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Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Glasses.....and a Break.....

Okay, I finally caved and told Rainman that I had gotten new glasses.  I just couldn't take it anymore.  We were out for pie and somehow the discussion of looks came up and possible contact lenses for D-man.

So, I blurted it out.

He reacted as I had predicted...with a lot of :

"Well....yeah....I guess I knew that...."

"I am sure I said something when you first got them.....didn't I?"

"I am sure I noticed.  Maybe I just forgot to say something outloud."

You get it. 

Anyway....he officially knows.  The kids helped keep him honest that he hadn't actually said ANYTHING about them!

In case you have been checking my page (if you haven't - then nevermind this next part) may have noticed that I have only been on sporadically and mostly just for reviews that have deadlines. 

Sorry.  A little boring, I know. 

So, I have offically decided to announce that I am taking a break from my blog until after Easter.  Things should be much quieter by then and I can let you in on some fun things the kids and I have been doing.

So, until we celebrate the Lord's resurrection....TTFN (Ta Ta For Now)!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Action Alert

We got the chance to review a protection program for your home computer.  It was called Action Alert.

Here is how Brian Lawson, creator of Action Alert describes it:

Action Alert  is an easy to use, patent pending, award winning computer safety solution that gives parents everything they need to create a "kid safe" computing environment. Simply installing Action Alert onto the family or kids PC gives parents an easy way to filter and block unwanted content, control when the computer is used and for how long and be informed when dangers or suspicious activity occurs. (like if a child gives out personal information online) Action Alert maximum protection allows parents to review all computer activity as easy as watching a DVR. This unique feature provides an easy way to create the environment that is constantly recommended by experts - an environment where kids know that their parents are not shut out of their “online world”. 

I was pretty interested in reviewing something like this, mostly because we have never had (other than standard virus stuff) any kind of protective software before.

We have a desktop computer and an semi old laptop.  The desktop is in the middle of our living room.....and it really used most often by all of us.  It is faster and easier to use.  Our laptop is usually used at the kitchen or dining room tables....all within a few steps of the living room.

But, lately, the bigger kids have been starting to take the laptop downstairs with them to follow sports scores (D-man) or listen to music to choreograph a new dance number (A-girl, L-girl, S-girl and V-girl).

That is the part that occasionally makes me a bit nervous.  I don't like to go down to our basement.  It makes me sad.

So, having the option to have Action Alert on our laptop was interesting.

Here are the tools that it gives you access to in protecting your computer.

The program will block certain websites/content from coming up and will also send me e-mails stating that certain things had been typed into a search engine and blocked.  I could have set it up to limit and set the times of day when the computer could be used.  I didn't do that...but I could have.

I have to be honest.  The only alerts I received are on the things that I (in the name of research) personally searched on the laptop.

After I searched those "things", an e-mail came to my e-mail address and said "*******" was typed into a search engine at a specific time and date.  I would imagine that the time/date thingie could come in handy if you had numerous possible users to help to narrow down who the culprit was.

I typed in a few "things" that I wouldn't really want my kids to ever search....and certainly not ever find.  I got somewhat mixed results.  Some things it would bring up like usual in a serach engine, but then when I clicked on them to go to the told me that the website was blocked.

In another case, there were websites that it did allow me to access.....that I honestly wish I didn't even know existed.....but I can't erase the memory.

Now, I could actually block those that I know they exist....but I know there are many, many more out there that I don't know about.

Overall, I think it is a good program to have on your computer.  It does give me more of  a sense of peace that I will be notified in at least some cases if the kids are trying to jump around on the internet to inappropriate places. 

But, like life, there are no 100% guarantees that you will be protected and blocked from everything yucky.

The program has received awards from Disney and has also received the Safe Family seal of approval.


They were event featured on NBC's Today Show.  Probably not impressive, if you prefer Good Morning America or The Early Show though....

Another interesting feature in this program is that you can shut down access on the computer remotely.  So, if you are at work and you get a notification that someone was searching "XYZ" on the could just simply shut down their access right from the office.  The power!

I used the Maximum Protection plan offered by Action Alert, which normally costs $29.99 but there is also a free version too. 

When we  first got this product to review, Brian Lawson sent an e-mail explaining the product and said this, "It’s our goal to spread the word about our 100% free version of Action Alert so that families have no reason to put off creating a safer online environment for their kids."

I love that this product isn't just out to make money....but seems to really want to help protect your families.

Have more questions?  Go to their Frequently Asked Questions page to see if your question is there.

Questions answered?  Good.  I don't think you have anything to lose with at least trying the free version, but go and see for yourself.

Take a look at what other TOS reviewers thought.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Progeny Press Study Guides

Progeny Press produces study guides for different books for all different ages.  I used a few when the big kids were little for books like Mr. Popper's Penguins.  But, I had sort of forgotten about them until I had the chance to review their study guides for middle school and high school students.

We got the chance to review the study guide for C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters.  All you need to use their study guides is a thesaurus, a dictionary, a Bible......and the book. 

Most of the study guides are meant to be worked through in about 8-10 weeks.  There is a lot of information in the guides.  I mean a lot.

That is one thing that when I used these with the kids when they were littler that I didn't like.  It felt overwhelming to me....and felt sort of like it sucked the joy out of a good little story.  Those were back in the days when I thought I needed to do every single activity that was suggested to me.  (I have since relaxed and just pick and choose).

But, for older students, I love that there is so much more to dig into than just taking the book at face value.

The study guides review a lot of stuff in addition to the storyline of the book.  They review the author, some of the historical events/people that may be significant to the book, and have the usual questions to answer.  Many of the questions also ask that you do some analytical thinking or form an opinion on your own, not just spew out certain facts about the book.

Ooh, these guides make you think.  I love it!  Sometimes the answers are not just right there in black and have to search your heart and mind. 

Like, in The Screwtape Letters, the guide asks about whether you feel a Christian can lose their salvation. 

What do you think? 

Can you?

The study guide then goes on to say how easy it is to pick and choose scriptures to use (out of context) to prove your side of the argument.....and cautions against this approach.  I know some grown ups who could use that advice!

Like I said, I have used Progeny Press guides before and I will continue to use them.  D-man will be starting the Lord of the Rings trilogy soon and I think we may use their study guides for those too.  I read those books for fun a long time I think I may want to see what deeper meanings were hidden in them  besides "Preeeecioussssss........preeeeciousssssss......"

The study guides are available in a printed and bound booklet; on a CD in a PDF format; or as an e-mail attachment in a PDF format.  The guides I used before (Mr. Popper's Penguins) I chose the printed and bound booklet and this time (The Screwtape Letters) I got the e-mail attachment with the PDF format.

I still prefer to have an actual physical booklet in front of me.....without having to use up my own ink.  In this case, The Screwtape Letters booklet costs $21.99 and the e-mail attached PDF version is $18.99.  For me, paying the extra $3.00 would be worth it to have this on my bookshelf as a hard copy where you can flip through it.

Progeny Press has over 100 study guides available and the TOS crew got to choose from them.  Go take a look to see what books and study guides they chose. 

I got a PDF version of the study guide for The Screwtape Letters for free in exchange for an honest review of their product.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Art of Argument

I do not like to argue.

I do not like confrontation.

Some of my best friends in high school loved debate.  They were even National Debate Champions.

Debate scared me.  It was like choosing to argue with front of an audience.....for fun.

Instead, I became a really rough and tough storyteller in Speech. 


Honestly, Rainman and I hardly ever argue or fight.  Suits me just fine.

I do not like to argue.

I don't seem to be able to get my thoughts in order quick enough to be successful.

So, when we received a book by Classical Academic Press to review called The Art of Argument an Introduction to the Informal Fallacies, I thought, alright.  I may finally want to pick a fight with Rainman because I will be able to win.  (Not really.....I reeeaaaallly don't like to fight)

This book says that by mastering the "art" of argument,  you will learn to argue like a philosopher, but also to think clearly like a philosopher.  Not in a stuffy, professor-y way, but, like a Philosopher  - Greek words for - philos = loving and sophia = wisdom.

The fallacies discussed in the book have Latin, Ad Hominem arguments.   D-man is studying Latin, so that part sort of ties in nicely with what he is already learning.  (An example of Ad Hominem argument would be like on the playground when one kid dares another to try something and when they refuses, resorts to name calling, "What are you, chicken?")

All this Greek and Latin.....makes me feel like I am trying to sound all academic and hoighty toighty.

If you know me at know I am not.

So, I will just say, that it is a going to take us a while to finish this book, because it opens a lot of doors for discussion. 

Especially once you start recognizing how these fallacies are being used against us everyday.  There are three main areas of fallacies; Relevance, Presumption and Clarity and within those three categories there are 28 fallacies.  This is a course designed for middle schoolers on up (grades 7-12). 

One of my most favorite parts of this book is the way it teaches the fallacies that surround us everyday (advertisements, political statements and even media coverage). They give you a visual picture with fake ads.

Here is an example of one that totally cracks me up:

"A blonde was driving...  When it's just too dangerous to be blonde.  Brunetta."

This fake ad shows the fallacy of Presumption, Induction and False Cause.

Funny, but teaches something.  I like it.

In a way, it would be worth it to have this book just to look at their fake ads and imagine what it was like in the room while they were creating them.  Actually, now that I think about is probably what happens in ad agencies all over the world when they are launching a new product!

It just helps you recognize how often these fallacies are used against us in trying to get us to vote for someone, or buy something.

I have always been a bit of a skeptic when listening to ads or even political speeches. I always try to think about the "other side" of the story. An annoying quality if you are my husband and just want me to agree with what you think about a politician....but actually, pretty helpful in being able to root out and identify the "art" of an argument that companies or people are trying to use against me. I just didn't know all the fancy schmancy Latin names for them!

The Art of Argument textbook is available from Classical Academic Press for $21.95.  You can also get the teacher's guide for $24.95.  There is even a DVD set for $54.95.

I recommend working through this book with your children.  If you don't, they may use what they learn against you.  If you don't have the time or interest in working through it too, it is set up really easily for them to do on their own....especially if you have the teacher's guide in case you need a little help with the correct answers.  But, if they start convincing you to let them have a lot more privileges, a new phone, that perfect pair of jeans, or the keys to the know who to blame. 

The blonde.

If only you had used Brunetta!

See what arguments other TOS reviewers had for or against The Art of Argument by clicking here.   Seriously.  Check them is what all the cool moms are doing!

I received a copy of the Art of Argument, the teacher's guide and the first DVD is the series in exchange for an honest review of the product.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Crazy Days

We have had some crazy days around here lately.  I tried to fly up to Minnesota to see my mom and sisters.  The added bonus was that I would actually be present for our annual Oscar party.  I never made it.

I sat at the airport all day trying to get on as a standby (you know, one of those perks of working for the airlines).  I sat through 5 flights in about 10 luck.  My suitcase did, in fact, make it to Minnesota and took its sweet time flying back to Georgia!

I cried.

In front of strangers.

I met a nice lady who bought me ice cream.

We have had two members of our church family pass within 24 hours of each other.  Another church member has had an emergency surgery and in the ICU.  Just lots of emotion swirling around.

Rainman and I got to go see the movie Courageous at a friend's church.  Wonderful movie.  Wonderful message.

The big kids have had a few odd jobs for people - a good way for them to earn money and learn responsibility and pride in their work - but also requires me to be their driver to get them to and from....If Rainman is around, it is actually kind of nice.  At the last job D-man worked, I was able to read uninterrupted (except for a visit from a really nice lapdog) for about an hour! 

It has just seemed a bit crazier than usual around here.  Take a look for yourself.....

Her hand shows a reminder to do her homework - History in the Making.

 Nice Snuggie, huh?

Our house suffered from all of our craziness too.....

Could anyone even sit on this couch?

I managed to give D-man a hair cut.....he wanted an in between short cut, before he gets his buzz cut when it officially gets hot down here.

Such a handsome boy, isn't he?

There has been more craziness with birthday parties and company.....but that is all I have time for right is crazy around here, you know?