Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fix-It Grammar from Institute for Excellence in Writing: A TOS Crew Review

Fix It! Grammar Review
Fix It! Grammar Review
Fix It! Grammar Review  
For grades 3-12 - use this handy placement test  to see where to start.  Watch the Webinar to see how this is a fresh new approach to grammar instruction.
The Fix It! Grammar series is a 6 books series:
  • The Nose Tree
  • Robin Hood
  • Frog Prince (or Just Deserts)
  • Little Mermaid
  • Chanticleer
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. 
Each  book provides a full year of grammar instruction and practice with editing skills. Each book has 33 weeks of daily passages broken into bite sized pieces. By spending only 15 minutes a day searching for the errors, and correcting them, your student will be practicing their grammar skills in a very painless way...just one sentence a day.  One book can be completed in a year, or double up the pace to finish in a semester.
This is not your average grammar program that teaches a rule and then "drills and kills" that one rule over and over on a page.  This is a more real-life learning approach that will help your child take the grammar they have been taught and integrate it into their writing, the ultimate goal, right?  The Fix-It  series makes your student slow down and really think about what they are reading, and then writing.  Editing skills are very valuable, and this program will help them fine tune those skills,  you will get better at it as well as you help them correct their work :-)
The Bentz Test Laboratory tester was my 6th grade daughter.  Let me tell you, grammar is not her strong suit.  Maybe since she's #4 in the lineup, she hasn't gotten enough focused grammar teaching (my fault).  Whatever the reason, grammar is not a subject that she looks forward to...usually it produces tears and gnashing of teeth (mine again).
When I saw that Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree [Book 1] from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)  was coming as a review,  I hesitated.    We had tried an older version of this program last year - but, this is a brand NEW, revised version.  But, I decided she should take another run at it.  I AM SO GLAD WE DID! 
First off, if you have seen Fix-It! Grammar in the past, this revision makes it so much easier to use and understand. I love how IEW is committed to making our teaching job easier and more effective, I have never been disappointed with their products.
The Teacher's Guide is a must have component.  In fact, you get a download for the Student Guide with every Teacher's Guide (making it nice for multiple child families).  We were blessed to get both the Teacher's Guide and Student Guide in the spiral bound editions.  Save yourself the hassle and preparation time,  I strongly recommend starting off with it printed and ready to go.  Plus, the printed version offers the grammar cards printed on cardstock and ready to use. The grammar cards are a great way to reinforce and review the concepts being taught.
Each lesson starts with the "Learn It" section where the grammar concept it taught.  The Teacher Guide makes it easy to teach this and gives you a step-by-step instructions.  
The "Fix-It" section explains the steps to the week's lessons.  Starting with vocabulary (over 100 new vocabulary words are introduced), and moving into 3 days of editing ONE SENTENCE per day, and ending with rewriting their corrected sentences, this is designed to be completed in just 15 min. per day, 4 days per week.  
This is where I began to see a change for my tester...  grammar wasn't a dreaded subject anymore!  No more full pages of endless sentences to work through - she only had a single sentence to focus on. Just a few grammar points to learn.  No more tears (hers or mine!) 
If you are using IEW Writing courses (and if you are not, you should be...), Fix-It! Grammar will reinforce the style techniques they are learning as well.  The Teacher's Guide & Student Guide also contain a handy Glossary of grammar and writing terms that you can refer to. 
The final step of each lesson is to rewrite the corrected sentences.  Once finished, your child will have their own handwritten copy of the story.  This step can be used for copywork and handwriting practice, as well as reinforcing the proper grammar in their writing.  It's fully integrated with a finished product they can be proud of!
My tester is a believer -  this is her direct quote:  "Grammar's not that bad anymore Mom, I actually like doing Fix-It! Grammar..."
Never thought I'd hear that one...  Better check this one out and see for yourself!
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Friday, September 26, 2014

Exodus 14:14

Do you ever have a verse, you've never seen before, suddenly appear everywhere?  Well, this is that verse for me!

Starting with the National Bible Bee competition 2 years ago, my daughter Lydia decided this was the one verse she could memorize for the summer.  I always tell them that God has at least one verse he want's them to memorize.  She picked it because it was the shortest...

However, this verse came alive for me last summer as I went through treatment for breast cancer.  Lydia has this one engraved on her heart and frequently reminded me of it when I was discouraged. 

And, of course - God keeps reminding me of it over and over.  My job is to be still, HIS job is to fight for me.

Now, this has become a precious promise... and I smile each time it appears in my news feed, my daily devotion, or even when I glance at the sign a precious friend gave me to remind me of HIS promises.

I'm so very grateful that the Bible is living and active, aren't you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Student Logbook : A TOS Crew Review

My Student Logbook Review
My Student Logbook is a 8.5" x 11" physical planner,  dated August 2014 - July 2015 available at the My Student Logbook - Great for grades 2 and up!

Different purchase options allow you to customize to your needs:

  • $15 with your choice of cover design (9 different designs)
  • $10 with no cover design as a PDF file for a one-time printing license
  • $20  PDF version family license with no cover design that you can print as many copies as you need

Three different calendar options are available to choose from:
  •  dated chronological year
  • dated school year,
  • undated blank

Check out this short intro video:

Bentz Test Laboratory was excited to see a new way of keeping organized.  With all 8 testers being school age (grades K-11...if you were wondering!)  I have found that keeping my testers organized can be quite a test for me!  When I saw My Student Logbook, a student planner,  I knew this could be a tool to help me, and them!

I was given the choice from several different cover styles,  you will find one that will appeal to your child - it will make them more excited to take ownership.  So, when I saw this choice,  can you guess who just "had to have it"?  Yep,  my 6th grade, horse-crazy, organizer!!  It arrived, and she put her name on it quick to claim it :-)

This is one of those super simple products that make your life easier.  It's not complicated, in fact the author shares a funny story on their website that after looking at it briefly at a conference, a homeschool mom sniffed "Not complicated enough"...  HA!  I bet she was a first time homeschooler, and had no idea how "complicated" that complicated tools can become. Give her a few years, and I'm sure she'll learn to appreciate UNCOMPLICATED  tools like this one!

This isn't a full curriculum planning system for your homeschool,  it's a tool to help you implement your plan.  (So, you still need to plan - no way around that).  But, My Student Logbook makes it easy for you to begin to help your child assume the responsibility to take ownership of their assignments, and recordkeeping.  It's easy to tell that this is a product created for homeschoolers BY homeschoolers that understand what we want and need.

The author, Corina Abbott, includes a section on how to create High School Transcripts - step-by-step. My tester was only in 6th grade, so keeping track of hours for a high school transcript wasn't a huge priority for us.  However, I do have a couple of high school students, and this was extremely helpful information!

My Student Logbook begins with "Checklist" pages that you can record assignments, appointments, tasks - anything that happens on a routine basis.  This is a really big timesaver - haven't you ever found yourself writing the same things over and over?  I have - things like music lessons, ballet practice, etc - happen every. single. week.  With this system, you can write it once, and then attach your checklist to the current week's log.  If your schedule changes, just create a new checklist. Super simple, super effective!

My Student Logbook Review

My tester is just beginning her career in planning, and My Student Logbook was easy enough for her to just jump right in.  She commented that it's kinda like keeping a journal too.

That is one of the benefits I find most useful about it as well.  I can easily forget all the things we HAVE done at the end of the year, and focus on that stack of unfinished work.  By using the Student Logbook, you can see what you accomplished!

My Student Logbook is for an entire school year  dated through 8/2/15. Other pages at the end of the planner help you keep a record of your accomplishments as well:
  • All About Me
  • Prayers and Goals
  • Bible Verses Memorized
  • Books Read - this also allows you to designate which subject it fits into which is great for transcripts
  • Charts for Test Records, Events, Field Trips and much more
Both my tester, and I found this to be a great addition to our planning.  It doesn't require a huge time commitment, is easy to use, and is very affordable.

Find My Student Logbook on Facebook and  You Tube

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pioneer Farm Field Trip!

We had a great day exploring the Pioneer Farms Living History in Austin, TX  They had a discounted homeschool day, so we hopped in the van and took advantage of our new found freedom (no strict co-op schedule to keep...) and hit the road to Austin.

It was hot, it is Texas afterall.  Made me realize - there is no way I would have survived the 1800's - no a/c!   Not to mention,  the not so lovely "necessaries, crappers, outhouses..." we learned all their names...

 Since we've been studying American History, this was perfect timing.  We got to experience "real" Indian teepees!

Check out the size of this Live Oak Tree (that's what they are named, it's not just because they are alive)

I know what they are talking about now... that beautiful Texas Sky!

Donkeys and painted cows...both reminded us of Grandma in MN...

They had a great Indian collection of weapons and arrowheads.  They also had a pretty impressive collection of actual, working Buggies.  The costumed characters made the history come alive.

Of Course - we had to make our first stop to Buc-ee's - a TEXAS sized gas station, for Icee's on our way home.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner from The 7 Minute Life : A TOS Crew Review

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner from The 7 Minute Life
Cost: $ 24.95

Watch this short introduction video:
Ok moms, this one is for you (all ages can use this planner...)
Do you have 7 minutes?  NOPE... neither do I :-)  But, if you will try to focus for at least 7 minutes (the average adult's attention span) you can begin to make changes that can change your life according to The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner from The 7 Minute Life
The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner is the brain child of Allyson Lewis.  She was hard at work, going and doing, in an industry she loved for 30 years...until her body gave out, and her health put the breaks on her busy life.  As a result of her experiences, she wrote this planner to share what she learned during that season.  Her goal is to help you reconnect with YOUR life in a new, and meaningful way, not just to manage your busyness.  She also is committed to positively impacting the world as well, 10% of her net profits go to Share Hope7 Charitable Fund, which provides water, food, education and animals to people in need. 
I connected with her story right away.  I like to go, I like to be busy, I like to juggle a million little things, and I like to make it look easy...  BUT,  after struggling with my health last year, in the form of breast cancer, I realize that life is precious and not a single moment is worth wasting.  My time needs to be prioritized, organized and simplified to achieve my goals.
Getting started is easy - check out these helpful  Getting Started Videos to get you on your way.
7 Minute Life Daily Planner ReviewI found the first 20 pages of this 217 page, spiral bound planner to be the most helpful to me.  They are filled with the "meat" behind this tool.  I have been a planner addict since my first days out of college and in the professional world.  I have keep running "to do" lists, and a master schedule for years (you have to if you have a big family...)  I have never had a planner that I found so personally MOTIVATING! 
Starting out by prioritizing my top 10 values with a handy list provided, I was able to identify where my time and money is spent (the true test of what you actually value!)  After I identified my top 10, I could easily see what may be taking up my time, but not matching up to my values. 
The next step was to "discover my purpose".  Sounds easy, but - have you ever really clearly and articulately defined your personal purpose?  I had a good idea it had something to do with this amazing bunch of children I have been blessed with, but - to actually write out my purpose was very empowering. 
Three basic questions can help you pinpoint your purpose, in just 7 minutes:
1.  What do you do for others?
2.  How can you use your gifts and talents to change the world? 
3.  Love is the foundation of purpose.
Ask yourself this question..."At the age of 85, I will know I have fulfilled my purpose when..."
I know it may sound simple, but this was very profound for me.  It made this planner a more precious tool than many others I have used,  the focus on purpose before filling up the pages with our daily tasks and to do lists!
The The 7 Minute Life™ Daily Planner also guides you through the basics needed to keep an organized day with what they call "Micro-Actions" 
  • unfinished tasks checklists
  • removing mental clutter
  • keeping track of home repair
  • making life connections (keeping in touch with those you want to - but, don't connect with daily)
  • annual projects and tasks
  • a 12 month calendar
  •  a meeting calendar (not too useful for the average homeschool mom like me, but - maybe I should schedule some "principal" meetings in here :-)
  • an annual exercise progress report
  • a daily progress report
  • a top priority daily "to do list" - the "5 before 11" goal - 5 things you want to accomplish before 11 am 

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
Following the extremely helpful purpose, planning and prioritizing section, the rest of the planner is customizable "Daily Progress Report" pages.  These are where you take what you have learned, and put it into practice! 
 I love making lists - I was giddy at these pages!  You can even keep track of how many glasses of water you drink that day!  Did I sleep, exercise, reflect and read?  Yep,  I get to CHECK THEM OFF!  Next to lists, I love getting to check them off - there is power in a checkmark, you know what I'm talking about...
Appointments can be recorded on the handy time section, voicemails to return, thank you notes to write, and plenty of space for you to use for notes.  My planner becomes a journal of our life and school year. 
Finally, the question of the day that helps keep you on the right track... "Did I do what I said I would do today?" with a yes or no to mark.  This one gets me every time!!
The sturdy plastic cover, spiral binding, and the handy 7.3" x 8.5" size make it easy to keep this planner with you on the go. 
The 7 Min Life blog offers plenty of helpful and inspirational posts to help you as well - be sure to check out this one - 7 Steps to Homeschool Schedule Sanity (an illusive goal,  I know..)
I would highly recommend this tool if you are ready to take 7 minutes and change your life.
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cooking with the American Indians!

We wrapped up our Native American study with an authentic American Indian Meal...

My inspiration came from a trip to the Bentz Library, where I uncovered this gem:

On our menu...

Indian Fry Bread

These are my favorite "Indians" - very easy to make these!  Just water, flour baking powder.  Hubby really liked these too :-)


Pumpkin-Corn Sauce

Baked Sweet Potatoes (loaded up with brown sugar and maple syrup...maybe not authentic - but super yummy!)

It may have been one of our healthiest lunches ever... Essie even added it as a birthday request!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Under Drake's Flag from Heirloom Audio Productions: A TOS Crew Review

Analytical Grammar Review
Under Drake's Flag from Heirloom Audio Productions - $29.95 is a professionally produced, audio theater - 2 CD set that includes a Study Guide.  Designed for ages 6 and up and based on the novel by G.A. Henty (one of our all time favorites) this tale will take you on a 2 hour audio adventure! 

The Bentz Test Laboratory logs many hours in the van...  why not capture this time together?  We are huge fans of listening to audio programs.  In fact, for the last several years - this has been close as we could get to sharing a good read aloud,  listening to stories together while my audience was held captive... I mean buckled up :-)

Being long time fans of anything from master story teller, G.A. Henty,  I just knew this audio was going to be a "must have".  I actually had ordered this audio the moment I first noticed it, and was excited to see it come as part of a TOS Crew review.  Henty's  stories are filled with heroic characters, set in history, living lives filled with adventure.  Your boys, especially, will love his timeless tales.  His Christian worldview is woven throughout each of his 122 books.  I just love his quote - "To be a true hero, you must be a true Christian". 

Under Drake's Flag immediately hooked my testers into the story of young Ned and his epic adventures with Sir Francis Drake.   Sharks, shipwrecks, battles, even the Spanish Inquisition.  Ned's life intertwined with history makes for an unforgettable and inspirational story of faith and perseverance.  Historical fiction makes history come alive in a whole new way.

Check out this  video to see & hear for yourself! 

We were all blown away by the quality of this audio.  It's professionally done with sound effects and high quality recording.  We listened to it in a single drive (it was a long drive...) but, it made 2 hours fly by! We could.not.stop.  We even opted for a drive thru dinner, so we didn't have to interrupt the story - it's that well done.

In addition to the short Study Guide included in the CD Set,  you get access to a longer, 28 page PDF study guide online as well.  The study guide can be used to help your children further understand the storyline and principles being taught.  You can also use it for a series of writing assignments for older students. Vocabulary, comprehension questions, and even several short Bible studies are components included in the study guide.  We chose to enjoy the story, and didn't really utilize the treasures in the study guide.  However, we will be enjoying this audio again, this time using some of the ideas and suggestions in this guide to enhance our history study!

I have to leave you with another inspiring quote, this from the prayer of Sir Francis Drake - 1577

"Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery: 
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes:
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope and love."

So very appropriate a message for my testers and I as we enjoyed this story together on our way to a new adventure of our own.  

Check out Heirloom Audio Productions next project - In Freedom's Cause - another audio we'll have to have - stay tuned it's coming soon!  

 Check out the Official Under Drake's Flag Store for more goodies for your fans...

Under Drake's Flag from Heirloom Audio Productions on Facebook

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

We survived!

We survived our first 2 weeks of school this year!  Thank God, they were shortened weeks (I'm so grateful for LABOR day!)

Here's a little recap:

 Introducing the newest musicians - a violin and the cutest cello ever seen!

Physics - on two different levels,  experiments everywhere!

Video science lectures,  lots of science reading....  did I mention - we have FIVE different science programs this year?  Apologia Physics, Biology, Physical Science, Elementary Chemistry & Physics and Science in the Beginning by Jay Wile (a new favorite!)  I know...it exhausts me too!

La Clase Divertida - the spanish FUN Class - still fun on the THIRD time through :-)  Then out to our "great beyond" to construct some authentic American Indian homes.  Everyone used different resources to build:  Cliff dwellers, tepees, adobe, and longhouses... oh my!

Ended the week with our newest soccer star - T-Rex of the Mighty Megladons!!  

Is school this much fun everywhere??