Tuesday, December 20, 2011

World's Greatest Stories

World's Greatest Stories

I am a huge fan of "van schooling" - you know it- you have a captive, buckled up audience!  We discovered the power of listening to stories during all those endless trips to violin, piano, ballet, speech therapy....etc.  Why not use all that time in the van to your advantage?

So, "what to listen to" you may ask?  Let me recommend our newest discovery - World's Greatest Stories!

George W. Sarris tells the "world's greatest stories" straight from the actual Bible text.  But, you would think you were listening to a full color production of it.  He is amazing in his ability to bring the Bible text to life in his dramatic telling.

This is from their website:

"Using simply his voice, his memory, and the audience's imagination, he takes us back in time to view Biblical scenes such as the unbridled rage of King Nebuchadnezzar as he commands Shadrach, Meshech, and Abendnego to be cast into the blazing furnace, the sudden fear that overcomes his drunken descendant, Belshazzar, as he literally sees the handwriting on the wall, the repentant hearts of the citizens of Ninevah as they respond in humility to the preaching of Jonah, the angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Herod's desperate attempt to kill Him as a young child, His ministry of healing and teaching among the people, the sorrow of His death, and the triumph of His resurrection."

I wholeheartedly agree!  By far, the BEST Bible stories we've listened to.  You can choose either NIV or KJV version.  And, it is ONLY the words written in the Bible (no adding, no subtracting).  What brings it to life is the masterful storyteller.  All 8 of the testers in Bentz Laboratory were captivated (and not just because they were seatbelted in...).  They begged for another, even after we had arrived home...so, we sat in the van to hear "just one more".  We listened to "The Prophets".

 I love that it is the actual Bible text.  I think it can become confusing to present Bible stories to young children that captivate their interest and entertain - but, give an inaccurate protrayal of the facts (Ninevites did not really "slap people with fishes"...).  World's Greatest Stories use the words of God to tell the story, and they are powerful indeed!

Each CD is only $7.95 - you can listen to an audio clip for yourself here.  6 Volumes are currently available - I know what to put in their stockings!

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Vintage Remedies for Kids

Vintage Remedies for Kids - $25.00

Okay, so those who know me best... know that this is a product that is not normally found lying around the house (he he).  But, that is why this was so fun to review!  We definitely NEED more books like this at the Bentz Test Laboratory.

This book is designed for kids ages 2-6 to introduce them to "natural living and healthy lifestyles".  The book has 18 Chapters, with 3 sections: Food & Dring, Health & Wellness, and Healthy Lifestyles.  Each section begins with a "Parent's Section" - very useful information for people like me!  Next, comes the "Read to Me" section (my older kids could read it independently), Leading by Example, and finally projects and recipes.

Here's a description from the publisher:

This curriculum helps you teach little ones how to choose healthy foods, how to prepare some fun and delicious snacks, how to establish prevention based habits, and how they can participate in your family's natural lifestyle. The workbook is flexible and can be used for playgroups or as a fun family project. Children at this age learn best with active lessons, so this isn't a sit and read style picture book! It's a guide for parents that is packed with hands on activities that are perfect for little hands, but fun for all ages. Each of the 18 chapters includes a brief age appropriate lesson on the topic that parents can use to discuss with little ones while they are preparing for the projects, a featured project to teaches the lesson, additional instructions for parents to include these lessons in the family's lifestyle, and a selection of additional projects on the topic for additional fun. The book also contains sample schedules for preschoolers and convenient shopping lists for each project, complete with a resource guide and tips for parents and leaders.

spiral bound • 6x9 inches • 202 b+w pages

I think Vintage Remedies would make an excellent unit study for your homeschool health credit.  It's very easy to read and implement, even if you don't usually have time for "natural living" (if your a over-scheduled, busy, and guilt-ridden mom like me...).  I appreciate their balanced approach to this subject, teaching the why's and how's of wellness, and not becoming rigid with unrealistic expectations (I know there are moms out there like me, that "occasionally" eat-french-fries-in-the-van-with-the-kids.)  I know I will be looking into more of their books- check out the special combo deal right now. You can read more about their mission and philosphy here.  I'm ready to give it a try, this is a great "baby steps" program for parents as well as children (Vintage Remedies has more information for those of you futher on your "wellness" paths too!) 

Vintage Remedies offers a wealth of online information and even online learning programs.  Go check them out.

See what other members of the TOS Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fractazmic by I See Cards

Fractazmic by I See Cards

We love doing math with games, in fact - we love doing all school with games.  Maybe, we should just shelve the books and pull out the games...

Well, that's exactly what happened when the Bentz Test Laboratory got their hands on another great game from I See Cards (read about our last test here).

Here's a description from them:

"When children play Fractazmic, they know they're having fun, and you know that they're learning!

When children play Fractazmic, they know they're having fun, and you know that they're learning! Fractazmic is a comprehensive interactive fun lesson in fractions that gives your child unlimited practice at their individual level.

Each brightly colored card displays fractions, along with eye catching graphics, to ensure reinforcement. Players will quickly identify the fractions on their cards and calculate their way to fun and learning! Fractazmic teaches fractions, numbers and measurement."

You can get them online for just $6.95 - a perfect stocking stuffer!

My testers quickly picked up how to play very quickly.  Here's a quick summary of how to play from the website:

"Fractazmic is a 2-4 player game that uses math and language skills. The object of Fractazmic trap is to gather as many hands as possible before the first player runs out of cards. Hands are captured by either (1) playing a card that brings the sum of all cards thrown to 1 or (2) forcing the next player to throw a card that brings the sum to greater than 1. If any of these events occur – the player captures the round and is the first to start the next round."

What I liked best - all of my testers enjoyed playing.  Some of them are math-challenged (like their mom) and some are math super-stars - but, Fractazmic was fun for all of them!

If you want to play it online - check this out and win!

See what the other members of the Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pitsco Education - WOW!

Pitsco Education -

This is a WOW product for the Bentz Test Laboratory!  I knew this looked like it would capture the interests of my testers - but, I did not realize how much learning we could "sneak" in along with it!

We were sent the Medieval Machines Pack - $21.95

Here's a description, straight from Pitsco Education:

"From The Lord of the Rings to Night at the Museum, we are fascinated by these medieval devices. Now, use that interest to teach basic math, science, and problem-solving skills. With this pack, your child learns about catapults and trebuchets through hands-on activities that cover three areas:

•Science: Tension versus torsion, elasticity, gravity and levers, and force and motion
•Math: Metric conversion, calculating averages, and prediction
•Experiments: Mass versus distance, testing rubber bands, targeting, and more

They will discover the history of medieval siege machines as well as the concepts required to build and use them."

Includes a Trebuchet Kit, Catapult Kit, Mass Plates, and the Siege Machines book.

Note: Most guide activities require additional items such as measurement and hand tools – see the Specs tab for more information.

Okay - now onto what the Bentz Test Laboratory thought - we LOVED it!  Our interest in these machines had just been brought to a fever pitch when we were introduced to "Pumkin Chunkin" by Grandpa over the Thanksgiving Break.   In this popular contest (I must admit, I'd never heard of it before - but, I'm a fan now!), grown up children compete with Medieval machines (but, they use their engineering degrees and modern machinery) to see who can design catapults, trebuchets, etc. that can hurl pumpkins.  The winner is who sends it the farthest.  

As you can imagine - that is all it takes to get homeschool children ready to try this on their own.  Here's where Pitsco Education helps you "channel" all that excitement into real learning!  They create a large variety of hands-on, educational kits and products to help you.  Topics like: Aeorspace, Robotics, and Engineering are just a few.  The Medieval Machines pack was exactly what I needed to get us back into learning after a restful, but-too-short, Thanksgiving break.

The kit contained high quality, easy to work with wood pieces.  Most impressive was the step-by-step, detailed instructions (including diagrams!) that even this non-pumkin-chunkin mom could understand!

My tester assembled the catapult completely in around an hour - including time out to deal with superglue messes...  I was impressed!  My favorite part was the Seige Machines book that came included.  It was filled with the History, Safety, and Learning Activities to turn this "fun toy", into a learning adventure (isn't that what science should look like?)  This would make an excellent unit study project, and it was written so that your student could work independently (if you didn't mind missing out on all the fun...  I wasn't about to let that opportunity pass me by!)

We tested it out in our long hallway and it worked perfectly!  My testers are eagerly asking for a set of their own to create their own "Marble Chunkin"contest....  I think I better move this activity outdoors!!

Seriously, I can't wait to see what else Pitsco Education has to offer.  Get your own Big Book  (catalog) here, and start the Christmas Shopping!  The Pitsco Education website is full of hands on activities - check some of them out!

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary kit in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Friday, December 2, 2011

American Girl Club - Felicity - Week 4

The Felicity time period continues!

The girls are still working away on the cross-stitch projects (but, my dear daughter has been taught to knit by Grandma...so cross stitch is on the shelf right now!).

This week - the focus was on all things smelly.  I mean, good smelly! 

The girls made Pomander Balls - oranges with cloves and cinnamon.  Just the smell of the house was a good memory.  Didn't you make those when you were young?

They also made Sachets - 2 types.  They filled small bags with scented potpourri.  Once again - the house was filled with Rose and Vanilla smells.

All this girlie stuff was too much for the MCA - they met out on the deck before heading off to play football!

The "Littles" were entertained upstairs...playing with legos and hiding in their beds!

We are excited about our upcoming - Colonial Christmas!  We plan on doing it up big - china plates, candles the whole ball of wax!

Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Reading Game

The Reading Game

The Reading Game includes six beautifully illustrated story books, six decks of matching playing cards, & a Teacher and Parent's Guide.

From their Website:

"Each of The Reading Game's six stories is told using just thirty new words. These are broken down into six sets of five words. The student learns to read each set of five words by playing a simple word matching game. Frequent exposure through play hardwires these words into long-term memory. Rote learning is transformed into a fast-paced game with a winner every few seconds."

Watch a video:

You can get The Reading Game create by Kenneth Hodkinson, author of Wordly Wise,  for just $24.95 here.

The Bentz Test Laboratory had several testers for this product!  We love games, and I love using games to teach when they're least expecting it...don't you?!  I was excited to get this product, especially after seeing it comes from the same people as Wordly Wise (a longtime Bentz Academy favorite!).

I was not disappointed.  My challenge...how to let 3 testers play a game designed for 2.  No problem, we "modified" the rules a little, and let everyone play the memory game - and the "winner" who had the most matches got to read the book first!  Big hit!  In fact, the testers did not want to stop. 

What I noticed most, the simple concept of repeatedly seeing the words in the matching game, really did translate into recognition while reading the book. The book was simply illustrated, and my testers enjoyed the Skunk and Cat story.  One tester was very excited to see a Purple Zebra! (that's all she need to be hooked into playing to the final level!)

It's very difficult to find enough reading resources for those early readers.  The Reading Game is an excellent tool to add to your current program, and add some fun!  Check out the Free Assesment tools and printables online.

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

American Girl Club - Felicity - Week 3

Felicity - Week 3

Okay, I must admit...I was nervous about this one!  Our craft was the "Colonial Sampler".  Was I really going to attempt to teach 12 young ladies (some of them with large amounts of energy...you know which ones!) how to cross-stitch?  I must be crazy!!  Actually, everyone knows I am crazy - so that's exactly what we did!

The girls did great (and I think the moms learned a thing or too as well...)  We decided to "buddy" a younger girl with an older girl.  Step one - learn how to thread a needle - no exceptions.  Hey, if Felicity could do it, so can you.

Then we worked together, step-by-step.  By the end, everyone had finished at least the "a".    Not too bad.  I did need a cup of strong coffee after...but, I hope the girls learned something that they can enjoy for a long time to come!

The girls' moms have been posting "progress pictures" on our Facebook group page.  It makes me giggle to hear my daughter say - "I'm up to "q" - take a picture and post it!"  I guess competition is good, right...?

Time Timer

Time Timer

I love timers!  With multiple children to manage at the Bentz Test Laboratory - they are this mommy's best friend!

Time Timer is unique because it shows the passage of time.  Even your youngest child can easily see how much more time is left by watching the red disk disappear.  It is also a silent timer (no distracting ticking sound).  This is great for our schoolroom - the ticking timers can distract the whole room when just one child is using it for timed assignments!

I used this with several different "testers".  We used it for piano practice - big hit.  We used it for timed math tests - big hit.  We even used it for some time-outs - big hit for mom!

If you're a busy mom - I strongly encourage you to invest in some quality timers (don't opt for the cheapies in the dollar section - you'll get exactly what you paid for!).  Time Timers are $30.00 for a 3” model, $35.00 for the 8” model, and $40.00 for the 12” model (perfect for classroom and group use). The App software is $24.00 (put those devices to work for you!) , while the watch is available for $40.00.

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary Time Timer in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

College Prep Genius


If these TWO words could change your life,

PLEASE read on. . .

College Prep Genius DVD SET

Written by Jean Burk,  who I had the opportunity to  hear in Memphis last year, the College Prep Genius curriculum with help you understand, prepare and master these college tests!  The $99 (Special 25% off) set comes with the Mastering the SAT Class DVD, the  College Prep Genius Textbook and the Student workbook.  Seriously, this may be your best investment for college, it could save you thousands of dollars!

The Bentz Test Laboratory had the "perfect" tester for this product!  My oldest took the ACT test last year as a 7th grader with the Duke TIP program and did fairly well.  It made him more eager to get started on the way to scholarships...  This is where College Prep Genius comes in!  How do you help your oldest begin preparing to navigate the system of tests, applications and scholarships while also teaching kindergarten and several grades in between?  You need a curriculum to guide you!

I am VERY impressed with this curriculum, it's very user friendly.  My son took it and devoured it!  He loved learning the "secrets" to the SAT...did you know it's a logic test, not a test of what you know?  I loved that it is an independent study by design.   College Prep Genius is filled with helpful acronyms to help you de-code and prepare for the SAT.  It's 12 chapers cover all three sections of the SAT test and even tell you what you need to know about the PSAT as well.  In fact, my tester just took his first "practice" PSAT at the high school a couple of weeks ago (I'll let you know how he did when we hear back...).  If I had not heard Jean Burk speak - I would have never known to start our prep this soon (8th grade is NOT too soon to start!)  With lots of study time, and plenty of practice - you can help your students get scholarship money - even FREE college.  It's a great investment, don't you think?

You can check out the details of this College Prep Genius DVD Set, and the VocabCafe books they carry by visiting their website. While you're there, sign up for their newsletter and they will send you 5 helpful articles and many more tips and strategies in their monthly newsletters.

I highly encourage you to attend their workshops at your next homeschool convention - I guarantee you'll learn something new, and you'll be glad you did!

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy of this program in exhchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Keyboard Town Pals

From their website:
"Keyboard Town PALS Software  a computer keyboard program that teaches elementary school children the letters and symbols on a Qwerty keyboard in an hour using proper technique. It is fast and efficient as well as enjoyable and easy to learn. Keyboard Town PALS™ accomplishes this through the PALS system. PALS stands for PURPOSEFUL ASSOCIATIVE LEARNING SYSTEM.”

Parents can purchase the program in either a CD Rom or Web-based package for $39.95, with English, Spanish, and French versions available.

See a video demonstration:

Learning to type is an essential skill today.  Am I the only one, or does it seem that my children pick this up so much faster than I did...  Keyboard Town Pals is a typing program designed to teach even the younger children to type properly.  The characters help your child keep their focus on the screen and not their fingers.

The Bentz Test Laboratory enjoyed this program.  The puppets, the clever jingles were engaging at first to my 7 & 8 year old daughters. Younger children will find the puppets fun, older children may not "appreciate" them as much...    It is an instructional program, teaching the proper finger placement.  They could type anything without correction (not my favorite part - but, certainly not stressful to the student).  I do STRONGLY recommend that you participate with your children's typing education (especially if they are young).  A computer program can't correct the hand placement...so Mom needs to observe.

Check out a  to see what you think.

See what the other memebers of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bower Books - The Person I Marry

The Person I Marry
Things I'll Think About Long Before Saying "I Do"

Respect, kindness, honesty, faithfulness, thoughtfulness, patience - qualities like these make strong marriages. Created by award-winning author & illustrator team
Gary & Jan Bower (married 32 years), this
adorable book warms the hearts of all ages in its celebration of commitment, purity & true love!

Hardcover * 32 Pages
Beautifully Illustrated

The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

2010 Book of the Year ~ Christian Small Publisher Association

“This book is part of our “Bright Future Series” which shares Biblical principles for families in beautiful and down-to-earth ways. The Person I Marry was awarded “2010 Book of the Year” by the Christian Small Publisher Association. We created this book the year of our 30th anniversary as a tool for tenderizing the hearts of our own 12 children, and sparking comfortable conversation about marriage amongst ourselves”

I was eager to review this book.  I received a digital copy, but - I highly recommend getting your own hardcover copy to treasure.  This is one of those innocent looking, but powerful message books!  Our children are never too young to start learning about what's truly important.  Next to knowing and loving God, often your next most important decision is who to marry...  Don't you think we should start off right by letting them know what to look for?  I do.  Storybooks are a wonderful way to impart what you truly value without it becoming  a "lecture" from Mom and Dad.

The Bentz Test Laboratory enjoyed this rhyming storybook (but, pages would have been cozier than clicks...just my personal preference).  The illustrations are appealing.  In fact, while reading it to my girls, it made me thankful for the wonderful man that I married. What a great message! I'll be checking out the other books from them as well - I think you should too, they would make wonderful Christmas gifts...

Free Shipping on orders of $30 or more! (U.S. only)  Want your books Autographed? It's FREE! Just ask when you check out!

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought about it here.

I was sent a complimentary digital version in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ooka Island Adventure

Ooka Island Adventure

From their website:
"The Ooka Island Adventure is a downloadable hero-mission in 3D designed to teach young children how to read fluently and well. The Ooka Island Adventure combines the highly engaging components of a state-of-the-art virtual world with the scientifically proven OokaMethod that builds literacy skills.

Carefully embedded within the Ooka Island Adventure are dozens of interactive instructional activities that captivate the child and motivate them as they learn essential pre-reading, reading, spelling, and writing skills. After completing the Ooka Island Adventure, children will be on their way to reading fluently and well for life."

Here's a handy chart to explain Pricing:

And if you sign up now, you can save 30%! Use promo Code LAUNCHSPECIAL30!

See a video explanation here:

Okay - now that you have all the vital information - let's get down to what the Bentz Test Laboratory thought...


My 7 year old, struggling reader tester, LOVED this program!  In fact, I can even get her to make her bed if I let her go to "Oooka Island".  And, because our testers tend to travel together (8 kids, know what I mean...) her siblings really like it too!

You can check out the Ooka Island website to find out all the innovative features behind the program, I can tell you this - it's FUN!

It is a rather large download (2+ GB) so be sure to have high speed internet, and space on your hard-drive.
But, once loaded - it's so very easy, that your child can easily follow the directions and begin playing and learning.  We loved the passwords are pictures (I can never remember all those passwords!) even my youngest testers could figure these out.

I liked the focus on building from a solid phonic sounds base.  My tester got to hear the sounds and spot them along her "path".  Her favorites - Decorating Cakes, Bubbly Troubly and Saving Books. She also "really, really, really like the Popcorn Library". She was happily playing and reading away until her "time" (mommy directed) expired.

I'm all for extra "tools" to use in my quest to teach my children to read (and love it!).  I think Ooka Island is a wonderful addition to my toolbox.

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary subscription in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Classical Phonics & First Start Reading by Memoria Press

Classical Phonics & First Start Reading by Memoria Press-

Bentz Test Laboratory has a Kindergarten member this year. And, this is the perfect program for him!

Let's start at the beginning (like all good phonics programs do) with a description of these excellent resources:

"First Start Reading covers consonants, short vowels, 45 common words, and manuscript printing, accompanied by artist-drawn coloring pictures and drawing pages for every letter. Your child will begin reading in the very first lesson as he progresses through three student books and twentyfive phonetic stories, such as "Hogs and Pigs" and "Jog to the Jet." A Teacher Manual guides you through the program and provides helpful assessments and teaching tips."

First Start Reading:Phonics, Reading, and Printing (set of 3 + teacher guide)
by Cheryl Lowe - with Teachers Guide - $29.95 (just $21.95 for the Student Workbooks only)

What I liked: First Start Reading is a consumable workbook - working on phonics and handwriting all in one place (I much prefer one book to seperate programs for each "subject"). The best part, by Lesson 3, my tester got to read his first word! I just love being there for that, don't you? I never tire of that first sparkly-eyed - "I just read that all by myself" moment. These workbooks are very well done. Clean, crisp and visually appealing. You can see a sample of Book A here.

"Classical Phonics is a deceptively simple little book our teachers and families use constantly in both Kindergarten and first grade. It consists of phonetically-arranged word lists for students to practice their growing phonics skills. In a word list there are no context clues, so the learner must rely on his mastery of letter sounds. For instance, if your child can pronounce each word in this list correctly – pot, pat, pit, put, pet – he knows his short vowel sounds, and you can move on to long vowels! If not, he needs more practice, and Classical Phonics is the most effective tool I know of to address the repetition that young ones need when learning to read. Classical Phonics can be used as a supplement to any phonics program and covers nearly all English phonograms and sounds taught through second grade. Classical Phonics is your handy tool for phonics practice and for building confident readers. *A must-have supplement for First Start Reading! "

Classical Phonics:A Child's Guide to Word Mastery  by Cheryl Lowe
 is a NON-consumable (my favorite kind...) resource for just $14.95

What I liked: Classical Phonics is a companion (or not, depending on your preference) to the First Start workbooks.  It is very "uncluttered" simple drawing, black and white, plenty of visual "room".  I like that my student doesn't have alot of pictures to distract from focusing on the pure sounds of the words.  It contains lists of words in phonetic families for your child to read.  I am a huge fan of phonics based instruction.  I found this book to be a very useful resource to use with my struggling 1st grade reader as well. We even used it for simple spelling tests as well.  You can see a sample of this book here.

The Teacher's Guide is a valuable addition to the program, especially if you are new to teaching someone to read.  It guides you through each step of the lesson (and the pencil grip and letter formation information is invaluable!)

Memoria Press is worth taking a minute to visit - in fact, get a catalog here.  I have used many of their Latin products in the past, and I can tell you - quality is what they are all about.

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Excellence in Literature

Excellence in Literature by Everyday Education

I just love to read!  I love books!  I love reading CLASSIC books! I want to give my children that same LOVE of books and reading!   Can you sense my excitement for this product?

A description from their website:
"Have you always wanted to read the Great Books? Now is your chance! With Excellence in Literature, you and your student can enjoy reading, understanding, and analyzing the greatest literature of all time. Excellence in Literature presents a feast of great literature along with the context information you need in order to fully understand it. "

Ok, I'm hooked! 

I was thrilled when I received by Ebook copy of Excellence in Literature: Reading and Writing through the Classics - just $27 (Print copies are available for $29 plus shipping).

Not long after graduating from college, I read an interesting newpaper article with a "list" of the books to have read if you were "educated".  I eagerly scanned the list, excited to see how many I had read (my love of books has been lifelong...) I was DEVASTATED to realize - even after a college degree, that I hadn't read even a fraction of that list!  That article inspired me to make sure that my children (and me as well) didn't get all the way through college and realize that we hadn't read enough classic literature to be considered "educated" - plus - I was motivated to learn all the treasures I had missed along the way.

Now that you have a peek into my literature philosophy, let me tell you how that relates to Excellence in Literature: Reading and Writing through the Classics.   I now have the means and a powerful teaching tool to introduce my children to classic literature (remember, I haven't read all of these yet!).  Janice Campbell has done the work of evaluating which books, and putting together all the "extras" that round out the learning process.  See how she picked the literature choices here.

Here's a description of the course, directly from them:
"The literature-based unit format of Excellence in Literature offers students the opportunity to grow thoroughly familiar with some of the greatest writers and literary works of all time. There are nine four-week units in each level.

Study and writing for each unit is centered around a full-length focus text— a novel, play, or poem— chosen for its significance to the period of literature being studied. A reasonable number of context works, including poetry, short biographies, art, music, videos, and online resources, are selected to enhance the student’s understanding of the focus text, its author, and the literary period in which it was created.

There is an emphasis on the analytical essay, which offers the opportunity to perfect the standard writing process of planning, drafting, and revising. Shorter assignments in various forms will round out each unit. "

My tester at Bentz Laboratory is an 8th grade student, who is a lover of literature (even classics, especially classics).  His comment - "When can I get started?"

Here's what I love the most - this is a SELF-DIRECTED course - it encourages your student to independent learning.  The lesson plans help you know what to do, and when (but all the time consuming research work is done for you - including context reading for the historical periods!).  There are also "Honors" selections for your student to earn advanced placement credit.  Best of all for you the teacher - Evaluation Rubrics to help you grade their work!

Here's the books you will be reading - I love how many of these are really "boy friendly"!

Unit 1: Short Stories by-
• Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
• Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you're concerned about that.)
• Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
• O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
• Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
• James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot
Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Honors: 1984 by George Orwell
Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Get a Free Sample Unit here.

Other levels are available: You may order Introduction to Literature, Literature & Composition, American Literature, British Literature and World Literature

I'm thrilled to have found the "perfect" literature program for us to take us from 8th grade to graduation.  And, I know my student won't see one of those "lists" and feel like they missed out!

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marshall Publishing - George Washington Carver: His Life and Work DVD

George Washington Carvewr: His Life and Work - DVD

From their website:
"Born into slavery and reared during the Reconstruction years in the South, George Washington Carver struggled through poor health, poverty and prejudice…to become a great benefactor, not only to his people…but to his country as well. Carver is known in history books as the “peanut man” – for his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton. As one of the world’s foremost experts in agriculture and horticulture, Carver, through his research and teaching at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama practically reinvented land management in the South. He is said to have compiled a list of over 300 uses for and by-products of peanuts such as cosmetics, dyes and paints, plastics, gasoline and nitroglycerin.

But his work as a creative scientist stretches far beyond that endeavor. He marveled at the world around him and his ability to inspire those closely associated with him may well have been one of his greatest lifetime achievements. As a living example of the importance of hard work, a positive attitude and a good education, Carver was instrumental in changing the stereotype of the time that the black race was intellectually inferior to the white race.

Here then, is the story of Carver’s life…a life that should not be forgotten, for it is full of hope, meaning and inspiration. To commemorate his life and inventions, George Washington Carver Recognition Day is celebrated on January 5, the anniversary of Carver's death."

The DVD is 30 min. long.  Designed for 4th Grade - Adult. You can access a Study Guide to use with it.

The Bentz Test Laboratory was excited to watch this video (yes, we are homeschoolers and we really LIKE educational movies!). We moved to Arkansas from Minnesota 2 years ago. With Grandparent in AR, we had been making the long trek south for many years.  We always pass the George Washington Carver National Monument in Neosho Missouri.  I have always wanted to stop and visit, but you know how husbands can be when trying to reach a destination! (that means - only "necessary" potty stops...)  But, now - after watching this video - the children and I are more determined than ever to "Stop the bus, Dad!" next time we drive by.

The video was well done, and very informative.  I loved how it showcased George Washington Carver's own words throughout and highlighted his Christian Worldview.  We learned much more about this amazing man than we had previously known.  And, it has sparked an interest to learn even more - exactly what I desire!  Homeschooling at it's best - something to create a "spark" that grows into a "fire" to learn something new.

You can purchase this DVD - for $19.95 online from Marshall Publishing.  They also have manyothers educational titles to choose from - check out the selection here.

See what the other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.

I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Friday, October 21, 2011

American Girl Club - Felicity - Week 2

Felicity - Week 2

This week the girls made paper fans, and played the "Game of Graces".

The fans were constructed out of beautiful, "colonial" look scrapbook paper - folded and glued to be sturdy.
Fan blades were held together on the bottom with a copper brad, and ribbon laced through each created the "fan".

We discussed the purposes for colonial girl's fans - not just keeping them cool... They also used them for "accessories", to whisper behind, and to hide that they hadn't brushed their teeth!

After completeing our fans, it was outside (beautiful fall day) to play the Game of Graces.  Ribbons were woven around a circle (otherwise known today as the inner ring of an embroidery hoop) and the girls used sticks to GRACEFULLY toss the pretty ring back and forth to each other.

The MCA discussed how doing the "small, hard things" can add up to a really BIG hard thing over time!

The littles had a great time playing follow the leader in the back yard.

So very thankful for this wonderful group of families!  We welcomed the 10th "little" - Maggie Elizabeth Hopp born on American Girl Club day!  (how perfect is that!)