Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Happiness Christmas Service

Sunday was our Childrens' Christmas program at church. It was entitled "Away in a Manger." The program reminded us again how God in the person of Jesus came to dwell with us in human form and remains with us all the time through His Word and Sacrament.

Both of my children had speaking parts taken from various portions of Scripture and participated with the other children in singing portions of several hymns. They both did a very good job in saying their parts and helping to share the Christmas and beyond story.

One of the traditions the congregation has is to allow any of the children who have musical abilities to play a short piece. Thus, Daughter had the opportunity two play two hymns as part of the prelude to the worship service. She choose "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". She was nervous before hand, but did very well. Her piano teacher, also our church organist, was very pleased with what she did.

These Christmas services were a tradition for me growing up and have now also become a tradition for my children. I have a feeling December just wouldn't feel right without practicing for and anticipating the Christmas Service.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last Weeks Events

It's been a while since I posted and then those were reviews. So I decided I would write a little about how we filled last week.

Monday the local history museum hosted their monthly Homeschool Day. This fall they started having special programs just for homeschool families and they have been a lot of fun. The museum is The Missouri History by name, but the permanent exhibits predominantly showcase St Louis, but the special exhibits usually have a larger scope. Now the special exhibit is focusing on the role of women in settling and shaping the western part of our country. So this months theme was based on this topic, but that was not all. To celebrate the holidays this month they also gave the children the opportunity to decorate Gingerbread cookies and take a horse drawn carriage ride around the outside of the museum. The cookies were a huge hit and totally covered with candy. (Maybe I can post pics in the next day or two). The carriage ride was also a hit, but just a little bit cold. The temp all day didn't get above 8 degrees! They also had hot chocolate which was greatly appreciated.

Tuesday afternoon we went to the homeschool class put on by our local branch library. Then the children had the opportunity to build "gingerbread" houses. The librarian made it a learning experience by giving each of the participants play money and having them buy their building materials. Knowing how my son likes to pile on the candy I was a little concerned he might hot have enough money to buy everything he needed to construct his house, but he actually completed the project with several dollars left.

Wednesday we listened/watched an online sewing class as daughter is eager to begin sewing.

Thursday was a piano lesson for DD. She was shocked to learn that was her last piano lesson for the year. Before piano we also baked some cookies.

Friday we made a trip to our library for books.

In addition to all of these activities we also finished up several lapbook projects. That is material for another post. Also we continued to use a couple products which I am reviewing and began using a couple new ones. We also threw in a little spelling and devotions to round out each day.

At first I didn't feel like we had accomplished a whole lot this week, but looking at the week as a whole I guess we did do quite a lot. I hope we can finish up a couple more holiday related projects this week, but I think we are going to do some more baking and craft things.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Good Morning, God New TOS Review

Good Morning, God
Davis Carmen, author
Alice Ratterree, illustrator

Book $14.00

Coloring Book $4.00
Black and White pages from the book to be colored

Apologia Press
Apologia Educational Ministries
1106 Meridian Plaza Suite 220
Anderson, IN 46016 US
Phone: (888)524-4724

Before I go into detail about this book, I need to mention several things which influenced this review.

1. My husband works for the publishing company of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He is not involved in the production of children's books, but the company does publish books for children.

2. My husband has two graduate degrees in theology and I have a BA in theology. Our background and experience make us extremely careful about the theological resources we share with our children. Because this book does not reflect our theological beliefs I did not share it with our children.

Good Morning, God is a story about a week in the life of a little boy. It is told in few words, letting the pictures tell a lot of the story. He experiences many of the things that children do, so children 1-8 years old (the target audience) will be able to relate to him.

What is Found in Good Morning, God
Purpose of the Book
The parental instruction pages indicate the purpose of the book is to help a child fall in love with God, suggesting several methods to that end. One can certainly applaud salutary Christian child-rearing and certainly this book can have a place in that for many Christians.
The art is well-executed and child-friendly. Yet there is a real cultural problem. This book does not show people of differing races, ethnicities, incomes, cultures, and so on. The Church is inclusive, while this art does not reflect that, even in the pictures of Sunday worship.
The unspoken message presented about the family is they are a homeschooling family. This is a positive as there are few books available which feature homeschooling families.
Scriptural Basis of the Book
Deuteronomy 6:6–7 is the major basis for the book, wherein elders and parents are exhorted to teach their children in the ways of the Lord. This is also a good practice that has benefits for both home and society. The book has good intentions to start with Scripture.
The version used is NIV, which renders the Hebrew with “commands.” That version steps away from the original wording, “words,” seen at least in the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Martin Luther's translation, the Geneva Bible, the King James Version, the RSV, and the ESV.
Use of the NIV suggests that the intended readers of this book are from a Reformed or Evangelical tradition.
One can applaud the desire to worship. Yet the child is directed to intangibles like heaven and the Last Day that are above the comprehension level of small children. The family time on Sunday is, however, portrayed well. Family time is a gift from God.
The book's portrayal of worship does not engage our beliefs. We believe that, in worship, it is not we who initiate the action, but God. He comes to us through his Word, Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion. Although He also will give us heaven, He also brings His kingdom in our midst on earth as we pray "Thy kingdom come."
We see that the theme of worship is present again, as for the other days, touching on being, heart, mind, body, soul, thoughts, strength. This is a clear application of Deuteronomy 6:5, which Jesus also uses. It is good to love God and to be in a right relationship with Him. God grants us faith, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to receive and believe in His promises for us.
The picture of the running child is out of place; sin is dealt with specifically at a different point in the book. Do parents usually let children run indoors and upset furniture? No. By having the running picture immediately after worship, this creates a jarring break. It also does not show how Sunday's worship transferred in some way to Monday.

Tuesday and following
With Tuesday we see the pattern: Wake, sin, regular activity, prayer. Patterns are good; that helps children feel safe.

This is inductively built up by Wednesday, where sin is literally mentioned. There is no overt forgiveness event on Wednesday. There is an admission of sin, and then everything just “gets better” on Thursday through Sunday again. That clashes with our belief that one must give both the stern message of God's Law to make the sinner realize the fault. Then the sweet Gospel restores the fallen and binds up the brokenhearted.
This book seems to have “kinda” sin and “kinda” forgiveness. Children want boundaries, clear demarcations between good and bad. Here, there are no time-outs, standing in the corner, and so on. One gets the idea that the message of the book boils down to “trying hard.” This approach suits Methodism and Arminian (such as General Baptist) theology.
The message of Christ as Savior is good, yet the Savior came to save … sinners! It does not clearly express that Jesus came for the child who is hearing the story. It misses the opportunity to assure the child that they are forgiven because of Jesus' death and resurrection. The book seems to be very soft-voiced, on the matter of sin. Love of God increases as one realizes just how much one must continually be forgiven on one's journey of faith.
Rest of the Week
It is good to see faith mixed in with daily life. Yet faith is much more than doing good. God gets His hands dirty; He is daily with us. It is not clear in the book how that might be. The question is: If you think God is pretty much “up there,” how can you have a long-distance relationship that will grow in love? Is not God in visiting the sick or giving a cup of cold water?
The latter church scene focuses on the offering. Would it instead be better to focus on Christ? He is the highest and best Offering for our sins, whose life, death, and resurrection changes our lives. Where two or three are gathered, is not Jesus in their midst?
The book concludes with a section of questions which parents can use to facilitate discussion with their children.
The questions do help clarify some of the unclear aspects of the story. Nevertheless, they also seem to tiptoe around the facts of sin and grace, allowing for the parents to fill in their tradition as needed in a sort of “non-denominational” book.
This book will appeal to those of a generic Reformed background. To many other Christian traditions, however, this book will not satisfy their needs.

Read what other Crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book to read in order to write this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Monday, December 6, 2010



ALEKS Corporation
15641 Red Hill Avenue, Suite 150
Tustin, CA 92780

Phone: (714) 245-7191
Email: http://support.aleks.com
$19.95 a month per student
$99.95 for 6 months for 1 student
$179.95 for 12 months for 1 student

There are discounts for additional students in the same family if all are purchased at the same time.

A free One Month Trial is available using this special link. Just click on the banner to the right.

A big concern many homeschooling parents have is providing their children with a complete education in all the subjects without leaving gaps in the childs' knowledge. For many math is a particular concern as it is a subject that definitely builds on itself, if a child doesn't get one concept it is likely they will struggle with other concepts later on. Add to this the challenge of knowing exactly what a child knows and doesn't without making them go through a lot of repetitive pencil and paper problems. A program which to assist parents in this manner is often very welcome.

What is ALEKS?

From the ALEKS website:
"Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system."

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:
  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • No Textbook Required
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
  • Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
  • Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
  • Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction
ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools and educational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning that your student may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

The ALEKS website homepage says they offer Math Instruction for grades K-12, however, when looking at the courses available, the lowest level is 3rd grade. This was a big disappointment to my 1st grade son as he wanted to do math on the computer also. There are also several college level courses available.

How ALEKS works

The parent sets up a student account and determines which grade level program the student will use. Then the student takes an assessment to determine what math areas they are competent in and what they need to work on. They are given "credit" for what they already know and do not have to go through that same material again. The data of what they know and don't know is compiled into a pie graph where they can easily see what topics need to be studied and practiced. The pie graph uses different colors for different topics and as the child works through the course the corresponding sections fill up with a darker shade of the same color. When they have mastered all the areas in a particular category the whole slice is the darker shade. This provides a clear visual of how far the child had progressed in that particular topic. A review tab provides more details of each topic yet to be mastered.

The work screens have a cartoon character providing directions and encouragement in speech bubbles, but otherwise it is a very clean, uncomplicated looking area. I like that there are few distractions.

The program routinely has the student complete an assessment to determine where they are at and provide instruction on an appropriate level. The information presented to the student is what is most suitable for them to learn based on their current knowledge.

Additionally, there is drill on basic facts under the title of "Quick Tables". The user is asked a series of problems and is provided additional practice for those facts missed repeatedly. The user is also shown a chart of the facts they know as well as the ones they need to practice and often given a choice of which fact they want to concentrate on. Facts that have been previously "mastered" are also thrown into the rotation. This practice is timed, but the parent has the option to change the length (from the master account) of time allowed for each fact. When a number of facts have been mastered they are rewarded with the chance to play a short game, further reinforcing the facts.

A Math Dictionary is available to the student so that they can look up information applicable to the topics where they still need to achieve mastery.

There is also a Master Account which gives the parent access to many statistics regarding their childs use of the program. Some of the items tracked included length of time spent logged in, topics mastered, those still needing to be worked on, quick tables reports, and the students pie chart. Also accessible from the student profile is a small timeline showing progress through the whole course, a breakdown of the average time it has taken to achieve the current level, and an estimate for time required to complete the entire course.

A downloaded Plug in is required for ALEKS to work. There is a streaming Plug in available so the program can be used on computers where a download is not doable. ALEKS is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

How we used ALEKS

My daughter enjoyed the ALEKS experience, particularly the graphs and geometry. She has been eager to use it, which is not usual for Math. She said she would like to have a similiar program for grammar.

ALEKS also provides the option to create worksheets from the student account. I did not use this option during the review period.

I tried the Behavior Science Statistics course and discovered how much I have to learn in that area. This course also operates in a similar manner to math course. I think I could make progress with this kind of program that allows me to work at my own speed.


I liked the format that gives the student credit for what they already know. Math is not a strong subject for my daughter, but seeing how much she already knew gave her the confidence to work on some topics where she needed more practice.

The Quick Tables are a fun method of drill.

I especially like the time report as my state requires maintaining a time log. It helps me to double check I have recorded the correct amount of time.


The measurement topics were harder to use than other topics. We had difficulty positioning the virtual ruler just so to be able to get an accurate measurement for length.

The cost is expensive for my budget. However, I liked the options for 6 and 12 month subscriptions at a savings off the monthly price. As a parent with only 2 children, I was happy to see the family discounts are significant beginning with just 2 student accounts.

One suggestion I have is to make the Quick Table portion available separately at a smaller price than the whole program. My son really wanted to use these, but was able to as there wasn't a math program available at his level.

I would also echo my daughter's wish about a similiar type program for grammar and reading comprehension, as well.

ALEKS is a program which I will keep in mind as my children get older and need more challenging and intensive math instruction. My daughter really enjoyed the break from paper and pencil math.

Read what other Crew Members have to say here.

Disclaimer: I was given a free months access to the ALEKS program so that I could use it and write this review. I have not be compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Holidays 2010 Mannheim Steamroller

Several of the other blog writers whom I follow have been doing Holiday themed posts for the last several days and I have really enjoyed reading them. I have been thinking about what I could write on the topic, especially since I feel so behind in the holiday department already.

As I sit working on my computer I have a Mannheim Steamroller CD playing, not quite in the background, but loud enough for my children to listen too as they fall asleep. My son, especially requests this music. Last Wednesday he told me that since it was December, I HAD to get out all the Mannheim Steamroller music I own and start playing it when they go to bed. He said it was our tradition. I guess it is a tradition as I remember doing it sporadically the last two years.

I have enjoyed MS for a number of years, I have several of their cassette tapes to prove how long it has been and probably couldn't get through December without playing it sometime, but I have a feeling my son is an even bigger fan than I am. There is a local radio station who was giving away tickets to Mannheim Steamroller's upcoming concert and when I heard about it I said I would even be willing to pay for a childsitter if I won them. He replied that it wouldn't cost too much because his sister was a big girl and didn't need much taking care of. I asked what about him and he told me he would be going along with me as he really really liked Mannheim. I guess he really does like them.

I guess Mannheim is a fixture in our household for December. Not a bad tradition, either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I am still hanging around the Blogosphere

I realized yesterday I have totally neglected my poor little blog. Then when I signed in tonight I saw how thoroughly neglected it is, I haven't had a post since the 19th. To my readers I am sorry I have left you hanging. There have just been so many things going on, blogging has taken a back seat.

We have taken an unplanned 2 week break from school and now need to get back in some kind of groove. This will be a challenge for all of us. The most schooly type thing we've accomplished is daughter has been practicing for her Piano recital which is tomorrow (Saturday Dec 4).

I also can't believe we are almost a whole week through Advent. I'll have to see how we can jump in with special activities at this point.

So my challenge for the next couple days will be to pull together some meaningful, productive activities which won't be meet with a lot of resistance. I guess there are always projects to finish and library books to read.