Thursday, June 27, 2013

Moving Beyond the Page: A TOS Crew Review

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Moving Beyond the Page

The Bentz Test Laboratory was delighted to take a peek at two units from Moving Beyond the Page.  I had heard many wonderful things about this curriculum, and we were not disappointed. 
Read more about their educational philosophy here. 

Geography and Landforms  - Cost $19.99 
Or as a Complete Package - $51.93 includes: Geography and Landforms,
The Geography Book: Activities for Exploring, Mapping, and Enjoying Your World
by Caroline Arnold & Geography of the World: The Essential Family Guide to Geography and Culture by Jayne Parsons
Age 10-12: Concept 1 - Environment and Cycles: Unit 2
"The landscape of our planet includes soaring mountains, winding rivers, deep canyons, and islands scattered across expansive seas. Learn about the forces that create and transform these geographical wonders. Discover how humans are influenced by the geography that surrounds them and how they, in turn, have an impact on the physical features of their environments. Take a close look at the landforms and geography of South America, North America and your own backyard. "

My testers are HUGE geography fans.  Right off, we were impressed by the additional resources we received.  The Geography of the World book is sure to be a family favorite!   Moving Beyond the Page is not your standard fill-in-the-blank or textbook type of curriculum.  It is integrated to include science, social studies and language arts.  You only need to add your favorite math and some exercise to have a complete curriculum.

 The curriculum is easy to get started with.  Stuff you Need, Ideas to Think About and Things to Know are outlined clearly at the beginning of each lesson. The 9 lessons and a Final Project should cover about 40 days of instruction.  However, you can customize to use this either as a full curriculum, or a supplement.  Students are encouraged to work independently through this guide (provided that they are reading at a 6th-7th grade level for this 10-12 curriculum).

There are some comprehension questions to complete after reading, vocabulary and optional activities as well.  Here's where it gets fun!  This curriculum, designed with the gifted student in mind, moves off the page and into hands-on, experiential learning. 

 In lesson one, my tester constructed a balloon globe, drew the continents and we discussed how earth looks from space.  In addition to the activity suggestions, each lesson includes internet links to visit as well.

The Geography Book (a companion resource) was filled with excellent learning activities - most using common household items.

Notice the smile... we are having fun and learning at the same time.  In the summer, no less!

The Prince and the Bard  - Online Unit $22.93    
Age 11-13: Concept 2 - Semester 2: Unit 3
 "An online version of Moving Beyond the Page provides more than just convenient access to the same quality curriculum; it also enables more direct access to online resources"

"In this unit, you will be introduced to three classic works of literature; the book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and two of William Shakespeare's plays. In the plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet, and in the book, you will discover common themes of love and friendship, and persuasion."
Next to Geography... Shakespeare is a current interest at Bentz Test Laboratory.  The Online version of this unit was easy to access and use.  3 classic books were introduced and analyzed.  This literature unit includes easy to download PDF files for all the Student Activity Pages, Reading Comprehension, plus a very "Handy Guide to Writing and Grammar ." The online resources are just a click away  - one of our favorites was a website full of Shakespearean recipes. 

In addition to reading the literature - many higher level activities were included. Composing persuasive essays, recognizing and using parentheses and brackets (I've always wondered how to do this correctly), and distinguishing between fact and opinion in oral presentations and media messages.

Once again, the learning moved off the page - and into real life.  Our favorite activity had to be going to see an actual Shakespeare performance!  This curriculum taught us the difference between the comedy and tragedy in the writings of the Great Bard by studying A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet .  We were delighted to attend a performance of King Lear - although not specifically covered in our lessons - we learned so much we were able to apply our learning to another work of Shakespeare effectively.

The only drawback to the online version - you only have access for 3 months.  I do prefer the printed version for that reason,  I like to have the resource available whenever we want to access it.

  This is just the kind of learning we love.   Moving Beyond the Page offers numerous units to choose from, in a variety of levels.  You can coordinate entire year packages, by age or interest.  I know we will be exploring this further - and you should too! 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Baker Publishing Group: A TOS Crew Review

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Baker Publishing Group: Life with Lily  and A New Home for Lily

From their website:

Baker Publishing Group- We publish high-quality writings that represent historic Christianity and serve the diverse interests and concerns of evangelical readers."

Life with Lily  -
 photo lifewithlily_zpsc0af8377.jpg"Every day is a new adventure! On a small Amish farm in upstate New York, young Lily Lapp has plenty to do and plenty of people to love. But changes are coming—including a new baby brother, a new teacher at school, and new ways of looking at the world. Lily’s growing up Amish, and there’s always a lot to learn—if only Lily can stay out of trouble!"  For ages 8-12.

Cost: $12.99 (available in E book format too!) - Want to read an excerpt from Life with Lily?

A New Home for Lily -
"New town, new house, new friends—and always lots of fun!
 photo anewhomeforlily_zps899a6825.jpgLily Lapp is moving with her family to Pennsylvania to join a new Amish community. In this small town, Lily has to get used to a new school, new friends, and Aaron Yoder, the most annoying boy in the world! But some changes are good, like exploring an attic full of adventure and getting a new baby brother. Still Lily wonders, why can’t God bring her just one sister?" For ages 8-12.

Cost: $12.99 (available in E book format too!) Want to read from excerpt of A New Home for Lily?

The testers at Bentz Test Laboratory LOVED these books.  My 10 year old, and 8 year old daughters would not put them down!

 It's extremely difficult in today's world to find good, wholesome - but, entertaining books for our children.  Baker Publishing has supplied our need with The Adventures of Lily Lapp.  This series (this age group loves a series to follow...) introduces you to Lily, an young Amish girl.

The books follow  her through her days and adventures.  My girls could relate to her family situations - new baby, moving, school and more.  Plus, they were able to learn about the Amish lifestyle.  Now, both of them want to be Amish...  that's the power of literature!  My reason for wanting to make sure that they have good literature to read - they are going to want to become what they read about. 

Lily has also sparked an interest to learn more about everything Amish.  On a recent road trip, we saw a Amish buggy at the rest area, they were selling homemade (and very beautiful) baskets.  My girls were literally, squealing with delight!  Now that they have met Lily, they are fans of anything Amish.

The books are easy to read.  Each chapter is short and tells another story of Lily's days.  I think they were appropriate reading level for my 10 year old, and a bit more challenging for my 8 year old.  They would make excellent family read alouds as well. The girls have been talking so excitedly about them - a couple of other testers are waiting their turn to read them too.

You can have even more fun with Lily by visiting her website.  You can find more about the books and authors, play games,  try new recipes, meet Lily's family, ask Lily quests and much more.  This is a fabulous resource to engage my girls new interest.

The new titles were instantly put on everyone's wishlist.  Two more books in the series will be released soon: A Big Year for Lily (July 2013) and A Surprise for Lily (September 2013).

Great books - you will want to add these to your collection!
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Monday, June 17, 2013

God of the Untouchables - Getting Ready for India

My son and I are going to India this fall!  Recently, we both read this book - God of the Untouchables, by Dave Hunt and had to write a review as part of our "homework".  My son is much better at book reports - read his here.  (I'm a little out of practice).  This is an amazing book!

 My Review of God of the Untouchables by Dave Hunt

 God of the Untouchables  is a story of faith, courage and redemption’s power.  This is the story of Paul Gupta, a former High-Caste Hindu.   Paul’s early life was completely immersed in Hinduism.  His family was successful, yet he felt something missing.  During his teens and college years, Paul steals from his family.  Condemned by his sin, he searched for forgiveness, meaning, and redemption.  His Hindu upbringing did not offer an answer to his sin.  One day he heard a Christian missionary telling of Jesus’ forgiveness and cleansing of his sin.  He became a follower of Christ.

His conversion to Christianity came with great personal cost.  He was disowned by his family and friends, and left to find his own way at a young age.   His search for the truth led him to be fully immersed in baptism.  Even this step of obedience to Christ, only caused more human separation for Paul.  He was determined to follow Jesus, and Jesus only – regardless of the cost.

Eventually, through many trials, Paul is led to start the Hindustan Bible Institute and follow the call to train more Indians to reach the many desperate to hear the good news.   Paul is taught to rely on God’s provision for each and every step. He travels to the US to raise support, marries, has children – loses a child, and returns to India to face more hurdles there.  (The cobras dropping at his feet would have done me in…) His vision remained fixed on following Jesus.  His story of courage and perseverance is very inspiring. 

A favorite part of this story, is when Paul is reconciled to his brother – even baptizing him into new life!  The redemptive power and provision of God are central themes in this MUST READ book. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Memoria Press - Geography I: A TOS Crew Review

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Memoria Press - Geography I  - The Middle East, North Africa, and Europe
From their website:
"Geography of  the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe covers the area that constituted the ancient Roman Empire. Each region is explored in its historical context in “History’s Headlines,” as well as in the present in “Tour of Today.” Your student will learn countries and capitals of today and relate them to the ancient lands of the Greeks and Romans, deepening his understanding of both the past and the present."  Grades 4-8.

  Geography I Text Sample

Cost  - Fourth Grade Geography Set - $48.00 (may be purchased indivually)
  • Geography I Text - $14.95
  • Geography I Workbook - $11.95
  • Geography I Teacher Guide - $12.95
  • United States Review Student - $5.00
  • United States Review Key, Quizes, and Tests - 7.95

The United States- Review of States & Capitals
"This study guide will help students retain the knowledge they gained in their study of States & Capitals by reviewing each region of the U.S. four times throughout the school year. This review takes very little time and makes a great companion to Geography I: The Middle East, North Africa, and Europe."

The Bentz Test Laboratory is way into geography this year! (Can I brag a little... my testers finished 1 & 2 at our County Geography Bee, and my winning son qualified as a state competitor of the National Geographic Bee - shameless bragging... I'm sorry!)  Back to the review. 

We are familiar with Memoria Press (We have used their excellent Prima Latina program  - check out what the other reviewers thought of it)  This was our first peek at their Geography 1 package. 

Geography 1 covers the Middle East, North Africa & Europe - basically any ground previously ruled by the Roman Empire!   The goal of this curriculum is for "students to master the identification of each country on a map".  Each country is introduced, basic information included in the "Fast Facts" section.  Additionally, "History Headlines", "Tours of Today", and other interesting items to note are included for each country.  The goal is not to study this area in depth, but - to master the locations on a map. After reading the information, the student completes a page in the Student Workbook, and a mapping exercise. Quizzes and Tests are included in the Teacher Guide

With that clearly explained, the Student Text and Student Workbook accomplishes this goal.  My testers reviewed 3 countries a week.  What a great way to introduce them to this IMPORTANT area of the world!  I am appalled at the general state of geographic illiteracy in our world today.  I feel, it is a duty of Christians to know world geography if they wish to raise children to go change the world for Christ!  (just a note from my personal soapbox...) 

This is a very easy, useful and straight forward way to begin encouraging your children to become geographically literate.   The short paragraphs include many interesting facts that will inspire your children to want to dig deeper.  My tester's favorite section was the full color flags included at the end.  The maps are large enough for easy labeling.  We added some prayer time to each lesson - praying for each country as we studied it. (not an official part of the curriculum, just something we do every time we study a country).   

The Teacher's Guide includes all the Student Workbook pages with answers.  Nice for mom, who needs to spend more time becoming geographically literate herself...

The United States Supplement concentrates on learning State & Capitals (a summer goal for us).  The United States is split into 8 regions to study.  Student identify the state on a blank map in Section 1, and match each capital to it's correct state in Section 2.  In Section 3 - the student names the state when given the capital.  Finally, Section 4 asks them to identity state & capital using the numbers on the maps. Memoria Press recommends spending about 8 weeks on each section (covering each region a total of 4 times).  Tests & Exams are included.

My testers plan to take the Student Workbook with on our family vacation this summer, and see how many of the states we travel through. Bonus points for the correct capital!  (we love to play the license plate game on road trips, how about you?)

This is an affordable program, easy to do, and really helps create awareness of the world map! 


Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

American Girl - Kirsten's final Meeting

Our American Girl year has come to and end...  Kirsten's final project - soap whittling.  After some discussion, we decided that the girls weren't ready for real knives and wood whittling, so we did the next best thing - good, old ivory soap!

This is what our sample looked like...pretty impressive (no, I didn't do this one!  I was with the MCA - planning a future "big thing" for them to attempt)

 Tools of the trade, and the "leftovers". 

A couple of the finished projects from one of my daughters - I think she was attempting a fish and bear? 
Several lessons we learned - this is a lot harder than it looks!  Plus, your floors will be clean once you mop up all those soap shavings.  (did I mention how glad I am it wasn't at my house this time...)
Stay tuned - it looks like changes are underway for our American Girls next year!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Christianity Cove: A TOS Crew Review

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From their website:

"Christianity Cove - with over 700 free Sunday School lesson articles on our blog, and 26 best-selling resources in our library of products, we’ve helped thousands of teachers around the world revitalize their Children’s Ministry programs and fill their classrooms with eager students.”

 100 Simple Service Projects – ideas for kids in grades k-6 to promote a giving spirit. Cost: $19.95

KidMin Power Pack -  19 lesson plans, games, songs, science experiments, service projects and crafts (month specific)  Cost: $19.99

Are you fresh out of ideas, and time?  I have an amazing resource to introduce you to: "Christianity Cove is your one-stop-shop for free Sunday School lessons, Bible games, crafts, skits and activities for Children's Church. Our blog features hundreds of fresh, fun, and creative ideas for helping your students understand the Bible and relate it to their own lives."

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The Bentz Test Laboratory reviewed 2 of their downloadable e-books.  100 Simple Service Projects  & KidMin Power Pack - May.

100 Simple Service Projects covers topics like - Service to the Family, Service to the Neighborhood, Service to the Community, Service to Larger Charities in America and Overseas.  In addition, they offer a list of "Best Known, Well Rated & Easiest Fundraising Instructions" as well as instructions for "Kids who want to start their own charity". n

I love the ideas presented in this ebook!  Starting with your home and family, you will find so many well-thought service ideas.  Yes, kids can change the world!  This is a message we have embraced in our homeschool.  Now, I am armed with plenty more ideas, and the research has all been done for me.

We started with our very own "Help a Sibling Day" - using a surprise coupon for completing another sibling's chore.  I thought this could help with some of the issues we've been dealing with.  It was a hit!  Intentionally looking to bless your sibling, really helped decrease the squabbling.

Moving on our neighborhood - we choose to make cookies for our new neighbor.  Hey, this is getting fun...looking for ways to bless those around us...

When we got to our community step - we had lots to choose from.  Elderly, children, animals, the environment, wildlife and community shelters.  We read through the many great ideas and settled on helping our community by adopting the park and picking up trash whenever we are there.  My children have gotten very conscious of the trash, and keeping this area clean for others!

We also took the suggestions of a "book drive" to a larger scale and donated our unsold homeschool curriculum from our Curious Kids Consignment Sale (a fundraiser for our mission trip to India in the fall)  to the homeschoolers devastated by the Oklahoma tornadoes - 13 boxes full!!

On to Large Charities and Overseas section.  The ebook featured 18 charities that are well known and respected that you can get involved with.  Compassion International has long been a favorite of our family., we were introduced to several new ones as well.

This E-book will provide you with numerous ideas to get your children focused on serving.  They begin to be blessed by becoming the blessing!
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KidMin Power Pack - A Month-by-Month Ebook.  All the ideas and activities can easily be adapted for big groups, small groups, young kids, older kids, and mixed ages.

We got a chance to see - May 2013 edition.   It was filled with object lessons, crafts, games, science experiments, fundraising projects,  snacks and songs for several special days.  Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Ascension Sunday and Pentecost.  Also included, special ideas for May Flowers , Springtime Charities and Ideas to celebrate National Nurse's Week.

One of my favorite parts - the "Kids in the News".  This issue featured an American pastor that is imprisoned in Iraq, and an article about a Two-headed Lamb born in Ghana.

We completely enjoyed this Power Pack!  Starting with the Ascension of Jesus - including a 15 min. Youtube link for the "Real Face of Jesus" discussing the Shroud of Turin (which we had studied in history this year!), the ideas presented were engaging and relevant.  This wasn't the "same old stuff" - it was new, and fresh ideas!

If you are the teacher of children...this is a VALUABLE monthly resource.  The suggestions are easy to do, timely,  and your children will love them.  They even guarantee it.  Plus - you can try it out for just $1 the first month! (Your initial charge today will be just $1 for the current month's edition. After your first month, you will then be charged $19.99/month to continue to receive the latest monthly editions of the KidMin Power Pack. Your subscription will continue for as long as you like. You can cancel your subscription to the KidMin Power Pack at any time.)

You will want to see some of the other treasures the TOS Crew discovered... Outstanding Object LessonsBible Science Experiments , Daily Dilemmas: 26 True-to-Life Devotions for Kids
Freedom Ride: 12 Lessons of Faith for Today's Teens , "Tween a Rock and a Hard Place" Lesson Blueprints, Bullying & the Bible Lesson PlansBible Memory Games, The Divine Dozen: 12 Parables of Jesus Every Child Should Know , Make & Take Bible Crafts ,
New Testament Life Lessons  ,Fruits of the Spirit Activity Kit ,10 Commandments Activity Kit , & Lord's Prayer Lesson Pack

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Let's Make a Web Page by Motherboard Books: A TOS Crew Review

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Let's Make a Web Page by Motherboard Books

From their website:
Let's Make a Web Page is a 60-page e-book intended as a short-term homeschool project for kids 8 and up.
- Kids younger than 10 will need an adult alongside. No expertise required.
- Parents download a free trial version of CoffeeCup software.
- Software is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, and later (not Mac).
- Instructions for the parent include Internet safety and uploading to the Internet.
- Tone encourages experimenting and creativity."

Cost: $19.95
The Bentz Test Laboratory is excited to learn anything new that has to do with using and understanding technology.  I bet your children are too!
 Let's Make a Web Page by Motherboard Books is just the introduction we were looking for.  This PDF e-book walks you through creating a web page, step-by-step.  Designed for ages 8 and up. 
We chose to create our web page together - my tester and I.  The 10 Lessons of  Let's Make a Web Page  walked us through creating a web page start to finish.   We began with an "interview".  My son decided to do his interview with our missions pastor.  (We are going to India this fall, and this is someone who planted the seed in my son!). 
First, we had to install a free version of CoffeeCup Virtual Site Designer (a free online tool for web page design that writes the HTML code).    Lesson by lesson -  we added our text, photos, backgrounds, animations, sound and links.  He loved adding the animations of spinning globes, and both of our blog links!

 Phyllis Wheeler, the author - speaks directly to you in a very conversational tone.  It was like having our own personal tutor.   The final lesson included information on how to load your page to the internet (but, since we didn't want to pay for hosting... we opted not to upload our page) or to create your new web page as your "home page" - and it will pop up every time you open your browser!

The lessons were extremely easy to follow along.  Screen shots are included, so that you can see exactly what to expect. Occasionally, we didn't see what we thought we would be seeing on our screen (but, that was due to CoffeeCup - and not the lesson).   Internet safety is stressed throughout, and I would feel completely comfortable allowing my child to work through this independently. 
This is a fast, and easy introduction to the web page world.  I must admit, I learned quite a few things myself.  It's affordable price makes is a must-have.  Armed with some of the basics, my son is ready to explore the world of web pages - and is working on another one right now!
Other members of the TOS Review Crew looked at another Motherboard Books product called - Logo Adventures,  you should check it out.   For more resources, visit their webpage  (tons of great suggestions there)

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Front Row Seat to See God Work!

My son and I are going to India this fall on a mission trip.  We need to raise our financial support.  We know we are being called to go, and we know our God is able to provide for all our needs. 

Shortly after announcing our plans to go, a couple of dear friends OFFERED to help us with our fundraising efforts.  The Curious Kids Consignment Sale was born!  I have long thought that the "consignment" model for children's clothing would work with well with homeschool curriculum too.


My dear friends - amazingly talented, dedicated and giving SUPER WOMEN,  helped take my tiny seed of an idea and turn it into a fundraising event.

We began planning about 10 weeks ago.  Curious Kids Consignment Sale was held last week.  We had 39 consignors, over $13,000 worth of merchandise.  We also had 12 wonderful Vendors to shop from (things like custom jewelry, family counseling, cosmetics, food and more!). 

God was with us every step of the way - even providing for the details like the teal tablecloths (to match the logo)  and donated  custom-decorated shopping bags for the customers. (check out to get your own).  We each used the gifts we had been given... and the result was more than we could have imagined on our own.


The night before the sale opened, we held a "Girl's Night Out Preshop Event" as a way to reward our volunteers.  We had live music, appetizers and snacks, and door prizes.  Our children caught our excitement, and were a HUGE part of making the event a success! 

My daughter created "mug rugs" and bookmarks to sell.  Another dear friend, who dreams of going to India someday herself,  was our official donation station with her "Give your Change to Make a Change" message.  To see their hearts, and hands, so eager was a blessing for everyone near them!
Satan did his best attack our efforts (a sure sign something great is waiting for us in India!)  We actually had to spend the end of the evening in our church's hallway until the tornado warning was lifted.  Praise God - everyone was safe.  It certainly made for a memorable kick-off...

The two days of our sale could not have had worse weather - tornado warnings, flash flooding, torrential downpours.  BUT,  God is greater than all of this! 

Our tiny seed of an idea grew into a way to bless our community, and beyond.  We were able to match the supply with the demand for affordable homeschooling curriculum.  We made new friends.  We donated boxes of unsold curriculum to those devastated by the OK tornados (both for homeschoolers and schools in the area)  And, we raised above and beyond what we had hoped for the India Mission Team!

I love having a front row seat to watch what God is doing.  We took what we had, brought it to God, and he multiplied and blessed it.  Miracles are happening all around.  Please be encouraged to take that seed of an idea to God, and he will GROW it.

I'm already looking forward to next year!!