Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas books!

I got behind on posting what we read every night so I will have one super duper long list of the remaining books we read this Christmas season. If this is your kind of thing, grab some hot cocoa and sit back to enjoy. If it's not, go ahead and just move on to the next blog. :D

These are in no order, beyond how they are sitting here on my desk! haha  I'm probably going to be missing some as the kids have dragged them around the house to read and didn't return them to my desk. How unusual of them. ;)

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Jan Brett
Another fun, beautiful illustrated book retelling the famous poem.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer by Eileen Daly Illustrated by Mill Jancar
This is a small Golden Book my girls received one year when they went and saw Santa at the mall. Something we don't typically do (in fact, that might have been the one and only time) but a fun spur of the moment thing. :)  It's just another version of the familiar Rudolph story.

Henry Van Dyke's The Other Wise Man retold by Pamela Kennedy Illustrated by Robert Barrett
A beautiful retelling of Van Dyke's story of Artaban, one of the Magi who sells all he owns and buys three jewels to give the Christ Child.  He sees the sign in the sky and starts out on his journey only to be stopped along the way. He searches for the rest of his life to find the King and as a result, serves him for his entire life.  Beautiful color illustrations help tell the story of this beautiful old tale.

I Spy Christmas A Book of Picture Riddles by Jean Marzollo, photographs by Walter Wick
A fun, classic I Spy book with a Christmas theme to the pictures.

The Nutcracker illustrated by Michael Hague
The story of the Nutcracker put to Michale Hague's imagination. Wild illustrations that scare my 9 year old! LOL

The Night of the Child text by Robert Benson, photography by Dean Dixon
A collection of photographs of nativity scenes from around the world. The collection is from The Upper Room Museum Nativity Collection. This is a book we just look at throughout the season. Beautiful pictures and really fascinating to see all the different nativities from around the world.

All You Ever Need by Max Lucado illustrated by Douglas Klauba
Not exactly a Christmas book but it was put in w/ the Christmas books, so we read it one night. :)  This book tells the story of a Watermaster giving freely to the people of the land and what happens when He and His Son go away for awhile leaving a trusted friend in charge. It's a reminder of how Christ is all we need and how He gives his love to us w/o conditions or strings attached.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, Illustrated by Liz Bonham
The story of the crippled lamb who doesn't see the purpose in his life until he is left in the barn on the night of Christ's birth. He is the only thing to warm the Christ Child and sees how there was a reason for his disability.

Father Christmas and the Donkey by Elizabeth Clark, illustrated by Jan Ormerod
I love this book. The story starts on a cold, snowy Christmas Eve. A poor, lame donkey is left out in the snowy field. He's looking for a warm place to rest when he hears sleigh bells and gets a very special visit from Father Christmas. Father Christmas has a special present just for the little donkey. The illustrations in this book are beautiful, a shimmery silver and muted colors that give the feeling of a cold, magical Christmas Eve.

More in the next post! :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TOS Review - IEW's Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts all Day DVD

We received Andrew Pudewa's DVD, Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day from Institute For Excellence in Writing for review as part of the TOS Crew.

I feel like I should give you all a disclaimer before you read my review. I feel that I should let you all know that if there were an Andrew Pudewa fan club, I'd be a charter member. :)  Whenever he comes to our states convention, I try to sit in on every lecture that he is presenting and am disappointed if I miss one.

So, with that said, you know where I'm coming from and it will be no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed this DVD. :)  The information presented was fascinating and eye opening. This DVD isn't just for parents of boys, and having girls that easily fall into the category of day dreaming, wannabe fort builders, I found the information presented to be very helpful in how we structure our homeschool day.

This DVD discusses the scientific data that conclusively shows there are differences between the genders.  What a shock, eh? Not to those of us with children that fit both genders but one that is propagated through many arenas, education being one of them.

The nitty gritty info:
Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Build Forts All Day retails for $10.00

Run time is 80 min.

Quality of the product:
It should be noted that this is a taping of an actual lecture. As such, I would rate the quality of this product as very good. You can hear people laughing, coughing,  and moving around.  Also the volume of Andrew speaking  fluctuates.   I only mention this so you know what you are getting. :) None of the above detract from the overall message in any way and I still think $10 is a very fair price. 

Would I recommend this product?  Yes, and I have already to my homeschooling neighbor across the street! :)

IEW has many other products from spelling to writing to poetry memorization. All are excellent in quality and content. Check them out and if Andrew is speaking in your town sometime make sure you check out his lectures. You will be entertained and enlightened.

To see what others on the TOS crew thought of this DVD, or to see what they reviewed, we reviewed a variety of products :), click here.

 I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Traditions - Christmas Baking

Today is cloudy, cool and rainy. Sounds like a perfect day for baking some Christmas treats!

We have nowhere to go and nothing scheduled until this evening, which makes a perfect set up for some Christmas tunes and treats! (maybe I'll even get those Christmas cards out!)

Stay tuned for yummy, messy fun!

I'll also be catching up on all the great Christmas books we've been reading this past week!

Monday, December 13, 2010

TOS Review - ALEKS Math

We were given a one month subscription to ALEKS Math as part of the TOS crew.  I had never heard of ALEKS math prior and all I can say is, WOW!  There is so much to this program it will be hard for me to put it all into my blog post without missing something. So I'll be quoting a lot from their website and providing links so you can check out this incredible math program.

I'll start with what ALEKS is and, since it's rather technical, this is quoted from their website:

  What is ALEKS?

Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and your child may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.

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
  • Learn More
  • 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.

Now how all the above related into actual reality of day to day homeschooling and math in particular. :) 

I used ALEKS with my three oldest as well as creating an account for myself.  We all took an assessment test that shows what we already know and what we are next ready to learn.

After being assessed a pie chart, unique for each individual student, is created. The pie chart shows a students current knowledge and areas where they need work. As the students work through the problems, the pie chart is completed and the student is able to move on to the next level in the course.

There are really cool tools used for graphing, drawing lines, etc. Each problem has a link where your student can click to see how to use the tools for the problem they are working on.  

Having the tools for the students to use, as opposed to multiple choice questions, forces the student to show mastery of the topic. They need to actually work the problem not just guess. Plus, my kids just really thought they were cool and fun to use. :)

The student is given a problem to solve, one problem per page with links to define terms they may be unfamiliar with.

If your student doesn't understand the problem or how to work it, they click on the "explain" button. They are taken to another screen where the problem they were just looking at is worked out, step by step, so they can see exactly how it is to be done. If they need more explanation, they click on "Another explanation" at the bottom of the page that takes them to a page with a much more detailed explanation of the problem.  After they feel they are ready they then go back to "practice" mode and get another problem, similar to the last one to solve. Again, if they are unsure of how to work the problem, they can click on "explain" to see how to work it out.  

Once they work out a problem they click on "next" and the problem is instantly graded and they are given immediate feedback. If it is correct, they move on to another practice problem. If it's incorrect, they are given another attempt to fix the problem. At any time they can click on explain and it will show them the correct procedure to follow to get the correct answer.  Depending on how many incorrect answers given determines how many problems a student is given on any one subject area. I found that if I got two correct in a row, the program moved me on to the next section. It does give you the option to continue practicing those problems or to go ahead and move on. So if your student thought they needed more work, or simply enjoyed doing that particular type of problem, they could keep on working them until ALEKS determined mastery and moved them on to the next section.

If your student needs more practice on a concept, or you want to mix up computer based with paper and pencil, there are worksheets you can print for your student to work problems the old fashioned way. ;)  The worksheets are developed uniquely for your child and what they need to be working on. Pretty cool. :)

 Quick Tables are for mastery of math facts. They are timed which requires your student to know their math facts! There is one drawback for my students with this aspect. They know the answer but they aren't great typists. Which means, they might time out before they figure out where the number is to type it! A minor problem and one that can be easily overcome with typing practice.

Once they've worked through a certain number of quick tables, they earn games!  They are only allowed a certain number of games and quick tables before the computer tells them they are done for the day. Gotta love that. :)

Now for the Teacher side of ALEKS.

 When signing up, the teacher creates a Master Account. From here you add your students and you can track all of their progress and attendance which includes how many hours per day they are working on the ALEKS math program.

This shows the attendance sheet for a "class".  You can click on the individual students topics covered section to see what they were working on.

The Student Progress Report enables the teacher to track their students progress throughout the course. The blue bar shows the percent of course material that has been mastered through ALEKS assessments, the green bar shows the new material your student has mastered through the course and the yellow bar shows what's yet to be mastered.

Quizzes are automatically generated at various intervals based on your students progress. They are graded immediately and the results are provided for both the student and the teacher.

The verdict in our house, ALEKS math was fun and something the girls actually asked to do. I asked my oldest, 13, if she really felt like she was learning and retaining the material. She answered with a resounding, "Yes!" and proceeded to tell me what new concepts she has learned since starting this program last month. She even asked if she could switch to using ALEKS from her current program.

If you'd like to give ALEKS a try, they are offering an incredible deal for fellow homeschoolers.  On their website they offer a free 48 hour trial. But for those reading our reviews here at TOS they are offering a free month of ALEKS (a $19.95 value).  Wohoo!

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

A subscription to ALEKS is

  • $19.95 per student, per month, or
  • only $99.95 every 6 months, or
  • only $179.95 every 12 months.
Have more than one student, like I do :), check out there discount rates for families here.

To see what others on the TOS crew thought of ALEKS Math, click here.

 I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Our lives were momentarily preempted due to soccer tournaments this weekend. Our regularly scheduled lives should resume tomorrow, once I've recovered from non stop soccer since Friday night.

Stay tuned for pictures, books and general fun Christmas activities tomorrow! :D

Friday, December 10, 2010

TOS Review - Good Morning, God

These commands
that I give you today
are to be upon your hearts.

Impress them on your children.
Talk about them
when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down
and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 

And so begins this beautiful picture book we were recently given for review from Apologia PressGood Morning, God by Davis Carman, illustrated by Alice Ratterree, recommended ages are for 1-8 (but all my kids loved this book and their ages are from 1-13!).

Good Morning, God is a story of a four year old worshiping God throughout his week.  He worships, learns and thanks God through play, song, work and as he's going to bed. The beautiful illustrations tell the story as much as the simple sweet words.  There are a mixture of black and white drawings and full color illustrations, one on each full page that might inspire your young artist to want to get out their crayons and do some coloring! If that is the case, as it is in my home ;), you can purchase a go along Good Morning God coloring book ($4.00) to keep your book free from any of your little Picasso's work.

The author has included suggestions on how to use this book beyond a simple reading. There are questions at the end of the book broken down into each day of the week that can help you use it as a discipleship tool.  If you want to dig even deeper and use this book as part of your daily devotion, the author suggests reading the book everyday, including the scripture, discuss what aspect of worship the boy engaged in that day and how that relates to your child and family and use the questions in the back for each day. It will definitely get your littlest guy or gal thinking about all the wonderful ways we can show God how much we love Him.

This beautiful book retails for $14.00.  You can see a sample chapter, as well as to purchase a copy, here.  While you're there, make sure to check out the other great products put out by Apologia Press!

To see what others on the TOS crew thought of Good Morning, God, click here.

 I received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it.  I received no other compensation for this review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my personal, honest opinions.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 9, book 13

Tonight's book was Jan Brett's version of the Ukrainian folk tale, The Mitten.

We enjoy Jan Brett's books with their incredible illustrations. There is so much going on in the main text as well as in the margins, we always find new things every time we read her books!  I love how she weaves what's coming next into her margins, little previews of what's to come. So clever. :)

We have a few versions of this story of a boy who's grandmother knits him a special pair of mittens and tells him to be careful and not lose them while he goes out to play in the snow. Of course the mitten falls out of his pocket early on and the animals of the woods use it for shelter from the bitter cold winter weather.

Such a fun, fanciful story. My kids particularly enjoy this story because it's Ukrainian, just like Great Grandma and Grandpa! We don't see a lot of things labeled "Ukrainian" around here, so whenever we do, they are all very excited. :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 8, book 12

Tonight's book was, Corduroy's Christmas, a book based on the character created by Don Freeman, illustrated by Lisa McCue.

This was a book I bought when my oldest was just itty bitty. This cute little flap book takes Corduroy through all his holiday traditions leading up to Christmas day.  My oldest loved all those types of books w/ flaps and different textures to feel, so this book was always a favorite (as you can tell from the binding ;) ).

This year my little K. was the one who got to discover Corduroy's surprises underneath the various flaps. She was so excited to see what was underneath each little flap. It brought me back to when my E. was her age. :)  Later in the evening, J, my 4 year old, came up to me and asked if he could look at, "That book with all those flap things."  He then sat down and "read" Corduroy enjoying opening all the flaps w/o a toddler to get in the way! LOL

This book is definitely not a literary giant in the world of publishing but how can you not love Corduroy? :)

Holiday Traditions - More Nativities

Last night my homeschool support group held an ornament exchange Christmas Party for our Mom's Night Out. It was a great evening of fun, fellowship and fabulous food! (how's that for some alliteration this morning :) ).

Because I wasn't home, the evening events here didn't follow their normal sequence so after our advent readings our traditional pick the Christmas book didn't happen. I was told they watched a Christmas movie instead. Something about Dogs and Caroling? I'm sure it was a classic. ;-) So I won't be sharing a book today but I will share the rest of my Nativity sets. :)

This fuzzy little snow globe nativity was my very first nativity scene that I received when I was a very young girl, maybe 5ish?  The water needs to be refilled and the plastic is all scratched up, but what a precious little snow globe that I have managed to keep through the years. :)

I should take a better picture of this sweet Precious Moments snow globe nativity!  This one is actually A's but she graciously lets me display it in the nook of our entry way. A. loves snow globes and nativity scenes and well, just about everything to do with Christmas. She is my resident Christmas decorator now and I love watching her create her magic throughout the house. This plays Silent Night and sparkly "snow".  So pretty and peaceful.

This nativity I bought through Christmas Around the World. I don't think it's around anymore. It was one of those MLM companies where you'd host a party, your friends would buy goods and depending on the total sales, you got free merchandise.  Their products were actually really good and pretty decent quality so when I hosted my party my friends and family purchased a bunch and I got a lot of free merchandise.  I still have quite a bit of decorations from that party and they have held up really well for, ahem, well over 2 decades!  This nativity was one of my free gifts.  It lights up (you can see the cords and battery/light holder under the stable hehe) and plays Silent Night.  This is another sweet little nativity.

My next nativity is a mantle scarf that I found at the Brass Pig Tea Room in Springboro, OH.  We enjoyed eating at The Brass Pig when we lived in Ohio, especially at Christmas time. They would set up this huge Christmas display with all sorts of beautiful decorations. I fell in love with this scarf when I saw it and was so excited when I was able to go back and purchase it. I only took pictures of the different scenes. I'll come back later with a full view picture of the entire mantle. :)

 The middle portion has the manger scene

 On the left side are the Wisemen following the star

On the right are the shepherds

 Along the top, is the little town of Bethlehem

 My special nativity is the one from Willow Tree. I love this nativity. I started with just Mary w/ Jesus and Joseph w/ a few of the animals and through the years added another set.  I love all of Willow Tree figurines, the nativity is my most favorite display of all. :)

I think that's all of my nativity scenes, except for the one's on ornaments. If I found anymore, I'll add them in! :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 6, book 11

Tonight's book was, If You're Missing Baby Jesus by Jean Gietzen, illustrated by Vickie Shuck.

If You're Missing Baby Jesus is a sweet book based on a true story and really shares what the true meaning of Christmas is all about. I was given this book by my CBS core leader my first year attending CBS. For our Christmas luncheon she handed each of us our copy and then attempted to read the book to us while we were enjoying our lunch. She warned us ahead of time that she never gets through the book without crying and about half way through, someone else took over reading for her.  Truly a very sweet, encouraging story that inspires my family to want to reach out every year and help those in need.

Holiday Traditions - FIAR Ornament Exchange Tree

We've gotten so many fantastic ornaments through the years from our FIAR ornament exchange I finally did what many of my fellow rowers did many years ago, we bought a tree just for our FIAR ornaments! :)

We've put it in our school room and have all of our ornaments lovingly placed on the tree. The kids have really enjoyed looking at all the ornaments from years past all in one spot. We don't have our big tree up yet, so they are enjoying this small one w/ all these special ornaments all the more. :)

Our new tree with our newest ornaments

 All decorated. :)

 another side

 close up of another side

 another close up of the ornaments on the bottom

 More close-ups

 Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Rag Coat, Lentil

Harold's Purple Crayon, How to make an Apple Pie and See the World, Ping, Ferdinand, Snowflake Bentley (a few of those up there. :) )
ABC Bunny, Hanna's Cold Winter, The Pumpkin Runner and Ping

 The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

 Night of the Moonjellies and Ferdinand the Bull

 Follow the Drinking Gourd

 The Gully Washer

Aren't these fun and unique? We love our FIAR community. 

See an ornament you made?  Leave a comment and share which one it was. :)