Friday, May 27, 2011

Sunny Seashells by Download N Go

Sunny Seashells Download N Go
I love the smell and sound of the ocean, in fact I was just lamenting how much I miss it and need a vacation...anyone with me? But, here in Central AR - the ocean is pretty far away (closer than I was in MN, but still too far away...).

So, I opted for the next best thing... a learning adventure to the ocean with the Download N Go - Sunny Seashells and my 8 kiddos!

What is a Download N Go? It's a 5 day Unit study that will take you on an adventure of learning. It is filled with clickable, embedded links (no ADS!) that will have you and your children on a beach in no time! Additionally, you will have great book suggestions, hands-on activities, and Family fun ideas. You even get all the components for a lapbook included. Best of all, all this prep work is done for you and you can just Download N Go. Created with the K-4 crowd in mind, I can't keep my entire crowd from crowding around the computer!!

At only $7.95 - you can afford to take everyone on a learning vacation, anytime you want... They have over 40 titles to choose from, so you'll find a destination for everyone too!

So, what did we learn in Sunny Seashells? Here's a brief outline:

Day 1: Seashells--What Are They?
Day 2: Seashells and History
Day 3: Types of Seashells
Day 4: The Science of Seashells
Day 5: Seashell Party!

What we really learned was history, science, geography, Scripture, math and more - but, shhh....don't tell my kiddos. They just thought we were visiting the ocean, so that mom could have her "vacation"!

By the way, if you haven't downloaded a copy of the FREE Summer of Fun Calendar from Unit Studies Amanda Bennett yet, you will want to! It's full of fun ideas that are free or low cost to keep your kiddos from getting bored this summer. Each day has a clickable link for you to explore, and discount codes for these great studies.

(I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the review team).

See what everyone else thought here

Read for the Heart by Sally Clarkson

Read for the Heart by Sally Clarkson
Here is the publisher’s description:

"Keeping this volume close at hand is like having a child’s librarian for a best friend! A great book spurs the imagination in childhood, inspires our dreams in adulthood, and nourishes the soul with depictions of life fully and courageously lived. Among the greatest gifts you can bequeath to a child are a love for reading and a passion for books. But how do you sort through the many thousands of books available to your children to find those that are worthwhile? Let Sarah Clarkson be your guide to the best in literature for your family. From timeless classics to modern favorites, from picture books to adventure novels to read-aloud favorites, more than 1,000 wonderful stories for young people are recommended within these pages. Now you can make great literature a lasting part of your child’s life and education."

I couldn't agree more!! If you have ever visited our home (and if you haven't here's an invitation), it doesn't take too long to know we LOVE books!

When I was a young 20-something (only slightly older I read a list of books that "well read" individuals will have read by the time they graduate from college. I was horrified! I had graduated from college, but had missed all of them! I vowed then, that I would read all those books (still working through it!).

What I love about Read for the Heart, is that it is one of those kind of "lists". It will help you choose the best books for your children to be reading. What we read (and our children read) WILL shape what we think. It's nice to have a trusted source help you navigate the millions to choose from! It is written to use as a reference to all ages, and the inspiration chapters are a gem all by themselves! The appendix lists will be a useful tool when building your own personal book collection (which if you come over, you will see I have been very busy doing!).

If you would like to see a sample chapter, click here.

Read for the Heart is available from Apologia for just $17.00. I think it should be on everyone's bookshelf!

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

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Free! Summer of Fun Calendar

You can NOT miss out on this one!!!

This calendar is FILLED with low-cost or even FREE fun ideas for you and your kiddos for this summer! And, it's a FREE downloadable gift to you!

No more "I'm BORED, there's NOTHING to do" around here...

Plus, look for discount codes and special deals to go with it on Amanda Bennett's Unit Studies, my new FAVORITE curriculum!! Check them out HERE

Get your own copy of the calendar Here

Considering God's Creation

Considering God's Creation by Eagles Wings
(I was sent a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew).

First, I have to say - I LOVE this company's products! I have almost everything they have ever published on my shelves... So, reviewing this was a treat!

Considering God’s Creation is available for $29.95 on the Eagle’s Wings website, and includes the Teacher’s Manual, Student Workbook, and audio CD. An additional workbook can be purchased separately if you have more than one student using this program for $13.95, and a replacement CD is also available for $3.00.

You can cover all areas of Science study, with multiple ages, all with this one book! It has a distinctly Christian worldview, and just plain good science as well. If you like the notebooking style of study (which we do) you will love this product!

One of the things I appreciate most about this curriculum, is the low amount of teacher prep time needed. You can just open it and dive right in. You can also use it to supplement other science programs you may be using because it is so easy to implement.

We used the Skeleton cut-outs with our Co-op during our Anatomy and Physiology class (which was using Apologia). So, it's more than just a stand alone course - it's a must have resource!

You will want to check out their other products as well. Eagle’s Wings carries Christian educational products for other subject areas too. Be sure to check out their products page HERE

See what the other members of the Review crew thought here

Friday, May 20, 2011

Word Qwerty by Talking Fingers

Word Qwerty by Talking Fingers

Wordy Qwerty, a software program by Talking Fingers, teaches children spelling rules through a series of engaging lessons and activities. The intended age range is 7-9 (2nd-3rd grade). It is available as an online option, or a CD-Rom.

The hosts, two talking keyboards (one a computer keyboard, the other a piano keyboard) encourage your child to earn spheres and points to help make a Marveleous Music Machine, your student is taught to recognize patterns in each lesson and then is provided with the rule. A catchy song for each rule is included to help aid in retention.

Each lesson has six activities and games for your student to complete: Patterns Game, Karaoke, Recycler, Pop-a-Word, Write Stories, and Read Stories. The games are engaging and give the student more practice with the rule. Full game descriptions are available at the website.

You can try it out for Free here

Wordy Qwerty is another resource for solid teaching of the spelling rules for beginning spellers, as well as a remediation tool for older students. A online license is available as a 1-year license for 1 user at $25, up to 5 users for $71.25. A CD-Rom version, complete with an audio CD of the spelling rule songs, is available for $35. Visit the Talking Fingers website to learn more or to purchase.

My two daughters...I like to call them "Sugar" and "Spice" were are official Bentz testers for this product.

They both loved playing it, loved the songs, loved the characters...Love, love, love.

"Sugar" is older and reading well - but spells terribly. So, I thought - this will be good practice for her. While she enjoyed her time in the test laboratory with Word Qwerty, I didn't see much improvement over in the school room.

However, "Spice" literally begged to do her "computer time" every day. And, to my surprise - she retained alot of this information - and took it to the schoolroom with her!

So, my lesson for you is...know your children's learning styles!

Word Qwerty may be just the tool you need...

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

We recieved a complimentary trial in exchange for our honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

American Girl Club - FIELD Trip

American Girl - Kaya - the Field Trip!
For our field trip we visited Toltec Indian Mounds, a state park here in Arkansas.
We took a guided tour of the park, and learned about the Indians that had built these impressive mounds. (No, they weren't Kaya's tribe...but, we did our best!)

The MCA (masculine club of awesomeness) had their own special session getting to try out Indian weapons. Spear throwing and blow guns! Does it get any better for a bunch of boys?

The girls made clay coil pots and animals in their own session as well!

In addition to the tour and activities, we were treated to Indian story-telling and fun Indian games! (I highly recommend this park - the rangers were so knowledgeable and wonderful with the kiddos!)

What an awesome ending for our Kaya study! This group has become so close, and we are loving getting to learn together. We can't wait for Felicity in the fall!

Mad Dog Math

Mad Dog Math-

Designed to model the method Julie Kotoff, a veteran teacher and administrator, used in her 3rd grade classroom – this program keeps track of students work, and moves them progressively through levels until they become “Mad Dog Top Dogs” at math.

Students from K-grade 5 are encouraged to spend 10 minutes each day practicing with Ruff, the program’s mascot. (who was named after Julie’s beloved Golden Retriever, Mad Dog sounds better than Cute Dog...don't you think?)

The program has 4 levels. Level 1 and 2 are addition and subtraction facts. Level 3 is multiplication and division, and the challenge level mixes all the operations for what is called “mutt math” and mixes operations for “kennel trouble”.

The children can time themselves with two minute, one minute and 30 second time limits. If they complete all the levels in under two minutes, they receive a “sticker” for the “Two Minute Club”. then they will earn their One minute Club and Thirty Second Club stickers, too. When they have earned all their stickers they are a “Mad Dog Top Dog”.

A free trial is available for download on the site. It will entitle the user to use the first fact family for three levels. A user’s key is required to unlock the rest.

You have several options when ordering. For $19.95 you will receive a one year license. For an second year, (2 years total) it is an extra $10.00. ($29.95) For $10.00 more, ($39.95) you can buy a perpetual license that never expires.

There doesn’t appear to be a limit to how many students may use the program,but it is for single family or classroom use. There is no master or parent account though, so the parent would have to log in as the child to see the progress made.

Practicing math facts is rather like pulling teeth around here. So, I really enjoy having a variety of methods. Mad Dog Math is easy to use, in a simple format that can help you be ready with another approach.

See what the other members of the Review Crew thought here
(We were sent a complimentary copy in exchange for our honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wonder Maps by Bright Ideas Press

I just LOVE Bright Ideas Press!!! If you don't know about them yet... head to their website and check them out.

I am excited to tell you about their newest offering - Wonder Maps. This is truly a one-of-a-kind homeschool product, that you have to have!

Wonder Maps is more than just a collection of maps. It is a downloadable product which is completely customizable! You can choose from over 350 different maps: World maps, United States maps, Historical maps, and Thematic maps.

Each map offers the ability to customize it to your you want it in color, or just an outline map? Labled or not? You can have the entire continent, just a country, or even simply a state.

In addition, the Teacher guide features downloadable MP3 sessions and a whole list of activites to use this resource in your homeschool. Geography is going to be their favorite subject in no time!

If you are a Mystery of History or All American History fan (which if you are really should be!) You are going to LOVE this feature... all the maps in the history programs are also included in the Wonder Maps program. You get all this for only $49.95!

The numerous ways to utilize this program would take days to describe. I think you will want to head over here for a tutorial video which takes you on a guided tour of this fantastic program!

We have been having so much fun wandering around our globe, my kiddos don't even know this is an "educational tool" of mom's - they think it's for them! Of course, we put this tool right to use in our Mystery of History - Volume 3 lessons.

Bright Ideas Press not only makes incredible products for homeschoolers, they have alot of compassion for them as well. They are offering 20% off your purchases on May 21st to help a VERY needy family get a new house. You can read about them here.

This is directly from an email that current customers received this week from Bright Ideas Press

- "In addition to nominating the Laurie family for Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Bright Ideas Press is hosting a special fundraiser sale on Saturday, May 21st. On this day only, 20% of all sales made with the Laurie family's name in the comments section of your order form will be donated directly to the Laurie family. If you are planning on purchasing any curriculum from Bright Ideas Press for the next school year, I encourage you to make your purchase on May 21st. Do not forget: putting the Laurie family's name in the comments section of your order form will give 20% of your payment as a donation to the Laurie Family Fund.

So, go get the homeschool must-have product - Wonder Maps on May 21st!

(I was sent a complimentary copy of this product in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.)See what the other members of the crew thought here.

Chocolate Challenge

Chocolate Challenge - Download N Go by Amanda Bennett

Okay, I "dare" you! This is your official challenge to take your children on a learning adventure about Chocolate!

You won't be able to resist, and your kiddos will be not be able to escape learning!

Download N Go Unit Studies are designed to be a 5 day learning adventure, targeted toward the K-4 crowd. But, a crowd is what is around our computer, every time we do one (I can't keep the older kiddos away...). Priced at just $7.95 per unit, you can treat the whole family. There are many topics to choose from - you're sure to find something to interest even your most picky learner!

Each unit is filled with embedded video links (no ads!), book suggestions, notebooking-style pages, and all the components for a lapbook! In addition, you get tons of suggestions for fun cooking and hands-on projects, and Family fun ideas as well. You can easily stretch this learning into much more than a week.

Perfect if you are needing a "break" week... especially Chocolate Challenge! (okay, be truthful...where do stash your "private collection" - you know, the chocolate you won't share :-)

In this unit we visited chocolate making factories, meet famous chocolatiers (that's what I want to be when I grow up), explored Brazil and had lots of adventures in our kitchen - both with science and eating!

You can take a peek into this unit here

(I was sent a complimentary copy of this unit in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the DNG Review team... it was delicious!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Student Writing Intensive - IEW

Student Writing Intensive - Level A by Institute in Excellence for Writing
Why didn't someone teach me to write this way? Really?!

Institute for Excellence in Writing has a huge repuation, and it's earned it.

As part of the TOS Review Crew, I was sent a complimentary copy of the Student Writing Intesive - Level A combo in exchange for my honest opinion.

Here's the "official description" -

The Student Writing Intensive is a DVD course for students that can last 15-30 weeks, depending on the student. This makes a family’s introduction to IEW even smoother as the main teaching is done by Andrew Pudewa himself on DVD. Teacher notes, student handouts, and more are included to make this the easiest writing class you’ll ever prepare. Student Writing Intensive comes in three different levels. Cost $99

Level A – Choose this level for students in 3rd-5th grade or younger.

The Portable Wall saves wall space by having writing models and information on a tri-fold pocket folder for the student to use. Cost $7.00

This package differs in that the Teaching Writing with Structure and Style (see more about that item here) course for the teacher is not included. Instead it contains the Structure and Style Overview DVD with handouts. What’s the difference? The Overview disc condenses the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style course into a 2 hour 20 minute journey through all nine units in the IEW syllabus. It is more of an overview and if the parent intends to use the Student Writing Intensive DVD lessons only it will give them a background in the method. Cost $10

We were able to open and dig into these awesome resources immediately!

The testers at Bentz laboratory were all ready aquainted with the IEW method of writing. (We've been doing it for a couple of years). But, this course is so wonderful mainly - because the talented Andrew Pudewa is the teacher!

It is incredibly well organized. I was impressed with the amount of information contained in this set. I like how we now had a common language to speak in our writing lessons. I can recognize that something isn't quite right, but telling the boys to "make it sound better" was never as effective as giving clear directions, for example, add a dress-up or some strong verbs, maybe an -ly opener would fit here. Hey - that's a banned word!

Thank you Mr. Pudewa for teaching us all to write better, and letting us giggle while doing so!

Once you take a deep look at this program (don't let the volume of information intimidate!) you'll be hooked too! Take a look at this page to get a more detailed history of IEW.

See what the other members of the Review Crew thought here

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Go Trybe

What is it? is an online fitness and nutrition community that delivers daily fitness, nutrition, wellness, and motivation content to students and teachers across the US. Go and Try something new, and Be your best!

We were sent an complimentary membership in exchange for our honest opinion as part of the TOS review Crew.

Okay - so who thinks they (and their kids) are in great physical shape? Which of your homeschools routinely incorporates Physical Education? Now that we have that out of the way, what are we going to do about it?!

I have to admit - I'm a physical education, fizzle-out! I have grand intentions, I have books to tell me how to do it, but - I still don't... And, I'm passing that lack of exercise routine to my kiddos. is a solution that works! Once you get it started, both you and your students can benefit. You load your Avatar (which is where you spend your reward points), and then customize the workout you want to do. In addition, you will get daily nutrition, motivation and wellness lessons. Each activity you complete earns you points, which you can use with your Avatar. There are 3 levels- K-5th, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th to choose from.

We found it easy to do. Here's the perfect Homeschool family Physical Education program! You don't need any equipment, and you only need enough space to move around in.

Best of all, the price is outstanding!!! Just $19.95 per year! You can even try it for free here.

But, I'm telling you, it's less than the gym, less than my hubby's P90X, and less than the books on Physical Education gathering dust on our shelves!

My kiddos enjoyed being able to make up new workouts. The instructors are peppy and fun, with kiddos as their "backup" group. GoTrybe also offers ways to connect with other users, blogs and lots of friendly help.

Check out what the other members of the Review Crew thought here

Happy 10th Anniversary TOS!

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is celebrating their 10th year anniversary!

I absolutely LOVE this magazine!! Each issue is packed with information, inspiration and infinite resources. (hey, I was using alliteration!)

I have been a subscriber since our homeschooling journey began, and I would highly recommend it as a "MUST HAVE" homeschooling tool.

But, it doesn't stop with the print magazine... The Old Schoolhouse also has numerous online resources to help you as well.

And, finally - I have enjoyed being a member of the TOS Review Crew. Here's your opportunity to hear what ordinary moms like you think about various homeschooling products - that they have actually used! (sometimes, the best advice you can get...comes from someone who has nothing to gain by telling you "been-there, tried-that", know what I mean?)

You can get a great Subscription deal - but hurry, they're selling fast! Included with the 2 year subscription are 19 great gifts!

So, take a stroll on the TOS Blog Tour to see what others have to say about The Old Schoolhouse!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Monki See Book and DVD

Monki See
We were sent a copy of Know Your Monkey ($9.95) and the
DVD - Babies First Words ($19.95) to review as part of the TOS Review Crew (we did not recieve any compensation).

Monki See creators believe babies and very young children are capable of learning to read. You can read about their philosphy here This program is created for children 3 months to 2 years of age.

Both the Book and the DVD were bright and colorful, easily catching the attention of my littlest tester at the Bentz test laboratory. She is only 2 (really, she just turned 2 yesterday, so she was still one during our review!). She is just starting to like to watch a video now and then - for all of her 5 minute long attention span - she enjoyed watching the video. (I don't believe she picked up reading any new words - but, we're going to have to increase that attention span!) A surprise - my 3 1/2 year old daughter - loved the movie. I do see it as a helpful tool for parents dealing with delayed speech issues (like we are). You can take a look a sample clip here.

She loved the book! It's focus is on body parts. (But, then again - she is my daughter - and a book beats a video everytime..) The format is See and Say - with pictures and text seperated. You can look inside the book here.

All in all, I am not a fan of teaching your babies (or very young children) to read -I believe they should be interacting with their families, being read to, and eating the playdoh and crayons. But, if you are a fan of this approach - you may enjoy the Monki See products!

See what the other reviewers thought here

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kregel Publications - Andi's Fair Surprise

Yippee!! We love stories about little girls and their ponies around here!!

We were sent a complimentary copy of "Andi's Fair Surprise" by Susan K. Marlow, in exchange for our honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

Selah could NOT put this book down!!! In fact, her main birthday wishlist included the other 3 books in this series - which she also devoured in no time!
Check out these other Circle C Beginnings titles:

Andi’s Pony Trouble
Andi’s Indian Summer
Andi’s Scary School Days

And coming in August, 2011 are:

Andi’s Lonely Little Foal
Andi’s Circle C Christmas

These easy-to-read stories also have FREE downloadable activity and coloring pages. Selah used them to create her book review for our co-op.

The book is what we call, historical fiction. Set in the 1800's at the California State Fair. It has a wonderful character lesson (which the activity pages help you capitalize on!)

You can purchase the books for $4.99 each - directly from the publisher, on or

If you are looking for some wholesome, fun reading for your 6-8 year old daughter... these books get a double thumbs up from the Bentz test laboratory!

See what the other members of the review crew thought here

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yesterday's Classics

Yesterday's Classics
I am so excited about this item!! In fact, I need to say a big Thank you, because of this wonderful husband bought me a fabulous birthday present - a color Nook (a EPUB reader for those who don't know what I'm talking about.)

I was sent the Yesterday's Classics collection in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew.

So, what is Yesterday's Classics? Well, they are a publisher of quality books. Further, they have compiled a HUGE - 225 volume, set of classic books in a variety of genres. You get all this, in either Kindle or EPUB (which works with all other formats, including your very own computer - just add a free app to read) for just $99.95! (it's on sale through May 31st...that's less than 50 cents per book!)

Many of the titles are used in Living book curriculums such as Ambleside, Tapestry of Grace, Heart of Dakota, etc. We are plain excited to have at our fingertips, so many wonderful books.

My oldest immeadiately downloaded a E-reader app onto his Itouch, and hasn't stopped reading since. It's pretty cool, at least to this book loving mom, when her teenager is hooked into his "device" - but, isn't playing the lastest Angry Birds game, he's reading "Wonder Book" by Nathaniel Hawthorne! (side note, he was amazed to learn it's about Greek Myths...kinda like "an old-fashioned Percy Jackson, mom")

I also downloaded a free app to read the books on my computer. I am not the most techie mom around, so if I can do it - so can you! (Plus, their customer service is tops - they'll help you right away!) A couple of days later, I got my birthday present (thank you wonderful husband)... so, now I can read on the go as well. If you want to, you can even print them out!

If you are a book lover (and what homeschool mom isn't?) You HAVE to have this collection!!! It's well organized into level, genre and subject.

See a free sample for yourself!

See what the other members of the review crew thought here