Thursday, April 28, 2016


What a fun year teaching early literature at our Co-op!  This week I read them a personal favorite - The Quiltmaker's Gift.

I wanted to have them make quilts.  But, that takes a bit longer than our hour...  

After some thought, I came up with a way we could work with real fabric (I didn't want to do paper quilts).  I found these precut fabric shapes on clearance at Target.  I used fusible "Wonder Under".  I ironed it on, cut the shapes out and they were ready for my kiddos to place on the fabric.  All we had to do was peel off the paper, position and iron them on!

I was so impressed... they were able to use their own creativity to create their very own, fabric quilt in just a short while!

GREEMU from Devonian: A TOS Crew Review

Greemu Devonian Review
Greemu Devonian Review

GREEMU from Devonian  (Koru Naturals)

Yeah!  Finally, I get to be the tester at Bentz Test Laboratory!   I've been using GREEMU, by Devonian Health and Beauty. GREEMU is a plant-based emu oil alternative. (We were introduced to Emu Oil last year from Koru Naturals and loved it!)  

GREEMU is a mixture of
 Macadamia Seed Oil, Organic Palm Oil, Shea Butter, Sunflower Seed Oil, and Rice Bran Oil.  If you aren't a fan of animal-based products, GREEMU is a natural plant based oil alternative for you.
This product is designed for your skin and hair.  It can ease away fine lines and is a great balm for dry skin.  It also tames frizzy hair and split ends, leaving behind shiny, healthy hair.
With summer approaching,  I've started to pay attention to my dry legs and feet... capris and sandals are already my wardrobe choice here in sunny South Texas.  But, my word - my skin is DRY!  Maybe it's winter neglect, maybe it's my thyroid acting up look told me I had to do something before showing off my feet! :-)
I was excited that my 4 oz. bottle of GREEMU arrived just in time. Just a few drops of this light liquid goes a long way.  It's thick, white oil with just a faint scent, kinda nutty.  It goes on easily and absorbs quickly, so you don't feel greasy.
I used this daily, after my shower, and I saw immediate results.  My feet and legs felt great, and my skin was so much softer.  No more cracked heels, I think I should go buy some new flipflops to show them off! :-)
 Several family members have used Emu oil in the past for dry, flaky scalp.  They found GREEMU to work just as well in helping keep their hair looking great.
One of my favorite, and effective beauty products.  You will want to check it out!
Find Devonian on Social Media:

#hsreviews #naturalbodycare #greemuoil  #vegan         @korunaturals
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Greemu Devonian Review
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Monday, April 25, 2016

Christian Heroes- Betty Green & Digital Study Guide from YWAM Publishing: A TOS Crew Review

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

Christian Heroes- Betty Green & Digital Study Guide from YWAM Publishing

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

The Christian Heroes: Then & Now from YWAM Publishing is HANDS DOWN - my ALL TIME FAVORITE homeschooling resource! not let your children read these books if you want them to lead a "normal" life. These best-selling biographies will open up a world of excitement, challenges, and will inspire your children to lead lives filled with extraordinary adventures for God and his Glory. My testers had a contest to see who would get to review Christian Heroes- Betty Green & Digital Study Guide -  My 13 year old daughter won this one!

At our first homeschool conference...way, way back, someone gave us a free copy of Gladys Aylward: Life of Adventure. We took it home and we were hooked. The very next year, I went straight to YWAM Publishing and purchased their entire set of both Christian Heroes: Then & Now and Heroes of History. My dear husband is still recovering from the shock that I bought "one of everything on the table."

Years later, both of us agree - these books have had LIFE CHANGING effect on our family! Our children have grown up reading (and listening to) stories of real life men and women that have been used by God to do amazing things. It has profoundly impacted them. All 8 of my children have expressed the desire to be missionaries. These books are great for ages 10+ to read independently - However, our entire family has enjoyed them as family read alouds and loves listening to audios as well. 

Christian Heroes- Betty Green is the perfect role model for our daughters!  She is an inspiring, God-loving woman who lived a life full of adventure following God's call into aviation and all the way to Nigeria. Her life spans 1920-1997, making her a modern day missionary.  My tester is already a huge fan of the YWAM books, but she could not put this one down.  She admires Betty Greene's "calmness under pressure" and "How she meet other famous missionaries like Cameron Townsend and Nate Saint."

In addition to being a great choice for teaching character - these books are also a great choice for using as a unit study or even as a full curriculum. The Unit Study Guide contains valuable tips for using the books in classroom, group or homeschool setting.   

We received a Digital Download Unit Study - which is a 68 page PDF.  The Unit Study Guide contains 8 chapters to help you use the book as a full unit study curriculum incorporating comprehension questions, vocabulary, scripture memory, explorations (creative writing, hands-on projects and more), community service suggestions, social studies and even related themes to explore more.

My tester loved the extra geography printables and learned much more about Nigeria too!  

Three appendix sections have additional resource suggestions, answers and reproducibles.  Be sure to check out the BONUS Section online - it has puzzles, coloring pages and and curriculum guides that can help you plan a full year of learning with these books.

I HIGHLY recommend YWAM Publishing - it's the one resource I would never homeschool without!

Be sure to check out more titles in the series that the Crew has been enjoying.

Find YWAM Publishing on Social Media:

Twitter: @YWAMpublishing @YWAMpublishing

The YWAM Publishing Blog:

Hashtags:  #christianheroes #heroesthenandnow #christianbiographies #herobiographies #homeschoolcurriculum #homeschooling #americanhistory #americanhistorycurriculum  #ywampublishing #truebiographies

See what other members of the Crew thought here

Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}
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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries : A TOS Crew Review

Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
Writers in Residence  from Apologia Educational Ministries 

Writing...just the word can strike fear into a homeschool mama's heart!  How to teach writing and those "vital" language skills in a way that both you and your child will enjoy?  That is the question.  Writers in Residence  from Apologia Educational Ministries  is the answer!

This is a writing focused, language arts program.  Volume 1- Apprentice, which includes:
  • All in One Student Text & Workbook
  • Answer Key
  • Designed for Grades 4-8
This volume has 6 units,  broken into 4 smaller modules.  Each module is broken into smaller sections.  A convenient 4 day daily schedule is included to complete the program in 32 weeks.   Instead of the traditional approach to writing - focusing on one area at a time, i.e. persuasive writing or narrative writing.  Writers in Residence takes a more integrated, real-world approach to writing by using all the skills needed to communicate effectively.

They break down the writing prompts into:
  • I Remember - writing about experiences 
  • I Imagine - creative writing - including studying expert models of fiction.
  • I Investigate  - research skills, under the guise of investigative journalism
  • I Think - argument writing (sometimes called persuasive...but, we know what it really is!) 
In addition to writing, grammar and language arts skills, this volume features spotlights on famous Christian Writers like Bill Myers, Phil Vischer, Jason Lethcoe and several others. 

This program is written directly to the student.  Checklists and clear rubrics help you and your student know what to expect and how to discuss their writing together. 

My tester is in 5th grade.  She struggles with writing and pretty much every area of language arts.  Since we are long time fans of Apologia's resources, and Debra Bell (the author) I was a hopeful this new approach would prove to be a good fit.  I was right!  She was excited to dig right in.  

One of my favorite things about this curriculum is that she can work very independently.  She loves that she can be creative, "and get to write her own ideas".  It's a win-win for both of us. Also, you can easily use this program with multiple students in Grades 4-8 (each student does need their own workbook) If you have lots of kids, like me - this is a major benefit!

The assignments are definitely interesting.  In Unit 1 she was writing from prompts like:
  • "When I was Young" - writing about some of her fondest memories
  • "A Fictional version of Yourself" - where she got to give herself a superpower and defeat her archenemy 
  • "A History of Your Name" - writing about her name.  
In addition to writing - she was working on her proofreading and editing, grammar and vocabulary skills.  I love the integrated approach, it's all in one place!

The Answer Key provides you all the background you need to help your child learn to write - including tips for Praise and Targeted Feedback (which I needed!) 

Answers for all questions in the Student workbook are right there for your ease as well. The Checklists help you assign points and grades.  I was just delighted that she was writing, and loving it!

This is one of my new favorites - you will definitely want to check it out.

Find Apologia Educational Ministries on Social Media:
Twitter: @apologiaworld

Hashtags: #hsreviews #DebraBell #middleschoollanguagearts #middleschoolwriting

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Apologia: Writers in Residence Review
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math : A TOS Crew Review

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math

Have you ever gotten near the end of the math book - only to realize there may be "gaps" in what you child needed to learn this year?  Yep - me too!  We have been working on Math Mini-Courses from A+ Interactive Math to help fix some of those "gaps".

The Bentz Test Laboratory has been enjoying Elementary Geometry (1st-4th)  & Tables, Charts and Graphs (1st-6th).

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

These Math Mini-Courses are not full curriculum, but instead - targeted online video lessons, interactive review, printable worksheets, PDF lessons and tests that cover specific math concepts like:

  • Counting and Identifying Numbers (1st-3rd) - 15 lessons
  • Place Value and Number Combinations (1st-3rd) - 15 lessons
  • Naming, Comparing and Arranging Numbers (1st-3rd) - 17 lessons
  • Early Elementary Fractions (1st-3rd) - 10 lessons
  • Early Elementary Addition (1st-3rd) - 17 lessons
  • Early Elementary Subtraction (1st-3rd) - 15 lessons
  • Elementary & Middle School Multiplication (2nd-6th) - 13 lessons
  • Elementary & Middle School Division (2nd-6th) - 15 lessons
  • Tables, Charts and Graphs (1st-6th) - 17 lessons
  • Elementary Geometry (1st-4th) - 19 lessons
  • Elementary Algebra (1st-4th) - 27 lessons
  • Advanced Geometry (4th-7th) - 35 lessons
  • Advanced Fractions (4th-8th) - 26 lessons
  • Decimal Numbers (3rd-7th) - 20 lessons
  • Percentages (5th-8th) - 13 lessons
  • Time (1st-4th) - 20 lessons
  • Money (1st-5th) - 18 lessons
  • Number Types and Conversions (3rd-6th) - 35 lessons
  • Ratio, Proportions, Probability & Statistics (3rd-6th) - 14 lessons
  • Measurements and Conversions (2nd-6th) - 23 lessons

My testers really enjoyed working with A+ Interactive Math.  The program is very easy to navigate and they were able to work completely independently (which I love when it comes to math...can I get an AMEN!)

The Parent Dashboard allows me to manage my students and check on their progress.  My testers each had their own log-in for their Mini Course.

Each lesson contains a short animated teaching video, followed by the interactive review.  My testers could pause, rewind, and move forward with the video. 

The interactive review requires them to watch the entire question before getting to select the correct answer from several multiple choice answers.  One of my testers found this to be VERY helpful, as she likes to jump ahead and frequently makes mistakes.  Yeah for A+!  Feedback is available immediately for each question.  If it's answered incorrectly, you get an explanation of how to solve correctly.

The number of lessons varies from topic to topic - Elementary Geometry was 19 lessons and Tables, Charts & Graphs was 17 lessons.  You do not have to do the lessons in a scripted order - so you can use it to pinpoint areas you want to focus on, or do them in order for a more in-depth review.  The program doesn't automatically track which lesson you are on, so depending on how you use it, that is either a nice feature or a bit annoying.  At the end of each lesson, you do have to manually udpate it as completed if you want to be able to track progress in the Parent Dashboard.

Printable PDF's of the lesson, as well as printable worksheets and tests are features included with each course.  We mainly focused on the online lessons and interactive reviews.

The Mini-Courses are designed for a single student and range from $9.99-$19.99.  I think this is a very effective and affordable way to close some "gaps" that they didn't cover in your main curriculum (and ALL curriculum can leave gaps) or to use for summer math practice.

Find A+ Interactive Math on Social Media:

Math Mini-Courses {A+ Interactive Math Review}

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This graduation "thing" may be my hardest parenting moment!  I've had to dig through our entire homeschooling  and narrow it down to 25 defining pictures....

First pass - I had "narrowed" it down to 300-400 pictures - all of the firstborn!  More sniffles, another glass of wine, and I had it down to around 40.

I brutally left out vital moments to get to the allowed amount for the graduation slide show.  They tell me that not everyone wants to watch an hour of only my son...I think "they" would enjoy it!

The sweet volunteer made me this video before telling me 10 more pictures had to go....

And Sam is the one playing the violin!

I can't make it through it without crying, so I'm watching it everyday to build up immunity ;-)

Best ride I've ever been on, so glad I was there for the whole thing!!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc.: A TOS Crew Review

Talking Fingers Inc. ReviewTalking Fingers Inc. Review

Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc.

The Bentz Test Laboratory has a whole new set of testers that are enjoying Read, Write & Type from Talking Fingers Inc.  (one of my older testers used this 5-6 years ago!)

 This is an online reading program that includes phonics, spelling, keyboarding and word processing for students ages 6-8. It even contains special features for ESL students and those with learning & reading challenges. 

 Teachers can try out a sample lesson, or students can try out the first 8 lessons for FREE!

My tester this time is my 8 year old, 2nd grader.  This program contains 40 lessons divided into 10 levels.  Each lesson takes approximately 15 minutes.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review  Letter sounds and keyboard placement is taught through short animations with memorable characters.  The student's goal is to "rescue" letters that the bad guy (Vexor - a green slimy guy) has hidden from the storytellers (Lefty & Rightaway - the smiling hands).   Each time a student has rescued a group of 4 letters, they earn a merit certificate.  Even though my 8 year old was our tester, my 6 year old demanded she be allowed to watch!  My tester wanted to keep working each day - until she earned a certificate, and she BEGGED to do this program daily!

My tester was completely caught up with the storyline, and didn't even realize this was another of  "mom's teaching games" - they are on to me! 

I love that she could work independently, however - I could check her progress as well from the parent login area. The "Bonus Blimp "keeps track of her performance and sends her back to activities that she needs more practice on.

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Even though she has mastered the letter sounds - this program gave her the practice she needed to isolate the sounds in words, and her spelling has improved dramatically!

Her favorite part has been learning to use the keyboard "like the big kids".  

This is a fun program for your younger kids, and it's very easy to use.  

Talking Fingers Inc. Review
Find Talking Fingers Inc. on Social Media:

Twitter: @readwritetype

Hashtags: #hsreviews #reading #typing #esl #k-2learning

See what other members of the Crew thought here

Talking Fingers Inc. Review

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fun with Feathers

I know I say it every post...but, I am having tons of fun teaching our youngest students literature at our coop!

This wee we read - Will's Quill or How a Goose Saved Shakespeare.  

We made feather quill pens from colorful goose feathers I picked up at Hobby Lobby.  We just cut the tip diagonally to hold our "ink".  

Our ink was simply water and food coloring!  So easy.   They loved writing and creating, just like Shakespeare.

Lifetime Membership from Homeschool Copywork: A TOS Crew Review

Homeschool Copywork Review

Lifetime Membership  from Homeschool Copywork

Homeschool Copywork ReviewHomeschool Copywork ReviewHomeschool Copywork Review

These are just a small sample of  54 (and counting) Copywork books (over 100 pages each) available with a Lifetime Membership  from Homeschool Copywork!  This is an online, subscription site that you print at home.

The Bentz Test laboratory is a big believer in the benefits of copywork.  It's not just handwriting practice... it improve visual memory, grammar, punctuation skills, and memorization too.  I've always had trouble convincing my testers that handwriting can be fun, but Homeschool Copywork changed that.

This site offers copywork for all ages - check out some of the topics - and they are always adding more!  They have elementary, middle school and even high school levels.  The Lifetime Membership  allows you unlimited access...FOREVER  (as long as the site is active!) If you want to try it first, without a lifetime committment ;-)... you can get a Full Membership for 1 year.  

Each book includes selected thematic copywork quotes with at least two different line styles or sizes and manuscript or cursive options.  Most of the books include five styles: Ball and Stick Manuscript, D’Nealian Manuscript, Lined Cursive, and Unlined Print and Cursive.

This is a great site for large families! It was created by Amy Belvins a homeschool mom of six!  (someone who knows...)   I called my testers over and let them pick what looked most interesting to them:

Tester #1 - Wright Brothers - she's studying them in history!  The site has many history and literature themed selections that you can use to coordinate with other subjects.

Tester #2 - Dragons of the Bible - of course, he LOVES anything dino-like. This book offers 22 Scriptures from the Bible that refer to "dragons", aka...dinosaurs. The site offers great selections for science and Christian worldview study as well.

Testers #3 & 4  - Character Building - They both loved the pictures in this book so, they just divided the pages based on which one each liked better.  They like to work together.  This membership has many great copywork titles that help reinforce character lessons - from animals to Presidents! 

All of the books are downloadable and immediately available. You can pick the style of writing you want your child to work on, and only print the pages you need.   Most of the books we looked at included places to color or decorate their writing.  My testers loved getting to color the picture too! We three-hole punch them and stored in a binder.  Looking back, they can see how their handwriting has improved.  These also make great gifts to include in "grandma letters".

They have a great selection of Holiday themed books that would be nice to use during those busy holiday times.  Artists, Composers, Poetry are just a few that make a great supplement to your fine art studies.

Coloring books and notebooking pages are available included in your membership.  My testers are using these, and loving them.

This is one of those memberships that you will use over and over again.  Be sure to check this one out!

Find Homeschool Copywork  on Social Media:

Twitter:  @AmyBlevins

Hashtags: #hsreviews #copywork #charlottemason #handwritingworksheets

See what other members of the Crew thought here

Homeschool Copywork Review

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