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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Le Francais Facile!

Bonjour! Mon ami!

No, this isn't Facebook and I haven't chosen a "fun" language to try on my page....although I gotta admit, I did enjoy "Pirate Speak" when I could understand it!

The translation for my post title: The Easy French!, is a product by Great Commission Language, written by Marie Filion.  Yup, it is a curriculum review product for TOS (The Oldschool House Magazine).

I do not speak French.  I never took French in school.  I did take two years of Spanish. 

Could I still "teach" French?  Well, sort of. 

This book is laid out so easily, I do not have to "teach" sort of does it all by itself.

Let's face it.....the French language is beautiful and has interested does France....for quite a while....probably since I saw the movie French Kiss (with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline).....aaaahhh.....oui.....oui.....J'aime Francais!

I have been to Paris....very briefly....too briefly. 

Notre Dame - 2001
That is D-man and A-girl with Rainman and I

And, while Rainman had taken four years of French in school....he couldn't really speak it other than some of the basic stuff to help us order in cafe's .....things like.....the words for please (s'il vous plait), thank you (merci) and hello (bonjour).  He could, however, read the signs which greatly helped us navigate through the subway/train stations. 

Very very helpful....just not very romantic.

So, I have developed big dreams.  One:  To return to Paris.  Two:  Take the trip when all of our kids can go with and remember it.  Three:  Have some of us be able to actually speak French and be understood  by the time we go back.  It wouldn't hurt if my husband refreshed his French enough to speak sweet nothings in my ear as we sat at a sidewalk cafe either.

I think we may actually have a shot at that with this curriculum.

The Easy French!  is an actual full curriculum and has written lessons, that include vocabulary and grammar, along with an audio CD so you can hear how things are supposed to sound. 

We used Level 1A which is geared towards around 7th grade and higher.  In addition to the audio CD, it also came with a data CD that has answers to the textbook, you could turn your kids loose to let them swim with the sharks and learn a new language but still be able to grade their work.  We also got the test booklet, answer key and the phonogram flashcards.

This book has 18 lessons plus a bunch of fun extras, like recipes...Ratatouille anyone?  It isn't just a Disney Pixar movie!  Or you can learn how to make lavender wands, soap, or bath oils.  They really like lavender in France.

Here is an interesting tidbit I learned in the introduction of this book.....a new language is best learned initially by listening to a female this curriculum begins with a woman and moves into a male voice later in the year.

I also learned that there are different French accents....which really shouldn't surprise me....but, it did.  There isn't just one American accent, so I should have known better. 

This curriculum uses something called International French which is easier to learn for a beginner than the Parisian accent (although I am assuming that when I go to Paris my International French will be so spectacular that they will have no problem understanding me).

Would you like to know some of the details of why I like this curriculum?  A few years ago, we purchased a well known foreign language curriculum,  a very expensive foreign language curriculum.  It is nice.  But, it involves a lot of teacher preparation and thinking on my part....and honestly, I am still not sure if I am doing it right.

The Easy French! curriculum is just so well laid out that I really don't have to do much thinking/planning before the lesson.  They have even gone so far as to put together a Lesson Planner Template that lays out what days you should do what activity.  (For example:  Listen to the story - Monday through Friday; Write your vocabulary - Tuesday; Review your checklist to make sure you are on track - Friday).  It makes the lesson planning so much easier because it is all right don't have to try to remember to tell the kids to do their lessons....or what to do....because it is Wednesday.

I love checklists.

Each lesson has a certain structure....again....something I like.

It starts with the story, then moves onto specific vocabulary for that story, then there is a section that has student helps, a suggested scripture for memorization, a cultural note, some trivia, everyday vocabulary, and finishes with an activity.

Click here to take a look at a sample lesson.  You can pick from any of the levels...not just the one I used. 

Eventually, we will need to get a good French-English dictionary and a conjugated verb reference use in conjunction with the curriculum, but for now, we have everything we need to get ready for Paris.

For me, it is great hearing and learning the French....but, since I am a trivia girl,  I think I am really liking the cultural notes and trivia even better. 

For instance, a cultural note about the confidence of French women.

It says, "Marie's mother (the mom in the stories) is a French woman who is very confident.  Many French women carry themselves with an air about them.  Some think that is is pride, but for the most part, it is confidence.  The French culture celebrates women and that shows up in their countenance."

I wish America celebrated women a bit more, don't you?

Or this bit of trivia:  "Many schools in France have a four day week.  Wednesdays were traditionally used to run errands and for private study.  Saturday used to be a full school day, then became morning studies and recently, due to parental pressure, many schools no longer run a Saturday program.  French children have to work hard if they do a four day school week.  Their days can be as long as nine hours, with seven hours of lessons and a heavy homework program."

I am excited about the possibilities this language program will bring to us.  It is easy to use.  I don't have to be hands on....although I like listening to French so much....I sometimes put in the audio CD just to listen, even when there isn't a lesson happening. 

Did I mention how easy it is to use?

I can't wait to go back to France....speaking the language, so, I can ask things like....

Why is this what the unisex public toilet looks like in a Paris cafe?

Yes....really.....a hole in the still makes me laugh when I think of my mother and mother-in-law realizing that this really was the bathroom.  At least there were little grippy things on the side for you to squat over....right?  D-man (seen above) thought it was the funniest thing too....which is why I took a picture of my little boy in the bathroom!

Or, to be able to speak French to the locals, so I could get a picture of myself (and the whole family)in front of the Eiffel Tower where I am not totally washed out....

(My face and A-girl's cute little face is in there somewhere!)

A girl can dream, can't she?  So, until then...... Adieu mon ami!

Check out Great Commission Language to see if they can teach you a new language so you can take an exciting trip somewhere (they also have a Spanish curriculum El Espanol Facil) and speak like the locals!

The Easy French!  Level 1A can be purchased here for $84.95.  The test booklets can be purchased here for $10.00.  The French Phonogram flashcards can be purchased here for  $10.00. 

I am not the only one who really likes this curriculum.  They have received the...

Check out what other members of the TOS crew thought of Great Commission Languages by clicking here

We received a free copy of The Easy French! textbook, test booklet/answer key and phonogram cards in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What I Am Thankful For....

I am thankful for many things this year.  The "usual" suspects....Rainman, D-man, A-girl, L-girl, A-man, S-girl and V-girl.  My extended family.  Our new life in Georgia that I am getting more and more used to....and even starting to embrace.

But, there is one sort of odd thing that made it on my thankful list this year.  It is even something I shared when we went around the table sharing what we were thankful for.

It is this.....

Seen one before?  It is something called a Crib Tent.

We had one when A-man was little, but by the time he outgrew was pretty ripped up and the zipper wasn't working, so we got rid of it thinking, "We won't ever have another kid that will need one of these!"

Oh how the foolish parent generalizes!

Remember when V-girl would do this....

(Basement stairs)

And this....

(Bedroom staircase upstairs)
And this....

(Couch at Grandma's)
Because of this?


With its features:

See the little phrase right above the mom tossing her baby into the air?  Peace of mind.....from Tots in mind.

That is exactly what this has given me.....Peace of Mind....That and a full night of sleep!

V-girl, as you can see above would get out of her she wouldn't take real naps.  She also started climbing out of her crib in the middle of the night to go "visiting".  She would walk around in the dark...sometimes visiting the boys rooms, sometimes climbing into bed with her sisters....but more often than not, I would hear her little feet pit-patting their way into my bedroom.  She would just climb on up....wiggle her way in between Rainman and I....demand a bit of pillow and roll over and fall asleep.

Now that is sort of cute and theory.....but, she was making me nervous with her walking around.  Our bedroom is right at the top of the stairs and I had visions of her not being quite awake and tumbling, as a light sleeper, I was starting to wake up to every little noise in the house because I kept thinking it was her walking around.  Not the way to a good night's rest for a mother of six who is supposed to be giving her children a great education!

Here she is the first day we set up her Crib Tent....

It was great fun....until we zipped it up and she realized that she could not get out.

She still does not like taking naps and the bargaining begins as soon as we start walking down the hall with her...."I be good mom"....."I be nice mom"...."No nap mom, kay?"...."I stay on couch"

She cries when we lay her down, and that is okay....she does nap....not too long....but at least I know where she is and that she is safe.  Oh, and she doesn't do this anymore....

...which was always good for a few laughs....but the poor thing just needed to sleep!

Bedtime, for some reason is much better....I suspect it is because her sisters are in there with her....but she will usually just say, "nigh....nigh" and lay down.

Ahhhh.....I cannot tell you how great it feels to really and truly get a full night of sleep.....this is the first I have had in over 2 years....other than the few nights she teased me with along the way!

So, yes, I am extremely thankful to Tots in Mind for creating the Crib Tent II.

Oh and the Tots in Mind people have no idea who this well rested mother is.  I, sadly, did not get the Crib Tent for free in exchange for an honest review.  I got my latest Crib Tent from after one last night of desperation....when Rainman had finally had enough ( I think she decided she deserved his pillow) and told me to order that "tent thingie" the next day.

Whatever the reason....I am feeling human again....and thankful for my blessed life!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Reading Game

We got a chance to review another product designed to help S-girl read.  I have shared with you here and here how badly S-girl wants to read and "do school" like her older siblings.

This one was called The Reading Game, which is by the maker of Wordly Wise, Kenneth Hodkinson .  I think most homeschoolers are familiar with the Wordly Wise vocabulary program.  We actually just started using it this year for A-girl....and we are loving it! 

Here is what I really like about this program.  It is essentially a game.  Thus the name "The Reading Game".  It really is a matching game....which, anyone who has a preschooler knows.....they love!  I will admit that I am not a huge fan of matching games myself.  My kids have all loved these kinds of games, and, if your kids were anything like mine....they, many times, legitimately won when we play matching games. 

The good thing about this matching game is that each game or section only uses 10 cards, to teach you 5 new words.  I even had a shot at winning!  The individual games are also really quick, so even the older siblings were interested in playing because it didn't involve a huge time commitment from them.

The Reading Game is recommended for 2 players, ages 4+.  It meshes matching games with storybooks.  For the matching game, you actually match words with each other....thus learning these as sight words...not a phonetic pronounciation.  There are six books, and six sections, or games, for every level.  Each level has its own storybook that uses the 30 words that are contained in all six games of each levels. 

The first story is called Skunk and the words in this level are ones like:  and; can; dog; me; run; to; what; and will.

So, after you have finished Skunk, Game 1, your child will have learned the words:  can, cat, is, me, and not.  Once you finish all six games in Level 1 (Skunk), they should be ready to read the book.

There are a few things that were a bit different from "regular" kids books or programs. 

Although the covers are brightly colored, the drawings in the books are black and white sketches...not the usual super colorful books that we were used to for children's book.  The other thing that is a bit different about the book is that there is no capitalization or punctuation.

I loved this game, in theory.   When we first started playing it, it didn't go well.  I retrospect,  I was expecting too much of her and as a result, would get frustrated with her.  She could recognize when a word matched another word....but she just couldn't retain what the actual word was.  She would look at the word "me" and guess that it was "can".  I got quite frustrated and decided that as much as S-girl wants to be a big girl and "do school", she really just wasn't ready yet.

So, we shelved the game for a few weeks. 

Then, I decided to give it another try and this time, I had very low expectations.  She surprised me.  This time around, she is retaining the words.  She looks carefully at the words "cat" and "can" to try to remember which one is which.  She remembers that they are just a little bit different than each other.

Since this is called The Reading Game....I decided not to pressure her too much.  But, since we have taken it back off the shelf, she has mastered Games 1 and 2 of the Skunk level.  Again, though, I am trying not to pressure her too much.  But the look on her face, when she reads the words correctly, especially the ones she has to stop and think through, is just adorable.

This isn't actually "the look"....but isn't she adorable anyway???

This is a totally different approach to teaching reading than I have tried with the other kids, so we will see how it turns out in the long run...but I am hopeful, that this game has just started unlocking a few doors in her mind of how letters are put together to make, when we get to the phonics approach she will be  a step ahead of where her brothers and sisters started.  We shall see.

There are free worksheets where you can assess their progress and abilities before using The Reading Game and after. Click here to take a look. 

There are also test sentence worksheets that you should do after the matching games are completed and before they attempt to read the book.  Click here to take a look. 

Here is a short video clip so you can see just how easy this game is.....really easy.

The Reading Game is available for $24.95

Take a look at what other TOS crew members thought of The Reading Game here.

We received The Reading Game for free, in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Have Lost Weight

Yup, it's true.  I have lost weight.  How do I know, you may ask?

Well, first let me tell you this.  Something many of my Georgia friends probably do not know.  In Minnesota, I was a Massage Therapist.  I graduated and was fully certified in 1992.  I went on to work at an Aveda salon, my own private practice, and I was even an instructor at the Minneapolis School of Massage and Bodywork.

Georgia runs things differently and I would need to be licensed to practice.  Long story short, I didn't have the time or money to go through that process when we, I am no longer a Massage Therapist.

I do, however, homeschool my kids, so one of the things that I have been teaching is a little anatomy and proper massage techniques, like how to tell the difference between a bone and a muscle.  You would be surprised at how many people can't feel the difference.   

Getting a "real" massage is yet another thing that has gone by the wayside as part of our one income family here in Georgia.  So, training the kids has had the added bonus of having to be their guinea pig!

My kids are smart.  So smart that they know, if I am mad at them for something, all they have to do to get back on my good side is offer to rub my hands. 

Really. It works every time.  They know it.  I know it.  I choose to think of it as a win/win situation.

Even V-girl, if I happen to be sitting with my feet up, will walk over and give me a few squeezes on my feet.  Cracks me up.

Well, all of that is just to set up the fact that A-man got into a lot of trouble recently. 

He was just having one of those bounce off the walls, wild, boy days that got on my nerves.  He didn't do anything super naughty....but after about a thousand times telling him to settle down....or to stop running....or to stop throwing his recently assembled space shuttle in the living room....I had had it. 

I am working on being more Michelle Duggar-ish in my discipline...meaning I am trying not to yell as much.  I don't think I can do the sweet voice thing....but I am doing better at not raising my voice.

So, I told A-man how disappointed I was and that certain privileges would be taken away.  Then, the big girls and I went upstairs and climbed into my bed to talk.  I was laying on my side just visiting when I suddenly felt my pj top being scootched up and someone massaging my back.

It was A-man.  He said that he wanted to surprise me and give me a back rub.  I know.  I am easy.  I didn't give his privileges back or anything though.

So, he starts rubbing and I keep on talking to A-girl and L-girl.

Then, while the girls and I are talking, he says, "You have lost weight.  Yup, you have definitely lost weight."

Of course, I halted my conversation with the girls to ask him how he knew that.

He said, "Well, the last time I rubbed your back, it was A LOT squishier."

Well, okay then.  I will take that. 

I am a little afraid that in addition to figuring out how to get back on my good side by giving me a massage that he has figured out the old, "You have lost weight" ploy too.

But, I am choosing to believe him and that I actually have lost weight...instead. 

Makes me feel a whole lot better!

Because, really, isn't it every woman's desire to have a less squishy back?

Nope?  Just me?

Oh, well.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Dad....The Teacher

For as far back as I can remember, my Dad was always teaching.  Teaching our family....and anybody else who was interested in listening. 

Teaching people about God. Teaching people about the Bible.  Teaching people about the gift of salvation.  He started Bible study groups on his lunch hour at Honeywell.  He taught adult Sunday School classes in church.  He had family Bible study time after dinner.  He would invite Jehovah's Witnesses into the house to discuss the Bible.

I was so used to it, I didn't realize how special he was.   He dedicated much of his life to being open for opportunities to enlighten people about the beauty of what Jesus Christ did for us.

You may remember that my Dad passed away very quickly and unexpectedly a few months ago.  It was the day after his 78th birthday.  I had a great conversation with him on his birthday.  The next day was a Sunday and he was set to be a substitute preacher at my home church.

My brother, Kevin, after talking to Dad on his birthday, decided to come hear my Dad preach....since he hadn't heard him in a while.  My Dad was a great teacher....a bit long-winded for some....because he always backed everything up with scripture.  He would have you flipping back and forth all over your Bible....even if you just asked a "simple" question.  My mom would frequently remind him not to talk to long when he was teaching.  But, many times, he got so excited about what he was trying to get across to you....he couldn't stop himself.

Kevin, at the last minute, decided to grab his video camera and film my Dad.

My Dad passed away that afternoon.

My siblings and I also decided that we wanted to video tape my dad's service....partly because, at the time, everything was such a blur and we thought maybe someday when things weren't so raw, we would like to remember what was said....and who was there.

In case you are is my Dad's last sermon on this earth.  I have not been able to watch it yet. 

His title for it was Healing Covenants.

The end of my Dad's sermon is in Part 2, below.  My brother also split my Dad's service into smaller parts....

This is me and my sisters, Karen and Kandi, singing one my Dad's favorite songs. He had actually told us for years that he wanted us to sing at his funeral....and what songs he wanted us to do.  (It starts at about 11:00 minutes) The end of this section is the start of my brother's sermon (at about 20:00 min)

This is end of Kevin preaching.... just like my Dad.  My sisters and I sing another of Dad's favorites at about 13:30 minutes in.

My sister, Kandi, and I were able to share a few memories of Dad.  They start at about 17:30 (above - Part 3)...and finish up in the last segment below (Part 4).

I would like to be able to end this post with something deep and profound....but I can't seem to come up with anything.....other than, I loved my Dad and really miss him.

I will end with what ended up being our verse/theme for Dad's service:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul,
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me,
Your rod and your staff they comfort me
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oils,
My cup overflows,
Surely goodness and love will follow me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord.....forever.
Psalms 23

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Math Mammoth

If you know me at all, you know I am NOT a math person.  Really. 

In school, I did really well, and I was even good in math....until 9th grade...Algebra did me in.  I just didn't get it.  Mr. Anlauf went so I just kept getting further and further behind....and feeling dumber and dumber.  I got my first....and only....F...on a test, in that class.  I was mortified.  I was supposed to be smart.  I think it is that point alone...I was supposed to be smart.....that kept me from asking questions in class.  People thought I was smart.  I liked that....a lot.  I was a teenage girl in search of a special identity.  I liked having the reputation of being smart.

After that class, I shied away from as much math as I could.  I only took what was absolutely required of me...nothing more.

So, how can someone who is still, so many years later, sort of afraid of math, homeschool their kids successfully?

Well, for starters, you marry Rainman....who is really, really good at math.

Remember that his nickname is two-fold.  First of all, because he is a meteorologist.  Secondly, because he can do fast, strange math calculations in his Dustin Hoffman's Rainman.

But, since he is already taken....the rest of you will have to use the Math Mammoth program for teaching your kids math at home.

As part of the TOS crew, we got a chance to review a math program called Math Mammoth.  Maria Miller, the founder, let us choose what to review from her full range of products, so we could have something we would really or truly needed in our homeschool.  She was super helpful in giving advice as to what she thought would work well for us. She was awesome.

Math Mammoth has textbooks and workbooks for grades 1-8, plus some other supplements for high school level math.  The supplements you can get by grade level or topic.  If you are unsure of where your child will fit in, there are free placement tests available on the website. 

We have been sort of piecing together a math program for D-man since 7th grade.  We used a variety of  stuff that we found on the internet, computer CD programs and even old textbooks that we had gotten from a used book store.  It worked pretty well for us, but I was afraid that there were some holes in what we were teaching.

Enter Math Mammoth's Golden Series.  We got 7th/8th grade worksheets from this series...which is basically pre-algebra stuff, because we wanted to make sure that D-man had a good foundation as we have already started moving into algebra.  Click here to see a sample worksheet. 

Since I have an almost deathly fear of all things algebra...I did NOT want D-man to have the same experience I had.  Rainman, being, well....Rainman.....does not understand that the rest of the world doesn't have such an easy time doing higher math stuff....on paper, OR, in our, he is not always the most patient teacher either. 

These worksheets have been just awesome....for all of us.  Rainman can give them to D-man for practice to show him he really has the concepts down, or to give him extra practice in concepts that he is not as solid in.  I have even been inspired to sit down and do some worksheets.  I have actually done pretty well.....apparently, without Mr. Anlauf breathing down my neck, I can remember a lot more than I thought!

There was one other product that I was REALLY tempted to try.  It is called the Make It Real Learning math worksheets. 

These books use real teach you....and show you really will use math in real picking the best cell phone plan.  I could use one of these worksheets now to help me pick my medical benefit plan for the year 2012! 

There are even ones available to help use the higher level math (Calculus I)  where they can analyze the growth of an infant or how to maximize the volume of a package.  That book really is beyond my current mental ability....but, I love the idea behind finding real world stuff to teach with and it will be  going on my wish list for high school math for the kids.

Go take a look at all of the Math Mammoth stuff.  There is a lot to look at, so, take your time. 

Oh, and don't get overwhelmed by all the choices....because there really does seem to be something for everyone.  If, after you have taken the placement tests and looked at all the samples, you still get confused, just contact Maria Miller and she will walk you through and help you pick what will work the best for you and your family.  She really will!  Awesome customer service in action!

Math Mammoth is definitely something that we will continue to use and when A-girl gets to 7th grade, we won't be piecing together a curriculum for her....we will just use Math Mammoth right away so we know there aren't any gaps in her learning. 

Poor D-man, our first born guinea pig!

I have decided that I would have done better in math, if I had a cute little baby to sit on my lap while I worked to find x.

The 7A worksheets (71 worksheets) are available in a PDF download for $7.75 and 7B worksheets (80 worksheets) are available in a PDF download for $8.75.  The answers keys for each book are just $2 each.  You can bundle them all together for just $14.50.  If you like to have a hard copy of things, rather that just downloads, this is also available as a regular book for just $19.50.  I think this is super affordable for what you get.

See what other TOS reviewers thought of the different Math Mammoth products.

We received a free download of the Golden Series 7A and 7B worksheets in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Do You Have To Be A Genius To Do College Prep?

No, you don't.

I wish I would have known that back in the day!  How did I prepare for college you may ask?  Well, it was a grueling round of......just about nothing.  Really.  Nothing.  I didn't take the me, back in 1984-1985 is was an optional, do it if you want to, kind of test.  I got good grades.  Graduated toward the top of my class.  I figured that would be enough.  Things have changed, haven't they?

Luckily for my children and their SAT inexperienced mother, we got a chance to review something called: 

D-man is only in 8th/9th grade this year, so we have a bit of time before we actually have to think super hard about college.  But, he took the ACT test last year through the Duke TIP program and did better than some high, I got to thinking a little bit bigger for our potential college plans....which got me to looking at the costs of college....yikes!

We have a large family. 

Rainman has a Master's degree and paid for most of it himself. His parents helped, when they could, but he worked all the way through school.  No loans at all. 

I started out at a four year college, but ended up dropping out of that and coming home to a community college.  As a result, I have a few smaller, technical degrees....I paid for some....and my parents helped with some.  Even when my parents were paying, though, I worked. 

I babysat; worked at a nursing home as a nursing assistant; at a day care center as a dishwasher; at a grocery store as a clerk; at a convenience store as a clerk; and as a housekeeper.  I always had at least one job....but, more often than not, I had a few part time jobs to keep me going.

We have told the kids since they were little that we would not be paying for college for them.  I know.  Radical, huh? 

We may help (if we can), but we have made it clear that although we feel a college education is important, it is not something that we would be financing for them.  We have also talked to them about the dangers of debt....even school loans....because we both know people that have been paying off school loans for years....sometimes with not very high paying jobs.  

All of this is background for you, so I can talk about College Prep Genius, a program designed to help your kids do well on the PSAT and SAT....with the hopeful end result of scholarship offers.... so they can attend college and not owe an arm and a leg when they graduate.

The author of this course is Jean Burk.  She homeschooled her two children through high school, and they both received full-ride scholarships, including money for her daughter to study abroad. 

As a homeschool mom, I cannot tell you how much encouragement this gives me.  One that she successfully taught her children through high school (which is also our plan) and navigated the college admissions process so well.

This course demystifies the PSAT and SAT and how they are put together.  They are basically logic tests, not knowledge tests (I didn't know that).  This program can help you learn the patterns within the tests as well as strategies to help you conquer them.

She also reveals some of the biggest myths about the SAT.  Did you know that the PSAT is NOT a practice SAT?  (The PSAT scores are where the National Merit Scholarships come from.)

She really does break it down in a step by step way. 

The only catch? 

Your child has to actually put in the time, follow the lessons, and practice.  There are practice tests and tips included for doing well in each section.

Ms. Burk uses a lot of acronyms.  Personally, I love acronyms.  Ask my kids.  I am always giving them acronyms to help them remember stuff for school.  They roll their eyes....a lot....and make fun of me, when I am trying to come up with one to help them remember things.....but come test time, my little weird acronyms help.

The same goes for her acronyms.  Here is an example:  For the Essay Section - Essay Raves....

Standard Written English
Stay on topic
Awesome opening and closing
You need 5 paragraphs

Rewrite later
Add embellishments
Vocabulary words
Effective and concise
Structurally Sound

This course comes with a "textbook", a workbook and a DVD that has 12, 45 minute lessons and exercises that coordinate with the workbook.

I will admit that the first portion of the book I turned to was on scholarships.  Remember us?  The mean parents that aren't planning to pay for college for our children? 

I am hopeful that all of our children will want to attend college.  I am hopeful that they will work hard to get accepted into a good school.  I am hopeful that they will do well on the SAT and have many scholarships available to them. 

The scholarship section breaks down how your SAT scores can affect the financial aid possibilities from different kinds of if you get 1100-1250 on the Math/C Reading Scores, that could lead to possibly 1/3 to 2/3 scholarship offers.  It sort of helped me figure out a general goal for where our scores should be.  She also lists a whole section of organizations with scholarships, and their websites.  She also has a neat worksheet to help you stay organized, where you can list the websites as well as the different scholarship contests and application deadlines. 

This program is really packed with helpful information.  I really do mean packed.  I am glad that we are looking at it  before we actually need to use it.  I really think it will help us prepare in a non-stressful way, to do well on the PSAT and SAT, because we will be able to do everything in small, bite-sized pieces instead of trying to cram it in during D-man's junior year of high school.  I think it will pay for us to plan ahead a little bit.

If you have a child anywhere from 8th grade on up, you will want to check out her site for this program, and all her other college prep products, like her Vocabcafe series of books and even helpful articles on preparing for college.

The complete set for College Prep Genius, including the textbook, workbook and DVD is available for $99.00.  You can also get them individually, if you like.

Check out what other TOS crew members had to say about College Prep Genius here

We received the complete set of College Prep Genius:  The No Brainer Way to SAT Success  for free in exchange for an honest review of their product.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Hair

I have had my hair a variety of lengths and styles through the years.




(I am the really pale, pregnant one in the center.)


When we moved to Georgia, I had my hair trimmed shortly after we came down.  The outcome was less than stellar.  In the stylists defense, I used a coupon.  I know.  So, I just didn't get my hair cut again.  For two years.

At the end of August when we were traveling home from my Dad's funeral.  We stopped briefly at my best friend's house who lives in Iowa.  She comment on how long my hair had gotten.  Honestly, I was in such a fog from losing my dad that I really don't remember the all.

Last month, we took a trip back to Minnesota, and stopped again, for a few days at her house in Iowa.  We have not exchanged birthday gifts in years.  But, this year, she told me she wanted to do something special for me and that she had gotten me a hair appointment with her former stylist. She assured me that the stylist knew how to deal with thick hair.  She assured me that the stylist also knew how to deal with a client who still finds herself surprised at being fat.  She assured me that the stylist knew how to cut hair around the seemingly sudden appearance of a double chin. 

I did not get good before shots....too excited and too busy trying to get out of the house without the 10 children that were there!

But, here are my afters....taken with her cell phone.  Please ignore the really happy double chin.....okay?

(I also don't think my chest is this large in real least I hope not.....)

Here it is from the back.....

I learned a few things from this experience:

- It really feels good to have someone else wash your hair.

- I am, in fact, still blond.

- I, even at this size, can still feel pretty.

- People with soft hair touch it and fling it around a lot.

- I became one of those aforementioned people.

- If you become one of those people with soft hair that you fling around, your husband will stand behind you (a lot) and sort of pet your head.

- Your best friend will call it "Baby Making Hair" and your husband will just smile.

I honestly didn't realize that I could have soft, smooth, touchable hair.  I have never, had soft, smooth, touchable hair....well, maybe in 4th grade....I do remember people always stroking my hair...but it was really long it might have been that.....

Now, my only problem is figuring out how to create that soft, smooth, touchable hair on my own....because I haven't had soft, smooth, touchable hair since I washed my hair when I got home....believe me, I waited as long as I possibly could before I washed it....because, deep down, I knew that when I fixed it, it wouldn't be soft and smooth.  It hasn't been.

I am not entirely sure that it is possible for me to achieve this look on my own, but, I am going to try...I just need some silicon spray stuff, a blow dryer and a straightener.....I think.

Any of you have ideas or products that will work for me?  Please help!

I want to be one of those girls again.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A-Girls' Art Project

A while ago, I saw this post on Meg's Whatever blog.  It was a fun art project she had done with her kids.

As soon as I saw it, I knew A-girl would love it. 

Ever since I showed it to her,  she had been waiting and waiting until she had the chance to create her own.

She saved up her money and bought 2 of the big boxes of 64 crayons and a 10 pak of 8 x 10 canvases.

She had some wonderful Sunday School teachers and friends in mind to make this for, as a special birthday gift.

Here is how she started.....crayons hot glued to the canvas.....

She broke the crayons in half since she had a small canvas, but if you have a larger canvas, you will probably want to use the whole crayon.  Then, she used a blow dryer on high.....

And, voila! 

Personal art.  This was so easy and fun. 

She has already had requests from other people to make one for them with their own personal color scheme!