Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Advent is coming! Here's our FAVORITE family Tradition

I have to share this with you...every year!  

Our favorite family tradition during Advent is to read these stories.  Created by Arnold Ytreeide - there are 3 stories:  Jotham's Journey, Barthlomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels

Each books has a daily reading and short devotional.  The stories are fictional, but the characters interact with the Christmas story - all ending up at a stable in Bethlehem.

These books have been our tradition since 2003, and they have NEVER gotten old - the kids all beg for more every evening.

Check these out (this is NOT a review - I just can't keep these treasures to myself!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

13 Colonies Lunchtime

We continue eating our way thru American History.   Sorry I don't have more pictures to share :-)

This has become one of our favorite ways to wrap up a history unit,  making a theme lunch.  Nothing brings the learning to life like eating it!

We're using these great books as our guide - perfect for younger children.  The recipes are easy enough for my kiddos to make on their own too!

Hasty Pudding was our favorite.  Not sure I'd want to eat it everyday though...

Hoppin' John soup is already a regular menu item here,  tasty and filling.  Plus very easy on the food budget!

Stay tuned for the Revolutionary War menu!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games: A TOS Crew Review

Out of the Box Games Review

Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games
Ages 10 and up, 3-10 players - $19.99

Out of the Box Games Review
Do you need a good belly laugh?  You know the kind that starts way down low and literally spills out of you?  Then, you really need a family game night!  Snake Oil from Out of the Box Games had the Bentz Test Laboratory literally belly laughing and snorting - it was that much fun!

Out of the Box Games is an award winning company, and you will be impressed with the quality of their games - from strategy to learning games, they offer something for everyone.

 Snake Oil  is super easy to learn, so the entire tribe can play. You can learn how to play in just a few minutes.  Plus, it only takes about 20-30 minutes to complete a game, so it doesn't have to be an all night investment.  

Out of the Box Games ReviewThe rules are simple...just be the best "Snake Oil" salesman.  (a.k.a. - used-car salesman, ppolitician or anyone who likes to stretch the truth a bit...)  You know, get your customer to buy something with outrageous promises.  Combine your cards to create your product  to "sell" the to the customer, the one with the most customer cards wins. 

Oh boy, in my family... we are blessed with more the the average amount of slick marketers!! 

 One player is designated as the customer. There are 28 different customer cards like: "beach bum", "teacher", "diva" and "pirate".

The rest of the players receive 6 word cards and must combine any two cards in their hand to create an product to sell to the customer. There are 336 word cards to choose from making combinations. Get ready to laugh - you will not believe the combinations they can come up with: "Flying Bathtub", "Fashion Beard" & "Nose Costume"...to name a few.

Once the products have been created - everyone gets to sell their best "pitch" to the customer in the 30 second time limit.  This is a riot in our crew!  Seriously...where did they all get this from?!  I loved listening in to them play this together,  after all - who doesn't need a "Slime toilet" from the 8 year old, all boy, snake oil salesman?  They all enjoyed playing, youngest to oldest, and everyone in between.  Not an easy task, in our larger than average family.

Once all of the "pitches" have been pitched, the customer picks their favorite and awards their customer card to the best salesman.  The person with the most customer cards in the end, is the winner. 
You can use this game in other ways too.  In a large group, you can let the snake oil salesmen pitch to an "audience", who can vote by applause.  

You can create a tournament with 12-24 people with just this game.  Play on teams and in rounds until a winning team wins the championship.

This would make a fabulous "team building" game for adults too.  My husband plans to use it with his team at work (he's a sales manager, so it's perfect for his employees!)

Some things I really liked about this game: 
  • It makes them think on their feet - the 30 second limit keeps it moving!
  • It teaches them the art of persuasion... a smooth talker gets more customer cards!
  • It forces some "audience" time for the salesman - great public speaking practice!
  • It's just plain, old fashioned, non-electronic, family fun!
  • Adults and children all love this game!

This has become THE favorite game at our house.  Invite the neighbors to join you...if you dare!

Find  Out of the Box Games   on Social Media 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OutoftheBoxGames
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OTBgames
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYAQiV5S9ZQ&feature=c4-overview&list=UUTEAg1uDVwq0LNxFAwM7N5Q

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation: A TOS Crew Review

Purposeful Design Review

Purposeful Design Review
Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation from Purposeful Design

Good for all ages.

$18.95  (25% off the retail price of $24.95)

Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation from Purposeful Design is authored by Jay Schabacker, who is a former aerospace scientist and businessman.  He has filled this book full of examples of God's goodness and purposeful design of our universe. 

"Purposeful" takes the idea of "intelligent design" one step further.  "Purposeful" means that we have a Creator that created everything in our universe - on PURPOSE, just for us!  What a powerful message to share with your family, and others - while bringing them closer to God.

The Bentz Test Laboratory loved this book.  The pictures alone are breathtaking.  This is a high quality, 90+ page,  hard-cover, "coffee table" style book.  It is organized into chapters that follow the seven Days of Creation: 

  • Chapter 1 – The First Day: Creation of the Heavens and the Earth, the Foundation of it All
  • Chapter 2 – The Second Day: Creation of the Atmosphere and Water
  • Chapter 3 – The Third Day: Creation of the Dry Land and Vegetation
  • Chapter 4 – The Fourth Day: Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars
  • Chapter 5 -  The Fifth Day: Creation of the Birds and Fish
  • Chapter 6 -  Creation Day Six: Creation of Land Creatures and Humans
  • Chapter 7 – The Seventh Day


    Since the Bentz Test Laboratory is studying our elementary science following the Days of Creation, this was the perfect supplement to our studies! Each day begins with a scripture verse, printed on a magnificent backdrop of God's creation.  Throughout the chapters there are illustrations, photographs, charts, and diagrams with very clear, easy to read descriptions and explanations.  This was a great book for us to read together, or for them to just pick up and browse through.  

    Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation informed and intriqued us,  I explored it with all ages of testers - age 5 to um...forty something. 

    •  Did you know that our world is 71% water, and has it's very own water filtration system - purposefully designed into it? 
    •  How about the 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds that the earth takes to rotate on it's 23.5 degree tilted axis... purposefully designed for our needs? 
    •  How about how the very presence of our tides, related to our distance from our amazing, purposefully designed moon, that allows the Leatherback Turtle just the time at high tide to lay her eggs just above the reach of the waves?  

    In addition to this beautifully done book,  Jay Schabacker offers a FREE BONUS Young Explorer’s Club Curriculum to accompany it. (Click here to download the curriculum.)

    The Young Explorer's Club curriculum set includes a downloadable PDF file of a 30 pg - Kid's Workbook, a 40 pg- Teacher's Set, and a Certificate of Completion.  Using scripture and questions & answers - available for different comprehension levels, this curriculum helps take the book and turn it into a full learning experience.

    This book will inspire you to want to know more.  That search for more, will lead you straight to our Purposeful Creator!   Well done - Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation .

    "Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise"  - Psalm 48:1

    Look for Purposeful Design on social media:
    Blog: www.Jayschabacker.blogspot.com
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JaySchabackerAuthor
    Twitter: www.Twitter.com/Jayschabacker (@Jayschabacker)
    LinkedIn: Jayschab
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    Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    IXL Math & IXL Language Arts: A TOS Crew Review

    Christmas Book Review

    IXL Math & IXL Language Arts from IXL

    Available for K-12 - Pricing for family memberships starts at just $9.95/month or $79/year for one subject. Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year.
    (For more information or to purchase a family membership, go to www.ixl.com/membership/family/pricing, and select your preferred membership option to view pricing details.)

    This is one of our FAVORITES!  The Bentz Test Laboratory was elated to get a family membership for up to 5 testers for both IXL Math & IXL Language Arts from IXL!

    IXL Math is an online subscription that boasts over 3,000 math skills review problems ranging in grades from Preschool to Precalculus, and topics such as shape counting, money, Algebra, Geometry, and so much more.  

    IXL Language Arts  is also online. Desgned for students in 2-8th grades, offering practice problems in nearly 800 skills. Lessons range from the basics like nouns, articles, and alphabetical order, to more advanced skills such as ellipses, analogies, and Greek and Latin roots. 

    We have been using this fabulous program over the past 2 years.  We were introduced to it with my sweet daughter, who was attending an online charter school for special services.  Meet my testers for this review - grades K-6. 

    This is one of the most user friendly online programs that I have ever used.  Not only that - it's incredibly effective!

    Signing on to your account is so easy...even my Kindergartner can do it independently.  Once in the program - simply pick Math or Language Arts and the grade level you want to work at.  A screen of available skills will come up, and you can pick and choose what you want to work on. 

    As you work through the skill, you can see your number of questions answered, and how far to go until mastery.  One feature I really appreciate is the audio buttons for my younger testers.  I don't have to sit and read for her,  she can listen!  

    The program keeps a record of EVERYTHING they do, so you can easily see what skills they have been working on, and how long.  After they master a section - they earn a gold medal next to the skill, and once the requirements are met - they earn an "Award".  This is my tester's FAVORITE part.  Who knew that uncovering a simple picture on their award board could be so motivating?  But, no lie - they will work tirelessly for this simple treat!!

    The strength in this program is your child's ability to PRACTICE- PRACTICE-PRACTICE, without getting bored.  These fundamental math skills and language arts skills are vital, and to master them - they need to be repeated.  Most workbook/textbook programs simply do not spend time on this part. My children would NEVER do this amount of practice on paper, BUT getting to do it on the makes it fun time!

    A very cool feature of the program is the amount of reporting information you can access with a click of your mouse.  I can see what they have done, what's mastered, what needs work.  I can even have it in graph form... love!  (for those of you who spend too much time tracking their progress...you will flip over this part, you know who you are!)

    Emails are also sent to your parent account, informing you of progress.  Printable Achievement certificates are available, if you like that sort of thing.  I just showed them - and they were amazed by how many problems they had completed!

    This is a well designed program.  A must have, in my opinion!!

    IXL works on your mobile device too.  Check out the information about Apps here.

    Find   IXL on Social Media:  Social Media:

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IXL
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/IXLLearning
    Google +: https://plus.google.com/+IXL

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    Monday, November 10, 2014

    Halloween - Homeschool style

    We never seem to be "normal" around here...  Not that I mind!  (Normal is just a setting on the dishwasher anyway, right)

    Here's our homeschool style Halloween - titled (by my children) - "America: Heroes vs. Villians"  All costumes were created by them...

    Our tradition is to visit my husband's office and "reverse trick or treat" them - aka...bring them candy. 

    Presenting:   Pocohontas Big Hair,  San Antonio,  & Ben Franklin

    Blackbeard and Laura Ingalls Wilder....
    Davy Crockett and Annie Oakley

    and last but not least - Zorro (we are in South Texas...so we're claiming him as American)


    Everyone creates a Halloween theme...right?

    Wednesday, November 5, 2014

    If He Had Not Come from David Nicholson

    Christmas Book Review
    If He Had Not Come from David Nicholson - $18.95 hardcover also available in a PDF format for $3.99

    Recommended for ages 6 and up

    Christmas Book Review
    Bentz Test Laboratory is getting ready for Christmas.  No, it's not too soon... just weeks remain! 

     I'm not encouraging you to get in the swing of the commercial side of this holiday... but,  down...

    One of my favorite family traditions is to bring out the Christmas books and have them in a basket where we can all read them.   A new addition this year is If He Had Not Come from David Nicholson

    David Nicholson  reintroduces us to the story If He Had Not Come  in a 40 page, hardcover edition,  updated and in print for the first time in 55 years.  

    The story was originally written by Nan F. Weeks in 1938 and included in an anthology called Christ and the Fine Arts.

    When the author was asked  "What five messages do you want your readers to remember about your book?" this is how the he responded - I love what he says:

    1 – I want readers to ponder the question, What if Jesus had not come?

    2 – I want readers to conclude that life would be very different had Jesus not come to Earth.

    3 – I want readers to understand that they can have a personal, loving, and lasting relationship with Jesus Christ.

    4 – I want to provide a guide for families / teachers that promote thoughtful discussions and personal application.

    5 – I want children to capture the story’s power through this retelling and new illustrations.

    This is the story of a young boy that wakes up Christmas morning to discover what the world would be like if Jesus had not come.  "If he had not come", is straight from the Bible and the character sees what would be missing in our world if Jesus had not come at Christmas.  

    As he travels around he sees no hospitals, no children's home, no homeless shelters, no churches, a blank New Testament.  The bleak reality of a world without Christ is conveyed in a child-friendly manner.  

    After the story, there is a Going Deeper section with deeper discussion questions that you can use.  This would be a great Sunday school book during the Christmas season.  Additional scripture verses and a clear outline of the gospel message make this a great outreach tool for those who haven't discovered the true meaning of this holiday.  

    It also offers  "An Idea to Help You Celebrate Christmas . . ." by drawing a fully decorated Christmas tree to remind you of the eternal life we have through Jesus. Six points tell how parts of the tree and decorations symbolize different aspects of the true meaning of Christmas.

    This is a beautifully illustrated, hard cover book.  My testers and I decided to snuggle up and read it together.  What a beautiful and memorable picture of the gospel message for young children.  This will be in our Christmas book basket from now on. 

    My testers all enjoyed this book.  In fact, it's been reread on several occasions.  I love that it's message is a clear presentation of the true meaning of Christmas.  

    Find If He Had Not Come  on Facebook

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    Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education: A TOS Crew Review

    Fascinating Education Review

    Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education 

    $79 per course 
    $175 for access to all three courses (Fascinating Biology - Fascinating Chemistry - Fascinating Physics)

    Fascinating Education Review

    Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education is an online science program for your upper middle school and high school students. This program takes a  "right-brain" approach - teaching to audio & visual learners with engaging visuals. It is a great alternative to the traditional text book.

    Dr. Margulies, recommends starting with Chemistry, and then doing Biology and Physics, because of the large amount of Chemistry involved in Biology. However, you can choose which works best for your scope and sequence.  Fascinating Education states this program can be used as a 30 hour high school science credit.

    The Bentz Test Laboratory tested this product with my 10th grade biology student.  The Biology program consists of 19 lessons, each of which has an approximately 30-45 minute video lesson followed by a test.  Each lesson has a printable script you can use, very helpful for your visual learners.  The slides are very colorful and engaging and a large volume of information is presented. 

    The concepts covered:  
    • What is Life 
    • Chemistry Review
    • Cell Membrane
    • Taking in Nutrients
    • Taking in Energy
    • Grow
    • Reproduce
    • Homeostasis
    • Adapt
    • Prokaryotes, Protists, Animals, and Fungi
    • Plants, 

    My tester decided to work from Lesson 1 and move sequentially.  But, you could choose to skip around and do only the lessons you wanted, if that was more friendly to coordinating with your current curriculum. We used this program as a supplement, rather than a full science course. Mastery of the information is their goal -  they do recommend repeating lessons until a student can score at least an 80% on the test.  The tests are printable, and scores are not keep automatically.

    My tester really did not enjoy this program.  I thought it was great!  Just goes to show, I guess I'm a bit more mature ;-)   My tester dutifully watched each lesson.  The lessons are really more of a slide -type nature, rather than a video.  The information is covered well - but, there is so much information to absorb in a short sitting that he found it very difficult to do well on the test.  After several lessons, he was frustrated and not enjoying this experience.

    Please keep in mind, this is just his experience.  I found plenty to appreciate in this well-designed program!  Just the images, diagrams and explanations alone make a great addition to your upper level science textbooks.  The program does not include labs, you will need to add the hands-on experiences to truly experience science.

    Another important note - this program does not teach from a creationist worldview.  Evolution will be discussed.  The author does not wish to take a side in this debate, but to present information in a clear and concise way, and let you be the judge. 

    In my opinion, by the time our students are ready for upper level science, we have felt they are also ready to confront and refute evolutionary theory.  This program will give you a chance to start having those important conversations with your teens BEFORE you send them off to college.

    Check out their FREE samples online to see what you think.

    Fascinating Education Review
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    I finally got to check off a life-long bucket list item... we visited NASA's Space Center in Houston!   And for bonus points - we got to share it with dear friends from MN, and for double bonus points... it was Homeschool Day!

    Plenty of hands-on exhibits

     A cool tram ride, all over the HUGE campus


    The one and only - Mission Control Room!  Amazing to sit there and soak in all that this room had been through....

    Rocket Park - wow!

    I was kinda disappointed not to see Tom Hanks.... just sayin'

    And, of course - our very own "Mars experience" - this is what happens to us after a loss of gravity...

    We're all dreaming of space now!