  • a head of green cauliflower
  • an English cucumber
  • a big bag of green beans, almost 1.5 pounds
To be honest, the green beans were the only veggie I was actually happy to see.  I love broccoli (Dale hates it) but 8 heads of it is too much for even me.

The fruit was better.  There each basket contained:
  • one pineapple
  • a 3 pound bag of Fuji apples
  • a mini watermelon
  • a mango
  • 7 incredibly green bananas (8 in the second basket)
 I still love Bountiful Baskets, but 15-16 pounds of potatoes per basket is a bit excessive.  And for me, it is a bit depressing.  We had 60 pounds of potatoes in the house already.  Most of those are russets, so I guess it is nice to have some variety.  And four heads of broccoli?  I'm excited about the watermelon, even though I'm allergic.  English cucumbers are the one Bountiful Basket item I seem to consistently end up throwing out.

So, what are we going to do with all of this stuff?
  • I made eggs & potatoes for brunch yesterday.  And we had a potato-heavy beef stew for dinner.  I have plans to do corn chowder, and crab chowder.  I'm sure we'll have mashed potatoes a time or two.  I'm going to dice, saute and freeze a bunch of potatoes.  I've promised that I'll do homemade french fries too.  Oh, I have some smoked sausage, so I'm going to do up a sausage and potato skillet one night. 
  • Broccoli -- I'll put broccoli in our lunches all week while Dale is at work.  I'm planning broccoli with dinner next weekend when my parents are here.  I'll probably need to get about half of it frozen.
  • The cauliflower?  I have no idea.  I probably better freeze one, and maybe do cauliflower fritters for dinner some night.  So that we don't have an entire week in a row of potato-based soup.  I usually use cauliflower to stretch alfredo sauce and do chicken alfredo, but I'm not sure I want to have green alfredo sauce.
  • English cucumber?  Honestly, we'll end up slicing one up and using it as snacks during the day, and the other one will go bad in my fridge and get thrown out.
  • Green beans -- some went into last night's stew.  I've got chicken in the fridge I need to use, so these will probably be a side with those one night.  I don't know, but they will get used.
  • Fruit is always easy.  The mangoes will probably go into smoothies a couple days this week.  The pineapple and melon will be served as dessert with dinners.  Apples and bananas will be snacks.
Sorry to sound so negative in this post this week.  I'm mostly overwhelmed.  I purchase Bountiful Baskets to be sure my kids are eating fruit (which works this week, as always) and to get veggies besides potatoes into my family's diet, because we always have potatoes (and onions) around.  I know when I pay for the basket that I could end up with potatoes.  A five pound bag of potatoes per basket would have made me laugh -- and groan.  But bringing home THIRTY-ONE pounds of potatoes made me cry.

At least it was tortilla week.  The Bountiful Baskets tortillas are simply amazing.  That's the other thing happening with potatoes.  We'll be doing breakfast burritos 3-4 times this week, and I use three to four pounds of potatoes in those each time.

And yes.  I will still be ordering Bountiful Baskets next time.  This is the first basket in almost a year now (Bountiful Baskets started in Colorado Springs the first Saturday in June last year) that I don't think was really worth the money I paid for it.  And even this is close.  If the location in Ellicott was open -- which is about 25 miles closer to me, one way -- I would have felt that I broke even on this basket.

But that fact that Dale can stop on his way home from work and pick up a 50# bag of potatoes for a couple of dollars right now, makes the value of potatoes to me practically nothing... 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Crypto Mind Benders

I have been a huge fan of The Critical Thinking Co. since I first started homeschooling.  We own so many of their products, and I am always thrilled to have the chance to own more.  One of the greatest things about their materials is the wide age range for many of the books.  Like, for example, Crypto Mind Benders, which The Critical Thinking Co. recommends for grades 3-12.

I decided to test that a bit, and I used this book with all four of my boys.  They are in grades 9, 7, 5 and 2.  Okay, so Richard is just below the recommended grade range, technically.  But he is doing math at a 3rd grade level, so I figured we ought to try it.

We have used the regular Mind Benders off and on for years.  You know, the logic puzzles where four neighbors with names starting with the letters A, B, C and D live in four different colored houses and have four different types of play equipment in their yards.  You have some clues to help you figure out that Mr. A lives in the blue house that is the 2nd one on the street, and he has a sandbox out back.

Crypto Mind Benders is a bit of a twist on that.  The clues are mathematical expressions, and to solve the "secret code" the student needs to use algebraic thinking .

Because many (most?) of the Critical Thinking products have generous copyright provisions, allowing me to duplicate it for all the students in my home, I was able to make copies for all four boys.  We passed them out and started to work through the sample together.

The basic idea is that you have some mathematical statements using letters, and you need to deduce which number represents what letter.  That's part of the algebraic thinking.  When you determine which is what, you can decode the text and solve the "Famous Quotation."

Activity three is available to view on their website when you click to "look inside."  This gives you a pretty good idea as to how the book is set up.

But for purposes of this review, I'm going to talk about the Sample Activity that is included in the introduction.  It starts with three mathematical truths:
  • a > d
  • a < t
  • s > t
My older three all immediately told me that this meant that s > t > a > d, and since the numbers we were working with were 1, 2, 3 and 4, that meant s = 4, t = 3, a = 2 and d = 1.

I laughed, but I said... "You are right, however at least for the sample, we are going step by step and using the chart, just so you know how they work."

We started with a > d, and the 9th grader said, well, that would mean that a cannot be 1, and d cannot be 4.  So the big three filled out the little chart with minus signs, indicating that a wasn't 1 and d wasn't 4.

Richard (the 2nd grader) was totally confused at this point, so we let him go play with his sister (she's in Kindergarten) and we continued without him.  Thomas (5th grade) volunteered that a < t means that a can't be 4, and t can't be 1.  And that also proved that d couldn't be 3, because it has to be less than a.

The 7th grader took the 3rd statement -- s > t, and said that s couldn't be 1, t couldn't be 4, and s couldn't be 2.  And that meant that d had to be 1 (because nothing else can be) and s had to be 4 (because nothing else can be).

Connor had clearly already filled out the form and was just listening... so Thomas said that since a was less than t, a had to be 2 and t had to be 3.

At this point, they could fill in about half of the quotation, so they now knew that:

"T78 roots of 8ducat6o5 ar8 b6tt8r, but t78 fru6t 6s sw88t."  Ar6stotl8

We talked through the second puzzle as well, where we knew that:
  • n + e + h = 20
  • e > h > n
for numbers 5-8.  The other letter is i.  Just in case you are trying to play along.

After completing the sample together, all three of the older ones were now comfortable with doing these puzzles on their own, knowing they can come and talk to me if they need a nudge about how to attack a particular set of truths.

Richard, was another story.  He and I had to sit down one-on-one and go over the sample step by step.  He needed some suggestions in order to figure out how to make this work.  But after getting through the sample, he was at least able to get a start on the first "real" puzzles.

That gets us back to what I said near the beginning of this:  One of the greatest things about their materials is the wide age range for many of the books.

My older children can work through this independently.  At the lowest end of the targeted range, Richard is able to work through it if I am sitting with him, throwing out a few well-timed "Does that statement tell you anything else?" or "What else do you know about 5?" comments.

My kids all think these puzzles are fun, though Richard is still a bit intimidated.  I only allow them to do one at a time -- Connor would prefer to sit down and work the entire book in a single sitting.

Crypto Mind Benders: Famous Quotations is available for $10.99 for either a book or an ebook.  I think that is a bargain.

Members of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew had the chance to review this and three other books.  All four selections were fabulous.  To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about this, Mathematical Reasoning, Inference Jones and Balance Math click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway: As One Devil to Another

C. S. Lewis has been a favorite of mine pretty much forever.  So in reading this description from the publisher, I knew I simply had to read this.
As One Devil to Another is an astonishing debut work that C. S. Lewis’s biographer and foremost Lewis authority Walter Hooper calls “a stunning achievement, the finest example of the genre of diabolical correspondence to appear since this genre was popularized by C. S. Lewis.” Enter into this chilling and diabolical tale, one that reveals the very tricks and strategies of Hell. Through a series of letters between devils created by Platt, senior devil Slashreap trains his young protégé, Scardagger, to win an individual soul away from Heaven and into their clutches. As the devils plot their way to triumph, they reveal the spiritual dangers and risks we face in today’s society. Their frighteningly accurate perspective on issues such as contemporary technology and sexual mores is interwoven with timeless matters such as the power of prayer, the purpose of suffering, and the promises held out by Heaven . . . and Hell. Destined to become a modern classic, As One Devil to Another is a brilliantly written, deeply unsettling perspective on twenty-first-century society . . . a glimpse of ourselves through the eyes of those who have embraced their underworldly existence.
The book totally lived up to the promise of the above blurb.  As One Devil to Another by Richard Platt is an astonishing debut work. Platt picks up the devilish correspondence where Screwtape left off, with enough allusions to Screwtape Letters (and to the commencement address) for fans of the original work to smile in recognition to the references. However, being familiar with Screwtape Letters is by no means a prerequisite for this title.  As One Devil to Another stands alone.  And it stands on the shoulders of The Screwtape Letters as well.

A captivating read (fun just is NOT the right word for this), this is something I highly recommend.

Both of these titles are going to be required reading for my high school students.

I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to give one of YOU a copy of this book too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:   I received this book -- and the one I'm giving away -- for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I is for Inconspicuous Hippopotamus

Blogging through the Alphabet time again.

And today, I is for Inconspicuous Hippopotamus.   And all those other great picture books that <sob> my children are starting too think they are too old for.

Why do I love picture books?  Let me count the ways.

A good picture book, like Veronica by Roger Duvoisin, can introduce little kids to some amazing vocabulary.  All of my children, as toddlers, easily learned the word "inconspicuous" after having this book read to them a couple of times.

If you have never read Veronica, go to your library, check it out, and grab the youngest child you can.  It is delightful.  Duvoisin also wrote Petunia, an equally wonderful story about a silly goose who decides that because she found a book she has gained wisdom.  Petunia doesn't have an amazingly fun-to-say little catch-phrase like "inconspicuous hippopotamus" but she does give a great message about actually reading the book if you want to be smarter.

That's the thing with picture books.  The good ones, anyway.  Brilliant authors can pack some amazing vocabulary and a fabulous message into a few short pages, and there is usually lots of fun stuff to look at and talk about besides.

I love the books I remember reading as a child, like the ones mentioned above.  Or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Or Make Way for Ducklings.  Or George and Martha. 

I love so many of the newer books too.  Goodnight Moon.  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.  Click, Clack Moo.

What are your favorite picture books?  Do you still have someone to read them to?

Go, check out Marcy's blog, where other people have posted about far more normal I things -- mostly with a small i -- as in iPad, iPhone, iEducation...  all of which would have been totally perfect things for me to blog about too.

Review: God's Great Covenant

I have yet to meet a product from Classical Academic Press that I did not at least like.  We're getting to the point where we own quite a few (my reviews are linked)... from Latin program (Latin Alive and Song School Latin) to Logic (Art of Argument and Discovery of Deduction) to Greek (Song School Greek).  Recently, we have had the chance to fall in love with their Bible program, God's Great Covenant while working with their New Testament 1 Bundle.

What a fabulous program!  The publisher recommends this for 4th grade and up, but I ended up pulling everyone in for this.  I had my 5th and 7th graders doing the workbook aspect, but the 9th, 2nd and Kindergartner were listening in to the readings.  I love when I can use a Bible resource for everyone.

What this is:

God's Great Covenant will be a four-volume series (two for the Old Testament and two for the New Testament).  Each volume includes a student book, a teacher's edition, and a set of mp3 audio files. 

The material is divided into four units of 9 lessons each (so 36 weekly lessons in all) plus a whole bunch of introductory material.  This covers the gospels.  God's Great Covenant New Testament 2 will cover the remainder of the New Testament, focusing on the story of how Jesus' disciples took the gospel message throughout the world.

The units in this study include:
  1. Jesus, the Son of Man, Has Come... To Live Among His People
  2. Jesus, God's Servant, Has Come... To Proclaim the Good News
  3. Jesus, the Messiah, Has Come... To Teach About God's Kingdom
  4. Jesus, the Son of God, Has Come... To Conquer Sin and Death
The book starts off with six introductory sections.  We spent three weeks just on this!  My one wish is that the mp3 audio files would include the introductory materials.  Anyway, this included:
  • a general Introduction, which talks a bit about how this study is organized
  • a Historical and Political Introduction, which covers the various empires in Palestine, and specifically what was happening politically around the time of Jesus.  I completely lost my 2nd grader and kindergartner in this part.
  • a Chronological Introduction, which goes through basically a timeline of Jesus' life
  • a Geographical Introduction, with two maps, that covers the geography and topography of the region
  • a Religious Introduction, which covers a whole lot of ground as far as what synagogues are, the role of the Temple, the Sadducees and Pharisees, scribes and priests.  I lost my little two in this section too.
  • A Daily Life Introduction, where we "meet" Simon, a fictitious boy who lives in a fictitious Jewish village near Cana.  He is used here and in the unit wrap-ups to talk about what normal life was like in this time.
Each unit starts off with a couple pages of introductory information (which we easily incorporated into the first week's lesson.  Each unit ends with summary worksheets, including memory passage worksheets, a devotional guide, and a Simon's World section.  We haven't gotten this far yet, but I am sure we will spend a week wrapping up each unit.

Within the unit, each lesson contains a story time section (which you can listen to on the mp3 audio files) and which includes charts and maps.  There are also two pages of review worksheets, and a memory passage of a verse or two.

The Teacher's Edition is fabulous, with the student pages included (and large enough to actually be read!) along with extensive notes and study helps for the teacher.  Since I am using this with a high school and junior high student, we are making use of these notes.  I typically let the little two run off while we talk over these extra details.  

We are enjoying this study, and I will be purchasing the New Testament 2 when it comes out.  We haven't spent nearly enough time studying the New Testament!  It is likely we will backtrack and use the two Old Testament volumes too.

The New Testament bundle, which includes both the student and teacher books, and the audio downloads, is available for $56.95.  Items can also be purchased separately.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about God's Great Covenant click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Review: Amazing Science!

One of my favorite discoveries from my time serving on the TOS Homeschool Crew has been a company called Math Tutor DVD.  We've reviewed four videos for them -- Young Minds and Basic Math Word Problem Tutor in 2010, and Pre-Algebra Tutor and the Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor last year.  We have also purchased a number of other DVDs from them.

Well, this year, things have changed.  They have a new name, Science and Math.  And that name should give you a clue as to what changes are taking place.

I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to get the chance to review volume 1 of Amazing Science!  Consisting of two DVDs with 23 experiments, this is one of those items I think every family ought to have.

My kids loved it too.  Everyone from the six year old to the fourteen year old.  The 6- and 8-year olds were the ones who did the most with it though.  Particularly the 8 year old.

Richard would put the DVD in, watch an experiment (or two or three) and start gathering supplies.  For the most part, the supplies are things that are already available in our house, though a couple of things we had to make a point of grabbing, like a can of soda.

The very first morning, Richard & Trina watched about a half dozen of the experiments, and then Richard set up the first one on the DVD -- Color Changing Milk.  We had some seriously souring milk that I was about to throw out, so he asked if he could see if this would work with "chunky milk" or not.  I thought that sounded perfect.

Here is his setup:

This is really pretty basic.  Milk in some sort of dish, add a drop or two of food coloring, and then use a cotton swab dipped in dish soap to see what happens to the fats in the milk.

The food coloring makes it so that you can see what occurred.

The best part about this DVD is that after doing the experiment, Jason then goes through and thoroughly explains the science behind it.  Okay, Trina doesn't like this part, but she's only 6.  The rest of my boys do.

When Richard accompanied me to pick up our Bountiful Baskets the week after we received this DVD, he was delighted to see that there were a couple of lemons in our box.  He immediately told me we needed to get a galvanized nail and a copper penny.  I couldn't remember AT ALL why, but he knew we had to do the Lemon Battery experiment.  I did not get photos... so here is one from their website:

We did not disassemble a calculator to see if we could make it lemon powered, but we did hook it up to a multimeter to measure the voltage.  (Yes, we do happen to have a multimeter laying around, but would have to go out to purchase a can of soda.  Your family's common household items probably differ from ours.)

The other best part about this DVD is that I have had to do practically nothing.  It is so self-explanatory.  When they did a couple of experiments involving candles or matches, Richard got a big brother involved, so I didn't even have to do anything with that part.

Like everything I have used from this company, the DVD is worth far more than its price tag.  $19.95 in this case, or you can purchase it as downloadable video for $17.99.

I'll repeat -- this is something I would recommend to absolutely anyone with children.  Here's one of the experiments -- one we did NOT do:

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Amazing Science! click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: Baroness

It is time for me to review another book by my favorite author, Susan May Warren.  Baroness, the second title in her Daughters of Fortune series, is her latest "keep Debra up until the wee hours of the morning" title.

The first book in the series, Heiress, told the stories of two sisters.  I reviewed it last fall.  Baroness picks up with the stories of their daughters.

From the publisher:
Expected to marry well and to take the reins of the family empire, they have their lives planned out for them. But following their dreams -- from avant garde France, to Broadway, to the skies in the world of barnstormers and wing-walkers -- will take all their courage. And if they find love, will they choose freedom or happily ever after?
Just like everything I have read by Susan May Warren, I loved this book.  Much like the first in this series, however, at times I found it really hard to actually relate to the main characters.  What is fascinating, though, is how on one page I'll be rolling my eyes at one of these two women, and two pages later I'm completely empathizing with her.  Basically, like she always does, Warren has created fascinating, multi-faceted characters.

The publisher's blurb quoted above talks about all the amazing locations I visited in this story.  The best locations for me, though, were the little podunk towns all over the upper Midwest. 

I found myself totally loving the story of Lilly.  At the conclusion of Heiress, she was plucked from her life on a Montana ranch to be part of the family empire in New York.  She dreams of returning to Montana, and she is the one who spends time in the "world of barnstormers and wing-walkers" during this tale.

Rosie, on the other hand, dreams of life as a starlet. Forever obsessing about clothes and makeup, I had a hard time relating to her.

What I love the most about reading Susan May Warren is that her stories don't tend to end up all wrapped up and completely happily ever after.  People make mistakes, and those mistakes have consequences.  The characters don't finally rediscover their faith and have that make everything all better.  Lest this sound too negative, though, it isn't that the characters live un-happily ever after either!  It's just not a total fairy-tale ending. 

Find out what other reviewers are saying here!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

H is for Hunger

I didn't have any trouble figuring out what "H" is for.  I've just had trouble sitting down to write this post.

H is for Hunger.

I think I've mentioned on here before that Connor is wanting his Eagle Project to be something that helps to alleviate (in some small way) the problems of rural hunger.

It certainly isn't that hunger isn't an issue in urban environments, but there are so many more resources available in the city.  Out in rural America, people have a harder time finding help.

But that isn't really the point of this post.

I'm planning to do a little series in May.  And it relates to hunger too, but on a more personal level.  Five Days of Living out of my Pantry.

Not like I have all the answers, or anything.  But I do know that at times I will nonchalantly comment about how we've got a $15 grocery budget fort the week and people assume we are starving.  I know that is definitely not the case.  So clearly, what I think is normal might not be.  Which means I'm going to try to blog about it just a bit.

But how?
  • I'm considering cutting our grocery budget to something in the range of $25 per week for the next few weeks, and writing up weekly blog posts about what we eat.  
  • Or maybe having a $0 grocery budget for a week, and blogging about it day by day.
  • Or trying to figure out what it actually is that I do that is different than the norm, and blogging about it.  But that is harder to wrap my brain around.  Because, naturally, I think I'm normal.

So how do you think I ought to tackle this subject?  Because I do think one step in dealing with the issues of hunger is for individuals -- for families -- to learn and grow and be more prepared to deal with whatever comes along.  A well-stocked pantry being at least one little part of that. 

I know it is often said that most people are a single paycheck away from some pretty serious financial problems.  Could you go a month without groceries?  Or a week?

I know we could.  Because we have.

Go, check out Marcy's blog, where other people have posted about far more upbeat H things like hope, Hershey's kisses and helping hands!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Christian Kids Explore Physics

I have a houseful of science geeks.  I know that comes as no shock to most of my regular readers.

Having the opportunity to review a science curriculum is always something to get excited about here.  Especially when we're talking about something a little different than our usual (biology heavy) science fare.

Bright Ideas Press has a pretty amazing series of books in the Christian Kids Explore Science series.  A year and a half ago, we had the chance to review Christian Kids Explore Biology.

For the past few weeks, we've been busy with Christian Kids Explore Physics, which we received electronically.  This is the 2nd edition of this title, and it now comes with a Resource CD.

The Resource CD is phenomenal. These are available with all of the Christian Kids Explore Science titles now, and clearly came about from the work done with the Illuminations program that Bright Ideas Press created.  (I reviewed Illuminations a couple years ago too!)

Clicking on the "Start Here" file brings you into a pdf file that acts much like a web browser.  You have choices to pull up lesson plans (each lesson is a single page, with two days worth of assignments), the reproducibles (no more trying to copy pages out of the book), supply lists (three pages, all together, incredibly easy!), a literature guide on Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia, a pdf catalog, or a button to contact Bright Ideas Press.

I love the Resource CD materials.

So now for the book itself.  I'll be upfront and tell you I have some mixed opinions on the book.  The website says this is for grades 4-8.  I was initially using this with my two middle boys -- William, grade 7, and Thomas, grade 5.  Richard, grade 2, ended up joining in as well.

Let me talk about this book for my elementary kids, and then talk about it for my jr. high child.

For Thomas and Richard, this book is great.  My goals with elementary science are to expose kids to a variety of activities, approaches, and ideas.  I adore using biographies in science, and lesson 3 of Christian Kids Explore Physics is about physicists, with the suggestion to read biographies.  We've spread that out over a lot more weeks than just week 3.

As a single book, this is great for them.

  • Unit One introduces some basic physics information, including the great stuff about physicists.
  • Unit Two goes over Matter.  One issue I have with this unit is the similarity to Christian Kids Explore Chemistry, however this information is important.  We especially liked the atomic physics part.
  • Unit Three is on Mechanics.  We haven't gotten this far, but in looking ahead for purposes of this review, this is where the book gets really good.
  • Unit Four is Matter in Motion.  This is where you get into things like Newton's Laws of Motion.  Fun stuff.
  • Unit Five is Energy in Motion.  You get the chance to learn about radio/tv, heat, music, etc.  Also a lot of fun.
  • Unit Six is Electricity and Magnetism, my least favorite physics section.  Fortunately for me, the section is short.  Unfortunately for me, my boys love the electricity part of this and will want more.
As part of the series of Christian Kids Explore Science, I worry a bit about whether the kids would do okay with Unit Two if they have just completed Chemistry.  Not the case for my kids though.

My only other concern with this book for elementary ages is some of the hands-on portion.  A number of the lessons have as their only hands-on activity a word search puzzle.  I can understand that for the lesson on x-rays (not something I want my kids experimenting with!) or the lesson on physicists.  Though I assigned a research project for the physicists.

But couldn't we do something actually hands-on for the lesson on electricity and for the lesson on Newton's laws?  Well, we will.  Like my kids would let me get away with them not doing hands-on for these topics.  (I told you we are science geeks!)  I just wish it was included already.

Overall, I love this book for them.

Junior high, though?  For William, we're dropping this.  I think by junior high you should be expecting something a bit more rigorous.  The hands-on is great, the overall scope is great.  But there is something.  Well, let me give you an example.

In Lesson 2, the topic is measuring.  Critically important topic in physics and I am glad it is there.  The basic concept of the lesson is to understand the essential measurements needed in physics.  Speed, dimensions (length, width, height), distance, volume, temperature and weight.

I thought the definitions were a little casual, but I was okay with that.  Until I came to the definition of temperature.

Per the book:  "A measure of how hot or how cold something is.  Temperature is measured using a thermometer."

Okay, yes, that is true. Essentially.  

But in physics, temperature means something a bit more technical.  My 2nd grader commented on it when he saw my face scrunch up a bit as I was reading the definition aloud.  I had decided I was going to read the complete section on temperature before adding any editorial comments.  My 8 year old interrupted me though.  "But Mom!  Temperature measures how fast the molecules are moving around, which isn't exactly the same thing as how hot or cold something is!"

Umm.  Yeah, basically.  And how did you know that?  (Did I mention we're science geeks?  He just picked that tidbit up "somewhere" and thinks that is something everybody knows.  I can't keep up.  But that's beyond the scope of this review.)

I don't know if temperature is addressed in more depth later.  I scanned the book and I haven't found it.  But for a junior high student, I think the definitions ought to be scientific ones, not everyday usage ones.  

The discussion on weight bothered me too.  A couple sentences about weight vs. mass, and I would have felt better.

Of course, most people would probably not be so nit-picky.  The other thing is that we are considering continuing with Christian Kids Explore Physics, and just working a bit more heavily with the recommendations in Appendix A: Book and Resource List. 

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about this and the other titles in the Christian Kids Explore series, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive products as mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bountiful Baskets April 14

What a great Bountiful Baskets day!!  We were back to the normal (too stinkin' early) time.  I didn't sleep well last night, so when the alarm went off, I decided that getting up before 4:00 a.m. was simply not going to work for me today.  So I did not volunteer.

I had two baskets, plus a box of Roma tomatoes.  My plan for the tomatoes is to do a whole lot of mild salsa, as we are down to the last half of the last jar.  Which meant I was needing to purchase green peppers, onions and Anaheim peppers.  I have very limited funds for grocery purchasing this week, so I was a bit concerned.

Here are (not terribly good) photos of one of the baskets.  First, the fruit:

  • 6 bananas (the other basket had 7)
  • 8 oranges (the other basket had 7)
  • 5 kiwi
  • 4 enormous lemons (the other basket had 3)
  • 11 Cripps Pink apples
  • 6 Red D'Anjou pears

And then the veggies.  Can you take one look and see why I was nearly crying?

  • 11 Roma tomatoes
  • 4 green peppers
  • 2 large onions
  • 5 zucchini
  • 4 yellow squash
  • big bag of Brussels sprouts
  • 1 head of leaf lettuce
Yeah.  Onions and green peppers.  So I only had to purchase chili peppers, and I've got the salsa covered.  What an amazing blessing that is.

Plans for the food --
  • The fruit, besides the lemons, will just get eaten.  And we're really excited about all of it.  The pink apples are probably my new favorite, and it has been ages since we've had kiwi.
  • The green peppers, onions and tomatoes are going to be salsa.  Okay, well, maybe not all of the tomatoes.
  • Salads with the lettuce.  I'm thinking about doing up some salad in a jar thing I saw somewhere in the last couple weeks.
  • Brussels sprouts -- because I have pounds and pounds of potatoes, plus lots of carrots, plus sweet potatoes... I'll be trying a recipe for Roasted Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts.  Only I'm not buying parsnips.  I will also be doing a Rachael Ray recipe for Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.  We've had that one before.
  • I'll be trying a Paula Deen recipe for Squash Casserole.  It's similar to another recipe I haven't been able to find.
  • The lemons are my mystery food.  These puppies are HUGE.  I need to figure out something to do with them, as this is way more lemon than I'd normally use.
I'm linking up to a Bountiful Baskets Linky Party over at Healthy Mom's Kitchen.  Check them out if you are looking for more ideas for this week's basket!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Fabulous Fractions

This is the second time this school-year that we have had the opportunity to review products from AIMS Education Foundation.  AIMS, as in Activities Integrating Math and Science.  Last fall, we reviewed one of their science books, Earth Book, which was good. 

This time around, we were able to work with a math book, Fabulous Fractions.  This book is intended for students in 3rd -5th grades, so I chose to have Thomas (5th grade) work through it with me.

This has been fun.  The book contains 22 hands-on activities relating to fractions, covering everything from the basics of what a fraction is up through multiplying and dividing them.

These books are designed for classroom use, so there are a couple drawbacks for most homeschools.
  • A lot of educationalese.  Each activity includes a whole lot of talk about how this meets this, that or the other standards.  Not a big deal, you just ignore that chatter if you don't need it.
  • Some of the activities need to be adapted to do with just one student instead of a classroom.  However, that was fairly easy to do, especially when I'd grab a brother to partner with Thomas in an activity.
  • Some of the activities require an awful lot of preparation for just one student.  Fortunately, those tended to be the more introductory ones, which Thomas was able to do without actually needing the manipulatives.
One of the best features of all (or most?) of the AIMS books is that they come with a CD-ROM containing all the reproducible "stuff" so it is super-simple to print off what I need for my student.

I'm very impressed.  And the price is good too -- $21.95 for a print book, $19.95 for a pdf.  I will most definitely be looking at others in their math series, and quite possibly some science titles as well. 

If you go check out their activity books, you'll see that they have math and science titles available for grades K-9.  One on my wish list is Historical Connections in Mathematics, which is actually listed as being for Grades 7-12.  Each of the three volumes in this series contains resources relating to ten different mathematicians. 

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about this and five other books from AIMS, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive the products mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: Write with WORLD

I have a houseful of pencil-phobic boys.  Trina doesn't seem to have inherited this tendency, but most of the time the review products that come through our door aren't appropriate for her.  Especially writing.

I love the idea of finding programs that will click for my guys.  So I was excited about the thought of reviewing the latest offering from World Magazine -- you know, the folks that bring God's World News to us.  Their newest endeavor is Write with WORLD, which will be a two-year middle-school writing program.

Why yet another homeschool writing program?  World Magazine had an article in February (Be Specific) that explains some of the "why" behind this program.  Near the end of the article, they say, "They have produced Write with WORLD, a new writing curriculum for homeschools and schools that requires students 'to think and make choices, not just follow a formula. We don't want to tell students always to combine sentences [or] start a new paragraph after five sentences.'"

The website also talks about what makes them different. One thing I appreciate is that they incorporate critical thinking.  Another is the idea that these kids can be contributing to social media in a way that intentionally incorporates their worldview.

The TOS Homeschool Crew had the chance to view the pilot program, so what I had to review doesn't completely reflect what will be out there for purchase.  For one thing, the regular program is supposed to have some online component, which William has been wishing we had. 

Anyway... I chose to use this program with William, my 7th grader.  We pulled it out, dug in, and immediately were drawn to a few things.

The biggest is that this program uses a lot of images.  The early lessons involve looking at a picture and figuring things out from that.  Considering that photography is one of the (very few) academic types of things that William is truly interested in, this was a huge deal for him.  Plus, this section dovetailed nicely with what we've been doing in Logic (informal fallacies) and I always love when one program supports what we're doing in another!

In one lesson (each lesson consists of 5 "capsules," or daily assignments), William had to find a photograph in a magazine.  World magazine, of course, is suggested, but William had a stack of World, Boys Life and some duck hunting thing or another.  Once he chooses a photo, he then has to work through the parts of speech, coming up first with a couple of descriptive nouns, then with a list of quality adjectives, then some lively verbs, etc.

William is familiar with parts of speech already, but putting them into terminology relating to the photograph (the picture has a subject, and your sentence needs one too) seemed to do a lot to make things stick differently.

Overall, William really enjoys this writing program and has asked that we continue using it past the review period.  He was having a hard time verbalizing it, but mostly it seems to boil down to liking the manageable chunks of work, and he really appreciates the news magazine angle.

One thing I appreciate is that the materials give plenty of real examples, and the students have the chance to evaluate for themselves, and to see how to improve (edit) someone else's work, and ultimately their own.  From the Teacher's Edition:
Unfortunately, many young writers learn the opposite lesson. Too many students are taught to dislike writing. They learn that writing is a trivial, rules-based skill that has little impact on their learning or future calling. They learn that writing is an either-or proposition: writing is either good or bad, right or wrong.
Some of the early assignments have the student reading two different phrases (or sentences) about a photo and evaluating which is better.  I love that the Teacher's Editions notes that students could prefer the wordier sentence or phrase, and that "they are not necessarily wrong."

The teacher's materials encourage dialogue about what makes one phrase better than another.  I believe this dialogue about words is particularly helpful for my less-than-enthusiastic writer.

For instance, one assignment had him coming up with ten adjectives to describe himself.  Because of this assignment, William started noticing the adjectives used to describe people in some of the news stories.  That prompted a conversation. 

We already had a list of adjectives about William, so we crafted a basic sentence (The boy volunteered at the food pantry) and then discussed how we could change our adjectives and noun in order to help make whatever point we were trying to make.

Were we wanting to emphasize that today's youth care?  "The young teen..." helps to do that.  "The homeschooled youth..." might help to bring out that homeschoolers are able to be out serving their community in a way public school kids can't.  "The Christian boy..." could help to point out that many of these charities are religious in nature.  So it isn't a matter of one adjective being better than another, but that different adjectives help to bring across slightly different messages.

This conversation wasn't part of the curriculum per se, however, it came about because of what we were learning.

Since this is a pilot program, my materials aren't exactly what you will get if you purchase the program.  What I have is a teacher book and a student book (non-consumable) which contain 16 lessons.  The early lessons can easily be completed in one week, but later lessons will require more time -- two or even three weeks each. Ultimately, as I mentioned above, this is to include some web-based materials as well, including the opportunity to have student work published on the website, and more current events assignments.

I'm sure there will be more information on the website as the final version is ready!  The current pricing for preorders is $95 for the first year of the program, which includes the teacher and student books and online access.  You can view samples at the website.

Our bottom line: This is a program we will continue to use. 

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about Write with World, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive the products mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: TruthQuest History

A few days ago I answered the question "What is your favorite history resource?" in a blog post titled: My love affair with biographies.  Given this, I suppose it is natural that I'd gravitate towards a "historical fiction and biography" approach to history for my kids.

When we've been most successful with this, we've been able to have everyone more or less on the same page. The past couple years, however, we've been drowning when it came to history, because we had moved away from all of us doing it together.

And then a few weeks ago, I found TruthQuest History.

I'm going to confess something here.  I didn't plan to like this.  I looked over the website, looked over the samples, and I knew it wouldn't work for us.  Not enough direction, too cutesy in the commentary, too single-perspective in approach.  Not to mention that my kids are just too far apart.  I volunteered to review it mostly because people keep asking me what I think of TruthQuest, and I always have to just mumble, "I've heard good things about it, but I really don't know..." and I really wanted to be able to look it over thoroughly so I could give a better answer.

Connor really wanted a chance to spend six weeks studying modern history, so we chose Age of Revolution III (world history, 1865 to the present, for 5th-12th graders).  When we received it, I read over the introduction, started pulling together resources, and dug in.

And we loved it.  Even though this is intended for the older kids, there are book suggestions for the little ones too (my littles are K and 2nd).  After two days, and a lot of looking ahead on my part (my high school student did a lot of looking through it too) we decided that TruthQuest is what we need for the long-term.

So I contacted Mrs. Miller and begged for some help in figuring out a plan of attack for my gang for after this review.  The website is fabulous,  with a How to Choose section that gives some ideas for plans for starting at various ages. I thoroughly read that, but still contacted TruthQuest. 

I have to rave about the customer service.  Mrs. Miller had a lot going on in her life at the time this review started, including the fact that she was frantically trying to get all the guides into pdf format, but she gave me some incredibly thoughtful recommendations as to how to make this work out for us for the long-term.  We ended up getting the Renaissance, Reformation and Exploration guide (also for grades 5-12) and the American History for Young Learners I (for grades 1-5).  We switched gears.

How it works:  Basically, TruthQuest is a combination of a commentary on history, coming from a distinctly Christian perspective, and a resource list.  It is not a daily schedule, or even a weekly one.  It does not suggest specific hands-on activities often. 

As a parent, you decide which topics you will dig into, and you choose which to skip entirely.  You decide if you want to just read the commentary.  You decide if you want to own some "spine" resources.  You choose which books to read and how many of them.

I did sit down and list out the table of contents in a spreadsheet, and then I took the American History table of contents and tried to match things up for the explorers aspect of it.  This also helps me to get a rough idea as to what I might want to start hunting for at the library.

How we use this: I already owned one of the "spine" texts for the Renaissance guide (Our Island Story) and a number of the "general resources" (Story of the World, Greenleaf's Famous Men of the Renaissance & Reformation, This Country of Ours).  I can get a couple others from the library (Light and the Glory, How Should We Then Live?).  I ended up purchasing a couple others (Renaissance and Reformation Times, Story of Liberty, Story of the Thirteen Colonies).  Please note:  you do not need to own (or use) the spine texts, or the general ones. 

I look ahead, and put on hold every single resource that my library has from the recommendations provided by Mrs. Miller.  The library typically has between 1/3 and 1/2 of the specific suggestions, which means for some subtopics it has nothing.  I also check out some of the other resources I have around (mostly ebooks).  If I don't have much between those, I decide if I want to dig further, and if so, I'll do a general search at the library.

As for the actual teaching, each section starts out with a commentary, which I read aloud to everyone.  I do tend to rephrase it a bit as I go, to tone it down a bit.  After the commentary, there are usually a number of sections with resource recommendations.  We start with the "general information" one (usually the first sub-topic) and we pull out all the resources I have found on that. 

If there are picture books, I start with those, then excuse the little two.  I love picture books.  At least good ones.  Those authors have learned how to get the most important points into just a few words.

We then read the older level books.  With some sections, I'll assign a book for my high school student to read, mostly based on his interest level.  We just read until we all seem to feel we've read enough.  Sometimes that takes a single book (or a chapter out of one of the spines or general resources).  Sometimes we end up reading a few books over a couple of days.

Then we go on to the next subtopic.  Often the second subtopic in a section will be an activity book of some sort.  We don't tend to do those.  My kids come up with activities pretty well on their own, so I don't tend to add them to our "formal" schoolday.

The other sub-points in a section tend to be about individuals or specific events.  I think I've mentioned once or twice lately that I love biographies, so obviously I try to make sure we at least read a chapter out of Greenleaf (this book is a collection of short biographies) or something similar.  I try to get a biography appropriate for each grouping of my kids (high school, middle school, early elementary) and read those.

When we are done, we move on.

I cannot begin to tell you how fabulous this has been for us.  The kids are once again able to interact about their history, as they are studying essentially the same stuff.  I am actually DOING history with everyone instead of short-changing anyone.  I hated that Connor was basically doing history without me anymore.  I want to be able to be discussing the big ideas, the flaws, the virtues... the "WHY does this stuff matter"... of his history studies.

Our plan for the next few years?  We'll be working through Age of Revolution I, II and III (and the corresponding American History for Young Learners books, starting after the explorers in the first one) through Connor's high school.  Then, we'll jump back and do something else, probably the Middle Ages.  Once Connor graduates, the littles should be fine in the regular guides (they'll be in grades 4 and 6).

Let's jump back to those reasons I knew TruthQuest wouldn't work for me:
  1. Too "cute" in the commentary.  It definitely is, but I just don't read everything verbatim.  I actually like the casual-ness of it, so it is just some of the extra "Wow!!!" stuff that I skip over.  No big deal.  As we actually started using it, I found that I love the energetic feel.  
  2. Too single-perspective.  If I was just reading the commentary, this would be true.  But by adding in extra resources, I am adding in other perspectives.  I noticed that there is a decent variety of perspectives represented, even in the spine and general recommendations.  And since I'm the one in charge of what extras to read anyway, I'm free to add materials from whatever perspective I choose.  So we'll be reading some books about the Reformation that are written from a distinctly Roman Catholic perspective, for instance.
  3. Not enough direction.  Okay, this would have been hard to get past back to when I was new to homeschooling.  I would have floundered as a pregnant mom of a 1st grader, plus a 5 and 3 year old.  Right now though?  I am loving the freedom this offers me.  I don't have to spend two weeks studying Gutenberg.  We can spend a day and move on.
  4. Not enough direction, part II.  The other thing I realized as we actually USED this is that this also gives me the freedom to determine things way more tailored to my kids.  Right now, that means everyone is pretty much stuck with me gearing it towards Connor.  But down the road, I can be sure to focus on the Middle Ages for William.  And more importantly, Thomas can spend a year each on Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome in high school (he plans to go into classical archaeology).
  5. Not enough direction, part III.  Since I am planning to do four years of TruthQuest in 3.5 years for Connor, this "freedom" also means that we'll be able to easily choose to skip through some of the material without messing up a schedule, or feeling guilty that we aren't doing everything.
  6. My kids are too far apart.  As it turns out, the American History series coordinates incredibly well with Age of Revolution and even with the Renaissance guide, so I can target the little two a bit more with lighter issues, while still doing the deeper, heavier stuff with their big brothers.
What did my kids think?

Connor, 9th grade:
I love that it doesn't have to take up my entire day.  I can delve into the topics that I want to but I don't have to delve into all the topics.  I like that I have some control over what I study.  Of course, my mom also has control over what I study too, so I still sometimes have to spend more time on a topic than I'd prefer.

I like how they talk about authors, scientists, artists, and composers in the context of the history.  So we can decide to read some works by that author at an appropriate time in our studies.  So far, mostly we've been doing stuff with art (obviously, this study is called Renaissance, Reformation and Exploration) and that is one Mom is insisting on us doing more with.  I'm tracking hours, and I should be able to get some art history credit as we continue through this.
William, 7th grade:  "I like that we can cover history from a distinctly Christian point of view, without getting bogged down in obsessive amounts of detail."

Thomas, 5th grade:  "It's fun to be doing things consistently again, instead of Mom always having to decide whose history to get to that day.  All the art books were pretty cool.  I can't wait to do Rome."

Richard and Trina (2nd and K) both basically shrugged and said, "whatever."  Richard said he loved the Ships book though, and that he wants to learn about "the inventors and scientists and stuff."  Trina mostly seemed sad that we haven't talked about any princesses yet.  "But some of the art was pretty."

The best part?  The pdf version of the Study Guide for Renaissance, Reformation, Explorers costs $19.95.  All of the guides are now available as pdf (I love that, let me tell you, as I never misplace it) with the most expensive one being $29.95.  Print versions are a few dollars more.  I spent under $30 on spine texts.  This is history I can afford and history I can fit into our lives.

A Journey Through Learning has also created some products that go along with many of these guides.  I'm pretty much a lapbook failure, but I know that will appeal to many of my readers.  And the Map/Timeline/Report one looks intriguing.  I may need to try that.  (You can find these on the same purchase page I linked in the previous paragraph.)

This is a serious candidate for my #1 Crew Product for the year.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about the various TruthQuest guides, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive some of the products mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Book Review: Farm Fresh Southern Cooking

Lately, I've had two interesting things happening in my cooking.  The first started about a year ago, when we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with some of our tax refund, then in June Bountiful Baskets had its first location in Colorado Springs.  That means I have affordable produce -- and lots of it.  And some of it is things I've never really cooked before

The other thing is that thanks to internet recipe searches, I've started experimenting with Southern cooking.  I even managed to make edible grits.  The key seems to be using about twice as much butter as I think it needs.

When Farm Fresh Southern Cooking by Tammy Algood came up on Booksneeze as a review item, you bet I had to get it.  Just read the description from the publisher:
Is there anything better than a kitchen countertop spread with the spoils of a Saturday morning at the farmers’ market? Every trip yields some new assortment of old favorites and newfound treasures. One week, you’re tempted by the sun-warmed heirloom tomatoes and the Mason jars brimming with orange blossom honey. Another week, it’s the slabs of milky Havarti cheese and the Red Haven peaches heavy with juice, enticing you to spend just a little more than you planned. Kentucky pole beans, silky ears of sweet corn, and sacks of stone-ground buckwheat flour may find their way into your basket on another visit.
Whether you shop with a list or purely on impulse, you’ll always find the truest taste of home at the local farms, roadside stands, and produce markets in your community. These are the places that offer up the native flavors of the South and all its seasons. They are your portal to the fields, the waters, and the vines where your food is cultivated. Get to know the origins of what you eat and the people who produce it. Tammy Algood’s Farm Fresh Southern Cooking celebrates this experience with delicious recipes that will enhance the natural flavors of your latest market haul and stories of the South’s most dedicated growers and culinary producers.
Oh, yeah.  Sounds idyllic.

My response once the book arrived was a bit mixed.  There is an interesting blend of fancy dishes and the practical types I was looking for.

Recipes like Roasted Corn and Lobster Cakes sound yummy, but totally impractical.  I expected lots of catfish, crayfish and even shrimp recipes (and in Colorado, prices on those are high too) but I didn't expect lobster and crab.  Some of the recipes feature other farmer's market ingredients such as fancy cheeses, or lamb.  None of those are likely to work for my budget.

However, I love the fact that there are multiple recipes that use eggplant (6), figs (2), turnips (3), and sweet potatoes (5).   I found myself marking quite a few of the recipes for me to try out when I do get a basket containing these items.

The recipes I worked though all listed all of the ingredients in the order I needed them, and the instructions were clear and easy to follow.  The recipes are a bit too "chatty" when you are actually using them, but the chat also pulled me in to try out some things I wouldn't normally go for.

Another great aspect of this book is that she also highlights some farms and other producers from throughout the South, including contact information.  So, the contact information doesn't do much for me... but it was interesting to read about a crawfish farm, orchards, and a peanut shack, among other places. 

This is a keeper, in spite of a few frou-frou recipes.

Disclaimer: As a Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson. No other compensation was received. For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review and Giveaway: A is for Adam

When the newly revised book, A is for Adam, by Ken and Mally Ham, came up as something I could review, my first thought was, "We already own the original, so this isn't something I need."

I'm excited that I got to review it anyway.

This 77 page book, directed at young children, consists of an ABC rhyming type of story about creation and the fall of man.

What is really fun about the new edition is that the hardcover book stands up, tent-style, so on one side is the illustration and the rhyming text:

I can sit on the other side and see the text, plus a whole lot of ideas for discussion and some hands-on activities.

This material was in the original edition too, but it is so much easier to use in this new version.

Trina (6) really enjoys going through this book, and she has started to read her part of the book outloud, more or less (she still needs a fair amount of help!)

Check out the video:

We really enjoy this cute book, and I am donating my original version one to the church, as that one is still perfectly usable as well.

I also have the chance to give away not one, but TWO copies of this book.  Right after I found out that New Leaf Publishing would let me give one away, Trina received this book for her birthday.  I decided that meant I could give away TWO copies.  (Yes, the giver knows I am doing this!)

I am going to post these as two completely separate giveaways.  Enter one, enter both... totally up to you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:   I received this book and one for a giveaway for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Amazing Animals by Design

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have some fantastic opportunities.  I meet lots of great people, like Debra Haagen.  I noticed her right away, because everything on the Crew is done alphabetical by first name.  So she is frequently right after me on a list.

I get to review some fabulous products.  Big curriculum items, supplementary materials, games, or books... all give me a chance to check out something new, something that can make a difference for us, or something that might just be fun.

And sometimes, I get to write a review that combines a great crewmate and a great product.  Today is one of those times, because Debra wrote the book I get to review.  Amazing Animals by Design is absolutely delightful.

A story of a family going to the zoo, the kids ask all kinds of great questions and the adults (zookeepers, Mom, and Dad) point out how each of the various animals they encounter has some unique feature.

The illustrations are realistic, and there is just enough information to keep the story a story instead of an animal encyclopedia.  Though there is an animal encyclopedia included on the last page of the book:

The Crew received the pdf version of the book, which worked really well on my regular Kindle, as long as I switched to landscape mode.  The illustrations, while not in color on the black & white Kindle, were still charming.  You can purchase the book for $8.99 from the publisher, or the pdf version for $7.99.

My younger two (this book is targeting roughly PreK-3rd grade) enjoyed the story, and even my teens took the opportunity to read the story aloud to their younger siblings.  I think we all learned something.

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say about this book, click the banner here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive this ebook for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: NIV Boys Bible

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card is:

Zonderkidz; Special edition (March 6, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Getting into a routine of reading the Bible can be challenging for anyone, but trying to keep the attention of pre-teen boys is especially difficult. So now there is a Bible especially developed for them. The NIV Boys Bible is designed with boys ages 9 to 12 in mind. Fun in-text features help boys dig deep into the Word and learn about amazing people, facts and stories of the Bible. The NIV Boys Bible will help boys grow into the young men God wants them to be. It will appeal to boys and cause them to desire to spend time in the Word with its unique features such as:

* Introductions to each book of the Bible

* Hundreds of highlighted verses worth memorizing

* What's the Big Deal?-Need-to-know biblical stories and people

* Check It Out-Interesting and fun facts about Bible times and characters

* Grossology-Gross and gory stuff they never knew was in the Bible

* Makin' It Real-Help for applying Bible stories to their everyday lives

This Bible includes the full text of the New International Version, the most popular Bible translation in the world, and 12 color tip-in pages introducing content that shows boys how they can grow to be like Jesus. Each book of the Bible has activities that make God's Word more relevant than ever. It is jam-packed with customized content and artwork that really makes the Bible stand out.

My Take:  As a mom of four boys, I am always thrilled to see a solid product with high boy-appeal.  The NIV Boys Bible is definitely that.  Just from the cover, you know that this isn't your usual Bible.

Inside, the bulk of the book is your usual NIV Bible... but the various features (bullet points above) grab my boys, and help to keep them reading.

This is one I am glad to own.

Product Details:

List Price: $27.99

Reading level: Ages 9 and up

Hardcover: 1504 pages

Publisher: Zonderkidz; Special edition (March 6, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0310723086

ISBN-13: 978-0310723080: