Monday, October 31, 2011

Homeschool Mothers Journal Weekly Review 10/30

In my life this week…
I am sewing a jumper for my daughter. I also tried to clean off some files from my computer as well old emails.

Continuing to go through things in the basement.

In our homeschool this week…
The children continued to work through the workbooks for NaNoWriMo and can't wait until they can start working on their stories.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

We went to the local history museum for their homeschool day.This months theme was Numbers and Notes. Some of the activities included listening to a preview of an opera which will be performed later this year about a young man landing a job as a cowboy. We also learned how to and played a math game called Equations. This was challenging as there were 60+ people in the room and playing it as a large group.

We also learned some about the history of Shape Note singing and had the opportunity to practice this as well.

I think the best part of the whole day was having the opportunity to listen to Luthier and learn how he makes violins. 

My favorite thing this week was…
A McRib and Coke at McDonalds. 

What’s working/not working for us…
We are still struggling with notebooking and summarizing.  I may drop most of it until the New Year. 

Questions/thoughts I have…
I am trying to figure out how to incorporate everything I would like to. We have done anything   with our state study for months and I would like to study more Composers since both of my children enjoy music. I have had several books about Bach for weeks, but have barely touched them. I don't know how to get it all in.

I’m reading…
Love Finds You in Amana Iowa. 

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… 
This link will tell you more about Shape Note Singing.

Thanks to Sue at The Homeschool Chick for hosting Homeschool Mothers Journal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

C is for Cooking up Sentences

Link up to the ABC's

Are you thinking, "What kind of crazy recipe is this?, How do you cook a sentence?"

Well, it doesn't have much to do with recipes or cooking at all.Cooking Up Sentences is a game which reinforces parts of speech.At the beginning of play each person chooses a chef token and one of 8 recipes.LOTS of word tiles are separated into piles based on which part of speech they are and put around the board.While the recipes have titles of various yummy sounding baked goods, what you are actually making are complete sentences. Each recipe lists about 6 ingredients which are needed to make that item. The 'ingredients' are collected while moving around the board and landing on spaces which are labelled with a part of speech.Then you have to correctly identify which pile contains the part of speech on which you landed. If you are correct, then you get to choose a word from that pile.To make it self checking the spaces on the board match the colors on the back of the tiles. In other words, if the colors match then you get to keep the tile.

To win, a player has to use all the ingredients in his recipe and the proper quantity as well (Sometimes the 'recipe' calls for more than one of a certain part of speech). Additional parts of speech which have been collected during the game can be used as well. Sentences can be funny, but they do have to be grammatically correct. When a player has completed a sentence, they read it out loud, including ending punctuation and then name which part of speech each word is.Some of the sentences we have come up with have been hilarious.

Both my 7 and 10 year old enjoy playing the game, but I think my 7 year old asks to play more frequently.I enjoy it as well and have been known to make an occasional mistake, usually by accident. This totally delights them. Somehow, I usually get beaten by one of my kiddos. But I still enjoy playing.

I can't believe this is letter C already, the weeks just fly by. I didn't post the previous two weeks, because I wasn't sure what to right about and then by the time I had an idea, it was too late.Maybe I will have to write them anyway. Cooking Up Sentences for the letter C was actually my daughters idea.

Thanks to Dawn at The Momma Knows for hosting Homeschooling ABC's.

Monday, October 24, 2011

George Washington Carver His Life and His Work TOS Review


George Washington Carver His Life and His Work DVD

Marshall Publishing

Review Readers can use code: TOSC1 for a 15% discount at checkout

Marshall Publishing also carries a wide variety of history DVD's, as well as DVD's about animals and vehicles.

From looking at history books one conclusion I've drawn is that a number of them do not do a good job of tying history together for the reader.  Events and people are discussed but if a person didn't have a direct impact on an event they are seldom mentioned in the text.  Often they are just relegated to a sidebar consisting of several small paragraphs about their achievements.  Thus the reader may come away with an idea of what the person did, but only a vague idea of where they fit in the whole puzzle of history. This is not the case with George Washington Carver, His Life and His Work.

George Washington Carver, His Life and His Work begins by setting the historical stage for Carvers life. He was born to a slave mother in Missouri towards the end of the Civil War and, along with his mother and sister were kidnapped.  The man who owned his mother found him, but not his mother or sister, and brought him back to their home.  There he was educated and eventually moved to other places in the Midwest to continue his education. After much hard work and personal contacts he ended up at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. These facts are detailed in the presentation,thus his place in history is firmly established in the viewers mind. The viewer is able to appreciate all of Carvers' work and achievements in their historical context.

The video begins with nature and flower scenes accompanied by soothing music.  While viewers see scenes from where Carver grew up the story of his childhood is told.  As his life story is told, actual pictures of places and people comprise the video. The viewer also sees pictures of the actual lab which Carver and his students used. Photographs of Carver teaching and interacting with people are also plentiful in the movie. A fair amount of footage from Tuskegee Institute is also used.  

A study guide and discussion questions are available after the description of the DVD.

My Thoughts about George Washington Carver, His Life and His Work

I was pleasantly surprised while watching this movie.  I was not very impressed with the opening which consists of music playing and pictures of plants, but soon came to realize that was a fitting opening for the story of a man whose life was dedicated to plants.At several points it appeared to me there were actual clips of Carver himself talking or what was being said were things he wrote. I also really liked how the movie stuck to facts and did very little interpreting of those facts. I also liked how it was not cartoony, but solid history and facts. I think the presentation did an excellent job of making this part of history exciting and meaningful to the viewer. The program does a great job showing how Carver worked to get an education and did not stop but went on to use that education to benefit a great number of people. It presents the possibilities education and hard work bring to a person and community in a very positive light.

Several months ago we spent some time studying the state of Missouri and learned some basic facts about George W. Carver and his work.  However, we could not find resources which went deeper than his teaching farmers to plant peanuts to restore nutrients depleted by years of growing cotton. This DVD tells so much more of his accomplishments. It is a beneficial resource and addition to studying the state.

I watched the movie with both my 7 and 10 year olds who appeared to enjoy and learn from the movie.  My 7 year old particularly enjoyed seeing the cotton fields and plants. One thing which stood out for my 10 year old occurred when Carver was a young man and he met another person with the same name. So, according to the movie, he added the initial W. to his name to avoid confusion.  She thought that was particularly clever.

They were also impressed by the fact that the only piece of real lab equipment Carver had was his microscope, which had been a gift before he went to Tuskegee.  Upon hearing and seeing this they remembered seeing the microscope in a traveling exhibit at the history museum a while back.

This DVD presents the interesting story of a self motivated man who overcame obstacles and continually sought to help others by sharing his knowledge and skills.

Learn what other Crew members had to say about this DVD as well as other DVD's by Marshall Publishing  & Promotions at the Crew Blog.


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this DVD in order to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Say Anything Family Game TOS Review


Say Anything Family Edition by Northstar Games

NorthStar Games produces several games for families and groups

Ages 8 and up for 3-6 players

Say Anything contains 6 playing boards, 12 tokens, a score board, a stack of question cards, dry erase pens and a Select-O-Matic 6000 which all fit into cavities in the tray in the box. The playing boards and score board are all dry erase. The boards and tokens are color coded with each player receiving the same color of board and tokens.

To play, a judge is selected and given the Select-O-Matic 6000. They then read the question outloud and the other players write their answer on their dry erase playing board. After all players have written their answer, all players place their tokens on the answer or answers they think the judge may pick. The judge then shows which answer they like best by pointing the arrow on the Select-O-Matic 6000 to the color of the board with their chosen answer. Points are awarded based on judge selection of the answer and token placement. The next round begins with a new player taking over the role of judge and the former judge now writing an answers.

Our Thoughts about Say Anything

My 7 year old says:

"This is a cool game.I like writing down hilarious and crazy answers. It is a lot of fun."

My 10 year old says:

"I really like this because it allows you to write what ever you think about the question of what you think the judge might say. I like being the judge too, because I get to pick the one I like best.Sometimes picking one answer is hard because they are all good, but that is part of the fun."

One thing I like is the choice of questions on each card.Sometimes one of the questions maybe about a topic the kiddos aren't familiar or require explanations, but with multiple questions it is easy enough to choose another question on the same card.

Playing on dry erase surfaces is also very nice.I like not having to find paper in order to play or having all the used pieces of paper laying around when the game is over.

We also found that it is more fun to play with 4 people rather than just 3.  Since one player doesn't write answers in a round, having more answers to choose from made play more interesting. It also avoided hurt feelings when a parent was the judge. Judge wasn't playing favorites then. (wink)

Neither my 7 or 10 year old had any trouble playing although we ran into several questions which weren't the most appropriate or that the 7 year old did not understand.It was also a game which my husband seemed to enjoy playing with us.

Although all of these things about Say Anything Family are great, I think the best part are the simple, uncomplicated directions.  We found the directions to be very easy to understand and then we could get right to playing the game.  We didn't have to try to figure out what was meant or decipher anything.  After setting everything up we were playing in less than five minutes. That's great. I really like games where set up and reading the directions doesn't take as long as actually playing the game.

I recently reviewed Wits and Wagers Family, also from NorthStar Games.Check out my review here.

Other members of the TOS Crew also reviewed Say Anything. See what they had to say at the Crew Blog.


Disclaimer: I received a free Say Anything game in exchange for this review.I have not been compensated in any other way.All opinions expressed  here are solely my own.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wits and Wagers Family game TOS review



Wits and Wagers Family

Northstar Games

North Star Games also produced other family games

Ages 8 and Up for 3-10 players

$15.23 at Amazon (You will be directed to Amazon from NorthStar games website)

Northstar Games has a map locator to find retailer near you.

Wits and Wagers Family is an exciting concept in board games.When you open the box you will find a dry erase score board, six index card-sized dry erase boards for each player or team and a board with a #1 printed on it, two Meeple game tokens (1 small and 1 large) for each player/team in the same colors as the mini boards, and dry erase pens for each board.There is also a stack of question and answer cards in a tray.


Wits and Wagers Family can be played by individuals or teams of 2. Each player or team needs one board and two Meeples in matching colors and a pen. Players or teams take turns reading a question on the card and then everyone rights their answer on their board. All questions are answered with a number. Boards are then placed in numerical order in the center of the playing surface behind the number 1. The players then look at the other players answers and place their Meeples on the boards which they feel have the closet correct answers without going over. The reader then reveals the answer to the question. Whoever wrote the closest correct answer receives a point. One or two points are also rewarded to the players who put any of their Meeples on the board with the correct answer; one point for the small Meeple, two points for the large Meeples.

Meeples are small colored tokens that look like a cross between a person and a star.

My Thoughts about Wits and Wagers Family

I really like the design of this game. The idea of dry erase boards is ingenious. I love not having to use paper to keep score or play; less paper in the box or floating around makes me a happier Momma. All of the game items fit compactly in the box by being stacked on top of each other in the compartmentalized plastic holder in the box. Then the score card fits neatly on top of everything else. The whole box is approximately 8 by 10 inches by 3 inches tall so it doesn't take much room on the shelf at all.

The questions cover a wide variety of topics so it is fairly easy for all ages to play. Some things had to be explained to my 7 year old though, he was not familiar with the term percentage for example. Some of the guesses were pretty hilarious at times. Both he and my 10-year-old loved playing. They couldn't get enough and wanted to play almost every day. At this rate we will need to have an additional set of question cards to keep us going.

Scoring is simple and straightforward. It is possible to score pretty quickly too, so that helps to keep the game moving along. No one got bored because the game was too slow-paced. It also didn't take hours to play a game and have young minds wander because they lost interest. Generally it took us about 40 minutes of playing time before someone scored enough points to win the game.

This game will have a broad appeal to many families because it engages different age groups, has a variety of questions, and helps to foster a friendly playing experience that does not drag on in today's busy world.


Disclaimer: I received a free game set in exchange for this honest review. I have not been compensated in any other manner. All opinions expressed here are totally my own.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Homeschool Mothers Journal Weekly Review 10/15

In my life this week…
I took some time to read a book that I wanted to, just for me, because I saw it at the library and didn't have to wait for it on the hold list.It was a nice break from the reading I've been doing as I declutter.

In our homeschool this week…
Our library has kits they call touch kits.  These are tubs filled with many objects related to a specific topic.  This week we had one about art in the Ancient World.   It contained several coins, an ancient lamp, a couple small vases (one beautifully decorated), a small weaponry knife, a bust of Zeus, a model of a cat from ancient Chinese art, and tiny mummy figures that were replicas of those put in tombs. There were also gorgeous posters of a mummy and a Roman urn and a time line covering 3000BC to about 100 AD.  Also in the kit was a tape with several fascinating stories like the Epic of Gilgamesh and Remus and Romulus.  
Both of the children loved this and were enthralled with it.  We spent several hours over the course of several days exploring all these treasures.

I am inspired by…
The days of slightly cooler weather have gotten me thinking about getting out cuddly blankets.
Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
We had the opportunity to go to the homeschool class at our library.  This month's topic was Christopher Columbus.  The children made telescopes and little boats. Don't have a boat here and I am not going to try to find one in the dark in their rooms.  Maybe next week I can share the picture.

They also had piano lessons.  Daughter is making great progress on Minuet in G and a Sonatina.  She also received several new pieces.

My favorite thing this week was…
I think it was the art kit from the library.
What’s working/not working for us…
My 10 year old is having a tough time with  multiplication.

Narration is one of their least favorite things to do. Maybe it always has been, been I think its benefit is far too great to drop it.

Questions/thoughts I have…
 I keep wondering where the days and weeks go.  I'm sitting here on Sunday night finishing up loose ends from last week and doing this.  I really should be finalizing plans for this next week.
Seriously, I am still thinking about how I can make learning more engaging for my 7 year old.  He is certainly capable, but doesn't want to work or show me what he knows and learns.

I’m reading…
 1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber 

Thanks to Sue at Homeschool Chick for hosting Homeschool Mothers Journal.

Homeschool Supplies and Finances

Several times a month the TOS Homeschool Crew members have the opportunity to participate in a special blogging opportunity.A specific topic or question is posed and members blog about their answers or experiences. Although I was on the Crew last year, this is the first time I have participated in this blog cruise.

The Question for the newest TOS Blog Cruise is asking crew members Do they set a budget for homeschool supplies and books?Quick Answer: No, not really.

Ok, here's what I do. Beginning in the late spring I generally take stock of where are my children are in different subjects and begin looking at and thinking about what I want to cover in the next year. From there I look through my shelves to see what I have that my work for my youngest.This doesn't work too well for my oldest as I generally don't have materials for her to grow into. Then I make a list of what I need to fill in the gaps and ideas of programs and curricula to check into.

During the summer I try to purchase the most essential materials or what I would like to have for the first few months of school. I try to do this as inexpensively as possible. This may mean from used sources or discount curriculum suppliers.

Throughout the year I keep a wish list for books and other items that I would really like to have. So far, if I have been patient I have found a number of those items for a lot less than new. I don't start a new list each year, just add and subtract as I find things or learn more about products.

I also keep my eye open for discounts and sales throughout the year,so when I see something on a good price I can grab it.; This also has the side benefit of something new to use and it occasionally review of something covered. I particularly like $1 sales offered by various online retailers. Also one online homeschooling group I belong to has a sale day at the beginning of each month and occasionally someone with have something I am looking for on sale.

We do several lapbooks a year for science and history as well as more for other topics. For these 'kits' I watch several online companies and purchase when they have sales or specials. My history and religion materials have been purchased over the course of several years at the publishers sales in the fall.I have often been able to pick up text books for $5 and workbooks and resource materials for $3 at this time.

For supplies, I usually purchase those when retailers have their back to school promotions. They often have many items for under $1 or not much more, so I can get a whole lot of what we need for less than $10.

We also use the local library system quite extensively.They have a numbers of branches and a fair sized collection as we are in a metropolitan area. They allow a number of items checked out per card, but the number which can be requested from other branches is fairly limited. We use library books quite a bit for science and history as well as fun approaches to other subjects as well as simply to read.

I also use quite a few free resources from various online companies and sources.If I run across anything free online I generally save it to my computer because I don't know when it might be beneficial.About the only time I don't do this is if it is something which is way below my youngest level.However, I may still save it if it is something which can be modified or used for another purpose in some way.

So you may be wondering how I keep my spending under control and keep track of what I am spending for our homeschooling adventure.I simply keep a record of all my purchases and the amount.Since most of my purchases go on a credit card which we pay off monthly it is fairly easy to double check to make sure I have recorded everything.Also, if I notice the credit card getting to high, I just don't look at "good sales" for a month or two.

While this may sound kind of loosey goosey, it has worked for us so far.I actually have not spent over $500 a year total in any of the years I have been homeschooling.Some years I may spend more for one child than the other, but it's not the amount of money spent that determines the quality of their education.

Friday, October 14, 2011

E-Mealz New Review


Many families, whether they homeschool or not, have had to reassess their spending habits lately and one area that is usually scrutinized is the grocery and food budget. If this is the case people look to different sources to assist them with spending less, without compromising the quality of what they are used to. One resource which may help in this quest is E-Mealz. E-Mealz is a subscription menu planning and shopping service. No, they won't do the actual shopping for you, but they will plan meals and prepare a shopping list. So if this sounds like it might help you read on.

How E-Mealz Works

E-Mealz offers menu plans for various dietary needs such as gluten free, low carb, low fat, portion control, and vegetarian. The menu plans are also written for specific stores such as Wal-Mart, Kroger, Aldi, and generic plans which can be used at any grocery store. The majority of menu plans are written for families of 4-6 people, however, there are several choices available for families of 2 people.

Sample Menu Plan and Shopping list

Upon signing up the user selects the store they wish to shop and if they have any specific dietary concerns. Then on a set day each week they have a new seven day meal plan available to download and print. This meal plan includes a dinner for each day of the week and a shopping list. The dinner is a main entree and one or two sides. The shopping list includes everything needed to prepare all seven meals, (five meals on the plans for 2 people) including any staples required. The shopping list is broken down into areas of the store and lists prices as well. A total for the week is also included. Each item also has a notation regarding which meal it is for so if you decide not to make a certain menu those ingredients can be easily crossed off.

The price? E-Mealz costs $15 every 3 months charged to your credit card

Descriptions of all the meal plans and options are simply broken down on the index cards in the center of E-Mealz homepage. There are also partial samples of the menu plans available at the same location.

E-Mealz also aims to help the cook from becoming a short order cook for every meal while bringing families together around the table to enhance family life.

How I Used E-Mealz

I chose the Wal-Mart plan as I generally do my grocery shopping there and a warehouse club. I appreciated having the shopping list already prepared. I did run into some challenges with E-Mealz though.

  • Many of the recipes just did not appeal to my family. My husband readily admits that the family is a bunch of "Culinary Philistines"(he gave me permission to use the quote). The recipes were just to different from what they are used to for them to be willing to try something new or contained unusual pairings of main dishes and sides. Changing side dishes would have been an easy fix, but they weren't interested in the main course. There were also a number of sea food meals, which is not something half of my family will eat. Additionally, seafood does not fit into my budget. Many of the sides were not in season and therefore not available or else out of my budget as well. Due to the seasonality and personal taste I did end up substituting sides on several menus.

  • Chicken Parmesan Menu

  • Cooking times were not accurate in my experience. I found that several items needed to be cooked longer in order to be done. Additionally, I needed to modify the preparation instructions to have the dish turn out. For example, we made Chicken Parmesan several times. After the first time I found it was necessary to do a more elaborate breading to get the coating to stick to the chicken as well as increase the cooking time.

  • The prices on the shopping list did not accurately reflect the prices at my Wal-Mart. On this issue, I know that grocery prices have been rising lately and it is challenging to keep up to date with them. I also know that prices at Wal-Mart vary from store to store and region to region. Having mentioned that, I still liked having the prices on the shopping list as it gave me some idea of what to expect before I got to the store.

  • I had several more pictures of meals I made, but unfortunately they did not turn out well.

    I do really like the idea of having menu plans and shopping lists available at the click of my mouse. For me, I think I would have gotten more use out of a program which allowed me to make choices between several main entrees and then through the magic of computers assembled my picks into a menu or shopping list. Or filling out a simple questionnaire at sign up to exclude some items such as seafood from our menus. I have shared information about E-Mealz with a friend who enjoys cooking, but needs to watch her diet due to diabetic concerns. She questioned if there was a menu plan suitable for diabetic menus. As I am not familiar with those needs I can not tell if this menu option exists. It maybe beneficial if this type of notation was available.

    I do think E-Mealz does a pretty good job selecting meal options for staying within a budget, although it was a little pricey for just dinner meals for a week.

    We found that there was plenty to feed our family of four with enough left over for at least one more meal.

    To learn how other TOS Crew members used E-Mealz, check out the Crew Blog.


    Disclaimer: I received a free limited time subscription to e-mealz to use so I could write this review. I have not been compensated in any other manner. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Always Ice Cream TOS Review

    Always Icecream 



    For Girls ages 7-12

    Subscriptions range from Monthly to Lifetime   Prices start at $4.99 a month with the first month only 99 cents. Various subscriptions can be viewed at the Always Icecream website.
    Always Icecream also has a free trial available.

    The site can be used in both English and German.

    Always Icecream is a site for girls blending fun, learning and creativity.  Activities on the site include games for fun and learning enrichment, designing furnishings for their homes and to "sell" in their shops, caring for virtual pets, and conversing with friends on the site.

    One of the creative activities featured on Always Icecream allows the user to design furniture items and then "sell" them to other users.  These pieces are used to furnish their virtual homes on the site.

    Games on Always Icecream cover the subjects of Language Arts, Math and advanced Math, Science, Geography & History, Music & Arts, Computers (including typing), Foreign Languages, and Christian Education.  Most of the games in all the categories have multiple levels so that users can advance in difficulty as their knowledge increases.

    Language Arts games topics include synonyms, homonyms and homophones, and  "Melting Scoops". "Melting Scoops" is a hang man type game where the player has to choose letters to make the word before all the scoops in the ice cream cone have melted. Scoops "melt" or disappear when letters not in the word are guessed. There are several different subject categories from to choose and then words related to that subject are used. There is also a German synonyms game.

    Math games include the four basic operations as well as percentages. The subjects in Advanced Math include fraction operations, exponents, simplifying terms and square numbers.

    The Science category features a Basic Human Anatomy game, health, dog breeds quiz, and general science quiz available in both English and German.

    PhotobucketIn Geography and History you will find games that practice the states, state capitals, Presidents, Countries in the major continents, State shapes,North American and Caribbean flags, European capitals, and Geography facts.

    The Music and Arts category has games to identify instruments and classical music and composers.

    The Computers category provides typing practice games, and internet safety quizzes in both English and German.

    The Foreign Language category features games in German and Spanish.  These games focus on vocabulary practice in the individual languages as well as going from one language to another. Like German to English and vice versa, and Spanish to English and the reverse as well as Spanish to German. 

    In the Christian Education category you will find quizzes about the Bible, New Testament and Bible verses.


    By playing these games, users earn scoops (the currency on Always Icecream) which can be used to purchase and take care of virtual pets, buy homes, and furnishings.
    The graph shows how well  taken care of the pet is. Beneath are the options for taking care of the pet and items which have been purchased for pet care. 

    Users can also watch a variety of videos:  how to videos teaching skills such as cake decorating and crafts to sports and others just for fun.  You can also find several videos which explain math concepts and procedures. Watching some of these videos is also a method of earning scoops.

    In addition to the girls' account, it is possible to activate a parent account and link it to the girls' account. Having a parent account allows the parent to select the type of content which the girl has access to as well as which social features are enabled. Setting up a parent account also allows the parent to award the daughter  scoops for completing specific tasks of the parent's choosing or just because.  Weekly emails detailing activities used and progress are sent to the parent's email address.

     How We Used Always Icecream

    My 10 year old daughter loved having the opportunity to learn and play on Always Ice cream. The games were so much fun, it hardly seemed like learning.

    This is what she had to say:

    "I really like to design furniture because you can design so many ways, but when you put a sticker 
    on a line the line goes over it. I like the classical music quiz 
    and I'm good at it because I play piano and I play some of those famous songs. "

    I really like the large variety of topics available in the games and activities.  There is something for my daughter to do no matter what subject she is interested in that day. I am also pleased that so much of the site is knowledge or character focused, Always Icecream doesn't feature many activities which distract from learning or growing. (I don't mean to imply I don't like or allow my children to play computer games). 

    I was also pleasantly surprised to see so many resources available in German on the site.  My husband is fluent in German so it is something which is heard at home and when we attend German language church service. My daughter has picked up some of language this way and playing on Always Icecream has increased her abilities and interest in the German language.

    I would be very interested in a similar format for boys as my son has felt very left out.  He loves to use the computer in both educational and learning pursuits but says Always Icecream is too girly for him.

    Please see what other TOS Crew members have to say about their experiences with Always Icecream at the Crew Blog.


    Disclaimer: I received a free subscription to use for the purposes of writing this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Visual Latin TOS Review


    Visual Latin is designed for students age 9 and up


    Visual Latin is available in DVD Format as well as
    in a digital download iTunes M4V format. This means they can be played on any computer or ipad,iphone,or ipod.

    There are currently 30 lessons available in either format.

    Additional classes are scheduled to be released.


    Visual Latin is available in DVD or Download format.  For this review I received a DVD copy.

    DVD for family use   Lessons 1-30              $80.00
    DVD for family use   Lessons 1-10              $30.00
    Download for family use   Lessons 1-10       $25.00

    Interactive Classes are also available.

    It is also possible to purchase a license for group/co-op use.  Check website for pricing.

    The philosophy behind Visual Latin as shared on their website:
    • It’s better to make students laugh than yawn.
    • Shorter videos teach more effectively than longer ones.
    • Small successes lead to big successes.
    • Children like reading Latin more than memorizing it.

      Thus the format of Visual Latin.  A complete lesson on the DVD is approximately 20 minutes and Dwane injects humor into his explanations quite frequently and the material is presented in small, easily digestible bites.

      Visual Latin is designed to be used  by both children and adults who have no previous experience in Latin.  The only preparation required for these lessons if to print out the worksheets and answer keys.  These are available on the DVD in a computer Pdf format.  They can also be downloaded from the Visual Latin website.

      PhotobucketThe Visual Latin classes are divided into 3 sections: Grammar, Sentences, and Reading.  The first section presents and defines the grammar concept for the lesson with several examples.  In the Sentences section the concept is explored in greater detail and is practiced in more depth using phrases and sentences, which often are related to each other.  Some of the words and phrases used are shown on the bottom of the screen as their are being taught.  For the most part the information being shared is written on a chalk board that can be seen by the viewer.

      The Reading section features Dwane reading an short narrative about Creation. First he reads the whole selection, then he repeats it one phrase at a time leaving time for the student to repeat what he has just said.  During the whole reading session what is being said is shown in words at the bottom of the screen so the viewer can follow along.

      The first ten lessons cover:
      • Being verbs  (two lessons)
      • Gender
      • Singular and Plural
      • Declensions
      • Noun Adjective agreement
      • Nominative and Genitive cases
      • Counting to 10
      • Active Verbs
      • Accusative case

      Visit Visual Latin to see a short video by Dwane.  Visual Latin also offers the opportunity to view the 4 introductory and 2 Regular lessons via download from the website.

      How We Used Visual Latin
      We have been learning Latin for a while and it is one of my childrens' favorite subjects, so they were very excited to have the opportunity to use Visual Latin. Both of them (age 7 and 10) and I watched the first 10 episodes of Visual Latin as well as the introductory sessions about the language and reasons for learning Latin. They both completed the worksheets for the first 7 lessons, except they did the translation out loud rather than writing it out.  (Neither of them enjoys writing very much.) They both really enjoyed watching the videos and appear to have retained a lot of  the information.

      This was not our first Latin class so some of the information presented in the first couple lessons was review for us.  But the different presentation/teaching style was helpful for review and getting back into the subject after a break this summer.

      The lesson presentation is very clear and engaging for the student. Dwane often makes humorous comments, jokes, or little stories during the lesson presentation to engage the student and keep interest.  My children both enjoyed these.  But for me these tended to be distracting from the lessons. 

      The lessons use simple, clear, effective examples to teach the concepts in each lesson.  The examples are connected and build on each other, thus the student can easily see how a concept operates in context and with other sentence elements.

      When we were about half way through the course I came up with the idea of muting the sound on my TV during the student response time of reading/translating. This gave my children the opportunity to read and speak the Latin without having to wait and possible run out of time before moving on to the next phrase. They took pride in being able to read the words and say them without acting like they were just copying somebody else.

      One drawback we experienced with Visual Latin is that there was not a lot of material available for practice/review or working with the concept. While the lack of written work pleased my children I don't think there was enough material available to help them really learn and practice the concepts taught.

      Personally, I think vocabulary is an important building block of learning a foreign language.  So I was pleased to see the variety and quantity presented in all of the segments of each lesson.  It would not take much work on the teachers part to assemble these words for each lesson to help the student review them in addition to using them in the worksheets. I think this would make the words stick better and help the student attain a better grasp of the language.

      I also like that the fact that Dwane pointed out the English derivatives quite frequently throughout all the lessons.  This meshes nicely with one of my reasons for having my children learn Latin. I want them to understand the origin of our English words.

      I believe Visual Latin is a  great option for children and parents who wish to learn Latin in a less stressful manner at a slower pace than other programs or with less written work.  Visual Latin is a very concrete method for learning the Latin language.

      As everyone has different experiences and thoughts about curriculum, please see what other TOS Crew members had to say about Visual Latin at the crew blog.


      Disclaimer:  I received a free DVD copy to use for the purpose of writing this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner and all opinions and thoughts expressed here are solely my own.

      Sunday, October 9, 2011

      Homeschool Mothers Journal Weekly Review 10/8

      The Homeschool Mother's Journal

      In my life this week…
      I spent all my free time this last week getting ready for a garage sale this morning.  The whole process was a lot of work and in the end, the sale was disappointing.  I had several big items I had hoped would sell so I could get them out of the basement, but it didn't happen. I am not sure what I will do with them now.

      In our homeschool this week…
      Not much new - continuing with Ancient Egypt and other regular subjects.  I think we are pretty well finished with electricity for science.

      Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
      The usual piano lessons and library visit.

      What’s working/not working for us…
      Well, there are several things these last couple weeks.  Both of the kids are rebelling with narration lately.  I only require two sentences from my son (who is 7) and a paragraph from my daughter(she's 10), but they are free to do more.  I will even write out what my son says for him to copy, but I am still meeting resistence.

      They are also not very interested in the electricity study we have been doing.  I am very surprised since they usually are very excited about Science.

      What is working is how excited the kids are about Piano this week.  They have done a good job with their practicing for which I am very thankful.

      Questions/thoughts I have…
      I am trying to decide what topic to study next for Science.  I have a series of Science texts, but we don't strictly follow them.  We have done things they are interested in and I either add or subtract requirements depending on grade level. I've asked the kids for input and they don't have any suggestions for me.

      Things I’m working on…
      Sorting stuff in my basement.

      I’m reading…
      Old magazine articles that look interesting and books I have that I am not particularly interested in keeping.
      I’m cooking…
      Whatever I can find in my freezer or pantry ! 

      I’m grateful for…
      The lovely weather we have been having.  The kids have been able to play outside just about every day this week.

      Hope it isn't too hard to read my text color.  It is the closest I could find to my favorite color.

      Thanks to Sue at the Homeschool Chick for hosting Homeschool Mothers Journal.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Scruble Cube New TOS Review


      Scruble Cube

      Ages 8 and up

      Scruble Cube $24.95
      Replacement Labels  $4.95

      According to the companies website Scruble Cube is also available in retail stores.

      The Scruble Cube

      Scruble cube is 4 inch square handheld letter game with infinite possibilities for fun. Each letter of the alphabet, except q and z, are featured at least once and assigned a point value based on its occurrence in English words.  Each face of the cube has 16 circles for a total of 96 letters or bonus point spaces.  The letters in the cubes name appear in red. Also on the cube you will find special circles which give you extra points for letters or words if they fall within your word.  Scruble cube is extremely portable and can be taken with you anywhere so you can play on the go.  Additionally, Scruble Cube has won several major awards from the toy industry.

      If this looks or sounds familiar that maybe because Scruble cube combines popular word games and puzzles, according to their website.  The makers of Scruble cube believe

      "engaging others through play is important" 
      and many other life skills and lessons can also come from playing together.
      These include team work, good sportsmanship, problem solving, 
      listening skills, communication, and strategic thinking.

      To play, the user gently twists the rows and columns to rearrange the letters.  Through this twisting and turning the letters come to new locations and enable words to be formed. Additionally, each letter circle rotates on its square so that letters can be turned the proper direction to form words.

      An additional challenge, especially for puzzle lovers, is putting all the letters back into their original position on the cube.  The enclosed directions include a diagram of the original cube to assist in this endeavor.

      The Scruble Cube package

      What you get in the package

      This is the "Complete Game Set"

      In addition to just playing with Scruble Cube on your own there are lesson plans and ideas available on the website. Replacement score forms are also available on the website in a pdf format.

      How We Used Scruble Cube

      Both of my children and I played with Scruble Cube and most of the time we just hunted for random words and experimented to see what words we could make. I had fun just playing around with it myself.   A couple weeks I worked with each of them individually to make their spelling words on the cube. We also played several rounds using Latin vocabulary words.  Both of them did get frustrated when they tried to make specific words, because they couldn't get the places they wanted.  Their focus was on making up a prechoosen word, not seeing ones already there or easily made. They weren't content with just small, easily made words, but wanted long ones.

      When we played we never kept score, I was using it mainly to help teach spelling words.  My daughter was interested in seeing the point value of words, though. I am sure as we continue to play and both of them get better in spelling we will add the keeping time element to play.

      I like this format for a word game for several reasons.

      • It is portable
      • Small enough to be used while sitting in a chair, I don't have to clean off the table or get comfortable on the floor to enjoy playing
      • There are not annoying beeps or buzzes
      • It can be played without the timer

      Scruble Cube is a great toy/educational item that is fun and addicting while keeping the brain engaged in a meaningful way. Overall, we enjoyed playing, but my 7 year old had some difficulty with turning at times.  This really surprised me as he does everything with gusto.  Maybe my reminders to be gentle helped.

      I am confident that Scruble Cube will be a product which will see continued and repeated use in our home and school work.  It will not easily be outgrown as its use is only limited by the players vocabulary and knowledge.

      SCRUBLE CUBE - a handful of fun which brings word games to a whole new level

      As people have different experiences and opinions about products, be sure to check out what other TOS Crew Members had to say about their experience with Scruble Cube at the Crew Blog.


      Disclaimer:  I received a complete game set to enable me to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.