Thursday, August 29, 2013

Creating Responsible Kids

I originally gave this as a talk at the local MOPS group.  I'm so excited to share it on the TOS Crew Spotlight - check it out!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beauty in the Heart by Doorposts: A TOS Crew Review

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Beauty in the Heart by Doorposts

From their website:
"Beauty in the Heart contains 86 days of study plus 49 more suggested studies—enough to fuel serious Bible study for more than a year!  Designed for young ladies age 10-12 and up, these studies are also appropriate for ladies’ Bible study groups, girls’ clubs, and for young men who want to understand godly beauty (alternate questions for young men are included in the back of the book). 

What does the Bible say about beauty? What attitudes does God value in a young woman’s heart? What actions are characteristic in the life of a truly beautiful woman? What attitudes and actions detract from, or even render disgusting, a woman’s physical beauty?

Discover answers to these questions while you learn how to mine for the riches that are hidden in God’s Word. While studying godly beauty in Beauty in the Heart, you will also learn the fundamentals of different Bible study methods. In this book, you will learn how to:
  • Use a concordance
  • Study a specific topic in the Bible
  • Perform a character study
  • Use marginal study notes
  • Study a verse, passage, or entire chapter or book of the Bible
  • Find the original word used in a passage and how it is used in other passages
  • Use free Bible study tools on computers and mobile devices
Ten in-depth studies focus on godly women like Ruth and Esther, and on what the Bible says about discretion, modesty, adornment, true beauty, and more."

Cost: $14.00

Special bonus: use the coupon "beautystudy" in your shopping cart to get a free instant-download PDF copy of the Bible study when you order the printed workbook (special ends 8/31).

VIEW PDF SAMPLE PAGES (Table of Contents, Introduction, and Study 3, Beauty in Trusting God)

 Doorposts was one of the first gems I discovered my first year of homeschooling.  They specialize in providing Bible-based parenting and character training materials designed especially for homeschool families.  Their products have greatly shaped the Bentz Test Laboratory over the years,  their "If  - Then" chart was proudly displayed for many years, and helped us through many early discipline trials. :-)

Beauty in the Heart is a Bible study for you and your daughters - ages 10-12.  I have a beautiful 10 year old tester that was eager to begin a new study.  The main focus is on understanding TRUE beauty and learning how to study the Bible at the same time.

The Inductive study method is taught throughout.  Read, Observe, Interpret, Organize and Apply.  One of the beautiful things about this method of Bible study, is learning to listen to what the Bible is teaching, and not what a Bible Teacher is teaching.

The Nine Studies include:

  • Beauty in Submission: An Inductive Study in 1 Peter
  • Beauty in the Heart: A Verse Study on 1 Peter 3:3-4
  • Beauty in Trusting God: A Character Study of Sarah
  • Beauty in Humility: A Book Study of Esther
  • Beauty in Modesty: A Verse Study of 1 Timothy 2:9-10
  • Beauty in Serving: A Word and Topical Study
  • Beauty without Discretion: A Verse Study of Proverbs 11:22
  • Beauty in Crisis: A Chapter Study of 1 Samuel 25
  • Beauty in the Gates: A Study of Ruth
  • Beauty in Review

I really liked the sidebars throughout this study.  They offer definitions, online and app suggestions, application points, and many other useful tidbits from the author!  The study is well organized, and very easty to understand.

My daughter and I choose to work on this together, discussing as we went along. (Older girls could easily work on this independently)  This is a very comprehensive study!  Plenty of topics you can dive deeply into.  We will be working together on this study for quite some time.  It's not a fill-in-the-blank type of study, rather a path of discovery together for you and your daughters.

I think this would make an excellent study for a small group of mothers and daughters to work together on as well.

If you want solid, Biblical products to help you on your homeschool journey - you will certainly want to check out Doorposts!  Other members of the TOS Crew reviewed the companion study for boys: Because You Are Strong,  I'm adding this to my son's study schedule too!

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Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

MacPhail Center for Music: A TOS Crew Review

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MacPhail Center for Music

From their website:
"At MacPhail Center for Music, we are enthusiastic about offering students of all backgrounds and abilities access to exceptional music learning. MacPhail Online helps you accomplish your unique musical goals, giving you new access to our extraordinary faculty and innovative programs through live Online Lessons (for individuals).

 Lessons are available for Piano, Guitar, Violin, Viola, Cello, Harp, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, or Percussion, at Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced levels."


Special Introductory Pricing - Individual Instruction - Four Online Lessons for $111
Receive four 30-minute individual online lessons from an outstanding teaching artist, from the convenience of your home. All K–12 homeschool students are eligible to participate in this package, a 25% discount from standard tuition rates.

Daytime Flex Packs for Live Online Lessons offer flexibility to accommodate your busy schedule and help you achieve your unique musical goals. Simply schedule 8 Live Online Lessons during the 18 week semester on any weekday from 9 am – 3 pm CST. Unexpected scheduling conflict? Our cancellation policy gives you the option of canceling your lesson up to 48-hours in advance, without forfeiting the lesson. Whether you travel for work or leisure, juggle kids' extracurricular activities, or live in an area where options for studying your instrument are limited, MacPhail's Daytime Flex Pack can help you experience the joy of music-making. Standard pricing will apply after introductory lessons at $37 per 30-minute lesson. 


The Bentz Test Laboratory has a new favorite...MacPhail Center for Music!  Several of my testers play instruments, and were excited for the opportunity to do some live, on-line music lessons with a long-time family friend,  MacPhail Center for Music.  

While located in Minnesota (our home state)  MacPhail offers worldwide instruction.  "How?"...  With the use of technology, your music teacher can come to your house.  Using SKYPE (free program you can download), your computer & a webcam - your music teacher is right in your home. No more packing up everyone to head to lessons, or waiting during the lesson. I can't even begin to tell you what a huge benefit this is to a busy homeschool mom. We don't have to interrupt everyone else's school lessons, pack up, drive, etc.  We can head to the piano room, turn on the computer and the lesson can begin.  This is one of the best time-saving tips I can offer you - online music lessons!

But, this convenience is just one of the benefits to this style of instruction.  Your instructor will see your student in their own environment, with their own instrument.  This is very crucial information.  We have done online lessons with another child of ours for the past four years.  Right away, his instructor was able to see that our piano bench was far too low for proper hand position - and was able to correct that early on.  When you take your child to another environment to learn - your instructor will have no idea of your home set-up where your child spends most of their time playing and practicing.

For this review,  I choose a different tester than the first one I mentioned (he has had tons of online piano lessons, loves his teacher - Kristin Shoemaker, and would never want to take lessons any other way!).  Noah, my tester for this review, has taken 2 years of private piano lessons before this review.

In his first few moments online with Timothy DePrey, our MacPhail instructor, my tester was hooked!  Timothy really connected with Noah.  He asked some questions about what he has been working on to access his level, and then...  he asked Noah, "What do you want to learn?"  (OK, he had me here too... it's so much more fun to practice when it's something you WANT to play!)

Noah surprised us both with his answer...  "Phantom of the Opera".  Ok... he's had a couple of years of lessons, he's moving along, but he's still a beginner!  Not phased by this request, Timothy grinned, and told him - "I'll find you some music, you need to work on finding the mask and cape for your performance."  Noah loved his sense of humor.

 Timothy promised to find something at his level that they could begin working on.  He really impressed me, within a couple of days - he had sent over the music Noah could begin working on, and had collaborated with colleagues at MacPhail to simplify it more to Noah's level.

Lesson 2 - Timothy jumps right in teaching the right hand part of this piece.  Once again, I was impressed, he quickly he connected with Noah, it couldn't have been more personal if he had been actually sitting next to him in our piano room.  He taught him the right hand portion,  and could see that Noah really wanted to be able to play both hands together (even though is was WAY above Noah's ability level).  So, he spent the time teaching and encouraging Noah on this score.

Timothy was incorporating music theory throughout the lesson, working on note names and values while working on proper fingering and melody.  I was impressed by how much was going on, in such a short time.

Here's the best part,  these lessons lit the fire in Noah to practice!  He wanted very badly to impress his instructor, and practiced diligently - without any reminders from me.  Noah was determined to master this piece in time for his final lesson.  Remember - Noah has only had 3 lessons with his MacPhail Instructor...

 This is a video of the beginning of his final lesson (he designed his costume himself...) :

I can honestly say, I didn't think "Phantom of the Opera" would be something Noah could play in just a few lessons, he really hasn't played piano for very long.  The credit goes to a PHENOMENAL instructor!  We have done music lessons for a very long time and I can tell you - a great teacher makes all the difference. We will most certainly be doing more instruction with MacPhail Center of Music.

MacPhail Center for Music is filled with great instructors waiting to light up your student's musical talent!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

First Day of 2103-14

Here we go...  another homeschooling adventure is waiting for us in 2013-14!  7 out of 8 are school age now.  But, don't tell Essie - she's the most excited of all to be doing school with us... This has become one of my favorite first day traditions (of course - we have traditions for everything around here!)

Looking at these pictures makes me realize something... NEXT year - they will ALL be school age!!

National Parks Project Pack by In the Hands of a Child

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National Parks Curriculum from In the Hands of a Child

From their website:
"High-interest, hands-on curriculum including Lapbook Project Packs, Notebooking Packs and Thematic Unit Study Packs. With this unit study, National Parks -  you will be able to teach your 4th-8th graders about national parks in the U.S.  Protected areas, called national parks, give Americans and people from all over the world the chance to enjoy America's vast beauty."

This pack includes a 6-day Planning Guide, Related Reading List, 15 Hands-On Activities PLUS 1 Fun Extension and 1 Bonus Activity, 14-page Research Guide, and Answer Key about why national parks were formed, the National Park Service, an introduction to some of the most visited parks, National Park Issues, protecting the National Parks, and more.

Want to check out a free sample - click here

Cost:  $12.00 - SPECIAL LIMITED TIME PRICE: $5.00

Bentz Test Laboratory has been long-time fans of In the Hands of a Child, in fact - since they got started back in 2002!

They offer hundreds of topics to choose from.  You can seriously ask your child "What would you like to learn about" and you will find it.  One of our first lapbook experiences was with the subject of Mosquitoes...really.   And you'd never believe all that we learned!

So, when the TOS Crew offered us a chance to take a peek at National Parks, we knew we would enjoy it. A Project Pack from In the Hands of a Child includes more than just the lapbook components (although - those are all included, ready to print - with instructions).  You get a full research guide, suggestions for outside activities, reading lists and more.

I am a HUGE fan of this type of learning.  Involving your child in the process, letting them exercise their creativity and imagination, and creating a great keepsake of what they have accomplished.  We have an entire drawer of completed lapbooks (even the mosquito ones!) that we just can't bear to part with.  You can't say that about those boring old workbooks, can you?!

Another benefit - being able to follow your child's interests.  It may be Submarines today, and Dolphins tomorrow.  No matter what direction they want to pursue, you will be able to find something to get them excited about.   Best of all, the research and prep work have been done for you!

We have done these studies many different ways.  Sometimes they are our main curriculum and we work through several sections daily and complete an entire project pack within a week or so.  More often, we add these to whatever subject we are studying in history or science to add some fun to our learning.

My testers favorite way to use these studies, is for each tester to pick their very OWN Project Pack to work on, then they work on one section a week over the course of a semester - with a completed lapbook at the end to celebrate.

My tester was so excited - she found a "National Parks 2013" calendar on clearance while school supply shopping with mom. That's the beauty of this type of learning, it really sticks with them when they get involved in the learning process.

Each study includes helpful suggestions of how to adapt this style of learning to the needs of your student.  A planning guide to help you schedule it.  Plus, to make it easy for you:  samples, pictures, answer key and detailed instructions are included.

National Parks took us on a trip to visit 15 National Parks, learn about the National Park system both it's history and issues they face.  Plenty of options to be creative are woven throughout - like designing your own Patch for the National Park Service,  making some Gorp, and your own Hiking trip supply list.  

My tester loved working on her folder.  We like to cut out all the components at the beginning, and store them in a zipper bag until we finish.  As we work, we pull out what we need.  We assemble it all at once at the end - it's something we all get to look forward to... showing off the finished product.

Having done dozens of In the Hands of a Child studies over the years (with all ages), I can promise your children will enjoy them.  They are affordable, easy to use with multi-level students, teacher friendly, and perfectly customizable to your child and family. Give one a try, you'll see!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Understanding Child Brain Development by Family Hope Center: A TOS Crew Review

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Understanding Child Brain Development by Family Hope Center

To order the DVD, please call 610-397-1737 or you can order Understanding Child Brain Development -  from Institute for Excellence in Writing

Cost: $19.00

From their website:

"The Family Hope Center (FHC), firmly believes that you should be in the ‘driver’s seat’, knowing what to do and how to do it. Understanding Child Brain Development  by Matthew & Carol Newell is a 2+ hour seminar designed to help you understand your child's development, the role you play in it, and how to help your child be the best they can be. The DVD will have the viewer considering the who, what, when, where, why and how of your child’s total development."

Do you have children needing "special ministry" (a good friend introduced me to that term and I feel it fits perfectly!) Autism, ADHD, even Dyslexia, brain injuries other "special ministries" can leave you with so many questions.  How?  Why?  What can I do to help?  This DVD will give you some of the answers.

This DVD is very thorough - explaining brain development at each stage, including the effects of foods and environment. Sunlight, Water, Nutrition, even Microwave usage are all discussed.  Even if you are well versed in these topics, I promise you will learn something new! Read An Introduction to Your Child's Brain here.  It's not just for "special ministry" situations either, all parents can benefit from this education.

You aren’t the problem, but you are part of the solution.” The Newells are committed to bringing hope to  families.  Instead of treating symptoms, as many doctors are doing today, their aim is to to point toward solutions and equip parents with the knowledge they need to help their children succeed.

I found this DVD very interesting, and I was eagerly taking notes as I watched.  I will most definitely be watching it again, as there is so much good information to be learned. While I found myself agreeing with a lot of what was said, they do state that microwave use could be harmful, and should be avoided.  Starvation could ensue at Bentz Test laboratory if we discontinue microwave use around here... just sayin'. :-)  I recommend viewing it, but using it as a starting point for your own research journey - rather than a definitive "how-to" to follow rigidly.  You know your family, and the "special ministry" you need most.

This isn't the type of DVD to curl up with a bowl of popcorn with...but, rather - valuable training tool to provide knowledge and strategies.  It's time to do some "Mom & Dad Continuing Education" with this seminar.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our Final Day of Summer Break

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words...right?

This is actually my fearless 7 year old - running full speed and throwing himself off the cliff! 
This is just like what I feel like with my 12th year of homeschooling about to begin.  It feels like a huge, scary cliff of uncertainty... 8 children officially mine to educate, a home to run, multiple responsibilities, and a husband to help.
  It can seem too much some days. 
 I just got to run and jump off into the arms of God!  He hasn't dropped me yet....

Our kindergarten princess...

Ah, the good life!

Could you resist this??  Nope, me either!
I think I sense a new family tradition - the final day of summer should always be spent on a lake, so that your first day pictures (blog post coming soon...) includes sunburned cheeks.
So,  here's goes nothing... I know you're going to catch me God - we're leaping off into 2013-14!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Reading Kingdom: A TOS Crew Review

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Reading Kingdom

From their website:
"The Reading Kingdom is a site for children to learn to read and for adults looking to make sure the children in their lives have the best opportunities in life. It's fun, easy-to-use and best of all, kids can do most of the program on their own with minimal adult supervision. Our online reading program is based on a patented system developed by a world-renowned expert on reading that has helped children to learn to read for over forty years. It's the only system that customizes itself to your child. Thousands of children, parents, and educators testify to the success of the program."

The program is for ages 4-10 years old and teaches up to a third grade reading and writing level.

Cost: Try a  FREE 30 day free trial before you buy or

 $19.99 per month /$199.99 per year for the first child with each child after costing an additional $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

The  Bentz Test Laboratory was recently selected to take another look at The Reading Kingdom, online reading program.  My tester was our seven year old, second grader.  He loves getting to have computer time - so, I thought this would be a hit. 

The Reading Kingdom begins with a skills assessment.  Parents are advised not to help their child, so that the program can get an accurate reading of the student's reading and keyboarding skills. My tester has very beginning keyboarding skills so began with a introductory keyboarding level to learn those skills  (I was allowed up to 3 children on my subscription - but, my other potential testers couldn't get past this level...)

I must say, this frustrated him.  As he struggled to locate the correct letter (which he could identify and read easily) on the keyboard, if it took him too long - the program considered it wrong and corrected him.  This was very defeating for him. It may have been teaching valuable keyboarding skills, but - it moved so slowly that he quickly lost interest.  This became a daily "please do some computer time for mom" type of situation.  This was not what I expected, begging my child to spend some time on the computer!

There are plenty of features to get excited about however.  This program customizes to your child's level, not a "one-size-fits-all.   Progress reports are emailed weekly, so you will know exactly where your student is at. It's a very comprehensive program that works with struggling readers.

If your child already has the keyboarding skills needed - I'm sure they will have a much different experience than my tester did.

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Here's some screen shots to give you an idea of the exercises they are doing during the Keyboarding portion - type the highlighted letter.  Over and over...

Moving on to the reading exercises:

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Putting the letters in order to spell the word.

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And then, reading sentences and filling in the missing words.

I strongly encourage you to read what some of the other TOS Crew thought - I feel like this program has great appeal and potential,  it just wasn't a good fit for us.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Birthday Traditions with the Bentz Bunch

It's "Birthday Season" around here! 

We have bunches of birthdays in this house.  Starting in March - we have 2, April - 1, May -2 (plus an anniversary), July - 2, August -2, and October.  Whew...done just in time to head into the holidays!

We love celebrating each and every birthday.  We have tons of family traditions to go along with this special day, how about you?

Here are a couple of ours:

Birthday Person picks every meal of the day.  This can be whatever they choose - we have had "all breakfast" birthdays,  "from the grill" birthdays, and everything in between.  For this day only - I am the willing short-order cook but, just for the birthday person!  Birthday cake is almost always (except for rebel kids) Angel food cake with strawberries and the special "Bentz Glaze Recipe".

Sixteen (the oldest) and Four (the youngest)
What else...Poptarts for breakfast!
Birthday Journals - I am appalled at the cost of greeting cards, aren't you?!  Upwards of $5 - just to be thrown away?  So, years ago - I stopped the madness and bought everyone a journal.  Each family member writes a personal message to the birthday person.  We can read them back year-to-year.  This has become one of most treasured family traditions.

Gifts - with 10 of us, this can get crazy too!  So, I started another tradition.  "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read...& something misc." (I think a kid added the "something misc").    It gives a limit to our giving, and makes the shopping more fun to try to find something perfect for the "category".

"Something you want" - Yes,  2 Fancy mice & 2 Glow fish joined the family this summer :-)

So, what are some of your favorite birthday traditions?