Wednesday, January 26, 2011

American Girl Club

I've gone off on a wild-goose chase, homeschooling rabbit trail... again!

This time, I've "persuaded" 5 other families to join me in my "adventure". We have started an American Girl Club - we'll be reading the American Girl books in chronological order, doing crafts and cooking projects, and sneaking in a good bit of American History all the while!

A total of 6 families with an amazing - 12 girls (ages 6-11), 9 boys (ages 9-14 - they are calling themselves the "MCA - Masculine Club of Awesomeness" - what else?!), and 9 "littles" (the under 5 crowd) are all meeting twice a month for this wild adventure.

For our first meeting, we started with Kaya - the Nez Perce Indian girl from 1754. I led our discussion (with 2 mom helpers), another Mom helped the MCA organize their book discussion (we made a deal - 1 hour of mom-directed activity, 1 hour of contact sports and wild boy activity), and 2 other moms dove into the world of play-doh and diapers... Can I just say, creating a schedule/syllabus for this adventure used every bit of my mathematical ability (sorry kids, you'll have to do your math on your own!)

Anyway, we created "Talking Sticks" and "Listening Feathers" - and had a lively discussion of the symbolism of each item used - i.e. bear claws = strength, feathers=peace, truth, colors to represent each character trait desired. The talking sticks are also a way to show respect - as in only the person holding the talking stick may talk! Listening feathers are a companion to the talking stick, and the owner can use them to show the person that they want to respond to questions with. The girls loved it, and it was a great way to set the tone...

Next, I talked about Indian names and how they are given, what they mean, etc. And I presented each girl with a new Indian Name written on a feather. They each made an Indian necklace that included their new name. I got this idea here

Our last topic was - of course, Horses! We discussed how indian girls/women would decorate their horses and the symbols they used. We ran out of time, but each girl went home with a horse cutout to decorate for next time (I got those from Oriental Trading).

All in all, it was a success! My girls haven't stopped asking when the next meeting will be!

Here's some pictures of the projects:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LifeWay Christian Stores & Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids

I'm sure you have all heard about LifeWay Christian Stores . If not, let me introduce you!

LifeWay Christian Stores is a chain of FABULOUS Christian bookstores, but what you may not know, is that they are also online distributors of just about everything you need for homeschool as well!

I was sent "The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids" available online for $14.99. I was not paid for my honest review of this product.

"The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids" is a hardcover 212 page book. It is FULL of colorful illustrations, clearly written definitions, and lots and lots of really great pictures. We couldn't keep our hands off it!

I left it, stragetically placed, where it would get "noticed" by the Bentz Review Crew. Before long, several of the reviewers had picked it up and were excited telling the rest of us..."come see this cool picture" (specifically - a man floating in the Dead Sea while reading a newspaper he's holding in both!)Without a doubt, it was a hit.

After I spent some time looking at it, I was sold on it too. In addition to being a great Children's Bible Dictionary (and I don't know of many...), I was impressed by the volume of information presented in a really engaging manner. I plan on keeping this handy in our schoolroom, for a long time to come. Not only for reference, but it has numerous lists - Plants of the Bible, Birds of the Bible, Foods in Bible times, Parables of Jesus - just to name a few. Maps are also featured frequently, all in the bright, easy-to-understand presentation that is throughout the book. The "unit study" side of me recognized lots of potential here (any other unit-study-wannabes with me?)!

I'm thinking also, of using this as our Bible subject with my youngers (especially the Prek-3rd grade crowd). We can read the coordinating letter pages in the dictionary along with the letters we are studying. I'm sure they'll have a broad Bible knowledge base when we're done (and I'm sure they won't get bored looking at the pictures!)

All in all, this is a Two-Thumbs-Up product!

See what the other reviewers thought here

Monday, January 24, 2011

Times Tables the Fun Way By City Creek Press

Children Recall 95% of their Times Tables using our fun and interactive learning method!

"Traditional memorization of addition and times tables is not only boring and frustrating for most students, but ineffective – in one study, only 62% of the facts were retained on average after one week. Our “Fun Way” approach to addition and multiplication tables engages students by connecting facts to visual images, stories, and songs. Learning becomes a joyful – and unforgettable – experience!"

I was sent a free download of "Times Tables the Fun Way " in exchange for my honest opinion as part of The Oldschoolhouse Review Crew.

I just love testing out math products! Especially, since math is not my strong suit...

We had heard alot about this product before we got a chance to try it. And, we were not disappointed! I decided to use one of my "non-math-brain" kiddos as my official tester. He enjoyed watching the videos, and the songs, and he had an increased retention on the math facts review. However, his more "math-brained" brother wandered by and was not impressed with singing and acting numbers, and felt that it was "not going to teach real math facts". My only caution - if your child is a black and white thinker, loves and understands math well, they may not enjoy this. But, if you have any other types of learners (for example, if you have more than one child :-) we found it to be very fun (and effective...)

What you get: For $44.95 you can download the full program that makes learning multiplication facts more fun than ever. It is based on the Times Tables the Fun Way Book for Kids and teaches the zero's through the nine times tables.

•PC Windows Download Version (Mac versions available as well)
•Students read along while they hear the storyteller.
•Lively animation makes the number characters come alive.
•Each story is followed by a music video with a catchy song.
•Interactive games and fun quizzes engage the student while testing recall.
•Progress reports summarize date lesson completed, quiz scores, and time elapsed.
•Students may stop anywhere and resume where they left off. The program remembers.
•Increase retention to 95% with our interactive method
•Eliminate boring repetitive drills once and for all
•Bring success to students with learning disabilities

See an example

City Creek Press (the publisher) has a wide variety of additional products to use with this - workbooks, flashcards, posters and CDs. Also, addition products are available for those pesky addition facts! Order a Free Catalog and see for yourself.

See a Demo here

If you need a couple more "Math weapons" in your arsenal, I highly recommend this product.

See what other members of the Review Crew thought here

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Magnificent Moon

5...4...3...2..1... Blast Off!

You are about to embark on your mission to "Magnificent Moon"
another "magnificent" Download N Go Unit Study by Amanda Bennett.

Download N Go unit studies are designed to be 5 day learning adventures. Everything you need is ready, just download n go! Each unit is an affordable $7.95, available in minutes. Check out the full list here. Plus, you can get a great deal right now, the Cabin Fever Fun Pack, which includes Magnificent Moon, Winter Wonders, Expedition Canada, and Popcorn is currently on sale, and will be through 1/31/11 for $20 (regularly $28).

While we were happily munching our Oreos into the phases of the moon...we were entralled, watching amazing videos of our nation's journey to the moon. The children and I were mezmerized as we re-lived the awe and wonder of our first glimpses of Earth from God's perspective. Since I was only months old, the first lunar landing was as spectacular for me as it was for them.

We learned about the astronauts, whose feet have touched moon soil (do you know how many men have walked on the moon?). We studied the solar system. Ate cookies! And, enjoyed art appreciation (didn't expect that one, did you?). Amanda Bennett has made use of all the wonderful resources available to you online...but, without the time consuming effort of locating them for yourself.

Each unit is completely packed with information. You could use it over the course of a month, with plenty of activities! In addition, Book suggestions, Activity pages and further Family Fun ideas are also included. But, I've saved the best for last - all the components needed to produce a full color lapbook are also included...just print and assemble!

I am completely hooked on this type of learning. My whole crew (ages 13 to 1) come running as soon as they hear the first video clip playing. An hour or so later, we look for a snack and head back for more. How often does "school" look like this in your house? Well, it could...

And, I just found out another exiciting reason for you to try "Magnificent Moon" - They will be doing a giveaway contest. The contest will run from 1/24-28/11, with the drawing at 9pm on 1/28. We will be giving away 2 standard Moon Maps from National Geographic, valued at $16.99 each.

Check out what the other bloggers thought Here


Speekee Spanish

Safe, secure, fun and immediate

"Speekee TV is designed so that children can learn Spanish in their own time and at their own pace".

10 episodes, over 150 minutes of pure Spanish learning
Learn Spanish from real Spanish children in real Spanish locations
Features songs, animation and puppets
Optional subtitles in Spanish and English
Free activity sheet downloads
Great fun and extremely effective
Created by specialist language teachers

A subscription to Speekee TV is £4.95 (or $7.50) per month and the first two weeks are free.
Subscribe securely using PayPal, and unsubscribe at any time - there's no minimum period.

My children LOVED this program!!! Especially the 7 and under crowd.
Speekee is a cute, purple sock puppet that teaches your kiddos Spanish. He visits different locations (like the park, zoo, home, etc.) and introduces them to useful vocabulary in a bright, engaging way.

The Bentz testers could really not get enough of him! They loved the music, the videos are well done. Lot's of repetition, to ensure they are getting it! And, after several viewings - they were repeating spanish (with a good accent, I might add...) It was colorful, and easy for them to follow along with.

I tend to be very picky with Spanish language programs... Believe me, I have tried them all! And, most of them have not delivered - either on the fun factor, or the learning factor. But, Speekee did both!

We were given an online subscription, in exchange for our honest opinion.

DVD's are available. (but they are produced in Europe - so make sure that you could play them before buying!)

You can try this program for 2 weeks free

See what the other reviewers thought here

Monday, January 17, 2011

Maestro Classics

I'd love to introduce you to: Masetro Classics

Entitled - "Stories in Music", I was sent "Peter and the Wolf", music by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Stephen Simon,conductor and Yadu, Narrator. I was not paid for my honest review of this product.

For my long-time friends (you know who you are...) You know how much I LOVE classical music, and introducing it to children (reluctant or not...)

Well, this CD combines both the classical music and a children's story. You will be introduced to the Composer, learn about the music, enjoy the story and have the opportunity to hear the fabulous London Philharmonic Orchestra in action.

"Music lesson in a box" is the what they call it. This CD came with an informative, activity filled booklet. Informative, with pictures of different instruments, and even sheet music, it was a great addition to the CD. And, I check out their website and discovered even more activities and lesson plans available. Not to mention, they have quite a number of classic children's stories (I can't wait to order "Casey at the Bat" - we love that story!) combined with great classical music. I call that covering two subjects at once - and it's fun!

Listening to classical music has proven benefits, both for you and your children. I highly recommend this product. We listened to it while driving around (we call if van-schooling...anyone with me on this?) The kiddos all loved it. We are familiar with the orchestra and story of "Peter and the Wolf", but we really enjoyed the narration,and the information about the composer, including all the "extras" on this 68 minute long CD.

For an affordable $16.98, you can introduce your child to a classic story and the classical music to go with it.

Check out what the other reviewers thought

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Easy Classical

Let me introduce you to - Easy Classical

I was sent a copy for my honest review as part of The Oldschoolhouse Review Crew, no other compensation.

Easy Classical is a company that specializes in providing the busy homeschool mom with a valuable, time-saving product. Following the guidelines in The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer, Sandra Williams of Easy Classical gives you a 36 Week, framework schedule to cover each historical time period.

I was given the Early Modern History Schedule to review.

Here's what I liked:

I love to combine different curriculums, books and resources together as we study. This does that for me! (anyone else out there suffering from "I got-to-do-it-all syndrome can contact me... I can't promise any help, but I'd love to hear what you're doing so that I don't miss out on something good...)The variety of resources also provides opportunities for all your kiddos learning styles to be accomodated.

Simple, easy to follow layout. Very easy to understand, very easy to read. Comprehension quesions and answers are even on the same page. Shopping lists are also on the page for next week's planning. I really appreciate a one-page per week format (easier on the printing toner costs that way...)

Each week has a Comprehension Quiz for your student to complete. Even though you are pulling from various books, it puts it all together into one quiz for you.

Cost effective - you can purchase this Early Modern History Schedule for $29.95(download version) or $35.95(printed version).

Easy Classical has Writing (that is a companion to IEW - love it!!),Copywork Geography and Science plans as well. They range in cost from $9.95 - $29.99 for downloadable products. (print versions are always available as well). Complete curriculum packages are available (if you just got to "Do it all").

The schedule uses books that I already have on my shelves, many popularly recommended resources. Easy Classical will also provide you with books lists - directly linked to various buying options. (I love that it's not just the titles, but a cover picture... I'm so visual...)

Overall, I thought this product is a great value. Time is the one component that I never have enough of, well, time and money... Having the schedule completed is a huge time saver (and it's affordable). If you are a "Classical" homeschooler, you will love this schedule. If you're not, it may convince you to become one.

See what the other reviewers thought here

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winter Wonders

Time for Winter!

Winter Wonders from Download N Go that is...

A wonderful, winter wonderland of learning. This Download N Go unit study by Amanda Bennett is one that made this Minnesota born girl (but who now finds herself in a snowless, sunny, and 56 degree Arkansas address) long for some SNOW...

Download N Go Unit studies are 5 day long learning adventures. Everything you need is already there, just pick your topic and download and GO! Each unit comes with video links, worksheets, and all the components you need for a lapbook. And, if you still want more, you will find book suggestions, family fun ideas and lots more activies to add to your study.

In Winter Wonders, we were able to learn the science of snow, make snowflakes (edible and nonedible...), we were introduced to "Snowflake Bentley" and his amazing photos as well as Art Appreciation with Robert Duncan's winter work.

I loved watching my younger children (they don't remember MN snow... sniffle, sniffle) and my older children (who do remember, but are missing it this year) all sit with rapt attention to a website devoted to "watching it snow". I guess that's as close as we'll get here in AR.

We enjoyed a trip to the North Pole. As well as, a peek at hibernating bears. Actually, we got to learn about a number of polar animals. We also enjoyed watching some birds in our own backyard, and making pinecone bird feeders (I knew there was a reason I was keeping those pinecones!)

Each day we had a challenge to do a nature walk and record our observances of winter... we had a little trouble finding that particular season here. But, on the positive side, we weren't cold (or wearing coats).

This unit was packed with information, and fun videos. We especially enjoyed a view from a dogsled while learning about the Iditarod and Balto (one of our all time favorite heros!)

Best of all, I didn't need to spend a minute of prep time. We were all engrossed in learning as soon as the kiddos heard the "voices" coming from the screen. All I did was add hot chocolate (did I tell you we learned the origin of hot chocolate?... you may be surprised to hear the climate it comes from...) and s'mores (yep, they're in this unit too).

For a cool $7.95 each, Download N Go units are affordable, and with numerous titles to choose from... you can become a Unit study pro in no time!

Go here to find them

Check out the blog tour of reviews

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Math Facts NOW!

Time to get back into the "school swing"! Happy New Year!!

For the first review of 2011... Math Facts NOW!

I was given a copy of this program in exchange for my honest review of it. (Maybe I'll try a paying job this year...)

You can get your own free trial here

Math Facts NOW! is a simple, yet effective program to review basic math facts. It doesn't have any "gimmicks" to entertain... just the facts. As a parent, you can replace the boring flashcard method of review with this program.

I was able to easily set up lessons for each of my children, unique to their level. And, they were all able to work on that ever important drill and review, without taking up all of Mom's valuable time! The program allows you to specify a "reward" when their mastery is complete. I loved this, I could even sneak in little "mom touches" with rewards that my children appreciate most...i.e. extra computer time, snacks, etc.

You begin by selecting the facts you want them to review, specify how long they get to answer each question (this one was fun... I tricked the "math brain" kiddo into testing it, he thought - "too easy"... but, I gave him only 3 seconds to type the answer! Ha! score one point for mom!) Then, you pick the number of times to re-type corrected anwers, and the total amount of questions.

All in all, this program is simple and easy to use. I like that it doesn't get too complex, just a focus on increasing your child's speed and accuracy for those ever-important math facts.

For a cost of $15.95 - you can have customizable math review for all the students in your family!

Check out what the other reviewers thought here