Friday, July 29, 2016

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree from Star Toaster: A TOS Crew Review

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review
Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review
Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree from Star Toaster

The testers at Bentz Test Laboratory have been enthralled with a new app - Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree from Star Toaster.  The app is a prequel story to the original Star Toaster book - The Treasure of HighTower - you can read our review here.  This iOS app is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and it is made for children ages 9-11.

This learning app is actually a 122 page illustrated chapter book, complete with videos and learning activities.  The story follows the adventures of a flying squirrel named Abba who cares for six orphaned animals, or orphs, in his tree house.

Each lesson offers your child "jobs" to complete in math, science, language art, thinking skills, life skills and the arts.  The "jobs" earn reward stars which they can use to care for the orphs. With 75 lessons, and 9ver 130 jobs to complete - it will keep their attention for quite some time.  The lessons and jobsare unlocked as your child reads the story.  The app automatically returns them to where they left off.

This app is VERY easy to use!  Within minutes my testers were logged in and already reading and completing jobs for their orphs.

It's big family friendly too - every child can have their own user, and mom can see everyone's progress.

The story is easy to read - my testers were mainly 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th graders.  The text is linked with vocabulary and lessons they will access to complete their jobs.  The vocab lessons alone are worth getting this app!

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate ReviewOrphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

The big attraction is called "Stumptown".  This is where, after they have completed reading, they can access their jobs to earn stars. As they progress through the story, more jobs are made available.  So, they have to read before they can play.

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

They complete "job training", which is the lesson part.  Then they are able to complete jobs to earn the stars.
Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review
The lessons are a variety of language arts, math, science and more.  They are usually multiple choice.  If you miss an answer, you don't earn the star.  It made my testers slow down and actually have to read!
Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate ReviewOrphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review+

The app tells them what their orphs need and how many stars they need to earn to provide for what the orphs need.  I love that the message of this app is one of caring and providing instead of destroying or ruling something.  Great character lessons are woven throughout their play, and the lessons too.  

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate ReviewOrphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review

I HIGHLY recommend this app!  My children love to get time to play on my phone, and this is the perfect way to redeem that time and use it for learning (just don't tell them...) they think it's a treat! Plus, there's nothing they have to chase around!
My testers can't wait for the next adventure - Thornwood - coming soon. 

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Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review+
See what other members of the Crew thought here
Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate Review
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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Beric The Briton from Heirloom Audio Productions: A TOS Crew Review

Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review
Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review
Beric The Briton from  Heirloom Audio Productions 

Heirloom Audio Productions have taken the historical novels of GA Henty (one of our favorite authors) and produced fully dramatized audios to introduce you and your family to some of history's finest! We have been swept away into the world of the Roman invasion of Britannica with Beric The Briton from  Heirloom Audio Productions .

We have been on an epic family road trip this summer, and this story was the perfect companion to our travels.  This 2 CD set is over 2 hours of action-packed adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat.   Heirloom Audio has become our FAVORITE producer to listen to!  Their productions the highest quality and are jam packed with big name stars too - check out some of our favorites from Beric the Briton:

We love how GA Henty not only spins an amazing tale, but - all his stories teach Christian values and worldview.  He gives us heroes for us to look up to, and values for us to live by.  This is not just another entertaining story - this is a life lesson for your entire family.  This story follows young Beric, from a pagan tribe in early Britannica.  Beric's  adventure takes him all the way to the Colosseum of Rome with Emperor Nero standing by.  Along the way, Beric is introduced to Christianity and his life is forever changed, and we are changed by his story as well.

Not only did we get the CD's, we also got access to a whole treasure chest of goodies:
  • Beric The Briton MP3 Set
  • Beric The Briton full E-Book
  • Official MP3 Soundtrack
  • Printable Cast Poster
  • Inspirational Verse Poster
  • Behind the scenes video 
  • 50 page Study Guide
The Study Guide is a wonderful resource to go more in depth with the story and use it as a learning tool as well.  It is broken down into several sections for each corresponding listening tract:
  • "Defining Words" - vocabulary 
  • "Listening Well" -  questions to use to help them remember what they heard
  • "Thinking Further"  - questions to challenge them to think on what they heard, or even to dig a little deeper and research more.
Historical information, recipes and extra books to explore are included as well. My testers were fascinated by the information about the different types of gladiators.  The Study Guide also includes 3 Bible Studies - The Importance of Studying History, Thou Shalt Not Kill, and One Way. 

My testers and I enjoyed the Behind the Scenes video.  It really gave us a peek into what the actors are doing while producing and what they think about their characters.  We listened to our CD's with a whole new perspective after watching it.

My testers were introduced to GA Henty's stories through the audio production - and it made them want to read the full book themselves.  The bonuses included a full Beric the Briton Ebook of Henty's original too.

This is a great way to make history come alive for you and your children!  These have become one of our favorite additions to our history studies, and just for our pure enjoyment. 

 The other dramas available from Heirloom Audio Productions are :
  • Under Drake’s Flag - the story of Sir Francis Drake
  • In Freedom’s Cause - William Wallace and Robert the Bruce in their fight for Scottish independence 
  • With Lee in Virginia - the American Civil War 
  • The Dragon and the Raven - the Viking invasions of England
More are on the way!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition from Writing with Sharon Watson: A TOS Crew Review

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Writing with Sharon Watson ReviewWriting with Sharon Watson Review

What?!  We have to teach writing to high schoolers?!  I think I may have missed that chapter in "What to Expect..."  - Just kidding! High school writing can actually be fun - we have been enjoying The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition from Writing with Sharon Watson.  
 This is an updated version of a high school level writing course that will give you everything you need to teach your high school students  to write many forms of nonfiction writing like essays and research papers.
This course is available in either print or downloadable PDF ebook format.  It contains 23 chapters, which is a full year credit of high school writing.  It's written for your student to be able to work and learn independently.  Some of the essays they will complete cover reports (process writing), letters, newspaper articles, biographies  and narratives.  Persuasion, exposition, description and narration styles are all taught with easy to follow step-by-step instructions.

My high schoolers have spent the year exploring their creative sides this past year.  Now - it's time to get serious about teaching the type of writing that will help them succeed in college and beyond.  
I love how easy to use Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School is.  We have been working in the print editions this summer.  The set contains a Student Book and a Teacher's Guide.  
The Student Guide is written directly to your student.  I really like to move my high school students to more and more independent work.  This is a great tool!  My teens appreciated the sense of humor, and the direct approach of Sharon Watson. She starts by helping them discover "Your Writing Self" with some descriptions for them to consider. From "I like playing with words... forget everything else and let me write" to "I don't care one way or the other about writing" - your teen will find themselves!
Each chapter begins with an inspiring quote - I loved these!

The author intentionally captures their attention, and then keeps the lessons short.  She asserts "writing takes time - 100 words = 1 hour".   No wonder... I thought my high schoolers were just stalling!  Each assignment averages 300-500 words, but is broken into shorter, manageable sections.
Different styles of writing are taught systematically: 
  • Persuasion - with logical appeals, compare & contrast, moral & ethical appeals, and emotional appeals
  • Proofreading & Grammar Mistakes
  • Exposition - letters, emails, process (how to's), and position papers. Includes lessons on MLA.
  • Writing a Devotional
  • Newspaper Writing
  • Biographies
  • Compare & Contrasts
  • Literary Analysis
  • Definition Essay
  • Descriptive Essay
  • Narration - personal testimony, interviews, personal narratives
The Teacher Guide gives you everything you need to be able to effectively evaluate and grade your student's writing (the hardest part!)
I especially appreciated the examples included in the "How to Earn a A,..B...C...D" section. I'm better able to grade writing when I have an example to work from.

Easy-to-use rubrics are included for each of the 23 writing assignments. My students like to know exactly what they need to complete the assigment and it gives me just the tool I need to give non-biased, objective grades too.
Both of my high school students were extremely pleased with this writing program.  
I was VERY impressed with the depth of this program!  In fact, I plan to use it with my Co-op Writing class this fall.  
If you have high school students, you need Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School!

Other members of the TOS Crew got a chance to review 21 Grading Grids for Popular High School Essays and a Position Paper.  Be sure to check it out as well!

Writing with Sharon Watson Review
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Hashtags:  #hsreviews #highschoolwriting #writingcurriculum

Writing with Sharon Watson Review
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Monday, July 18, 2016

Road Tripping 2016- Part 2

Want to read Part 1?  Click here...

We loaded up the van (it's a puzzle of gigantic proportions), and hit the road again.   This vacation is truly my transformation to "full Bentz".  We truly did not know, day-to-day, our plan.  No reservations, no itinerary, no SCHEDULE... I'm not sure who I am anymore.  But, it was WONDERFUL!

Next stop - St. Louis, MO.  Just 5 hours in the van...we can do it....

We found a picnic spot off the highway in a historic park.  Double points - Free and it was educational too.

St. Louis is home to an amazing FREE zoo!  Our first stop:

 A tunnel aquarium to watch everyone swim right over you.

Everyone found their favorites.  It is one of the best zoos we've visited!

Yes,  even our teenagers still love a visit to the zoo.  Check out "his" animal...

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Happy 19th!

How did we get 19 candles on his cake?  I feel like it was yesterday we blew out the first one...

Happy Birthday Sam!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Road Tripping... 2016, part 1

With our first Graduation behind us, and the departure to college looming close in our future,  this is the summer for an EPIC Bentz Roadtrip.

My nephew's wedding in Chicago gave us the perfect excuse to load up and hit the road.

Stop 1 - Conway, Arkansas

Conway will forever have our hearts.  And, after a quick map quest consultation,  we realized it is halfway to our destination!  So, we built in a major amount of fun (after a mere 12 hour drive) and spent the first part of our EPIC roadtrip in Conway!

 We got to worship at NLC!

Lunch at Larry's Pizza, with a chance to surprise Lydia's BFF this time!  We scattered kids all over Faulkner county.


A picnic with our besties (the American Girl Club)  These are our people - and these momma's are my very own version of Steel Magnolias!

This picture...was worth the trip alone.  The MCA reunited... (Masculine Club of Awesomeness)  These are some of the finest world changers you will EVER meet!

 Then, we overtook Moo-Moo's yogurt to gather all our chicks back.  A "few" of our KCA friends joined us.  This will forever be one of my most cherished memories....

Each and every one of these kids have my heart.  KCA left a forever imprint on us all!

Josh's favorite...any mine too!

My kiddos - all together!!