Friday, April 18, 2014

Have a Blessed Easter 2014


For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1Cor. 1:18

Friday, April 11, 2014

Our Welcoming Committee

The GBA (Great Bentz Adventure) is underway!  I told you in my last post about our miraculous - 4 days on the market, home sale, and I promised to tell you the story of our "welcome to Texas"...

A month ago we started this crazy, roller coaster ride...anyone else ever move?  You know what I'm talking about!

Matt and I flew to San Antonio, to "check it out"...   After a day of looking at real estate - our dear friends took us to the Tejas Rodeo.

My heart was still a bit uncertain if moving again, starting all over again, all that work... was really what I wanted to do.  I still hadn't felt that I had the "sign" from God that this was the direction that HE was sending us in.

All those thoughts and emotions swirling around in my head,  I decided to just forget about the decisions and enjoy some good old rodeo!  It was my first rodeo, after all :-)

I casually noticed a familiar looking lady a couple rows in front of us, then I noticed her husband.  HEY,  I know them!!  Isn't it amazing that you can be hundreds of miles from home, and recognize a friend?  But, this was not just another couple we knew...  this was our "welcoming committee"!

Turns out that God had place the one of the only people that I would recognize as a "welcome" right in front of me at the rodeo. This couple had been our "welcoming committee" way back in Minnesota.  They were pastors from our church!

 Yep, only God could strategically place someone from my past that would welcome me to my future. I just love how he speaks!!

So, after she gave me a big Texas-sized hug, and welcomed me to Texas...  I knew I had the sign I was looking for.

Texas, here we come!

e-Science Premium Membership by Supercharged Science: A TOS Crew Review

Supercharged eScience Review
e-Science Premium Membership by Supercharged Science
The program includes:
  • Cool science projects you can start doing right now with easy-to-find materials
  • Step-by-step videos that show your kids exactly what to do.
  • Perfect if you don't have time to teach science, or science isn't your thing!
  • A 17-page student guidebook PDF that includes explanations and questions for each lesson.
  • Science Newsletter with lots of great science activities
  • Instant online access to the videos and guidebook 
  • Recommended for all K-12 levels!
Cost: $57/month (full access)  or $37/month for (K-8 access only)

Want to see for yourself - Just for the TOS readers, you can Try Supercharged Science for a month for just $1  Check out FREE SAMPLE experiments here!

How would you like a REAL rocket scientist to come and teach science to your children, in your home?  I'm excited to introduce you to Aurora Lipper of Supercharged Science   (I love her red hair!! - you need to see a family picture to understand...she's one of us!).
Supercharged eScience Review

While I enjoy science, and experiments - let's just say they turn out like my cooking... sometimes they work, sometimes - not so much!  The Bentz Test Laboratory was excited to preview the  e-Science Premium Membership from Supercharged Science.

This 20 unit, online curriculum for K-12 features video instruction and step-by-step videos of each experiment.  (wish I could find something like this to help me with my cooking...).  Text readings, and printable worksheet activities and even "shopping lists" are included in each lesson.

Since all my children had access to the program - a GREAT value for larger families with multiple grade levels, I assigned them to work in "buddy pairs".  Two by two, they were able to explore the many topics, and choose what they wanted to investigate together further.  A handy grade level organizer can help you narrow down the topics for specific grades:

The online program is very easy to navigate.  My children, even the younger ages, had no problem. There is no mandatory starting spot, and you can skip around the units as you feel led. 

Every child loved this program!  That in itself, should tell you about the variety and depth.  From a 10th grader, deep into Chemistry  - to a Kindergartener - all of them were enthralled.  

Supercharged eScience Review

This is science taught the way it should be!  Aurora is a passionate teacher, and her passion for the subject lights a fire in your students. One mom-to-mom tip - when someone runs in and excitedly exclaims that they need eggs, vinegar, baking soda, etc.  Don't worry... it probably won't actually blow up anything.    Or, you may find that your swingset has acquired a whole new use - a testing laboratory for Newton's Laws.   Just smile, nod your head, and realize that they are well on the way to becoming rocket scientists themselves!

 We used Supercharged Science as an addition to our regular textbook style science curriculum.  It offered the zing and zap that was missing, and made science a delight driven subject again.  Thank you Aurora!  This program could easily stand alone as full curriculum - especially if you have hands-on learners. 

With summer right around the corner, Supercharged Science is a fun way to sneak some learning in too - check them out  on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google +, and their Blog.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Victus Study Skills System: A TOS Crew Review

Victus Study Skills Review

Victus Study Skills System by Victus Study Skills System 
Victus Study Skills Review
Student Workbook - $20  - and Teacher Edition - $40

"The Latin word victus means a way of life. The Victus Study Skills System is based on the premise that effective study is best when it is a system of study and when it becomes a way of life."

The Bentz Test Laboratory has a goal that all our testers will love to learn, but love to study?  Hmmm... how are we doing on that one? We decided to take a look at our study habits while working on this program.

Check out a short intro video for the Victus Study Skills System:

The 3 cornerstone questions for personal success are each addressed:  "Where are you now?",  "Where do you want to be?", and "How do you get there?" Using a teacher led model:  purpose, preparation and procedure are covered in 10 sessions designed to be taught sequentially in 5 - 1 hour sessions. The actual amount of time spent on each lesson will vary from student to student, but it is important to maintain the sequence of the lessons in the order they are presented.  The Teacher Edition will help you understand the scheme of the course, the lessons to be taught, and offers supplemental materials to use throughout the course.  The Student Edition contains all the worksheets and forms to complete as they work through the concepts.

The Bentz Test Laboratory has several testers in high school, or about to enter it.  We decided to work through the Victus Study Skills System together for this review.

Lesson 1 focuses on "Where am I now?" - They do this by completing a study habits checklist, investigating learning strengths and determining your own learning strength.  We have spent some time reviewing our learning styles, and most of my testers felt pretty confident that they know "where they are now", definitely a good place to start! 
Lesson  2 & 3  dive into "Where do I want to be?" with mission statements, goals/priorities, and a very helpful chart for developing SMART -specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound goals for each season of the year.  This was extremely useful for my testers.  It forced them to evaulate their goals to come up with personal objectives plus an action plan in various areas - academics, extracurricular, physical fitness/health, and family/personal areas.  I realized that we talk about our "plans" frequently - but, have never actually put pen to paper with a written outline of specific goals.  This is such a great exercise - I recommend all parents participate as well!  Each of my testers completed this session with a summer reading plan, a community service project they would like to get involved in, a spiritual growth goal, and a plan for a physical fitness activity to participate in.  Best of all, we can go back and evaluate how we did!  We will definitely use this tool each season.
Sessions 4 - 10 concentrate on "How do I get there?" -   Time management, organization and study environment, PQRST (a new way to read material), listening skills, note taking, test taking, and a review of what they have learned are all covered with helpful teaching, tips and practice examples.  These are all effective, easy-to-use tips and tools that every student should learn how to use.  My testers were eager to learn new test taking procedures, as our standardized testing is right around the corner.  I realized that in our homeschool environment - my testers had rarely ever taken notes.  The note-taking instruction and practice was a valuable tool they will need in college.  They practiced these new skills by taking sermon notes at church too! 

The Appendix offers reproducible forms to help with goal setting, getting organized, schedules, and mnemonic devices and strategies to reinforce the skills they have been learning.

This is just the practical, logical, step-by-step how-to that my testers needed to help them succeed at study. It's not a long, complicated course.  It's a straightforward, easy to implement path to better study skills.

I think every student should take some time to work through the material in this program.  It is useful and motivating, not just for your students - but for homeschooling parents as well!

Find Victus Study Skills on Facebook and Twitter

Check out what the rest of the Crew had to say here!
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Roots, Shoots, Pruning & Blossoming, and... FRUIT!

So, I've already made the "official" announcement that the sign is in the yard... read that post first!

Now, less than a week later - I get to announce that the sign is leaving the yard, after it gets a pretty SOLD sticker on it!  Yeah God, just 4 days on the market, until an offer - what a miracle!

All this flurry of change has gotten me thinking... and praying.  I'm sure that God is in every detail of this move already,  like how HE personally sent a "welcoming committee" ahead of us to San Antonio.  (I promise to get to that story... I just got to share this one first!)

When I was praying for guidance, and for God to "show" me what he wanted us to do,  I got this picture:


Our roots began in Minnesota,  both our families were from there.  Both my husband and I grew up in that wonderfully frigid state.  We both were blessed with strong Christian families and married to start our own legacy.


Our 8 beautiful "shoots" sprang up in Minnesota as well. (they must have strong roots to survive there!)  This was a busy time of life - baby, after baby, after baby... all 8 of them.  It was a time of growing and stretching, and growing again!  We outgrew our little garden spot (Farmington) and transplanted to a larger plot (Savage).  Our homeschooling season began as well.

Pruning & Blossoming 

 This season took us to Conway, Arkansas.  Leaving everything comfortable and well-known behind, we headed south to a more friendly "growing zone".  God also allowed the painful pruning that comes before the blossoming... we experienced four miscarriages, and the end to our fertile times with a medically necessary hysterectomy. We faced a fearful diagnosis of breast cancer. We learned new dependence on God for all our needs, and watched his never-ending provision front row.

 As our "shoots" began growing - we also started to see the buds of blossoms beginning! We joined a homeschool co-op - where each of us thrived and developed.  It has been a wonderful greenhouse of learning for us - covered in friendship and abundant grace.  We developed deep, sustaining friendships.  Our church has also been a safe place to grow for each of us.  Sam and I were able to take the long awaited mission trip to India to realize a dream that had been planted in his heart back as a "shoot".  We have truly begun to blossom in Arkansas!

I asked God, "What comes next...?  What do you have in store for us now?"  I heard a one-word answer...


I can't wait to see what unfolds in the next season for us!

Spelling You See: A TOS Crew Review

Spelling You See Review

Spelling You See Review

  Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C)  from  Spelling You See

Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C): Instructor’s Handbook $14 - Student Pack $30

Demme Learning (makers of Math-U-See) has introduced a NEW spelling curriculum!  Much like the innovative Math-U-See,  Spelling You See is an innovative approach to the subject of spelling.

Spelling seems to be a struggle for some of the Bentz Test Laboratory.  Several children spell effortlessly... they just "know" it.  However, some of the Testers - do not!  We've tried many different approaches - all mainly based on mastering the "spelling rules".  Unfortunately, the "rules" haven't universally produced good spellers. 

When I heard that Spelling You See was about to be released, it instantly caught my attention.  Math-U-See has been exactly what these particular testers needed,  and I was excited to see if Demme Learning's new approach to spelling could be equally as successful.

Let me explain a little about how this program works.  Spelling You See consists of five levels that are based on the five levels of spelling mastery.  This is not a "grade or age level program" - it's designed to meet you child at the appropriate developmental level that they are at, and to move them toward spelling mastery. Read more about their Developmental Stages and discover which level to start with their placement information.

My tester for this is my 2nd grade son who knows all his sounds, spells many common words correctly, and is becoming comfortable with reading.  According to his development - we choose  Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C) - you can take a peek at a sample lesson here. 

Wild Tales focuses on a brief daily activity - they recommend doing it 5 days per week, keeping the lessons short and upbeat.   Each lesson incorporates writing, reading, speaking and listening.  This helps create a long-term visual memory of the letter patterns.  If you're like me, you may spell by writing the word to see if it "looks right", turns out this is one way our brains process spelling.   BINGO - we're onto something new in spelling instruction at the Bentz Test Laboratory!

I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with this quote from their philosophy..."Those who set out to remember every letter of every word will never make it.  Those who try to spell by sound alone will be defeated.  Those who learn to 'walk through' words with sensible expectations, noting sound, pattern and meaningful relationships, will know what to remember, and they will learn to spell English" - Edmund Henderson, 1991  

Spelling You See is based on this developmental spelling model.  Accordingly, they say students must master each developmental stage before advancing.  No one can "skip" stages in spelling, and spelling ability and reading achievement are NOT correlated.  Just as I've always suspected... after listening to my horrible spellers read perfectly!

Wild Tales begins with 7 weeks of a nursery rhyme theme and moves into non-fiction passages about animals.  These topics are both familiar and interesting to the students.

Each of the 36 weekly lessons are divided into 5 parts (A thru E)  - each lesson is designed to be completed in just 10-15 minutes per day.  The student book is full color with with plenty of room for the daily copywork, free writing and dictation exercises..  (We recieved a pre-release PDF file - which was printed black and white... the color is much nicer!)

My tester started out noticing a difference to this program right away... he got to color in his book!  Actually, it's a process called "chunking" - locating and marking specific letter pattens - where he highlighted all the vowel "chunks" (2 vowels together) with a yellow highlighter.  He "chunked" while I read the passage, then he copied it, and "chunked" again.  Painless, no tears at all!

This same process with the identical passage 3 sections.  After that he is allowed to draw a picture to go with the rhyme, or write his own part of the story - this is a "No Rule Day" , encouraging him to be creative . Dictation exercises are included on final day - with a reminder to only spend 10 minutes! The goal is quality, not quantity.

Once "Vowel" chunks are mastered, he started on the "Consonant" chunks (this time in blue).  Moving into "Bossy r",  "Tricky y Guy", "Silent", and "Endings" - each in a different color.

He actually enjoyed his spelling lesson!  I noticed this approach really made him slow down and look at the letters in the words.  He even asked if he could start "chunking" other subjects!

The Student Pack includes two student workbooks and a pack of erasable colored pencils - $30 and the Instructor's Handbook  - $14,  will guide you through the philosophy and implementation of the weekly lessons, and a handy answer key as well as dictation passages.

I am sincerely impressed with this program.  All the different approaches I've tried in the past have been similar in philosophy...and produced similar results (poor spellers, that did not enjoy the process).  Spelling You See has been a breath of fresh air for our homeschool.  These spelling lessons are both effective, and enjoyable!  I plan to start my other students in this program as well.

Be sure to check this one out!

Spelling You See Review

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Books for my Girls!

Do you have a hard time finding books for your pre-teen girls?  Ones that they want to read... and you don't mind if they do?

We discovered a real gem - Diary of a Real Payne by Annie Tipton from Barbour Publishing (you can read our review here).  My 10 year old daugther devoured this book!

We were so excited to get to preview the next book in the series:  Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos  - on sale currently for just $4.99.  Once again, I opened the package... and didn't see my daughter for the next several days :-)

Here's what she had to say:

  • I love EJ - she's alot like me.  She reads the same books I do, and has a vivid imagination.  And, she has an annoying little brother.
  • This book makes me laugh out loud!
  • It ends in a cliff hanger, when does the next one come out?!
I love that this series has a Christian worldview.  The characters exhibit the qualities I want my daugther to want, plus they have fun and adventures along the way.  Next book is due September 2014!

Great reading material is hard to find so don't miss these fun books!

Disclaimer:  I recieved a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review.