Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Simplified Pantry: A Molly Crew Review

Simplified Pantry

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From their website:
"Simplified Pantry is all about encouraging homestyle cooking with basic ingredients. It is possible to cook good, healthy food without a pantry full of specialized ingredients, and it is possible to make easy dinners without shortcut, preprepared products. This EBook, Simplified Dinners (and the gluten- and dairy-free edition!), enables anyone to transition toward home-prepared, real, whole foods cooking—even those less confident in the kitchen."

Cost: 12.99 (downloadable ebook) - What to see a sample?

Listen to the author:

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Yippee!!  I am the Bentz Test Laboratory Tester!!  Actually, I think the entire family gets the benefit of this one...

Simplified Dinners is a downloadable ebook .  It's really more than just a recipe book, it's the kind of book that actually teaches you how to cook!  It is filled with menus that are both simple and wholesome.  You can eat healthy - without spending a fortune!

The "Master Pantry List" is a useful tool to help you know what to stock up on.  The rest of the book shows you how to take your well stocked pantry and turn it into a delicious, healthy meal in no time! 

 Several options are given for each category.  For example, "Slow Cooker Roasts" explains the preparation process step by step, then offers 8 different ways to take your average Pork or Beef roast and jazz it up. Gluen-Free and Dairy-Free editions are available as well.

Friday Night is "Pizza Night" at the Bentz Test Laboratory.   We made the pizza dough and got really fancy (for us) with a White sauce and Veggie toppings. (I told you this was for me!)  We also made a "boy pizza" with nothing but meat.  Making our own pizza crust was not as time consuming as I had was explained step by step.  This could save us a small fortune right here!   Plus, it was WAY better than even the expensive, deli pizza from the store. 

This is exactly what I needed!  I can tend to get in a rut, making the same thing over and over again.  We love variety, but - time constraints with a large family make meal planning a difficult endeavor.  Simplified Dinners offered me plenty of choices, with all of them being simple enough to just create quickly when the dreaded 4 pm Question..."What are we having for dinner?" hits!

Other members of the TOS Crew took a peek at these - Simplified Dinners Gluten Free/Dairy Free & Paperless Home Organization - check them out!  Now that I've got my kitchen under's time to tackle the home organization!

** Don't miss this! 30% off  through June 3rd when you enter TOS2013 at checkout**

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Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Schoolhouse Library!

"Help!  I'm running out of bookshelf space!"  Sound familiar?  I have a little secret to share...  you don't need more bookshelves.  No, really I mean it!  I've found a way to build my library without having to beg my dear hubby for another bookshelf. Plus, it's clutter-free.


The Schoolhouse Library! from the Old Schoolhouse. 

It's a mega resource library, over 175 E-books and audios, just for you.  Bes of all, it doesn't clutter up your bookshelves, and you can take it with you on the go!

You get homeschool encouragement and support for over 25 different topics, all in this one easy download for just $25.

Come check it out at today!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Surprise Getaway!

My wonderful hubby of 18 years loves to plan getaways!  I'm blessed, I know...  For our anniversary this year, he outdid himself!

First, he told me we need to "borrow a truck" because a car couldn't reach our destination.  Then, he sprung the news - "no cell phone coverage or internet".   He knows I'm not the "roughing it" type - what was he thinking?

Our "road" to the cabin... really?

As you can see... the path led us to a magnificent spot!  Deep down in a valley, surrounded by God's beautiful handiwork - the "Bushmaster".   So amazingly built, the cabin blends into the forest.  It's actually built on top of a small creek bed, resting on top of gigantic boulders as the creek runs under it.  The inside wall of the bathroom is the same boulder that the upper level deck rests on. 

It had recently rained, so the creek and private waterfall were running well.  We opened all the windows and fell asleep to the music of the running water...

We had absolutely NOTHING to do!  No phone, no internet, no restaurants to visit...  Just a hike or two, and a campfire.  Lot's of vacation conversation and a good book! (and no "roughing it" - I had a full kitchen and bathroom!)

Our only visitor - a very friendly raccoon.  He didn't like hamburgers, but did come for the s'mores!

The Longbow Resort in the middle of nowhere  (aka Prim, AR)... I suggest you getaway and go!  Mr. Pearson is an amazing host, and the history of his place is fascinating.

It was the perfect un-plug, un-wind and re-charge! 

I love my husband...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

American Girl: Kirsten Quilts

Kirsten has taught us so many wonderful lessons!  The girls have all learned how to thread a needle, and sew a couple of simple stitches.  We've explored the reality of pioneer life.  Kirsten has encouraged us to be frugal and creative at the same time.

This meeting I got to show them how to quilt!!  I love quilts,  they feel like a blanket filled with love to me.  I have made a quilt for each of my children (actually, I'm still working on that...I have a couple of UFO's around - unfinished objects!)

I was able to share my passion, and the girls made a quilted potholder.  I hope they'll be inspired to make their own quilts someday.

Our potholders were made with a simple square.  The girls practiced their back stitching to hand sew around the outside.  Then, they did a whip stitch to bind the edges.  Finally, they were able to do a running stitch to quilt a simple design.
These are more decorative than useful - we didn't use a heat-resistant batting.  The girls also thought they'd make great doll quilts.


 I didn't keep track of what our Littles, 1/2 Pints &  MCA were up to... teaching 13 girls to quilt was plenty enough for me!

One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! by Science, Naturally: A TOS Crew Review

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One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! by Science, Naturally

From their website:
"The mysteries are back! One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! continues the fun. These mysteries have a clever twist—you have to be a super sleuth, tapping into your science wisdom and critical thinking skills to solve them. Each story takes just one minute to read and challenges your knowledge in a variety of science disciplines. These brainteasers keep you engaged and eager to learn more! Written by Eric Yoder and Natalie Yoder. Designed for kids 8-12. "
Cost: $9.95
Try to solve some sample mysteries yourself!
The Bentz Test Laboratory loves a good mystery, and good science too.  We were excited to dive right into One Minute Mysteries: 65 More Short Mysteries You Solve With Science!.
This book is exactly the type of reading material I like to to leave causally "lying around".  I've been known to place books like this just to catch a passing Tester's interest. This one was a hit right away!
The 65 short stories each take about a minute to read, and cover topics such as Life, Earth & Space, Physical & Chemical & General Science.  There is another chapter for the inevitable..."Just 5 More Minutes..." pleading, and a bonus section where you can try out One-Minute Mysteries You Solve with Math.  (we are most definitely going to try that one out!)
My Testers all eagerly picked up the book and read mysteries to themselves, and to each other.  I kept this book handy for reading them a short mystery - usually while they were eating lunch.  I get the chance to talk (because their mouths are busy!).  The mystery ends with a question that requires them to solve with scientific thinking and knowledge.  The answer is given on the following page, in a way that completes the story.
I love this type of learning.  It is fast, fun and HIGH interest!  I have learned, they retain the science information that they learn from this story format so much better than if I had asked them to read a textbook.  Jesus, himself, taught effectively by telling stories, and he's a great example to follow!
You will want to check out the other fun titles available at Science, Naturally - and use the code 3SPEC to purchase any 3 books for $19.95 plus $2.95 shipping. (a $12.90 savings). These books would make a great addition to your summer road trip kit!  
 For more fun check out a new feature on their website - Mystery of the Month!
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Friday, May 17, 2013

High School Prep Genius: A Guide to Academic Excellence : A TOS Crew Review

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High School Prep Genius: A Guide to Academic Excellence by College Prep Genius

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From their website:
"High School Prep Genius gives parents answers to all the questions they ask about high school (and the questions they should ask)! Everything from transcript preparation to nailing the college interview, HSPG teaches how to turn a student’s high school career into a springboard for lifelong success! This is a guidebook to navigating through high school and beyond. Help your students maximize their opportunities and achieve their highest potential."

Cost: $29.95

I can't believe it... the Bentz Test Laboratory is full-steam ahead for college planning and prep.  After a mere 11 years of homeschooling, this new phase has arrived. 

We were delighted to get to take a peek at High School Prep Genius by College Prep Genius (one of our favorites!)

This book is a very comprehensive, step-by-step guide to preparing your high school student for college.  Built around 3 key foundations: Personal Success, Academic Success and Future Success, this guide will help you take your first steps toward college.

My 9th grader and I have been reading this together.  He is busy creating his "College and Career Notebook", as recommended.  This is to keep all your college planning and record keeping in one place.  The Introduction will tell you exactly how and what to include, with many handy forms included to help you get started.

Month-by-month timelines for 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades are outlined to give you an overview of what to be expecting and working on throughout the high school experience.

The 18 Chapters speak directly to the student and the parent.  Each chapter includes "Think About Questions" to discuss together, as well as "Parent's Homework".   These questions have provided great discussion points for us.  Some of the "What Would You Do" questions have made excellent dinner table discussion as well! 

I appreciated that this book wasn't centered around just the academics.  It really is a guide to a complete education: discovering interests, building a healthy you, effective studying, the college application, and even a college essentials list. 

The Appendices are packed full of useful information: Creating Transcripts, Talent Searches and even how to reduce Test Anxiety.

My son is building a summer reading program from the "Great Books to Get You Started" list.

If you are needing a high school roadmap, Jean & Judah Burk have thought of everything you'll need, and put it all together in a VERY useful, practical and easy-to-use book. Every high school student - and parent of one, should have a copy of this book!
Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spanish for You! : A TOS Crew Review

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Spanish for You! - Fiestas

From Their website:
"Spanish for You! begins your child (grades 3-8)  on the road to fluency. It is designed from years of experience by a Spanish teacher to effectively build speaking, reading, and writing skills as well as grammar knowledge. Students learn to creatively build sentences, ask and answer questions, and truly communicate in Spanish!"
 Check out the  free mini lessons and free worksheets to see for yourself!

The Bentz Test Laboratory has been struggling to learn Spanish for years!  I actually love Spanish, and was convinced that my children would too...    It just hasn't happened yet!

But, I am not giving up that easily.  I was excited to get a chance to try a new approach for us, studying Spanish around a theme, instead of textbook style.  Spanish for You! is a year long, multi-level curriculum designed around a specific theme.  We were delighted to preview - Fiestas!  Other members of the TOS Crew took a peek at Estaciones (the Seasons.) Travels is a title coming soon!

In Fiestas  - the following components were included: Vocabulary, Pronunciation, Syntax, Verb Conjugation & Grammar, all centered around the common theme of Fiestas. The Birthday Party, Day of the Dead, Carnival, Holy Week and April Fair.  The 5 lessons  require approx. 15-30 min. per day 4 days per week  to complete during a full year. (depending upon your student)

Audios are provided as MP3s. One audio is the author speaking, while the other includes a native Spanish speaker from Mexico. Hearing Spanish spoken correctly is an essential element of learning a new language!

I appreciated the leveled lessons - one set for each Grades 3-4, Grades 5-6, and Grades 7-8.  This is perfect for a large family like mine.

Games, worksheets, and quizzes are all included to approach learning Spanish in a fun and rewarding way for every learning style in the house.

After years of Spanish study myself,  I was able to learn something new as well.  The Spanish spoken in Mexico and the Spanish spoken in Spain have several differing conjugations.  Spanish for You! has included both.  We learned about a traditionally Mexican holiday, and another traditional holiday of Spain.

I did have to spend some time printing and organizing, but  - once it was compiled, it was very easy to pick it up and jump right in.

My testers really enjoyed the theme.  Who doesn't love a fiesta?  The vocabulary and grammar were broken down into manageable pieces and the repetition served to really make them stick. Making flashcards themselves proved to be a valuable exercise, and a great review tool.

I appreciate the author's commitment to keeping the materials affordable, and fun for your family to learn together.  You can follow Spanish for You! on Facebook to get more fun ideas, and check out their blog (which is updated frequently) for more ideas on how to incorporate Spanish into your day.

Finally, a glimmer of hope... they are starting to enjoy learning Spanish!
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy 18th Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary to my best friend in the entire world!  I love you more and more each day.  This was on our wedding program....  The words mean even more after 18 years together.  I pray I'll never stop counting the ways I love you!

How Do I Love Thee?

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints.
I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Papa's Pearls: A TOS Crew Review

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  Papa’s Pearls: A Father’s Gift of Love and Wisdom to His Children and Grandchildren by Diane Flynn Keith

From their website:
"..Tells the story of how my father transformed his own life as a Depression Era street kid on a fast track to prison to become the archetype of a successful self-made man who was also a loving father.
The nurturing customs, practical advice, and life success principles (learned through the school of hard knocks) that he dispensed to me, my siblings, and his grandchildren, can be used to transform your life, achieve your dreams, and strengthen or rebuild bonds with your family."

Available through Homefires for $21.97 (includes shipping). The book is also available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition.

Finally, I get to be the tester at Bentz Test Laboratory! 

I read Papa’s Pearls: A Father’s Gift of Love and Wisdom to His Children and Grandchildren by Diane Flynn Keith.  This 17 chapter, 112 page book is packed full of wisdom.

The author Diane Flynn Keith publishes three e-newsletters that include ClickSchooling, Carschooling, and Universal Preschool. Diane strives to liberate families from conventional schooling.    Check out her book: Carschooling: Over 350 Entertaining Games & Activities To Turn Travel Time Into Learning

I love the author's conversational tone,  I felt like we were old friends reminiscing together over a cup of coffee.  She introduces us to her "Papa" - Carol Joseph Flynn.  He was born in 1922 and died in 2011.  His lifetime spans a great period of change in American history.  In fact, I plan to have my children read this book during our study of that time period, because of it's richness. 

"Papa" is full of "pearls of wisdom".  The short, easy to read chapters introduce you to them.  "What's the Worst Thing that Could Happen", "Tell Yourself You Like It", "It's All About Family", and "Doodle-lee Do It" - I found myself laughing and crying with this incredible family. 

The common-sense approach to life reminded me of my own parents. The hard work ethic and redemption story, plus lessons on loving each other well - will inspire you and your family.

This book is packed with wisdom, but wrapped in a story that you won't be able to forget.  A must read!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Phonics and Reading with McGuffey by LiteracySoft: A TOS Crew Review

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Phonics and Reading with McGuffey by LiteracySoft  

From their website:
"The app is built from the source material of the most successful education textbook of all time, McGuffey's Eclectic Primer Revised Edition, which has taught tens of millions of students the joy of reading. All 52 lessons contain the proven step-by-step material your student needs to develop to the first grade reading level – guaranteed."
Cost - $19.99
The first 10 lessons of the PC version and the lite version of the app are available as well, to try out and see for yourself!  It is compatible with your PC, Mac, and Apple Devices.

The Bentz Test Laboratory has only recently begun to discover the joys of on-the-go App learning.  How did we survive before this amazing technology? 

My tester is a very excited-to-learn-to-read 5 year old. She is also has been gifted with some special learning needs - so, we are having to go slower and enjoy the journey a little more than we did with prior children. ( Phonics and Reading with McGuffey works well with Adult learners, Dyslexic readers & ESOL students as well as students of all levels & abilities). 

This app has been a wonderful addition to our reading journey.  We have it available with us while we are out-and-about.  I cannot tell you how much this has helped her reading!  We can pull it out while waiting, work on the lessons, and we do this frequently.  The convenience of having a full reading curriculum with you where ever you go is so valuable.

I was very impressed by the sheer volume of lessons.  This is well worth the price tag (I know it may seem a little spendy at first, but - it is worth every penny!)  This app includes:

• All 52 McGuffey Primer lessons
• All 44 letter sounds of English and their graphemes
• 60+ letter sound animations
• 400+ practice word vocabulary
• 9000+ nonsense word audio dictionary
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My tester was easily able to pick up and work on each lesson.  The full color graphics are great, and the audio components are clear and easy to understand.  It begins simply with letter and sound recognition, and advances to a First Grade reading level.   The repetition is a key concept, and this app makes it fun with games like loading the letters on a truck to spell the word,  when loaded your truck moves off.  She loved it.  It's a tried and true method, in a brand new package.  (I'm sure my grandmother, who learned to read with the original books would have loved it too!)

I love the multi-sensory approach, touching the words as you read them.  She had automatic feedback and audio reinforcement, such a key to unlocking her special learning style!  I was amazed at how effective this app was for reinforcing and building her confidence level as well.

Up to 10 users are allowed on the app, so you can use it with more than one student.

The only down-side I can see to this app... I may never get my iPhone back!

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

A trip to Tulsa

I have a confession to make...  I'm a homeschool convention junkie!  I love the sight of a packed curriculum hall full of new homeschool treasures to discover.

The last several years,  a couple of friends and I plus our teenage sons - yes, you read that right, we like to take our teenage BOYS with us, have taken a weekend getaway to Memphis and the Great Homeschool Convention.

Sadly, this year - Great Homeschool Conventions opted not to come to Memphis.  Panic set in...where do we go to get our "fix"?  Cincinnati was a bit too far away, and the timing was off for us (not to mention the cost!)

We settled in on the Oklahoma Homeschool Convention in Tulsa, OK.  It's only about a 4 hour drive. While, much smaller in size than Memphis, Tulsa was perfect for a Tuesday/Wednesday getaway.

We loaded up the vans (teenage boys eat a gotta be prepared or you'll spend a fortune!) and hit the road.

My dear friend and I have somewhat of a reputation for being, shall I say "directionally challenged" (Yes, we did actually drive an hour the wrong direction the first time we were returning from Memphis... we had a lot to talk about!)  But,  I am extremely proud to announce, due to my superior navigation skills, we made it there and BACK without having to take a scenic detour even once!

Our sons participated in the HSLDA's Generation Joshua Program.  If you ever get the chance, don't pass it up!  They had a wonderful time learning the entire political process in a very hands-on way.  They created a party, nominated a candidate, and even had to raise campaign funds. (You wouldn't believe how helpful they can be when you have a handful of "fake money" they want...)  A favorite activity of theirs...hanging from the support beams in the parking garage...the short kid on the ground is one of mine :-)

With a smaller curriculum hall to explore, we had the freedom to relax and enjoy the speakers.  I listened to several favorites (Diana Waring, Todd Wilson) and met a few new faces (Cyndi Kinney, Barb Shelton).  Of course, I stopped by my favorite - YWAM to get the new titles to add to my collection of Christian Heroes books.  These have been my all time favorite find at a homeschool convention, you should have seen my poor husband's face when I bought the entire set our 2nd year! 

I think every homeschooling parent should plan an escape to a convention nearby.  You will come away renewed and recommitted to your calling.  Plus, it's great girlfriend time!

The hard part... jumping back into reality and school the next morning..