Sunday, September 30, 2012

Our Three Minutes of Fame!

The Bentz Bunch is in the October 2012 edition of
 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! 

Do you want to read my article and see our schoolroom? You can read it online for FREE - Check out page 22. "Meet the Bentz Bunch".  (you can also download the TOS app for your mobile device)

We had so much fun making our Show & Tell video.  As you noticed, we kept it very real!  No perfect house, no super-organized schoolroom - it's just the "real" us! 

My dear friend, Heather acted as our videographer.  We did our 3 minute video in just 4 takes. We ended up with a "done" not "perfect" approach... much like some school days!

My favorite part, when we turned the camera to Josh for his turn to let us know what he was working on, he was under the schoolroom table!  We caught him climbing out from underneath it!  So, instead of another "take" - we just kept it real.

I'd love to hear what you think!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Music Together

From the webisite:
"Music Together is an internationally recognized early childhood music program for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, first and second graders, and the adults who love them. First offered to the public in 1987, it pioneered the concept of a research-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculum that strongly emphasizes and facilitates adult involvement. 
Music Together classes are based on the recognition that all children are musical. All children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat, and participate with confidence in the music of our culture, provided that their early environment supports such learning."
Cost -
Music Together Family Favorites CD and Songbook Combo -  $39.95 (Save $5 when you purchase the CD & songbook together!)  Use coupon code “Schoolhouse” at checkout, and you can save an additional $2 on your purchase.

The Bentz Test Laboratory has lots of musical talent! (Disclaimer: except for me...)  We have several instrument playing testers, and all of us are music lovers. My secret...I exposed them to a variety of music and appreciation of music while they were very young!

Music Together is a program designed for my younger testers , recommended for early childhood through age 7. We got to take a peek and listen to the Music Together Family Favorites CD (14.95 or download for just $9.95) .  It's a CD of 19 of the best-loved songs from their collections, and includes a 32 page booklet with fun music-making activity suggestions for you to use at home, in the car, or in a classroom. You can listen to samples here

Additonally, we were sent the Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers ($29.95)  This is a companion songbook to the Family Favorites CD.  It gives you tips on how to make a musically rich environment, and includes suggested activities for each of the songs.

This is a wonderful, well-thought out, backed-by-the-research - music program!  The Teacher's Songbook is an amazing resource to have if you are looking to teach music to your younger children.  You will find great ideas that you can easily implement in your homeschool (not to mention how much fun your co-op would have with this!) 

"Playin' in the Kitchen" was one of our favorites - since we are in the kitchen so often!  We used the "equipment"  - the pots, pans, bowls and spoons and had a great time making Music Together!  All throughout the Teacher's Songbook you will also find suggestions for your special needs learners.

My older children grew up singing in the van wherever we went.  We learned all the childhood favorites.  But, doing this review opened my eyes to younger children have been neglected in this aspect!  The older children have outgrown these type of songs, and want to listen to more "sophisticated" music selections.  Music Together gave the younger children a chance to hear something on their level - finally.  And, of course, they loved it!  My older, piano-playing testers - really enjoyed the songbook, which includes sheet music and chord charts have been playing the music for their younger siblings. Perfect!

I really enjoyed Music Together, and plan to keep playing the CD (they ask for it all the time!) and integrating the activities into our homeschool routine.

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

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


Homeschool Legacy - Horsing Around

From the website:

"Once-a-Week Unit Studies by Homeschool Legacy  enable you, as their name implies, to set aside one day each week to lay down the text books, and inject fun, creative, hands-on learning into your homeschool week. Throughout the week, your family will enjoy outstanding library selections, creative assignments, an occasional field trip, and a family game or movie night, each revolving around your unit study. And…Once-a-Week Unit Studies accommodate both Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls!"
4-week unit study,  Appropriate for grades 2-12

Cost - $15.95

(FREE SHIPPING on all orders of $50.00 or more!)
Once-a-Week Unit Studies range in length from four to six weeks and in price from $15.95 to $19.95 depending on the length of the unit study.
Our favorite way to learn at Bentz Test Laboratory is with unit studies, so you can imagine it wasn't hard to find a willing tester for Homeschool Legacy's - Horsing Around Once-A-Week Unit Study!
My tester is a "horse-crazy" pre-teen girl.  Perfect tester for this particular study, don't you think...
She was not disappointed!  In fact, she had so much fun the whole family joined in. This unit study is filled with suggested books to read, hands-on-activities to do together, independent study and research plus  merit badge requirements for Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls (which we don't have any of...yet).
One thing I appreciated was that this was to be a supplemental once-a-week learning treat  (here's some scheduling tips to help you).   We used it as an incentive to work faster through those pesky daily math.  I printed it out, put it in her binder - and she was off on her own adventure.  She used this study as her research for her homeschool interest class presentation.  She was delighted to have so much information to pick from, it's been hard to keep her to the alloted 3 minute time frame!  She's also busy planning the "Cowboy Fun Night" for us, using suggestions from the study. That's what I LOVE about unit studies - we all benefit!
Homeschool Legacy has many topics to pick from - I'm sure you'll find one that catches their interest, and more are on the way...
Check out the other members of the TOS Review Crew though here - several different studies were reviewed.

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


Friday, September 21, 2012

Children in Church, Nuturing a Heart of Worship

From the website:

Children in Church: Nurturing Hearts of Worship by Curt & Sandra Lovelace, an upcoming release by Great Waters Press!

Challenging, encouraging and practical information to help us all welcome children into the corporate worship of the church. This book is for parents with children age 8 and younger.

 Cost:  Advance-reader hardcopies are available now for $12.00 with free shipping inside the continental U.S.  

Here's a peek at the Table of Contents -

1. Bringing Them In
2. Understanding the Elements
3. Counting the Cost
4. Laying the Foundation
5. Getting Ready
6. Packing the Bag
7. Drawing the Word
8. Preparing the Plan
9. Facing the Challenges
10. Growing as Disciples

Plus -  A Note to Church Leaders

I was happy to take a peek at this book.  I have done some scripture and soul searching on the topic of including our entire family in corporate worship at "big church" (that's what I call the main service)  in the past.  I found the author's tone was very encouraging throughout this book. 

Their basic point is that corporate worship is designed to be shared with your children, not withheld from them while being seperated from the family into "children's church" (once again, my term for it).  They back up their position with plenty of Scripture.  But, they don't just stop with the "whys", they helped with the "hows"! 

I loved their idea of the Church Bag - filled with activities to keep your younger children quietly engaged.  Most of all - the transitioning from just entertaining your young children quietly to moving them into active listening and worshipping with illustrations, note taking, and more.

My personal opinion on this issue is not quite as convicted as the authors.  We have 8 children, and over the years - we have included them with us in "big church" and we have taken part in "chidren's chruch".  It has really depended upon the church we were attending, and the children concerned (our children have a huge variety of personalities!)  Currently, our church has the most phenomenal children's ministry, in fact - maybe I'll stop going to "big church" and go to "children's church" instead (there is alot of spiritual growth happening in my children due to the leadership they have!)  You will need to research and investigate what your church offers. 

My advice - this is a helpful, practical book to encourage you to bring your children along for corporate, family worship.  It is also filled with ideas and suggestions for basic child training (learning to sit quietly, respectful behavior, etc.) that you will find helpful even if you don't decide to keep your children with you in "big church".

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.


Beach Memories

We just returned from our BEST ever family vacation!  We took the entire crew to Navarre Beach, FL for a week. Most of children's first time to see (and taste) the ocean.

Here's our amazing home-away-from-home - right on the beach.  I mean...RIGHT on the beach - just a few steps from the water!  Absolutely, perfectly, wonderful!


We were on the Santa Rosa Sound, on a barrier island facing the mainland.  There could be no more perfect place for a whole bunch of "littles"!  The water was shallow and without a heavy surf.  Perfect for endless exlporing and swimming, while mom and dad sat in the chairs on the porch!

When we wanted waves - the other side of the ocean (with great surf) was just a walk across the street!

To make it even better, our good friends joined us!  They stayed in their own beach condo, a block or so away.  I highly recommend vacationing with great friends...the kiddos have playmates and you get a trusted babysitter for alternating "date nights". Plus - a built in photographer for the mandatory "beach pictures!"


I can't bring myself to vacuum out the van...all the sand makes me smile!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Family Time Fitness

From their website:

The Fitness 4 Homeschool Curriculum allows homeschool parents to teach physical education without previous knowledge of physical education and athletic development. Our program, designed by experts in fitness training, nutrition and body movement, is designed to suit every age and ability level while affordably fitting into your budget. Our program combines flexibility and fun with a comprehensive curriculum to give your children a foundation for strong bodies and minds.

Fitness 4 Homeschool Core 1 Curriculum for K-8 for $57 or upgrade to the Platinum package for $137. They do offer a free 2 day trial so you can see for yourself what it is like.
(Take my advice - skip the "happy meal", this will be much more fun, and a lot better for their health!)

Maybe you think ... I don't need a Fitness/Physical Education Program for my homeschool. Take a look at this picture of Brain Activity after only 20 minutes of walking! What do you think the brain activity will be after 30-45 minutes of a professionally planned physical education lesson?

The Bentz Test Laboratory has some very physically active children, and some "not-so-much" types.  I know we need to be more intentional in making sure everyone (even mom!) is getting the proper amount of exercise around here. 

Right off, we learned that phyiscal activity is not the same thing as physical education (PE).  Family Time Fitness is expertly designed program that has been created to maximize the benefits of spatial awareness, body awareness, environmental awareness, enhanced neurological development, mind-body coordination, stress reduction, social engagement, poise and confidence.  It's not enough to just "go play outside for awhile", our students need the benefits of a systematic approach to teaching these skills.

I was blown away by the level of detail and instruction included in this program.  You will NOT find a better thought out, easy to implement PE program.  I've been searching for years...

 Here's what you get:
Startup/Training Guide - The Startup Guide is a guide for parents and includes an introduction to physical education, information on what to expect from the program, safety information, how to integrate physical education into your curriculum, teaching tips and equipment information.
Lesson Plans – Each of the 260 professionally planned lessons arrives in PDF format and includes a List of Supplies, Warm-Up, Activity, Cool Down and Suggested Outdoor Activity. Each exercise is described in a detailed, user-friendly format for easy access. Each lesson provides 30-45 Minutes of physical activity. If you do all the activites that is over 7800 Minutes of activity a year! If you do the suggested outdoor acitivy you get an additional 10-15 of physcial activity.
1-Page Summaries– Each lesson has a One-Page Summary to facilitate easy printing and portability. The summaries keep you from printing all 900+ Pages of Lesson Plans.
Video Demonstrations – Each exercise includes a demonstration video with real kids doing the exercises. There are over 200 instructional video demonstrations available to you with this curriculum, and you are guaranteed lifetime access to these videos as we update them.
Assessment Tools – We provide tools to help track progress of the basic fundamental movements. Other downloadable tools include nutritional logs and meal planners for a comprehensive fitness approach.
Encouragement Emails – During the first year of your course, we send you reminder emails each week day to keep you and your children motivated on your fitness journey. We also always include nutritional and fitness tips in the emails.
Online Webinars – You have access to our regular online webinars and our webinar archive for further in-depth instruction and tips on the curriculum.

I love that this program is designed for the homeschool FAMILY!  All my children were able to participate together, and it did not require special equipment or space.  It walked me through the entire program hand in hand.   This is what I've been searching for!  A program that we can actually DO! 

You will want to investigate their website - it's full of informational articles you don't want to miss, like "Team Sports as Physical Education", "Creating a Healthy Home Environment", and "10 Reasons Why you Need a Physical Education Curriculum"

Family Time Fitness also offers:

High School Fitness/PE
Learning the Language of Fitness and Nutrition Activity Workbooks
Basketball Sports Development Module
Online High School Health Class
Co-op Programs 

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

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


Marshall Publishing - The Historic Expedition of Lewis & Clark

From their website:


One of the most significant and dramatic explorations in American history, the journey of Lewis and Clark, stands as a true epic in documented exploration of the West. From 1804 to 1806 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery on an 8,000 – mile journey into the unknown. Starting at the meeting of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, they traveled by foot, boat, and horseback – all the way to the Pacific Ocean and back.

This is the story of that exploration, complete with diary excerpts, encounters with Indians, the sometimes beautiful and sometimes threatening landscape, and a summary of the objectives and accomplishments of this extraordinary team.

Beautiful photography, live re-enactments, illustrated maps and rare photographs make this historical adventure come to life and one that will entertain and educate all age groups for years to come.

Blue Ribbon Winner - American Film & Video Festival Bronze Apple Award - National Educational Film & Video Festival

Approx. 35 Minutes

Cost - $19.95 (on sale right now!) Plus - free first class shipping with the coupon code TOS27

The Bentz Test Laboratory loves history.  Our favorite way to learn history is to really see it come to life.  Marshall Publishing does just that with this fantastic video!  We were able to see what the historic expedition of Lewis & Clark was really like. The photography was beautiful, and it was filled with new and interesting facts. The DVD was long enough to give us a great introduction, but short enough to hold everyone's attention (even the "littles")

 Watching this DVD sparked an interest in Lewis & Clark and learning more about them.  Bingo!  Just what I want our media time to do...don't you? 

You will not be disappointed!  Marshall Publishing has numerous titles to choose from - endless inspiration (and not just history - animals, planes, trains, and more!)  Why settle for just reading some boring textbook when you could let your children SEE history? 

 Here's a couple of other titles the TOS Crew reviewed:
The History of the Oregon Trail and The Pony Express DVD
The History of America in the 1880′s – A Decade of Progress DVD
Lots and Lots of Penguins and Their Happy Feet 2 DVD Set of Two DVDs

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

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


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Speekee TV

From their website:

Spanish learning without effort. All the multi award-winning Speekee videos PLUS real-time 'virtual' friendships with the Speekee characters.

Speekee FastTrack is a 40 week plan that maximises every child's Spanish learning. Every week we've suggested 4 activities for you, with corresponding video clips, worksheets and other downloads. Taking just a few minutes, each activity accelerates understanding and use of Spanish.

Many of the activities have worksheets associated with them. Sometimes these are referenced explicitly in the activity; other times they are extra activities that you can do if you choose. Many of the worksheets and downloads are in .pdf format, so you'll need Adobe Reader.

We'll give you some flashcards to download and print. You can use these flashcards any time you want to reinforce the everyday language that you'll be learning as you move through Speekee FastTrack."

Cost: $7.50 per month (try the first 2 weeks for FREE - no obligation!)

The Bentz Test Laboratory has been introduced to Speekee before, and they loved it.  I got big cheers when I asked them if they would like to spend some more time with Speekee and his friends!

Each episode is full of bright colors, fun characters and catchy songs.  It's an immersion program - so everything is in Spanish with English subtitles. They visit familiar places like:-El parque (The Park), -El cafe (The Restaurant),-La casa (The House), -El zoo (The Zoo), -La clase (The Classroom), -El mercado (The Market), -La estacion (The Station),-La playa (The Beach), -El jardin (The Garden), -La fiesta (The Party) in the 10 lessons.  The episodes are short and fun.

 My children enjoy watching, and I see results - they are learning Spanish - and with the correct accent!  I catch them singing all around the house.

My favorite part of this review, the FastTrack curriculum plan!  Speekee's creators listened to us and created a VERY user-friendly curriculum plan to accompany the Speekee TV episodes.  I get an email each week with all the details plus worksheets, flashcards, craft suggestions.  I have found the perfect use for all the mismatched socks - we made Speekee puppets!

I highly recommend you check this program out for yourself!

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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Math 911

From the website:

Math911 is for students who believe that Algebra must be a struggle, difficult and complicated. Math911 is the easiest and most economical solution for Algebra students. The Math911 approach is what learning Algebra should be: quick, fun, and easy. Math911 will let you absorb Algebra effortlessly.

Topics are arranged by chapter, section and levels. Within each level are all the types of problems that identify the concepts that your students must know in order to be successful in Algebra including Graphs and Word Problems.
  • All problems are algorithmically generated. 
  • 10 minute learning curve.
  • Step by Step solutions.
  • Only Free-form answers.
  • Dynamic Grade reports on all screens.
  • Needs no internet connection.
  • Can be networked.
  • Free Home Use For Teachers.
  •  Free Upgrades .
  • Free Install on New PCs
COST - $49.95 for the complete Math 911 Program - includes access to: intermediate algebra, statistics, trigonometry, college algebra, and pre-calculus! Free trial of Introductory Algebra is available as a Back-to-School Special!

“Algebra In A Flash” flash drive version; works great on school laptops and allows students to continue at home. Great for 1:1 classrooms.   40% off student special. Regular $49.95 now only $9.95  At Google checkout use promotion code:homeschool
At Bentz Test Laboratory, we have some "math brains" and some "not so math brains".  So, Math 911 had instant appeal (I wish I had some Math 911 when I was first learning Algebra!!)
My tester was our main math mastermind.  I figured he was the most qualified to accurately review a program teaching algebra and upper level mathematics!

Here are his thoughts:
  • Easy to do with short lessons
  • He likes that you always have to get the solution correct to get the credit and advance (he's a "rule follower"...I however would like to get credit for wrong algebra would have made it easier for me to get through algebra in high school!)
  • Doesn't really teach any of the concepts, it more of a review/practice application.
  • Seems a bit "old school" with the graphics and design - teenagers today have more sophisticated tastes in digital products! (see some screen shots to see for yourself...)

My Thoughts:
  • An affordable algebra & upper level math supplement!
  • The Free - Laugh with Math Cartoon Math Book (I was chuckling but, my tester...didn't get it.  I told you, he's so math brained he can't laugh at it!)  Check it out - you'll love it!
  • Great customer service!
  • Another tool in my math toolbox, you'll want one too!
 See what other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.
    Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary download in exchange for my honest opinion as part of the TOS Review Crew. 


Saturday, September 1, 2012

2012-13 Here We Come!

Bentz Academy Class Picture

We did it...despite my doubts, the 2012-13 school year launched successfully!  Really, after taking pictures, filling out our "before" forms, measuring, weighing and all the "First Day" routines - we only did math.  But hey - we started!

I'm so very grateful for another year home with my children.  What an amazing privilege to be able to look around our very crowded schoolroom and KNOW this is what God planned for me, and for them!

I still remember looking at our blue schooltable and seeing 6 little chairs - thinking to myself - "Someday, these seats will all have a child in them that I have to teach to read"!  Little did I know - those 6 seats would be full, and they would be a couple more kiddos under the table! (wait until you see our TOS Show & Tell'll understand!)

Fast forward 11 years - now I realize that God's plan was way better than mine!  I am blessed to have gotten to really KNOW each of my beautiful children.  I have gotten to teach them to read.  I've struggled to learn math with them.  We've walked through history together (first time for me - I swear I never learned this stuff when I was in school!).  We've blown things up in science together (and it wasn't dinner... well, not always!) We've read dozens and dozens and dozens of great books together. We've discovered, explored and created - all hand-in-hand.  From the first day of Kindergarten to the first day of High School. How did it go by so very fast? I'm so thankful to have spent the quantity of time together with them.

All throughout this learning journey, God's been weaving our hearts together into the most amazing tapestry.  The days have multiplied into years - and the intricate design is being revealed.  My children are growing into men and women that love God!  Plus, I have grown right along side of them! (I'm pretty sure God chose the homeschooling path for us because of what He wanted to do in my life!)  They know Him personally, and I KNOW this because I've had a front row seat to see it happen. 

I can't wait to see what this year has in store for us!