Sunday, March 30, 2014

Roots, Shoots, Pruning & Blossoming, and... FRUIT!

So, I've already made the "official" announcement that the sign is in the yard... read that post first!

Now, less than a week later - I get to announce that the sign is leaving the yard, after it gets a pretty SOLD sticker on it!  Yeah God, just 4 days on the market, until an offer - what a miracle!

All this flurry of change has gotten me thinking... and praying.  I'm sure that God is in every detail of this move already,  like how HE personally sent a "welcoming committee" ahead of us to San Antonio.  (I promise to get to that story... I just got to share this one first!)

When I was praying for guidance, and for God to "show" me what he wanted us to do,  I got this picture:


Our roots began in Minnesota,  both our families were from there.  Both my husband and I grew up in that wonderfully frigid state.  We both were blessed with strong Christian families and married to start our own legacy.


Our 8 beautiful "shoots" sprang up in Minnesota as well. (they must have strong roots to survive there!)  This was a busy time of life - baby, after baby, after baby... all 8 of them.  It was a time of growing and stretching, and growing again!  We outgrew our little garden spot (Farmington) and transplanted to a larger plot (Savage).  Our homeschooling season began as well.

Pruning & Blossoming 

 This season took us to Conway, Arkansas.  Leaving everything comfortable and well-known behind, we headed south to a more friendly "growing zone".  God also allowed the painful pruning that comes before the blossoming... we experienced four miscarriages, and the end to our fertile times with a medically necessary hysterectomy. We faced a fearful diagnosis of breast cancer. We learned new dependence on God for all our needs, and watched his never-ending provision front row.

 As our "shoots" began growing - we also started to see the buds of blossoms beginning! We joined a homeschool co-op - where each of us thrived and developed.  It has been a wonderful greenhouse of learning for us - covered in friendship and abundant grace.  We developed deep, sustaining friendships.  Our church has also been a safe place to grow for each of us.  Sam and I were able to take the long awaited mission trip to India to realize a dream that had been planted in his heart back as a "shoot".  We have truly begun to blossom in Arkansas!

I asked God, "What comes next...?  What do you have in store for us now?"  I heard a one-word answer...


I can't wait to see what unfolds in the next season for us!

Spelling You See: A TOS Crew Review

Spelling You See Review

Spelling You See Review

  Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C)  from  Spelling You See

Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C): Instructor’s Handbook $14 - Student Pack $30

Demme Learning (makers of Math-U-See) has introduced a NEW spelling curriculum!  Much like the innovative Math-U-See,  Spelling You See is an innovative approach to the subject of spelling.

Spelling seems to be a struggle for some of the Bentz Test Laboratory.  Several children spell effortlessly... they just "know" it.  However, some of the Testers - do not!  We've tried many different approaches - all mainly based on mastering the "spelling rules".  Unfortunately, the "rules" haven't universally produced good spellers. 

When I heard that Spelling You See was about to be released, it instantly caught my attention.  Math-U-See has been exactly what these particular testers needed,  and I was excited to see if Demme Learning's new approach to spelling could be equally as successful.

Let me explain a little about how this program works.  Spelling You See consists of five levels that are based on the five levels of spelling mastery.  This is not a "grade or age level program" - it's designed to meet you child at the appropriate developmental level that they are at, and to move them toward spelling mastery. Read more about their Developmental Stages and discover which level to start with their placement information.

My tester for this is my 2nd grade son who knows all his sounds, spells many common words correctly, and is becoming comfortable with reading.  According to his development - we choose  Spelling You See: Wild Tales (Level C) - you can take a peek at a sample lesson here. 

Wild Tales focuses on a brief daily activity - they recommend doing it 5 days per week, keeping the lessons short and upbeat.   Each lesson incorporates writing, reading, speaking and listening.  This helps create a long-term visual memory of the letter patterns.  If you're like me, you may spell by writing the word to see if it "looks right", turns out this is one way our brains process spelling.   BINGO - we're onto something new in spelling instruction at the Bentz Test Laboratory!

I find myself wholeheartedly agreeing with this quote from their philosophy..."Those who set out to remember every letter of every word will never make it.  Those who try to spell by sound alone will be defeated.  Those who learn to 'walk through' words with sensible expectations, noting sound, pattern and meaningful relationships, will know what to remember, and they will learn to spell English" - Edmund Henderson, 1991  

Spelling You See is based on this developmental spelling model.  Accordingly, they say students must master each developmental stage before advancing.  No one can "skip" stages in spelling, and spelling ability and reading achievement are NOT correlated.  Just as I've always suspected... after listening to my horrible spellers read perfectly!

Wild Tales begins with 7 weeks of a nursery rhyme theme and moves into non-fiction passages about animals.  These topics are both familiar and interesting to the students.

Each of the 36 weekly lessons are divided into 5 parts (A thru E)  - each lesson is designed to be completed in just 10-15 minutes per day.  The student book is full color with with plenty of room for the daily copywork, free writing and dictation exercises..  (We recieved a pre-release PDF file - which was printed black and white... the color is much nicer!)

My tester started out noticing a difference to this program right away... he got to color in his book!  Actually, it's a process called "chunking" - locating and marking specific letter pattens - where he highlighted all the vowel "chunks" (2 vowels together) with a yellow highlighter.  He "chunked" while I read the passage, then he copied it, and "chunked" again.  Painless, no tears at all!

This same process with the identical passage 3 sections.  After that he is allowed to draw a picture to go with the rhyme, or write his own part of the story - this is a "No Rule Day" , encouraging him to be creative . Dictation exercises are included on final day - with a reminder to only spend 10 minutes! The goal is quality, not quantity.

Once "Vowel" chunks are mastered, he started on the "Consonant" chunks (this time in blue).  Moving into "Bossy r",  "Tricky y Guy", "Silent", and "Endings" - each in a different color.

He actually enjoyed his spelling lesson!  I noticed this approach really made him slow down and look at the letters in the words.  He even asked if he could start "chunking" other subjects!

The Student Pack includes two student workbooks and a pack of erasable colored pencils - $30 and the Instructor's Handbook  - $14,  will guide you through the philosophy and implementation of the weekly lessons, and a handy answer key as well as dictation passages.

I am sincerely impressed with this program.  All the different approaches I've tried in the past have been similar in philosophy...and produced similar results (poor spellers, that did not enjoy the process).  Spelling You See has been a breath of fresh air for our homeschool.  These spelling lessons are both effective, and enjoyable!  I plan to start my other students in this program as well.

Be sure to check this one out!

Spelling You See Review

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Books for my Girls!

Do you have a hard time finding books for your pre-teen girls?  Ones that they want to read... and you don't mind if they do?

We discovered a real gem - Diary of a Real Payne by Annie Tipton from Barbour Publishing (you can read our review here).  My 10 year old daugther devoured this book!

We were so excited to get to preview the next book in the series:  Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos  - on sale currently for just $4.99.  Once again, I opened the package... and didn't see my daughter for the next several days :-)

Here's what she had to say:

  • I love EJ - she's alot like me.  She reads the same books I do, and has a vivid imagination.  And, she has an annoying little brother.
  • This book makes me laugh out loud!
  • It ends in a cliff hanger, when does the next one come out?!
I love that this series has a Christian worldview.  The characters exhibit the qualities I want my daugther to want, plus they have fun and adventures along the way.  Next book is due September 2014!

Great reading material is hard to find so don't miss these fun books!

Disclaimer:  I recieved a complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review. 

It's Official!

Something about seeing the sign in your yard... makes it seem REAL.

We are really moving to San Antonio, TX - I sure hope Texas is ready for the Bentz Bunch!   The last 2 weeks have a been a blur.  How under heaven did we accumulate so.much.stuff?!

Unlike our last move, my children are 4 years older, and able to be amazing helpers.  Due to our focused team effort - we pulled this house together, and got it "show ready" in record time!   Why do we wait to tackle all those "honey -do" projects until we are about to move?   I'm planning on becoming a recovering clutter addict in TX.  I'm already working the schedule to include monthly maintenance days... let's see if I can follow through.

But seriously, this move has already been a time of  spiritual growth time for me.

  •   I've realized how much we have just sat on all our "blessings" instead of letting them bless others through us.  
  • I've realized that I can trust God to take us ANYWHERE - even Texas! 
  • I've learned that we may have too many books... (opps - still working on accepting that one)   

Would you join us in praying for a successful, and quick sale, of our beautiful (dare I say - clean and DECLUTTERED) home.?   We are eager to join Dad in San Antonio as soon as possible!

A pleasant by-product of this stressful process - we are all enjoying seeing the schoolroom floor & desktops, which had become more of  myth around here,  than a reality...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Here He Goes Again...!

After weeks of waiting to hear the results...  Luke qualified in the top 100 for the State Competition for the National Geographic Geography Bee!! This will be his final year of eligibility.  Last year, he competed at the State Level and finished 6th.

Yep, he's the one in the middle... we don't make tall kids here!

The Bentz Academy contestants!

He won our local Faulkner County Bee in December,  completed the written exam, and waited. waited. waited.

 Finally, with only 3 weeks until the competition - he got the good news that he had qualified!  (good thing he was already studying... he does geography for FUN )

"Official notification" - even better, she came to our Co-op to present it to him!

Now you know who to cheer for on April 4th...  Way to go Luke!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Egglo Entertainment : A TOS Crew Review

Egglo Review

Egglo Review

I love discovering new family traditions!  Especially those that bring the true meaning to our holidays and celebrations.  I am so excited to get to introduce you to Egglo Entertainment featuring their  Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs & The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure (book). Designed for ages 4-13 (but, I thought they were pretty neat too!)

 Egglo Entertainment is committed to helping our children discover the true meaning behind Easter.  I know, it seems like our culture thinks it has something to do with chocolate bunnies and colored eggs...  We have never focused on that at Bentz Test Laboratory - but, we do like to have fun with our holiday celebrations.  

The entire product line is a basket of fun  focused on John 1:5 - "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  (cool... we just memorized that!).  The  Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs - $11.99  & The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure (book) - $12.99- are the basic teaching tools.  

Egglo Review

We were also blessed to recieve:
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure (book audio download) - $2.99
Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls - $4.29
 The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide - $14.99 

I fell in love with this product as soon as I saw it.  We have always had an egg hunt (my hubby's childhood tradition). But, I have struggled to find ways to make this more meaningful and keep the focus off all the candy.  

The Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs were a HUGE hit!  You "charge" them under light (we just used natural sunlight) and they will glow. My testers are so fascinated by anything that glows!  The 12 eggs are made of sturdy plastic, some are decorated with a cross, others are plain.  I really liked the sturdy construction (not like the discount store plastic eggs) 

 In just a short time, they were off and glowing. So many fun ways to use these eggs - a scavenger hunt at night,  a treat in a basket, or even better - a memorable object lesson!  The glow reminds children of the TRUE light of the World - Jesus! 

The Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls are tiny plastic scrolls printed with a scripture verse, perfect for putting into your eggs and a great alternative to candy! My testers wanted to keep these for their dolls, they thought they were  very cute...

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure is a full color, 40 page, paperback book.  My testers told me "this is a good one!"  The story in the book follows three children on an egg hunt to various times and places.  It's a bit lengthy, but my testers did not want to stop the story until they got to the treasure.    I liked how the story incorporated the egg hunt and the gospel story of  Jesus.  For busy moms who spend a lot of time in the car... check out the The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure (book audio download)  - it is a quality audio telling of the storybook. 

Ever the homeschool mom, I loved the extra ideas in the  The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure Program Guide.  This 60 page resource includes suggestions for incorporating the lesson, coloring pages, snacks and even a printable scavenger hunt.  This would be a great program to use in your next Sunday School or Awana classes too!    
Egglo Review
This collection is sure to become a new  family tradition!

Find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,  Pinterest, YouTube, and Google +

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Monday, March 10, 2014 1 Tutor: A TOS Crew Review Review Review presents:  Algebra 1: Volume 1 - 
Cost: DVD - $26.99  Download - $23.99
Fractions Thru Algebra Companion Worksheet CD 
Cost: - $24.99

For Grades 7 and up makes learning science and math, step-by-step EASY!    The Bentz Test Laboratory is on our second trip through Algebra, this time with a "not-so-math-brained-student" and his mother (whom he inherited it from!) 

 When Algebra 1: Volume 1  a 3 disk DVD, part of a 3 volume set came up to review - we jumped at the chance!  

The 7 hour DVD contains 10 sections designed to take Algebra concept-by-concept with step-by-step examples.  This method is excellent for a struggling student, or for more extensive practice and review. 

Topics covered in this volume:

Disk 1
Sect 1 - Real Numbers And Their Graphs
Sect 2 - Fractions
Sect 3 - Exponents

Disk 2
Sect 4 - Adding and Subtracting Real Numbers
Sect 5 - Multiplying and Dividing Real Numbers
Sect 6 - Algebraic Expressions

Disk 3
Sect 7 - Properties of Real Numbers
Sect 8 - Introduction to Equations
Sect 9 - Solving More Equations
Sect 10 - Simplifying Expressions to Solve Equations

The lessons vary in length - most are about 50+ minutes.  Each lesson features numerous examples being worked out and carefully explained by the instructor in front of a whiteboard.  "The core philosophy of this DVD course is that "Algebra Is Easy". The way that you make it easy for a student is to start off with the basics and gradually move on to the tougher material."  It has the feel of a traditional math tutor, but you can rewind anytime!

My tester is part way through his current Algebra 1 study.  However, we have recently discovered several "gaps" in his understanding of the basics... please tell me you understand!  He began with Section 1: Real Numbers and their Graphs.  It was about an hour long lesson, mostly review for him.  He also completed the worksheets included on the Fractions Thru Algebra Companion Worksheet CD, which contains over 600 printable pages with detailed solutions.  He continued completing one section and the worksheets per week.  It was an excellent review, and filled in some of those "gaps" in his algebra foundation!  

Here are some of his thoughts:
  • "I liked how the instructor explained the concepts - using normal language"
  • "The instructor provides too many examples - he could teach the concept with less repetition"
  • "The worksheets were easy, but the detailed answers helped me see where I went wrong if I missed any."
  • "I thought the DVD lesson was a little too long" 
Check out some samples of the video:

What did I think?  Well, I wish I would have had the convenience of having a personal Algebra Tutor.   The video lessons are easily re-played when a concept needs some extra explanation.   I enjoyed the relaxed, conversational tone of the instructor - not too technical.  The DVD's promise to build a student's confidence through mastery - I know I learned a thing or two as well!  

You can subscribe to the award winning and get FREE science and math video lessons delivered to your email!  Check them out on Facebook as well. Review
Other members of the Crew reviewed: Amazing Science, Volume 1 & Mastering 5th Grade Math - Volume 1 - Essentials of Fractions.  You will want to check these out!

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Another Adventure!

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.  Can you tell from our pictures where the next Great Bentz Adventure is going to be?  (anyone want to read about the first "GBA"? - one of my first blog posts...)

If you guessed - TEXAS, you are correct!  The Bentz Bunch is heading to the only state big enough to hold us.  We were trying out our western wear at the Tejas Rodeo in San Antonio (our destination).

Would you pray for us as we begin this new chapter?  I'll be updating you as the story unfolds!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Motivated Moms: A TOS Crew Review

Motivated Moms Review

Organization is not my strong suit...  I need some HELP. With a larger-than-average household... it better come quickly!

I'm excited to tell you about a new find  - Motivated Moms Chore System -  Ebooks.

This system is a unique organizer.  It's not a planner that makes you feel guilty about what you haven't accomplished, but instead motivates and encourages you to make time for what you love to do to!  It's not complex or expensive either.

The Motivated Moms Chore System comes in several versions you can to choose from. You can download a Free Sample Page (this sample shows full-sized planner)  - the Ebook  -download to your computer and view or print for only $8.00!

Some choices include:
  • Full-sized with Bible readings scheduled (a schedule to read the Bible through in a year)
  • Full-sized without the Bible schedule
  • Half-sized version with and without scheduled Bible readings 
  • Full-sized “page per day” version with and without the Bible schedule
  • Half-sized “page per day” version with and without the Bible schedule
The “page per day” versions have one day of chores per day and also has lines for appointments and a box for the daily menu plan and a place for notes.  Printer toner friendly, black and white, or color versions are available.

Their app is available for iPhone/iPad/iPod touch and Android as well. There are Lite versions in each platform that allow you to try the system before you purchase the full version. Click here to see the apps.

I chose the Motivated Moms Chore Planner - Color version.  I already have a Bible reading plan underway, so I stayed with a simple, doable format.  Adding managing a complex planner is counterproductive to my productivity!

Chores and tasks are divided into manageable parts.  Chores are the "must dos" of the day in the left column. Tasks are the routine, but not everyday, projects to tackle as you have time.  I love this!!  I can usually remember the basic chores of my day - making the bed, cooking dinner, laundry...etc.  But where I really need help is those maintenance tasks that aren't always on my mind.  5-6 daily tasks like cleaning up the computer hard drive, decluttering the night stand, and cleaning out the van were included on each day.

Best of all, the task lists didn't just have more "work" for me... they tucked in surprises too.  Items like "pamper yourself" and "Spend time on a craft/hobby" were added in.   How often I forget to make time for these tasks when I'm working on the never ending "to do" list, Thank you for the reminders Motivated Moms!

Motivated Moms ReviewThis is an example of my planner,  it was easy to print and post on my fridge. The "week-on-the-page" format was printer friendly too.  Each day had it's own tasks, and chores had handy boxes for each day accomplished. As I accomplished a chore or task, I could check it off.  I just love checking things off, don't you?

After a few days, I realized that I could use this as a family tool too.  Since it was on the fridge, I could easily let anyone accomplish it, and check it off.  Bingo!  A chore list for all of us.  To keep it fun, I let the children pick a chore and a task from each day.  First come, first serve - and surprising better than our old system of assigning a chore for each and following up (when I remember).

With so many versions to pick from, you can find one to fit your lifestyle. Use it as a chore chart, or add in scheduled Bible Reading, Meal Planning, and a detailed time schedule.  You can make this tool work for you.

This is just the kind of easy to use, real life planner that I can work with.  Within a few weeks, our house is shaping up, and my plan is working.  Organization is creeping in - Yeah! Motivated Moms!!
Find Motivated Moms on Facebook and Twitter.

Motivated Moms Review
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Father Daughter Ball - 2014

Our church - New Life Church, has a wonderful event every year.  It's the Father Daughter Ball.  Dads of all ages bring their princesses to a magical night, complete with dinner and dancing.

Our girls look forward to this every year.  A pretty dress, special hair, and of course - the corsage!

 I think Matt has the prettiest dates!

 Best of all,  they are getting to experience what being treated like God's princess is like, and they aren't going to settle for less than the best when they get older.

 NLC makes it easy for the Dads too - they give them a "Playbook" filled with reminders (don't forget the corsage) and even stationery to write their daughter a meaningful letter full of what he loves most about her.

 They pack the church every year with Fathers and Daughters of all ages.

Way to go NLC and Fathers!!