Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Heroes of History - Laura Ingalls Wilder - TOS Review

YWAM Publishing offered us several choices from their Heroesof History series of books and our family chose to review Heroes of History – Laura Ingalls Wilder. Heroes of History is a unique biography series that brings history to life with remarkable true stories of fascinating men and women who changed the course of history. In this book, Janet and Geoff Benge write a storybook life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The story begins with Laura at the 1937 Detroit Children’s Book Fair. The place was packed with people who had come to hear her speak and have her autograph their copies of her books. Laura, the family storyteller shares the Ingalls family saga of life on the prairie.

First the adventure at the Indian camp with Pa, then finding the shiny beads, and now, best of all, a new baby sister. Not many days after the birth of Caroline, though, Pa’s happy tunes were drowned out by the sound of drums, lots of them, and they were not far away. Finally news reached the Ingallses’ log cabin that the Osage Indians had decided to accept the offer of new land and they were preparing to leave their home on the Kansas prairie for good. Not long afterwards, Laura and her family were on the move, had Pa known the politicians in Washington were going to draw the Indian territory line three miles east of them, he would have never settled on the land.

Back in the covered wagon, Laura travels with her family to make a new life in the big woods of Wisconsin. But not long after her first Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa and her first Sugar Snow, Laura and her family are on the move. Pa had sold the house and land in the Wisconsin woods and the family would be moving to the banks of Plum Creek. The Ingalls family now has a new home underground, 172 acres of rich prairie land, and two oxen. The Ingalls kept busy and were happy with their life on the banks of Plum Creek; but too soon, their life is threatened with grasshoppers, for days the barrage of grasshoppers kept coming. Then one morning, not long after the grasshoppers had ravaged the land, Laura awoke to find Pa gone. Pa had gone to find work. Then at last, on a crisp fall day, Pa came home. He told of how he had worked the crops in eastern Minnesota and he had made a dollar a day while he was away.

Two weeks later Laura found herself sitting in a new covered wagon, the Ingalls family were on the move again. One hundred and sixty miles later, the wagon rolled to a halt in Burr Oak, surrounded by rolling hills and forests of oak trees. Here she witnessed firsthand the rapid transformation of the West as pioneers and covered wagons gave way to farms, towns, and railroads. Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up on a frontier steeped in both danger and great possibility. I encourage you to read more about her days in the town of De Smet, her days as a schoolhouse teacher, and her days with Almanzo Wilder.

Janet and Geoff Benge have created a unit study guide to accompany the Heroes of History – Laura Ingalls Wilder book. This digital download provides the schoolhouse teacher and homeschool parent with ways to use the book as a vehicle for teaching or reinforcing various curriculum areas.

Key Quotes – the authors have selected eight quotes that can be used alongside or as part of this unit study. These could be used in the following ways: memorization, meaning, or display.

Display Corner – many students enjoy collecting and displaying objects related to the times and places in which Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. Our family collects artifacts from history from the family field trips we have taken that are both educational and fun; and these artifacts help my girls remember their history.

Chapter Questions – there are six questions related to each chapter. There is one vocabulary question, one factual question, two questions to gauge the level of a student’s comprehension, and two open-ended questions seeking an opinion or interpretation.

Student Explorations – a variety of activities that are appropriate to a wide range of learning styles. These activities consist of the following: essay questions, creative writing, hands-on projects, audio/visual projects, and art/craft projects.

Community Links – many communities have rich resources of people and places to which students can be exposed to help them learn more about and appreciate other time periods and the experiences of other people. There are many ways to learn about the frontier life – whether you visit a museum or invite a musician to play some of the songs that Laura heard from Pa’s fiddle – it is well worth the effort to find out what your community has to offer.

Social Studies – the authors divided this section into six categories. You can teach your students more about history through places, journeys, vocabulary, geographical characteristics, timeline, or conceptual questions.

Related Themes to Explore – any unit study has natural links to many other topics that can also be explored. Our family has become more interested in famous authors from other historical eras.

Culminating Event – as the name implies, the culminating event marks the end of the unit study and gives a sense of closure to the topic. It also serves to put the students’ new knowledge into a larger context that can be shared with others.

If you are looking for a simple, short summary about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I would recommend this book. But if you are looking for an in-depth look at the life and times of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I would recommend her boxed book set of Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. After reading her own writings, nothing compares to this boxed book set.

Visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Health Museum

The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science, or The Health Museum in short, is a museum in the Museum District of Houston, Texas. If you are in the Houston area, this is one stop you do not want to miss!

In the Amazing Body Gallery, you can take a larger-than-life- walking tour through the human body and learn about how your major organs work.

In the McGovern Theater, you can watch a health film. Currently featured film: The beauty of human skin in every color.

In the DeBakey Cell Lab, you don't need to be a scientist to enter, but you'll feel like one when you leave! Gear up with a lab coat, gloves and goggles and travel through experiment stations in both English and Spanish.

And the most educational part of the trip is watching a live dissection demo of a cow eye or a sheep brain performed by one of the museum science educators.

Visit http://www.thehealthmuseum.org/ for more details!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course - TOS Review

Most people would agree that in this day and age, typing is a must have skill. Most typing programs do a decent job of teaching the skill; but none compare to The Typing Coach Online Typing Course provided by TheTyping Coach.


The Typing Coach Online Typing Course is a computer-based program. Coach personally guides you to learn how to type very accurately and proficiently without looking at the keyboard or monitor. There are seven lessons in this course: (1) Having Good Posture, (2) Home Row, (3) Top Row, (4) Bottom Row, (5) Shift Keys, (6) Typing Practices, (7) Number Row. The course includes a Student Packet, Learning Checks Packet, Progress Chart, and Teacher Resource Center.


To begin this course, you will need to create an account. Once you are logged in to your account, be sure to have your word processor open and your Student Packet next to you before pressing play on the audio lesson. Be sure to do everything you are told, stopping and rewinding whenever necessary to make sure you get it all. Repeat the audio as many times as necessary until you are able to type without looking at the keyboard and making no mistakes. Please note, there are two keys you are forbidden to use, the back space and the delete key. No correcting is allowed, your goal is to type correctly the first time. If you do make a mistake, you will retype the line again, learn from it, and move on. When you are finished, ask your parent or teacher for the Learning Checks Packet and follow the directions. When you are finished, call the teacher over or check yourself and mark it off on the Progress Chart. When you have successfully passed, move on to the next lesson.  


The Typing Coach Online Typing Course offers slower paced lessons and regular paced lessons. The slower paced lessons are an option to be used for those 8-11 years old who may not be ready for the full, regular paced lessons. The regular lessons are to be used for those 12+ years old.


Yes! My girls were able to complete one lesson per week with daily practice. If you diligently follow the instructions, by the end of this course, you should be able to type at least 10 words per minute. With the good habits that you will acquire, your next goal should be 25 words per minute; and then of course, with more practice, 45 words per minute should be hit by most within a few months – by those who are committed.

I highly recommend The Typing Coach Online Typing Course! Coach even adds a little humor as he asks students to type “lol” and then he begins to laugh and you cannot help but laugh along. Coach is here to make the complicated simple and make learning FUN!

Visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors - TOS Review

The Pencil Grip, Inc. brings you mess free creativity with their ThinStix 6pk of Classic Colors – a non-toxic tempera paint. I love how this product provides a way for children to paint without the messy clean up!

Thin Stix are a slimmer version of the original Kwik Stix. Thin Stix are designed like glue sticks, only they each have a separate color that is made of solid tempera paint. The six pack of classic colors includes black, brown, blue, red, green, and yellow. Thin Stix are also available in six packs of neon and metalix colors.
Thin Stix are very easy to use. Simply uncap, twist, and paint! Thin Stix have a fast drying formula that allows them to dry in 90 seconds while still leaving a paint-like finish. They work great on poster board, paper, wood, cardboard, and more.
My high school artist experimented with these sticks on poster board and paper. She said they were great for making posters; but she could not use these for her art projects. You cannot mix the colors because it dries in 90 seconds and the colors do not overlap very well. She said this product was great for coloring in an area; but she wished they had one with a point to draw better. For example, she draws a lot of horse pictures, when she tried this with the Thin Stix, she could not draw the specifics because the stick was too large and when it smeared together, she tried to cover it up but got so frustrated, she threw the picture away. If The Pencil Grip could create a roll-up tempera paint pen, that would be just the right size for drawing while adding color, all while using one product.
My high school artist said this product would be great for preschool and elementary children who just want to doodle or make mom a masterpiece without creating a mess. I would have to agree with her. They are perfect for little ones because they are non-toxic, mess-free, and easy to use. I only wish this product was available when my children were younger. I use to dread art and craft days because of the mess. Thin Stix really offer clean and mess free creativity!
The Pencil Grip was invented in 1992 by Dr. Lois Provda, a prominent educational therapist. Two decades later, the company has grown to offer hundreds of unique and innovative products for the home, school, and office. The Provda family is incredibly thankful to the millions of parents, teachers, and therapists who have put their trust in The Pencil Grip products. The Pencil Grip also have fun craft ideas on Pinterest, so if you need inspiration, be sure to check them out!

I would like to offer my readers a FREE giveaway of Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors! Like my Facebook Blog Page and an entry will be drawn at random on May 29, 2017!
Visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Planning for High School

After recently talking with a friend about high school courses, knowing so many are now planning for next year, I thought I would share how you can create a four-year plan for your teen. High school plans generally fall into one of three high school tracks, all of which can be individualized for your homeschool teen:
  • General High School Plan
  • General College Prep Plan
  • Rigorous College Prep Plan

General High School Plan
This plan suits students interested in entering the workforce, enlisting in the military, or seeking vocational training upon graduation. In the academic subjects, the General High School Plan recommends four English courses, three math courses, two to three history courses, and two to three science courses. For electives, consider one to two physical education courses, one to two fine arts courses, and five additional courses in your teen's area of interest.

General College Prep Plan
This plan equips students interested in applying to most four-year colleges and universities. In the academic subjects, the General College Prep Plan recommends four English courses, three to four math courses, three to four history courses, three to four science courses, and two to three foreign language courses. For electives, consider one to two physical education courses, one to two fine arts courses, and five elective courses.

Rigorous College Prep Plan
This plan suits students interested in planning to complete Advanced Placement or dual enrollment courses at a community college in eleventh and twelfth grades. In the academics, the Rigorous College Prep Plan recommends 4+ English courses, 4+ math courses, 4+ history courses, 4+ science courses, and 3-4 foreign language courses. For electives, consider one to two physical education courses, one to two fine arts courses, and five additional courses in areas of interest.

Each of the above steps will help you customize a four-year high school plan that suits your teen.

Happy Homeschooling!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day History

Mother’s Day is a holiday honoring motherhood that is observed in different forms throughout the world. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914.

The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. She started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies.

Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Mother’s Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

In the United States, Mother’s Day continues to be celebrated by presenting mothers and other women with gifts and flowers, and it has become one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending. Families also celebrate by giving mothers a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores. How do you celebrate Mother’s Day?

Monday, May 8, 2017

High School Essay Intensive - TOS Review

Writing can be an overwhelming subject to teach, especially when you have two daughters preparing for the SAT essay, so I was excited to review High School Essay Intensive from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. The Institute for Excellence in Writing brings you an effective method of teaching writing. Unlike other programs which provide specific curriculum for each individual grade level, Institute for Excellence in Writing offers teacher training along with ready-made lessons which can be used over a range of grade levels.
Andrew Pudewa is the principal speaker and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Although he is a graduate of the Talent Education Institute in Matsumoto, Japan, he holds a Certificate of Child Brain Development from the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, his best endorsement is from a young Alaskan boy who called him “the funny man with the wonderful words.” My girls would have to agree, he made this class fun and they laughed several times throughout this course. And while it is evident that Andrew Pudewa has a heart for homeschoolers, he also has a heart for any educator who has willingly accepted the responsibility of teaching students to write.
High School Essay Intensive is a DVD course that includes five DVDs with accompanying handouts. The 28-page handout is the student’s guide as they take this course. Andrew Pudewa keeps the students on track with page numbers and allows plenty of time for the students to record notes from each presentation. If you have multiple students taking this DVD course, you will want each student to have their own handouts.
The DVD course includes four parts. In part one, Andrew Pudewa addresses general strategies for writing – length, structure, invention, and style. I would have to say my girls learned the most here! For example, they learned about the TRIAC paragraph, a simple structure used to organize the details in writing. And our whole family had fun building on the sentence pattern variety! In part two, he prepares students for the new ACT essay. My girls are preparing for the SAT, so they skipped this part and moved on to part three. In part three, Andrew Pudewa prepares students for the redesigned SAT essay. My girls now understand a critical analysis essay, annotation, and have learned a template for easy outlining. In part four, he offers strategies for the personal essay. Here, he expounds on planning, writing, editing, and proofreading.
I love the way Andrew Pudewa interacts with his students throughout this course and only wish my girls had the opportunity to be a live pupil in his classroom. This course has been a huge help for my two in high school, my husband, and myself! I am so thankful, Andrew Pudewa took the time to share these powerful tools that have dramatically improved my students’ writing skills!
Visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Homeschooling in Faithfulness

Faithfulness can be described as being strict or thorough in the performance of duty. Faithfulness, then, applied to homeschooling is persevering in teaching your children even when you are criticized about your child's socialization. Faithfulness also means spending countless hours preparing for daily lesson plans, grading those daily lessons, teaching a concept until your child "gets it," learning to live on less sleep and money, giving more of your time to your family than to yourself, and following Christ who gives you the strength to do it all (Philippians 4:13).

Faithfulness is a character quality not easily found today. Homeschoolers approach too many commitments with, "Well, if this doesn't work, I can get out." When life gets tough, we are tempted to escape our responsibilities, but faithfulness means not forgetting the Lord in the good times and not blaming him in the bad times. No matter where we go, we will have difficulties of some kind.

Today, I want to encourage you to homeschool in faithfulness. Even when we fail to be faithful, God remains faithful, and He will give you the strength and wisdom to remain faithful and true to the commitment of teaching your children.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Secret Bridge - TOS Review

The Secret Bridge by Amy Le Feuvre is published by LamplighterPublishing; a division of Lamplighter Ministries International. This book is part of The Lamplighter Collection, a family collection of rare books from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Each edition is printed in an attractive hard-bound collector’s format.
My children, ages 15, 14 and 11, are voracious readers, and it has always been a challenge to find suitable reading material for them. I have seen Lamplighter Publishing at homeschool conventions; but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to read one of their books. After reading The Secret Bridge, I discovered that Lamplighter Publishing provides literature that encourages and teaches my children in the ways of the Lord. My 15 year old daughter read the book within three days and we both would recommend this book for high school students thru adults.
Lamplighter Publishing publishes books of high quality with an emphasis on character development, biblical insights, artistic design, excellence, and skilled craftsmanship. Each book is strategically engaged by building Christ-like character one story at a time. The Secret Bridge encourages us to become more acquainted with Christ.
The book begins aboard ship on a sultry evening. Bridget Channing and Godfrey Bullingham are fellow passengers traveling to England. Godfrey takes notice to Bridget’s deep mourning and with an impulse that he did not himself understand, he becomes acquainted with her. As they arrive in England, they depart their ways. Bridget arrives at her uncle’s home only to discover that he recently passed away from pneumonia and she is left alone. As she gathers her thoughts outside, she meets again with Godfrey Bullingham.  Her intelligent, practical mind can accept neither pity nor charity. But time brings change.
Bridget boldly ventures into a marriage with a speedy separation. As she awaits her husband’s return she resides at the Bullingham Manor. Here she meets Mr. Jocelyn who encourages her to become acquainted with Christ. His words were constantly recurring to her. This begins her study to search the Scriptures.
Bridget’s father taught her carving, so it is no surprise when she falls in love with the carved chimney piece and begins to carve a copy. Visitors arrive and stand in awe at the striking similarities. She is asked to give carving lessons. It is through these visits that she discovers the family feud between the Bullingham and Fitzroy families.
Mrs. Fitzroy walks with Bridget out of the drawing-room into the great square hall, which was hung with family portraits.  Here she stands in awe of picture of a young girl in white muslin and broad velvet hat. Bridget was never allowed to talk of her mother and she knew very little about her. After Mrs. Fitzroy takes notice to her Irish name and Irish eyes, Bridget returns to Bullingham Manor in search to know more about her mother.
Bridget reads a faded letter in her mother’s handwriting. She puts the letter aside and then opens a secret drawer in the secretaire. Her father had put some of her mother’s jewelry away in a sealed packet. After a minute of hesitation, she opens it, to discover a locket with the faces of General and Mrs. Fitzroy.  Locking up the secretaire, she runs out on her beloved terrace. How will her husband and family respond to this discovery? You will have to read the book!
As Bridget awaits her husband’s return, her quest to know God takes front and center as she wrestles with life and uncovers the mysteries surrounding her. The Secret Bridge encourages us to become more acquainted with Christ, waiting for Him as a bride awaits her bridegroom, and falling more in love as we read His letters and eagerly anticipate His coming!  
This book investment is not merely for a one-time read – it is a legacy that will be handed down for generations to come. Building a collection of character-building literature is one way you can make a lasting difference in the lives of your children, and your children’s children. Build your collection today and reap the benefits for generations to come.
Visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews.