Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If You've Wanted to Subscribe, Now's the Time!

I recently shared how much The Old Schoolhouse has been a part of our homeschooling years as well as how much I love their various products.  Now I'm excited to tell you about how you can start receiving their AMAZING magazine for an unbelievable price.  (And I'm not just saying that because I'm receiving their Expo-to-Go MP3's for telling you about this deal.  I really, really LOVE this magazine and have been a subscriber for a while now!)

The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is extending an extraordinary subscription offer to homeschool families.  Receive a one-year print subscription for just $7.95 or a one-year plus current issue subscription for $12.95. One-year subscriptions start with the winter issue. The one-year plus current issue starts with the fall issue. Only 5000 of these special subscriptions are available from August 31 through midnight on September 15. Once the 5000 are gone, they'’re gone!  Hurry and grab this crazy price today!

Reveiw of 'My Access Writing'

Having a new high schooler in our home, writing is an important subject for our family to really start putting emphasis on.  I earned straight A's all through high school and graduated as Valedictorian of my high school class. 

However, I received a huge slap of reality when I entered my first college English class and had to write a paper about the influence the media has on our culture.  Easy peasy.  Or so I thought.  Imagine my surprise when my paper was handed back to me with a big, fat, red 'D' on it!  Um, obviously I had no idea how to properly write a paper and even more obvious was that this professor obviously had not read the reports that said using red ink to grade student's papers makes the student feel intimidated and unintelligent!  That 'D' was a hard reality for me.  (I'm sure I would have felt better about it had it been a big, fat PURPLE 'D'.) I thought, "Now what?  This professor isn't going to teach me how to write, I'm supposed to already know!"  How was I going to learn all there was to know about proper writing with no teacher and in enough time to not fail my class?!  The Internet, a.k.a. where you can learn anything(!), was not available then.  Why hadn't we been taught this in high school.  Wasn't that why we were there?

I don't know how I did it, but I did pass that class.  Although I don't believe I came out of it with an 'A'. 

I want better for my children.  I want them to leave their high school years knowing, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they can confidentially write any kind of paper that may be required of them whether it be a college paper, something required at their job, or just a simple thank you note.  I still struggle every new school year when it comes time to send in our Letter of Intent to our local public school superintendent.  Don't want them thinking this homeschool mom is a total ditz because she doesn't even know how to type up a simple letter!

Yet, even with the best of writing curriculums, here's the kicker.  How does one actually 'grade' a student's writing, especially when the one doing the grading may not have the best eye for spotting writing errors?  This is one area where it's really more subjective grading than actual right and wrong.  Sure, spelling and punctuation errors are easy to recognize, but other areas, such as language use, content, and mechanics are much harder to 'grade'.

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew I had the opportunity to review My Access! (home edition) and I must say, I am super excited about it!  This is going to make writing more fun for my children and much more easy on me!

My Access! Writing is a complete on-line writing application that works perfectly with any curriculum.  Purchasing a subscription to My Access! is like getting your very own personal writing instructor who not only teaches your student the proper writing process but who also scores and gives instant feedback on what they write.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a complete writing curriculum but rather a tool to help evaluate your student's writing and give feedback on where they might need some work.  (You can see how this is done here.)

How does it work?  In a nutshell, you set up accounts for each of your students ages 8-18.  There are 96 pre-loaded writing topics for the three different age levels (8-10, 11-14, and 15-18) or, you as the teacher may input your own topic you would like your student to write about.  You assign what topic(s) the student is to work on.  (You can also set up goals and reward incentives if you like as well as view, print out, or even email the student's progress reports weekly or monthly to whomever you would like.)

The student types in their assignment and it is instantly reviewed and scored while helpful feedback is given to help improve their writing.  At any time you can instantly look and see the student's overall progress with their writing.  They will either be listed as proficient, below proficient, or adv. proficient.

I truly am impressed with My Access! Writing by Vantage Learning and plan on using it throughout this school year, possibly longer, to help make sure Baby Girl is progressing in her writing.  Writing has always been hard for me to critique and grade, but not any more!  But instead of using the pre-listed writing topics I plan on putting in and assigning my own topics based on the things she is required to write for her English lessons.  I love that I can do this and it will still critique her work!

If you are interested in My Access! you can learn more about it here.  A 12-month subscription is $99.95, which I was put off by at first but the more I think about it and the more I use it the more I believe it might just be worth it if it frees me up to do other teaching while also subjectively critiquing my children's writing.  I'm sure I have spent at least that much over the years on different writing curriculum, not having found anything yet that can do what My Access! can do for me.

Find out what other Crew members think of My Access!

 *As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it.  As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews are honest and contain only my own true opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Monday, August 30, 2010

What We're Using This School Year

Even though we are now in our ninth year of homeschooling I am still always interested to read about what other homeschooling families are using in their homes to teach their children.  So I thought I would share what we will be using this year with you!

For our 9th grader:

*Math- Life of Fred Pre-Algebra with Biology, Pre-Algebra with Economics, and Beginning Algebra (she should be able to finish all 3 of these books within this school year, if not, no big deal).

*History/English/Bible- Exploring America by Notgrass along with Queen's Language Lessons for extra grammar review.

*Latin- Getting Started with Latin, Latin from the Roots Up (with her younger siblings), possibly Rosetta Stone the 2nd semester.

*Health & P.E.- What Every Girl Should Know, daily walking with mom or some other form of exercise, sitting in on weekly Weight Watcher meetings (and taking notes) to learn about healthy living, getting her CPR and First Aid Certification, and possibly some other health-type reading book for the second semester(haven't found just the right one yet).

*Typing- Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (yes, I'm embarrassed to say that we've had this for years but I haven't made her do it.  Unfortunately, she has now taught herself how to type her own way and will have to re-learn the correct way.  Because of this, all four children will be learning to type this year. LOL)

For our 5th, 4th, and 3rd graders:

*Math- (5th grader) finish up Life of Fred fractions and move on to Life of Fred Decimals & Percents; (4th grader) finish up Math U See Delta and move on to Life of Fred fractions; (3rd grader) finish up Math U See Beta and move on to Math U See Gamma.

*Queen's Language Lessons

*History- we simply read from a variety of different books, use Time Travelers (LOVE these!), and make timeline notebooks.

*Science- again, we have so many different science resources that we use a variety to read from and do fun experiments, as well as our weekly nature walks/observations/journaling.

*Geography- Around the World in 180 Days as well as other books, maps, and globes.

*Latin- Getting Started with Latin, English from the Roots Up

*Handwriting practice (Handwriting Without Tears is what we have always used) will be in the form of copywork/copying scriptures to memorize.

*Other misc. things we'll be doing together as a family over the school year are weekly nature walks/journaling/picture taking, famous composer and artist studies, reading poetry, and at some point I want to find a Shakespeare play to take them to. Before we attend the play we will read about it (so we can understand what we'll be watching) from Tales from Shakespeare. Each child will also be reading a list of classic children's literature books. I'm using the lists from the Simply Charlotte Mason site.

I'd love to hear what you are using this year!  Leave a comment telling us, or, if you have a blog post about it, please share the link to it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Celebrate Homeschooling at the Schoolhouse Expo!

It's back to homeschool time and registration is open for the online Schoolhouse Expo, October 4-8. It's five days of top homeschool speakers, fellowship, and fun door prizes.

Save $5 per ticket! Register between August 16 and midnight August 22, and you'll pay only $19.99. Plus you'll receive over $200 in free E-Books.

You'll be inspired by speakers including: Zan Tyler, Dr. Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright,Carol Barnier, Diana Waring, Todd Wilson, Davis Carman, Kim Kautzer, Lee Binz, and many more!

A special teen track is planned--the entire family will definitely want to listen to these special sessions. We've also planned a special focus on a topic that touches every homeschool--writing. Plus, an array of other topics that will inform and inspire you throughout your homeschooling years.

Don't forget, MP3 copies of each session comes with your LIVE event ticket.

Two special preconference shows on August 24 and September 21 with Dr. Jay Wile, Jeannie Fulbright, and Kim Kautzer!

Register starting 12:01 a.m. on Monday, August 16.

The theme this fall is "Celebrate Homeschooling!" We're going to celebrate the unique blessings of homeschooling, the beginning of another school year, our families, and the freedom to tailor our children's education to best meet their needs.

If you cannot make the Live event, then the October Expo To Go is just your ticket! You'll reserve MP3s from all of the workshops. This week only, pay just $14.95!

You can visit here or here to get more information.

(Disclaimer:  I am a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew and am receiving free Expo-To-Go tickets in exchange for this blog post.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Planner Review

I started out blogging over at HomeschoolBlogger several years ago.  (You can start your own blog there as well).  For a while, I worked for TOS in advertising under the now famous MoneySavingMom, Crystal Paine (she's awesome!).  I have ordered from the Old Schoolhouse Store, enjoying their always-free-shipping, and am now enjoying my first look at their new Download & Go products with their free Expedition Mexico unit download.  (We will most definitely be purchasing more of these weekly units!)

In addition, I recently joined the TOS Homeschool Crew as a product reviewer and am thoroughly enjoying my time getting to know new friends as well as share this adventure with 'old' friends whom I have discovered are on the crew as well.  I have had the privilege to begin using and reviewing several different homeschool products for free and am thinking this is a pretty cool gig!  LOL.

My latest product I have had the honor of reviewing is the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner from TOS.  I have looked at this planner since I first saw the 2009 edition last year.  (The planner actually first came out in 2008 but I wasn't aware of it then).  I was very intrigued by it, but always found something else to spend my school money on.  You know how us moms are.  Nobody can talk us out of buying something for ourselves like we can!  The kids (or our hubbys) always need something more than we need whatever it is we're looking at for ourselves.  That's why homeschool moms always have the most interesting Christmas wish lists... books, curriculum, microscope, blue-jean jumper.  If others buy these things for us we can't talk ourselves out of them!

But I am a planner at heart.  I love, love, LOVE making out plans for the new school year.  I have to have a calender hanging up at all times.  I never go to the grocery store without a menu for the week along with a grocery list made directly from that menu.  So I found myself going back to the TOS planner over and over, looking it over, reading the description about it, pondering over other's reviews of it (all of which were good).  Yet I still wouldn't allow myself to spend the money on something for me.  I could make up some kind of scheduling form on my own, right?  I could print out my own calendars, couldn't I?  The kids could use some more notebooks and cute little boxes to hold all their stuff in more than I needed that planner.  If I had extra money to spend maybe we should do a unit study on clouds instead of me buying something for myself.  I've always wanted to do a study on clouds.

You see, this is how I always talk myself out of spending any money on myself.  I keep at it until I've talked myself right out of everything!  (Maybe that's why I now have no clothes that I actually feel good in.  But THAT'S a whole 'nother post!)

Can you imagine my excitement when I found out I was actually going to get to REVIEW the TOS 2010 Schoolhouse Planner for FREE?!  (In exchange for my honest opinion of it of course.  LOL!)  I was SO excited!  I emailed my hubby at work and he was happy for me (for what, he had no idea!).  I told my mom and the kids... all of which thought I had finally lost it completely.

As soon as the planner was downloaded I dove into it with eager anticipation... until I discovered it was 614 pages long!!  WHAT?  Are you KIDDING me?  I didn't know whether to be ecstatic or scared.  I never ever expected to see that many pages in a planner!  What in the world was included in this thing?  I knew right then that I could have NEVER come up with anything even close to this on my own.  Not in the remaining 10 years I have left of homeschooling!  Who has the time?!

Moms, let me tell you, this thing is LOADED with information that would take you MONTHS, possibly even YEARS to find and put together.  Obviously there are planners and calendars, and forms (oh my!) out the wazoo, but did you know there are also articles, and stories, and resource lists, and recipes, and so much more that I can't even begin to tell you about?  You can either choose to print out the forms/calendars/planners you want to use OR simply type in your information right into the form and keep everything right on your computer or print it all out nice and neat.  I tell ya', those TOS people are so smart!

Each month, July 2010-June 2011, is laid out with articles, charts, tips, activity ideas, links, and resource lists all related to a common theme.  These themes range from Bible study tips, creative writing, and reading the classics to 'super' foods, computer literacy, and critical thinking.  Interspersed are also articles on avoiding homeschool burn-out, making your own gluten- and dairy-free foods as well as non-toxic cleaners, and nature walks!  Writers of these articles include people like Heidi St. John, Amy Pack, Molly Green, Jeannie Fulbright, Amanda Bennett, Karen Andreola, and my all-time favorite, Jane Lambert!  It's really not fair to think of this as a planner because it is SO much more!  Not only can you plan anything and everything regarding your homeschooling but you can also sit and enjoy reading some really great articles, be encouraged by fellow homeschoolers, cook up something new, learn some new things yourself, and because there is so much information included (science, history, geograhpy, Bible, math), you can use this 'planner' to teach your children many different topics!

Listen, I know it may sound like I'm going overboard on the praise here because I'm trying to convince you to buy one but I promise you that's not how I work.  If I don't like something I'll tell you.  I'm all for saving pennies and not wasting time, money, nor energy on things that aren't going to make our lives better or easier.  So if I tell you something is amazing and well worth your money, you can take it to the bank!  (Or, take it FROM the bank, however you choose to look at it.)

One change we are making to our homeschool this year is we will be attempting to follow a more Charlotte Mason approach.  I was so thrilled to see the section devoted to different types of homeschooling, which included CM, along with lots of helpful information and links.  I would have never known about several of these places had it not been for this planner.

Following Miss Mason's approach, we will be doing artist and composer studies this year.  Guess what is included in the 2010 TOS Schoolhouse Planner?  Yep.  You guessed it.  Information lists on famous composers, artists, and time periods concerning both throughout history!  And guess who hasn't had time to gather that kind of pertinent information yet?  Yep, right again.  ME!  Can you say 'divine intervention'?  You truly don't know what a blessing being able to review this planner has been to me.  I honestly mean that with all my heart.  Oh, and remember how I mentioned above that I've always wanted to do a study on clouds?  You're never going to believe this, but I just discovered that there is also a 'Cloud Types' article included in the planner!  That was totally unplanned on my part.  I really HAVE wanted the kids and I to learn about all the different types of clouds and what they mean.  Me and this planner?  Meant to be.

My oldest daughter will be starting high school this fall and I wasn't exactly sure how to keep track of all the different things she'll be doing.  Now I don't have to worry about it because there is a high school transcript in the planner as well as forms to track grades, books read, activities participated in, volunteer time, and everything else that I'll need to keep track of but hadn't thought of or come up with a way to do so yet.  (And what perfect timing considering we'll be starting our new school year next Monday!  Nothing like procrastination.)

Then I have three younger children whom I don't record grades for yet (however, if you do there are plenty of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly records for this as well as standardized testing forms) but I do like to keep track of the unit studies we do, the field trips we go on, projects we do, movies we watch and books we read.  Guess what?  All of this is covered in the 2010 planner as well!  I'll never have to try to come up with another form as long as I homeschool!

In addition to all the helpful life-saving homeschool helps, forms, planners, and calendars, the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner also has an abundance of household forms and planners as well.  From menu planners to medical information forms, babysitting info sheets, cleaning checklists, chore charts, household and vehicle maintenance checklists, gardening planners and checklists, personal property inventory sheets for insurance purposes, and so much more.  I simply can't tell you the wealth of information that is included in this planner.  (But surely knowing that it's 614 pages long should give you some idea!)

One of my favorite parts of the 2010 Planner are the recipes.  I have been stuck in a menu-planning rut for quite some time and couldn't seem to come up with any new, yet easy and yummy, recipes that I thought my family would enjoy.  Not a problem now.  There are so many included in this planner, seven per month which comes to a total of 84 recipes(!), that I can't wait to try out on the fam!  I really think they're going to love them.  (For those who may be interested, there are also gluten-free recipes.  How awesome is that?)

I so desperately wanted to include personal pictures in this review, showing you just how I am using the planner in our home, but there was so much to take in that I simply didn't have time... YET!  Oh yes my friends.  You can count on there being updates to this review, complete with plenty of pictures and testimonies of how this planner is saving my life!  Ok, maybe that's a bit extreme.  But I know it's at least going to help save my sanity and for that I thank you TOS.

Anyway, I'm telling you friends.  Take my word for it and seriously consider taking the plunge and purchasing one of these 2010 Planners for yourself.  I wish I would have a long time ago.  If you have been looking at it, thinking about it, contemplating it... trust me.  Just do it!  I promise, you WON'T be sorry!  For a mere $39.00 you will save so much time and energy using what the great people at TOS have already put together for you. 

Do this for yourself.  You deserve it and so does your family.  Think of it this way, you're really spending that $39 not only on yourself but on your family as well.  Having a calmer, more organized mom with more time to spend on the important things rather than trying to come up with all of this on her own is truly such a blessing to all members of the family.  You'd spend $39 (or more) taking them out to eat wouldn't you?  (Ok, so maybe on a special occasion you would.  A trip to McDonald's for our family is around $28-$30!)  Just think how much longer this will actually last and bless you and your family.  I plan on using this and reading through the articles and information over the course of the whole school year.  That averages out to a mere $3.25 a month!  Now seriously, who can't afford to spend $3.25 on themselves?!

Go here to read more about what all is included in the 2010 TOS Schoolhouse Planner, including information on some of the monthly articles which I think are one of the best parts.  It lists so much more of what's included than what I have here.  I guarantee you're going to be surprised!

You can purchase the downloadable version of the planner for $39 here or, if you prefer, you can purchase the 2010 TOS Homeschool Planner on CD here for $44.  And have you seen the monthly modules that compliment the TOS planner?  Here's a good look at the set that goes along with last year's planner.  (I recently reviewed the June 2010 module.)  You can learn more about and purchase them here.

 *As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it.  As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews are honest and contain only my own true opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My First... GREEN Shake?

I've been reading about these 'green shakes' people have been concocting and drinking for about a year or so now and while my interest was peaked, I must admit, I wasn't too excited to jump on this bandwagon.  You see, I'm not a very big veggie lover.  Oh, I do like some... potatoes (mashed and swimming in butter), corn (on the cob and also swimming in butter), peas (ever ate those cooked in butter?), carrots (cooked only!), iceberg lettuce (along with lots of other things in my salad to cover up the taste)... you get the point.

The thing that intrigued me about these shakes is that these people were getting in their green veggies and claiming they couldn't even taste them!  I was very skeptical about that part.  When you've made up your mind that you don't like something you will swear to the death that you can taste that particular item in a recipe!  Yet, the more I read, and the more I kept asking, "Are you SURE you can't taste those green veggies?!" and getting the same overwhelming response, the more I began to think that this just might be THE way for me to get those all-important green veggies in that I've been avoiding for the past 34 years of my life!

So I scoured the internet to find a recipe that I thought I could handle and decided to go with this one.  I mean, come on.  She's a fellow homeschool mom.  I have to support her, right?  Besides, when I read that her number one reason for drinking these green shakes was for ENERGY I knew I had to try them!

So I dug out my blender and got to work, tweaking Crystal's recipe above just a little.  I threw in a banana, some frozen strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, a peeled Granny Smith apple, half of a peeled ornage, and some organic spinach (!) <---- I'm still shocked at myself over that.

When I turned on the blender... nothing happened.  It all just sat there.  Now, I'm sure that has to be due to using my 1972 mustard-yellow blender instead of one of the newer 'heavy duty' ones (which is now going on my Christmas list!), but after I added a little splash of orange juice everything blended up nicely.


Umm, my 'green' shake turned out pink!  My favorite color!  Oh well.  I'm sure that will change as I get brave and up the greens to fruit ratio.

And the result?  It tasted like...


Strawberries!  No yucky spinach taste what-so-EVER!  I even verified this result by having 3 of my 4 kiddo's taste it (the fourth doesn't like strawberries) and they agreed! 

Now, I'm not a big strawberry fan (unless they're dipped in chocolate!), so I'm going to have to play around with the ingredients, but overall I'm very proud of myself!  Never in my life have I eaten spinach, nor that many servings of fruit in one day!  I think this could make getting healthier MUCH easier!  (Believe it or not, I DO really like V-8, so I'd like to find a recipe that would mimic that also.)

So, if you're like me and not a big veggie lover but know you really need to find a way to get them into your diet you just might want to try your own pink, er, I mean, GREEN shake.  I promise, you CAN'T taste the veggies!

(Here's another website that has some good, basic info on green shakes.)

More Quilt Squares, Again

Here are the lastest quilt squares for Fran's family's quilts.  We're so close to being able to start piecing them together!  I can't wait! 

This first one is from Robin in Colorado and represents the FIAR book, Storm in the Night, one of my favorite books.

These next three are from Rachel.  This first one represents the FIAR book, Miss Rumphius, which has always been one of our favorites to read!

Isn't this creative?!  Can you tell that the flowers are seperate material, shaped into flowers and then added to the square?  Very cute!

Awww... sniff sniff.  Fran & Ed forever.

And the next three are from Anjie in PA.  This one is for Ed's quilt.  I love the pink and brown together, and the breast cancer ribbon is such a gentle touch.  Love it.

And this one is for Emma's.  I've got to learn how to piece material together like this!

And this one is for Eden's quilt.  (Pink is my absolute FAVORITE color, so I'm really loving this one!)

And these last three were made by Rachelmn.  This picture simply doesn't do this square justice.  It is so much prettier in real-life.  This one is for Ed's quilt.

This one, for Emma's quilt, represents the FIAR book, The Rag Coat, which, coincidentally, has a little girl who loses a parent.  Sadly, a very fitting story for this quilt square.  I wish you could feel the different textures of the dress.  Awesome job Rachel!

And for Eden's quilt.  This one also has different textures to it as well.  And pink!