Wednesday, March 30, 2011

TOS Review - Latin Alive

Title:  Latin Alive! Book 1
Author:  Karen Moore and Gaylan DuBose
ISBN:  Student Text: 9781600510540
            Teacher Manual:  9781600510557
            DVD & CD Set (taught by Karen Moore):  9781600510595
Age Range: Grades 7+
Website:  Classical Academic Press
 Price:  Latin Alive! 1 Bundle  - $139.95

As part of the TOS Crew we were recently sent the Latin Alive! 1 Bundle  from Classical Academic Press. The bundle contains a consumable, sturdy paperback student text ($24.95) as well as a TM (29.95) and a 4 disc DVD & CD set ($114.95).

From their website:

Students will be delighted by what they learn in each new chapter of Latin Alive! Book One, and they will learn to see that Latin is everywhere around them. As the first text in a three-year series, it is a rigorous and thorough introduction to this great language, and is designed to engage the upper school (middle and high school) student. Brimming with relevant facts and stories this text offers something for everyone.

  • Thirty six weekly chapters including twenty nine new content chapters and seven review, “reading” chapters.
  • Pronunciation Guides
  • Weekly introduction of vocabulary
  • Thorough grammar explanations including all five noun declensions and cases, all verb conjugations, irregular verbs, various pronouns, adjectives and adverbs
  • United States state seals and their Latin mottos
  • Extensive study of the Latin derivatives of English words
  • Substantial Latin readings and translation exercises
  • Lessons and stories of Roman culture, myths and history
  • Exercises and questions to prepare students for the National Latin Exam and the Advanced Placement Exam
  • Includes historical contributions from Christopher Schlect, historian and Academic Dean at New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, ID

(make sure you click on the link "Headadventure Land" for fun, yes I said fun, Latin games!)

Not having studied Latin previously, this program was a giant leap into the world of Latin for us! The  program is directed to the student,  so I had my oldest daughter, who is 13, take this program and utilize it to the best of her ability. Her thoughts on the program included:
  • It was interesting
  • The instructor was easy to understand and follow
  • It was fun to learn the new words and meanings

Check out this sample of Karen Moore teaching lesson one to get a feel for what is in this program. (pause the player on the right first)

 E. is not too far into the program but she has enjoyed what she has learned so far.  This particular daughter loves language and words and this program has whet her appetite to learn more.

We found this program to be thorough and engaging. My daughter enjoys the lessons, which makes her more apt to actually get her lessons done in a timely manner. I would recommend this program to someone looking for a solid Latin program for their Jr. High on up student. My only lingering consideration is this.  Since both my daughter and I have zero experience with Latin, had I been the one to choose this program on my own, I probably would have started her off at the level before this one.  However, even though she's had to work a little harder than if she had already been exposed to Latin already, she has had no trouble actually grasping the concepts being taught. That would have just been more for my comfort level. :)

There is an active Yahoo email group where you will find all sorts of helps and hints for getting the most out of this curriculum.  It's a great place to ask questions and glean from those more experienced with the language.

Classical Academic Press also offers other language programs including, Latin for younger students, Greek, French and Spanish. They also offer Logic, Bible,  & Poetry programs as well. Definitely check out their website for some interesting curriculum.

To see what others on the TOS Crew thought of the Latin Alive Book 1, as well as reviews of some of the other Latin programs offered through Classical Academic Press, 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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TOS Review - Artistic Pursuits

We recently had the opportunity to review ARTistic Pursuits,   Junior High Book Two, Color and Composition by Brenda Ellis.

 I first became acquainted with ARTistic Pursuits early on in our homeschooling career through huge endorsements and high praises from fellow homeschoolers.  I remember looking at the program when my oldest was just in preschool!  Time has flown! She's now 13 and well into her Jr. High studies but her love of art and her artistic ability is still just as strong now as it was when she was three.  

 From Artistic Pursuits website regarding this book:

This book gives students an in-depth look at color theory and how to use it with a dry media such as soft or hard pastels and oil pastels. The element of color is explored in 8 units, completing the student's study of the elements of art. Composition, as it relates to color, is further explored in the following 8 units, covering ideas of depth and perspective found throughout the world. Emphasis is on World Art. 

Each unit contains four lessons, here's what they cover (sample copy of Lesson 12)

 Lesson One
  • Building a Visual Vocabulary - Students are given a topic to focus on through words and pictures. They are to observe their own environment to make connections to the real-world experiences. Then, they create works of art incorporating their topic they focused on and their environment.
 Vocabulary and Creative Exercise

Lesson Two
  • Art Appreciation and Art History - Art work from famous artists are shown that emphasis the topics in Lesson One.  The student learns how the various artists incorporated those elements into their artwork and then create their own works of art using what they learned in Lesson one as well as what they have observed from the Masters in Lesson 2. For Art History, there is a small section on the featured artist as well as a section on the culture from that time. We found these sections really interesting.
Art Appreciation

Art History

Lesson Three
  • Techniques - Students learn how to use the materials and tools to create new pieces of art.

Lesson Four
  • Application - A final project is completed combining all the three elements previously studied, incorporating a variety of references such as still life objects, landscapes, portraiture, photographs, etc.
There is a suggested schedule to follow of allowing for two, one hour classes, per week.  This will give you 32 weeks of lessons, so one book will take you through an entire school year.

Provided in the book is a list of art supplies to have on hand for the lessons, which I love! Having the supply list printed in the front of the book for all lessons included makes it so easy to make sure I had everything my students were going to need long before they ever needed them! They give suggested brand names and even provide pictures of the products, which I found handy when I was trying to find some of the products. :) They really do try to make art as fun and painless for everyone, even those like me who are not artistically bent. :)

Our book included a page on safe handling of the art medium, which I appreciated. Since we were using pastels, both dry and oil, I was glad that my students got a safety lesson before ever opening their box of colors. 

All of my kids have seemed to pick up an art gene somewhere (not from me!), so receiving this product for review was pure joy.  They loved doing the lessons and learning new techniques. They have always enjoyed looking at art, my 13 year old just asked if we could go visit our local art museum yesterday. :)  They enjoyed every aspect of this program. From looking at the colorful masterpieces and learning about the artist that created them to learning new techniques and creating their own works of art, they found it all to be fun and something they look forward to each week.

I used this book with my two oldest ages 13 and 11. The lessons are written clearly enough that they can take the book and do the lessons on their own.  Something that we all appreciated as I wasn't always available to go over each lesson with them before they started.

 13 yo's picture overlaying color and using bold strokes around the subject
(Unit 2)

11 yo's picture of using one color and "erasing" color to get shading from paper underneath
(Unit 1)

ARTistic Pursuits has books for ages Preschool through Highschool. The books are non-consumable so you are able to use them with your entire family through the years.  Each book sells for $42.95 and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.

ARTistic Pursuits philosophy can be found here, but I think the quote in my daughters Jr. High Level 2 book, lesson 2, sums up their philosophy pretty well:

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing" - Aristotle

You won't find scripted lessons, video's or lessons that have no real world application. Your student will learn by immersing themselves in the world of art and by creating their own masterpieces.  This was perfect for my creative gals and I would highly recommend this program to anyone who wants to learn by doing, not by watching!

Check out their website for more info on their philosophy and while you're there make sure you check out the gallery of different students works, created by using ARTistic Pursuits! 

To see what others on the TOS Crew thought of ARTistic Pursuits and to see other levels (the crew reviewed all of them :) ), 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, March 15, 2011

TOS Review - Apologia - Who is God?

Title:  Who Is God? And Can I Really Know Him?
Author:  John Hay and David Webb
ISBN:  978-1-935495-07-9
Publisher:  Apologia Press, a division of Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc.
Contact:  Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc.
                 1106 Meridian Plaza, Ste 220
                 Anderson, IN 46016
Phone:  (767)608-3280
Fax:  (765)608-3290
Retail price:  $39.00
Ages:  6-14

We recently had the opportunity to use Who Is God? (And Can I Really Know Him?) as part of the TOS crew.  Used as a Biblical worldview curriculum, Who is God? is a beautiful hardback book, divided into 10 lessons and is 252 pages long. Who is God? is the first in a series of Christian Worldview teachings published by Apologia. The second book in the series Who Am I? is also available from the Apologia website.  The remaining two books, Who is My Brother? and What on Earth Can I Do? will be published in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Each lesson in Who Is God? includes:
  • The Big Idea - an introduction to the main topic of the lesson and a brief overview of previously covered material.
  • What You Will Do - states the learning objectives for the lesson.
  • Short Story - a short story featuring characters aged within the target age group for this book. The stories will deal with the object lesson for that section.
  • Think About It - thought provoking questions which dig deeper into the short stories.
  • Words You Need to Know - vocabulary words for each lesson.
  • Hide It in Your Heart - Bible memorization.
  • Integrated Learning - Articles that give your student a broader scope for the lessons. They will branch into areas of history, science, art, etc.
  • What Should I Do? - Various godly character traits that the child should work on.
  • Prayer - each lesson concludes with a prayer to thank God for who He is. Easily adaptable for use in individual families
  • Worldview Study - Ongoing study throughout the book that introduces the child to the concept of worldview. The student is allowed to think about what they have learned in each lesson and how they can apply that knowledge to the world they live in.
  • House of Truth - a hands on memory aid, to be constructed one piece at a time.

Why study a worldview curriculum, you might be asking yourself? Our world is inundated by messages. Everywhere we turn we are bombarded by a constant stream of someone's worldview. Teaching our children how to discern the worlds messages against God's message at an early age will help them as they grow to be better scholars, consumers and to play an active role rather than a passive role  in life.

 We used this book as our devotions for this review period, so all of my kids sat in and listened, ages 2-13. I had the older three do the notebooking activities (notebook pages can be found at the Apologia website through a special password obtained once you purchase the book), while the younger three just listened in. :)

Each lesson is flexible and easily adapted to each individual families needs. We roughly followed the lay-out provided in the Introduction of the text and split each lesson up into two weeks of three days each.

This is the suggested schedule, which we easily tweaked to fit our family's needs:

Day One
  • Read "The Big Idea" and "What You Will Do"
  • Read the Short Story and Discuss
  • Discuss the questions in "Think About It"
Day Two
  • Study "Words You Need to Know"
  • Memorize "Hide it in Your Heart" verses
  • Read sidebar articles and do activities
  • Write or draw in notebook about what was studied
 Day Three
  • Read and discuss first half of the main lesson
  • Notebook the "Make a Note of It" activities
  • Write or draw in notebook about what was studied
Day Four
  • Read and discus second half of the main lesson
  • Notebook the "Make a Note of It" activities
  • Write or draw in notebook about what was studied
Day Five
  • Read and discuss "What Should I Do?" for character development
  • Read and use the prayer for spiritual development
  • Write or draw in notebook about what was studied
Day Six
  • Read and discuss the Worldview Study section
  • Write or draw in notebook about what was studied
  • Construct or draw the next phase of the House of Truth

By nature, we are not notebooking people, so I do have to say that that part of the curriculum got a little lax throughout the week. However, the kids still learned and retained a ton of information that they will keep with them for the rest of their lives.

I felt this program is laid out nicely and is very easy to follow and implement into your homeschool routine. I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking for an elementary - middle school Christian Worldview curriculum.

You can order this book (or if you'd like to check it out some more, download a copy of the Table of Contents as well as a Sample Lesson)  here.

To see what others on the TOS Crew thought of Who is 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.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Garden Days

We're slowly making our backyard a place where we enjoy sitting out and relaxing in. These past few weekends, while the weather has been so beautiful, we've been working on beautifying our little space.

First, we decided to double our gardening space this year! We figured out where we wanted to put our new beds, S. and I scraped away all the gravel, we went to Home Depot to buy the wood, came home and got busy!

Mark and S. put together the beds and brought the irrigation to our new beds all last weekend. On Friday, they delivered 3 yards of soil. Today, we went to the nursery and bought some plants and came home and planted them. :)  Such a wonderful sense of accomplishment to get it all done. :)  We've started with fewer plants than we have had in the past. We may add more to this but for now, we're good with this amount. It seems like we always over buy and the plants get so crowded!

Here's our garden for this year. :)

New Beds

A., S., and R. planting tomatoes

 Green beans and a lonely watermelon plant

Mint from last year (such an invasive little bugger!)

 Tomato and some herbs

We also have some planters on our back patio that I wanted to utilize more this year for cooking. 


Leftover thyme from last year, basil and swiss chard
This planter had a mixture planted in it from last year. We have shamrock, that's coming back from a year ago! Chives from last year and the remains of our basil plant (the wood). I added some Swiss Chard because I didn't know where else to put it! :)

In our old home I had an arbor that I just loved. It had become part of the landscaping so when we moved, I had to leave it there. :(  Recently I found another arbor at Hobby Lobby that I thought would look nice in our new backyard. :)  It went on sale this past weekend and Mark gave his blessing to purchase it. :)  When we placed it in the back, over by our gardening area, S. had a great idea of grabbing our bistro table and chairs from the front yard and moving them over to sit in front of the arbor. 
New arbor w/ bistro table and chairs

As you can see, we need some more landscaping to make the place a little more cozy, but I think S. had a great idea. Can you imagine the arbor w/ some climbing flowering plants, a little shade tree off to the side and sitting there w/ your favorite beverage and a great book to read? It's a great location w/ some awesome views of our yard. 

The next spot we beautified is the gate that goes between our neighbors backyard and ours. We put the gate in when we moved in so the kids could go back and forth easily. There's a little speak easy cut into the gate so they can see if we're out and come over to play.  Love the idea of the gate but, the gate was just ick. LOL It's a pretty cheap gate that the painters never stained and is already showing a lot of wear after just over a year of being installed. Everytime I'd look over in that part of the yard, which has absolutely nothing in it, I would try to think of a way to make that area look a little happier and brighter.  I came up with the idea of adding a window box w/ flowers (fake!) under the speak easy. Once that was up, I grabbed our "W" from our old house and put it above the little cut out. And here's the results!

My "new" gate! Didn't it turn a rather drab gate into something fun?
S. and Mark set the pavers a few weeks ago, in anticipation of our garden. The bunnies were coming in from under the gate. Can't have that w/ fresh lettuce and other goodies newly planted! I like the way they look and think it would look even better extending them out a little bit more. Think they'll agree? Yeah, probably not. LOL

That's how we've been spending our last few weekends!  The next project is to string some fun lights around our patio. When we get that done, I'll post more pictures.
Hope you've enjoyed our beautification project! :)  How have you made your space a little brighter and happier?

Monday, March 7, 2011

TOS Review - The Reading Kingdom

For the past few months, my 7 yos has been using Reading Kingdom's online reading and writing program as part of a review for TOS.

Reading Kingdom is a fun, easy to use program that is geared for ages 4-10, to work on reading and writing to a third grade level.  This program was developed by Dr. Marion Blank.  Who is Dr. Blank?

From the Reading Kingdom's website:

Dr. Blank is the director of the Light on Literacy program at Columbia University in New York and is the author of "The Reading Remedy."  She has spent over forty years studying how children learn to read and is recognized by her peers as one of the world's top experts in literacy. She has used her reading system to help thousands of children – both strong and struggling readers – learn how to read. Now she is making her method available to every child.

Some of the highlights of  Reading Kingdom
  • It customizes itself to each child
  • Most children can do the program on their own after just a few weeks
  • It's fun and children enjoy doing it
  • It's created by Dr. Marion Blank, one of the world's top experts in literacy
  • It works with any other curriculum a child may be using
  • And, it's the only system that teaches all 6 skills needed for reading & writing success!

The chart below shows the areas that The Reading Kingdom utilizes in this program.

How the program works ~

After you sign up your child, they log on and are assessed on their skills on the keyboard. This particular area is stressed since this program relies heavily on keyboarding use. If your child is weak in this area, they will not do well in this program.  By having your student work on keyboarding skills before starting the program, less frustration and great success can be achieved. The skills survey is achieved through a series of games that helps determine the best placement for your child.

One of the games in the skills assessment

The program will "grade" your child's assessment and place them in one of six levels:
  • Pre-reading Level
  • Teaches the Visual Sequencing and Keyboarding Skills that underlie reading and writing. A child goes through one or both of these programs if the Skills Survey shows that these components are needed.
  • Level 1
  • Gets your child reading, understanding and writing meaningful ideas by teaching key nouns (kids, girl, bird), verbs (actions such as eat, walk, fly) and "helping" words (the, some, is, can, are). Once a set of words has been taught, the child gets to read a book containing those words, along with words previously taught. As in all subsequent levels, there are six books in Level 2.    
  • Level 2
  • Greatly expands the range of ideas your child reads and writes by adding new nouns (puppies, man, water), verbs relevant to those nouns (run, fix, move, including words that convey motivation such as need, want, like), pronouns (she, I, we), additional "helping" words (that, also, both, of) and question words (who, what, which). 
  • Level 3
  • Enhances your child's ability to tell and understand stories by teaching the words to convey past tense (was, did, were), along with increasing the range of nouns (ground, rocks), verbs (push, think, hurt), "helping" words (most, on, any), and adjectives (sad, happy, nice, -y as in dirty, rocky).

  • Level 4
  • Gets your child reading subject matter that is different from typical stories and essential to school success. It introduces a wide variety of objects and beings from the natural world (animals, rainbow, moon, tongue, group, people, earth) and higher level question words (why, when, how). These are then incorporated into books that convey science type information. 
  • Level 5
  • Has your child reading rich stories which provide a sense of fun while teaching complex cause and effect relationships by expanding the range of nouns (computer, letter, fish) and verbs (change, know, float), and introducing a set of complex ideas (luck, true, never, change, sure).

 The program is designed for the child to be able to work independently. The parent can check the status and progress of their child at any time. There are easy to follow charts showing exactly where your child is in the program.

 Shows the status of the student
Legend of what the status icons mean
In the top picture you can see that the first two sections have been completed, while the remaining two sections are not required. This means that the student tested beyond Letter Land and is ready for one of the Reading Levels.  The middle picture shows that the student has completed Level 1 and the date they completed it as well as how well they did. In this case, they did excellent.   Level 2 is in progress and the student is doing "Excellent" in that level as well.
The student would continue through the program, completing each level, until they had successfully accomplished the program.
So, how did the program work in our own day to day schooling?  My son tested into Letter Land, which was no surprise to me!  He is still in the learning stages of reading and doesn't use the keyboard much at all, so this was an area that I knew he would be weak in.  As such, we spent a very long time in Letter Land! To the point that he was beginning to get frustrated with the program and I didn't think I'd ever actually get to see what the reading portion looked like! LOL 

The program helps your student by showing them where the letters are on the keyboard. If they type something wrong, a very patient voice says, "Watch", then shows exactly where the letters are and tells them to try again.  They work one row at a time adding in the shift and punctuation in the same manner.
 Letter Land, working on keyboarding skills

However, finally, he did get a "Congratulations!" and he moved out of Letter Land and into Level 1 of the reading program. Yay!!! What a happy day that was. :)

Once in the reading portion, he was asked to write pretty hard words for a beginner. This is the programs way of tweaking the program to meet your students needs.  If your child doesn't get the word correct, they go through a series of games that help them learn how to spell that word. They work on matching and word recognition and then typing the word again.  It didn't take long for my son to remember how to read and spell the words he was not familiar with this method. He was so excited. :)
Each exercise is a fun game that kept my son interested and wanting to learn more.  He is still only on Level 1 (he just got out of Letter Land last week ;) ), so I can't share what happens beyond this level. I do know that it won't be long before he is moving on up through the program as he is asking to do his Reading Kingdom Lessons every day!
 Level 1 game 

Level 2 game

Level 3 game

Level 4 game

  • Easy to use
  • Colorful and fun "games" that are teaching reading and writing
  • successfully used in a variety of settings
  • It's kid customized. The Reading Kingdom customizes itself to a child so they don't become frustrated with material that is too advanced for them or bored with material they already know.
  • Excellent and friendly customer service.
  • With the focus on keyboarding and spelling needed for success, completing Letter Land can become tedious and discouraging.
  • Weak in phonics. If you child learns best with phonics, or you are a proponent of a strong phonics base, this might not be the program for you.
  • The time allowed to type in a response could be longer. There were several times where my son read the word correctly and was attempting to type it in correctly but due to his slower typing speed he "timed out" requiring him to redo the page. This can become discouraging.
  • The cost is high for the average homeschooling family. They do offer scholarship programs though, so every child can use this program! (this is a pro and a con together. :) )
There is so much on the  Reading Kingdom's website, it is worth your time to go check it out for yourself and spend some time there looking through all their links. Some of the ones that I found helpful (this is just a couple of many!) video testimonials of this program here and tutorials here, how it's customized to your child.  Lots of good stuff there, don't miss it!

Reading Kingdom is subscription based. They have a 30 day free trial, which requires no credit card information to use, so you can try it before you subscribe.  

There are two ways to subscribe. You can either subscribe monthly, for $19.99/month with no monthly minimum, or $199.99 for a twelve month subscription. If you have more than one child using the program, you can add on additional students for $9.99/month.  To sign up for the 30 free trial as well as subscribe, click here.

Check out their store for some other products, including Dr. Blank's book, The Reading Remedy.

Thank you, Reading Kingdom, for giving us this opportunity to review your product. We really appreciate the generous amount of time you have allowed us to use this and I look forward to seeing how my two boys excel in their reading through this year!

To see what others on TOS crew thought of Reading Kingdom, 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, March 3, 2011

February 2011 at

Highlights of February. Mute the player on the right before viewing!