Today's Wisdom

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 is done!!

Wow, it's been a while since I've checked in with our school progress. I cannot believe how fast another year has gone by!

2010 has been another great homeschool year for us. I feel so blessed to be able to spend such precious time with my children. I really regret not doing it sooner. And for any of you who are like me and keep telling God over and over "I can't do this" stop NOW! He will give you what you need!!

Classical Conversations has been a great new adventure that we added to our school year but at this time the cost is just too much and we are probably not going to sign back up for next year UNLESS God has other plans :)

Also new for 2010 was our joining The Crew and getting to review lots of great products. Again, a blessing! Get ready for lots of reviews in the New Year!

My goal for our homeschool blog is to keep up with posting more. It is so fun to go back and see what we have done!

With the end of a year, brings end of year testing time for us. Although we will have many more months left in our school year, we go ahead and test early mainly for the discount we can get ;). But with that brings thoughts of the next years curriculum as well.

So, three cheers for 2011!!
Testing to see how this works.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review of Tiny Planets

Time for another review!  This time we had the opportunity to play and learn with Bing and Bong of Tiny Planets.  There is also a TV show starring Bing and Bong but I must admit that I had never even heard of them! 

Our family is a lover of all things science so when I heard we could build our own planet we were ecstatic.  All of my children fall in the recommended age range for Tiny Planets which is 4 to 12 years old.  My oldest, however quickly grew bored with what he saw.  Sarah (6) and Stephen (9) had a blast reading the books and watching the TV show.  There are also other games and puzzles that you can play. 

The wonderful thing about Tiny Planets is you can explore around for FREE!  If you find that this is something your family would love more of you will need to set up a parent account so that you can purchase keys for your children and they can unlock even more fantastic shows, books, puzzles, and more!  I think these would make great reward items!  The keys are currently priced at the rates listed below and can be purchased after you set up your parent account (which is free).
  • 10 keys for $1.95
  • 20 keys for $3.95
  • 85 keys for $9.95
  • 250 keys for $25.95
  • 600 keys for $49.95
 You must first create a cadet (student) account (again free!).  Then, you can add all of your cadet accounts to one main parent account if you wish.  Then your cadets can explore each of the websites features.  I will list a description of each category for you from the website.

Tiny Planets Home is your central location to access all our Tiny Planets web sites. The Tiny Planets online content has won two BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards – Interactive Best Entertainment Website and Best Children's Interactive. We're quite proud of that!

On Tiny Planets TV you can watch any of the Tiny Planets television episodes. This series was co-created with Sesame Workshop and emphasizes science education and early learning goals, such as social and emotional development, language and literacy, problem-solving and reasoning, knowledge and understanding of our world, and creative development. Tiny Planets is the only television program to be endorsed by Montessori Centre International, and it's been a favorite in nearly 100 TV territories around the world. Thank you Montessori!

My Tiny Planets is a new online community and virtual world based on science and space exploration that combines social elements and gaming to create an engaging space exploration experience. Children create an avatar (affectionately called their “Space Cadet”), solve galactic missions with Bing and Bong, sharpen their wits with fast-paced mini-games, navigate their spaceships and avoid wormholes, adopt and care for their own planet, and nurture exotic plants in a biodome, all the while racking up achievements and special badges for their accomplishments.

On Tiny Planets Fun your child can take a few moments to enjoy brainy puzzle games (like fractions, sound and seek, and symmetry), as well as coloring books and comics.

On Tiny Planets Books you'll find interactive story books for younger children featuring Bing and Bong, their friends the locals and the flockers, and all the endearing planets in the Universe of Tiny Planets. Read these books with your child, or teach your child to read on their own!

Tiny Planets Learning is our site for parents, homeschoolers, and educators. Here you'll find lesson plans that include educational activities and science experiments to do at home. Also, you'll see how every episode in the Tiny Planets television series maps to early learning goals. Some Tiny Planets parents have even created curriculum for their children using these creative resources!

Tiny Planets Labs is our playground for things to come! We participate in several EU University research projects, keeping us technologically sharp. When we create new games, we put them on our labs site to test them out. Let us know what you think!

The lesson plans found in the Tiny Planets Learning area was one of my favorite parts of the website!

Our family really enjoyed exploring Tiny Planets and look forward to unlocking more!

**Disclaimer:   I received a free invitation to join Tiny Planets.  The opinions here are my true and honest opinions.**


Don't forget to check out what my fellow crewmates thought of Tiny Planets.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review of ALEKS


Our family was given the opportunity to give ALEKS a try.  ALEKS stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces and is basically a web-based tutor in math. 

At the website your student begins with a quick tutorial on how to use the ALEKS system.  Here is a sample of that screen.

Then your student will move on to an assessment of what they do and don't know.  They are then given a math program catered to mastering what that don't know.  If the student has already reached mastery in a certain area, they don't have a whole worksheet with those problems on it to wade through to get to the new stuff.  I really do LOVE that!  Here is a sample of the assessment screen.

After the assessment, the student is presented with a pie chart showing which areas they have mastered and which ones they have not.  As they master an area, they pie chart fills up. They also continue to assess the student periodically so that they can always be working on the areas that they need to work on. 

 And they send you, as a parent, the complete results of the assessment.  If you have more than one child like myself you can have one master account that contains all of your students.  Love that too!

After taking the assessment, you can see that there are links provided that your student can click on to go direct to the Learning Mode where corrections/answers are immediately given.  Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the item is added to the ALEKS Pie, and new topics may become available.

Students also have the ability to print out 16-question worksheets for additional practice or review. These worksheets are uniquely generated based on the student's current knowledge. The worksheet answer key is automatically sent to the Master Account via the ALEKS Message Center.

You can easily monitor all of your students in the master account screen.

The grade levels are 3-12 and they also have higher education options available.  I let Sarah (my 2nd grader) take the assessment as well and she really enjoyed doing the worksheets too.  She knew some of the material during her assessment so she had a little bit of her pie complete :)

ALEKS offers a free trial for yourself and your student so you can decide for yourself!  There is also a quick 2 minute video tour here.

A subscription to ALEKS can be purchased here for.......
  • $19.95 per student, per month, or
  • $99.95 every 6 months, or
  • $179.95 every 12 months.

For those who would use the program with multiple children like myself there is also a family discount.

Would our family purchase a subscription to ALEKS?  I'd have to say no.  There are several reasons why we would not.  The cost is too high for just being our math program.  Even with the family discount, it would cost as much as a whole curriculum.  And you've heard me say it before but Math is my favorite subject and one that I LOVE to teach so turning it over to a computer to do would be extremely hard for me.  I'm not saying I never will but the circumstances would have to be pretty near perfect =)


Don't forget to check out what my fellow crewmates thought of ALEKS.

**Disclaimer: I was given a subscription of this product for review purposes. I received no other compensation for this review. The opinions here are my true and honest evaluation.**

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review of Illuminations Year 2, Grades 3-8


I've been a fan of Mystery of History for the past several years so when I found out there was a program that used Mystery of History as it's spine I was thrilled!  This summer, I searched and found Illuminations by Bright Ideas Press.  It seemed like all I had been looking for in a program but the price at the time was more than I was willing to pay not knowing if it would fit our family or not.  So, when I got the opportunity for this review I was THRILLED!!  My review is of Illuminations, Year 2, 3rd-8th grade program which also includes some K-2 early learning.  So, it covers ALL 3 of my children!  A+++++!

What is Illuminations?  It is a Bible based, practical approach that uses Mystery of History as it's spine and gives you detailed lesson plans to complement it which include literature, writing, spelling, vocabulary, grammar, bible, geography, timelines, science, and many other supplemental resources such as Netflix movies. 

If you are tired of trying to pull your plan together all by yourself, then Illuminations is perfect for you (and me!).

I have very good intentions each summer but never can finish everything I want to when it comes to planning for our upcoming school year.  Well, with this it is so simple and better yet, still flexible!!  If you choose not to use one of their sources for a subject, you can simply fill in your own information in the schedule grid and type out your new plans.  It is just that simple!

Subjects come with complete lesson plans!  The subjects included in the schedule grids are.........

Literature and Writing

The Mystery of History Volume Two: The Early Church and the Middle Ages
Family Study Guides
Read-Alone Guides
hands-on activities
Copy-work (on several levels) is also provided for those following the Charlotte Mason approach.

A complete spelling program—in daily lessons— written by Kathryn Stout, author of The Natural Speller.

Vocabulary is covered through our literature picks as well as from the optional English From The Roots Up Volume 2 book.

The WriteShop program
Foundations to Writing

Grammar Punk
Winston Grammar
Easy Grammar

The Bible reading schedule is well-thought-out and is a great reminder to cover this with your students daily.

Hands-On Geography
The Ultimate Geography & Timeline Guide

History through the Ages Timeline Figures
The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide
Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space

Early Learners
Parents of early learners (K-2) will enjoy the bonus Early Learners Literature List, daily Bible reading schedules just for them, and we’ve adapted Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space to meet the needs of our youngest students.

Now, all you have to do is decide which one of these resources you would like to use and purchase them to get started.  We stuck with Mystery of History 2, the literature guides, the bible, spelling, and copywork for this review.  But if I had been starting at the beginning of the year, I would have looked into purchasing the rest of the curriculum as well.  They line everything up for you so all the work is done!  You can print off a list of what books and supplies that you will need to purchase and get started.  Many of the literature books can be borrowed from your library which is what we did.  And if you want to substitute a different curriculum that you already have on hand, you can easily do that as well with the schedule grid. 

The only thing missing from the line up is math!  All the rest is fully scheduled for you.  The scheduling is for a four day week which works best for our family too.

Tyler Hogan has some wonderful FAQ videos that he has done that will answer most of the questions you may have. 

You may also download samples here.

Illuminations offers Year 1, Year 2,  and Year 3 for 3rd-8th grades. Future years are in process! They also offer a high school courses for Year 1, Year 2, and Year 3.

You can purchase by semester for $82.50 or you can purchase a full year for $165.  High school costs $47.50/semester or $95/year.  If you need both the 3-8 and high school you can save by purchasing both for a full year at $240.  You will get a digital download file or you can get a CD for an additional $20.  If anything happens to your computer or your file if you have registered it, they will replace your product free of charge.

Would our family purchase Illuminations?  After seeing first hand the detail and plans involved and seeing how much time and effort it would save me I would say absolutely YES!  The price seems steep at first but I can use it with all 3 of my children so that breaks down to $55/per child.  My time is so worth that!  And it is one of those things that my husband will step in and say to purchase because he's just that kind of guy!


Don't forget to check out what my fellow crewmates thought of other Bright Ideas Press products also.

**Disclaimer:  I was given a digital download of this product for review purposes.  I received no other compensation for this review. The opinions here are my true and honest evaluation.**

Friday, November 19, 2010

Review of KB Teachers

KB Teachers is an online worksheet jackpot!  I really loved the fact that included in their worksheet jackpot were worksheets for middle and high school too!  Many of the worksheets on KB Teachers are completely free.  To customize your own and have access to all that they provide you will need to purchase a Premium Membership.

Right away I noticed that there was no search feature and I found my answer to why in the FAQ section.

"We believe that on a well designed website you should easily find your way around and find what you need in 3 clicks or less. Gone are the days of searching endlessly!"

Along the sidebar you will find the categories of.....

For This Season - Here you will find the seasonal worksheets.  For example, right now it has different Thanksgiving, fall, and November printables available for you.

English Language - Here you will find lots of printable alphabet, cursive, and grammar sheets.

Math Activities - Here you can find math with images, counting money, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, telling time, themed math, and a classic math section that includes algebra worksheets!

Science - Here you will find astronomy, geology, weather and climate worksheet.  We used several of these to aid in our Classical Conversations memory work.

Biology - Here you find human anatomy, nutrition, marine biology, plants and microbiology worksheets.  We used some of the nutrition sheets to aid in our Cub Scout learning.  Stephen was earning his fitness badge.

Social Studies - Included in this section are workbooks on Ancient History to The Cold War.  This section is primarily for middle and high schoolers.  Grade recommendations are included for the worksheets.

and More Activities - Here you will find many themed worksheets such as dinosaurs, seasons, clip art, basic skills such as shapes, colors, etc.

Some of the worksheets available on KB Teachers website are free.  But in order to print most without a watermark you will need to purchase a premium membership.  The cost of the membership is $29 annually or $49 for a two year membership.  That breaks down to just over $2.00 a month.  It really is a great price!

Here is a sample of a worksheet with the watermark.

Would our family purchase this membership?  At this stage in our homeschool, I would have to say we would not.  We are moving into a new stage where we are using more and more living books with our curriculum and less and less worksheets.  I can see how this could have been a very valuable asset to us at the beginning though when I couldn't keep Sarah busy enough with worksheets!  The themed sections are also very appealing.


Don't forget to check out what my fellow crewmates thought of KB Teachers also.

**Disclaimer:  I was given a subscription to this website for review purposes.  I received no other compensation to review this website.  The opinions here are my true and honest evaluation.**

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review of Corps of Re-Discovery - Fringe Pouch Kit


I am excited to tell you about today's review.  It comes from a company who calls themselves "Corps of Re-Discovery".  Their name is derived from The Corps of Discovery which was the name President Thomas Jefferson gave to Lewis and Clark’s party as he commissioned them to find an east-west water passage to the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago.

Corps of Re-Discovery is a homeschooling family who working together have found and created great project kits to enrich your studies of American Indians, Frontiersmen, and Pioneer and Colonial Americans so you, too can "re discover" America.

Through the homeschool crew we were able to review The Fringe Pouch kit from the Frontiersman selection.  My seven year old, Sarah, was who I chose for this project.  Recommended age was 7 and up.  My oldest son really wants to do one also and he is 12!

Here are the supplies that came with the kit.  All parts are pre-cut and pre-punched. Kits include thread, needle, laces and instructions. Suede Leather. Finished size: 5 1/2" x 6" plus fringe. 

Sarah was so excited and loved every minute of making this.  It was really VERY, VERY simple.  She needed a little help with lining up the fringe at the beginning and adding the drawstring at the end but the rest she did entirely on her own.  The instructions for the drawstring part were a little confusing for me too but we finally figured it out. 
Here is Sarah busy at work.

And her ta-da moment!  She was very pleased with the end result and so was I!

We took two days to complete the kit but it could certainly be done in one sitting!  The cost of the kit is $11.99 + s/h and it can be purchased online here.  It is also available in a Frontiersman Craft Pack Kit that includes the Possibles Bag Kit, Powder Horn, Coon Tail Hat Kit, Regular Tomahawk Kit, the Fringe Pouch Kit (assorted colors), and the Kentucky Pistol for $71.92 + s/h.   You may also make your purchases by phone or mail.  You can find out more about those options here.

Would our family purchase this?  Absolutely!  It was so simple to do yet my daughter was extremely proud that she could do it without much help from her mom!  I thought that the quality for the price was a good match as well.

Check out what my fellow crewmates received and what they thought of some of the other products from Corps of Re-Discovery.

**Disclaimer:  I was given this product for review purposes.  I received no other compensation to review this product.  The opinions here are my true and honest evaluation.**

Friday, October 29, 2010

Buckets-O-Fun Yuck Review!

Oh boy, doesn't that name just say it all!!  My children or myself for that matter could hardly wait when we got our samples of yuck to try!  We tried the snowy, saucy, chunky, and sticky yucks.  Fun, fun, and fun are the comments from my children. 

What in the world is buckets-o-fun?  It's just as the name describes.  A bucket full of fun - all you need to add is water!  Each substance starts with an acrylic polymer and transforms magically into something else once you add water.

The saucy starts out as something that looks like salt and turns into something that looks like applesauce!  We started out with 1tbsp and got a bowl full of fun stuff (uhm..yuck;)!  A pound of yuck will make 35-60 gallons!!  This is what we started with.
And in less than a minute, this is how it ended up!

You can buy tints to add to the yuck and make your own slime.  How fun would that be at a birthday party?  Or a church youth event?  Or just for fun in your own back yard?

Next up was the sticky.  In our observation, we concluded that the starting consistency was like that of sugar.  Again, we started with 1 tbsp.
And the end result was SNOT,lol!  ICKY!  Sarah did say she will never touch the sticky again :)  It was the hardest to get off your hands which really wasn't hard at all.  A little warm water, and it came off like a charm.  A pound of this makes 5-10 gallons.
Next up, was the snowy.  Okay, here in eastern NC we've had some rather unusual warm temperatures.  So, we made snow with 90 degree temperatures outside.  How cool is that?  It started out with the consistency of salt too and 1 tbsp.
And we ended up with snow!  We couldn't have a snowball fight though because it wouldn't stick but it was still fun!
Our experiment continues as we froze some and are observing it to see if it has any changes.  So, I'll update you when we finish that.  One pound of this makes 25-50 gallons.

Then, there was the chunky.  It starts out with the consistency of rock salt and ends up like ice cubes!  Some ideas given were to fill up a pool with this yuck and hide stuff in it for a treasure hunt.  For a list of more fun games you can download go here.  One pound of this makes 35-60 gallons.
Also available are fun yuck accessories like tints, yuckzookas, and water balloons that you can find here.

Yuck can be purchased by the pound online at Buckets-O-Fun for the following price per pound.

Saucy     $18/lb
Sticky     $20/lb
Chunky  $16/lb
Snowy    $20/lb

Other sizes are also available.  You can also request your very own sample packet of yuck by sending an email to!

Would our family purchase yuck?  Absolutely!  Remember, we only used 1 tbsp and made a huge bowl full of yuck.  This stuff goes a long way!  I asked my children to score this product on a scale of 1-10 and all three gave yuck a 10! 

Remember to be safe with all products that you use.  For a list of yuck safety guidelines you can go here.


Visit my fellow crewmates and find out what a "yucky" time they had too!

**Disclaimer:  I was given this product for review purposes.  I received no other compensation to review this product.  The opinions here are my true and honest evaluation.**

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key Review

My childrens' safety is something I am very passionate about.  It is my duty to protect them.  They are children, and they will push their boundaries especially teenagers.  They need their parents' protection.  Do not let them wander into the world without you!  I was a child once.  I know!!

In today's day and time, your children can enter the world without ever leaving your home.  The world can be brought right into their bedrooms, your living room, or anywhere you have a computer in your home or even a cell phone with internet access.  Wake up parents and take responsibility for your children!

This all leads me to today's review.  As a member of TOS Homeschool Crew, I had the opportunity to review a product called PG Key's SafeKey

This little usb that plugs into your computer's usb port is all you need to monitor your child's online activities.


By plugging this simple little device and installing PG Key onto your computer you now have the control you need to enforce your rules even when you can't be there!  If the key is not in the computer, it does not work!  You also have accessibility to many other options as well.   Here is a sample of what you can do with PG Key.

Access Control
Control computer use by inserting or unplugging PG Key.

Time Allowance

Decide the amount of time the computer can be used daily.

Content Filtering
Eliminate unwanted results from innocent searches.

Site Blocking
Block sites you decide are inappropriate.

Activity Tracking
Review all activity on the PC with a DVD-like interface.

Activity Notifications
Be informed via text message or e-mail of any flagged activity.

Chat and E-mail Logging
See both sides of chat and e-mail conversations.

Computer Configuration
Properly configure all users of the protected PC.

User Name and Password Logging
Keep track of user names and passwords.

Inappropriate Activity Evidence
Use video recording to show obvious or suspected inappropriate activity.

If you would like to get a free trial and try PG Key for yourself, you can do so by filling out a request here

The cost of PG Key is $49.99 + s/h and it can be purchased online here or to save on the s/h you can purchase it at Office Max and a few other stores.  There are no additional fees or annual fees.  If you are anything like me here is a valuable bit of extra information.  If you lose your key, you can get a replacement key for $10.  =)

Would our family purchase this product?  I must say, at this time, I do not allow any of my children computer access without my supervision, and they are not left home alone at this age.  So, for now we just do not need a product of this sort.  However,  I could see us needing one in the near future!  I think the price of this is affordable for our family.  You cannot put a price on safety!

With all that being said - PG Key adds this statement and I wholeheartedly agree!

"Simply put - PG Key does NOT replace parenting with technology - It ENABLES parenting with technology."

Now, go and be safe, pray for your children, and give them a big hug today no matter how old they are!

To find out what my crewmates thought of this product go here.

**Disclaimer:  I was given this product for review purposes.  I received no other compensation to review this product.  The opinions here are my true and honest evaluation.**