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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ah, Poetry....Music to my Ears.....Sort Of.....

This is a review.

Okay, I admit it.  I sort of loathe poetry.

If I sort of loathe it, Rainman absolutely, positively hates it.  (Unless it is one of those mushy cards for Mother's Day or something - He will spend forever in the aisles - according to the kids - reading through everyone looking for just the right heartfelt sentiment - when really, I would prefer a funny card.)

Anyway, that confession is to let you know that whenever there is a poetry unit in our children's language arts programs, we sort of hustle through it.  We cover the basics.  We discuss a few of them.  But, basically, we have been allowing the kids to feel that poetry is a necessary evil for all school children.....and something to just get through.

I know.

We are horrible, aren't we?

I try.  Every now and then I would remind the kids that rap music and most song lyrics were actually poetry.  And, the letters that Santa leaves us every year are always poems. 

I tried....but, we all knew it was half hearted.

Rainman and I just don't "get" a lot of poetry.  I like clever/funny poetry.   But, deep, meaningful poetry.....(sigh).....not so much. 

We read it and then when asked to interpret it or what the author was thinking/feeling or trying to portray....our eyes just glaze over and we go look up an interpretation on Google.

So, when two relatively smart human beings are put in a situation where they are supposed to "teach" someone about all the intricacies of poetry, what do they do?


Just kidding.

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You get lucky enough to have a chance to turn to Classical Academic Press and use something called.....

The Art of Poetry, published by Classical Academic Press and created by Christine Perrin, MFA who has taught literature and creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Messiah College, as well as Gordon College’s Orvieto Program (I had never heard of that last thingie....but it is really interesting).

I was still tempted to run the other way.  But, deep down, I do feel bad about the bias that we are hand feeding to the kids about all things poetry.

It is sort of funny how poetry seems to be following us around....whether we "get" it or not.  When D-man started taking classes at a college prep high school in January, guess what his very first section in English class covered?  Yup.  Poetry.  The whole 3rd quarter was all about poetry.  Poor guy.  I think we were getting a message that poetry would not be ignored any longer!

The Art of Poetry is designed for students grade 6 and up, but L-girl (5th grade) and I tackled this first since she had the most open time in her schedule to dive into something new.

I will be honest here.  She was not excited....nor was I.  Once we actually got the book, I was regretting wanting to be a big girl and try to understand poetry.

But, we did it.  We dove in.  I had the teacher's edition

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(Doesn't it look nice and relaxing and soothing on the cover?  Not scary.  Right?)

She had the regular textbook

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We started. 

She complained.

She said she was bored.

I got grumpy.

I was scared that L-girl as a smart 5th grader, just wasn't smart enough for this since it was recommended for 6th grade and up and tried to figure out a way to fit it into A-girl's (7th grade) schedule.

I read gem after gem in the introduction that made me feel much better about myself and that it was okay to not understand poetry all the time.  Did you hear that?  It is okay to not "get" it!

I fell in love with the teacher's edition as soon as I got to the First Principles section in the introduction, because it said, "Do not let this book overwhelm you.  If all you do is give this book to your students as a resource that you only minimally engage, you have already made a great step....."

Ahhh....the feeling of dropping a big old load of guilt is amazing, isn't it?

The introduction goes on to talk about (paraphrasing here....) the teacher feeling overwhelmed as they sort through all the different approaches to teaching poetry in this manner. (Yup.) Looking at the history, biography and body of work of the poet, as well as the elements within the work. (What?) She concludes that people/teachers who live their lives with the help of poetry struggle to find a way to teach it to people in a way that isn't just a dead fetal pig that they are using for dissection. 

For some reason, that last bit about the dead fetal pig really hit home with me.  Not just because it is a gross mental picture, but because I realized that I was viewing poetry as just some sort of biology class to just put on my rubber gloves, pick up the scalpel and get the yucky dissection parts over with.

I was feeling inspired, empowered and sort of excited to jump into the Art of Poetry, but L-girl, who had started working through the textbook while I was reading the introduction in the teacher's edition was not feeling all of those same feelings.

Then I remembered that they had included a DVD that covered Chapters 1 and 2 of the course. So, I decided we should try that out and see.

Ahhhhh...(insert the sound of choirs singing here). 

It was great.  It gave a totally different feel to the course through the use of round table type discussion amongst the teacher and her students.  You just follow along with their discussion with your textbook in front of you. 

Night and day I tell you.

The teacher sounds all calm and sweet and everytime the kids express an opinion, she answers in that same sweet, supportive voice, and says things like, "Ahhh...that is interesting."  Or, "Good point."

I will tell you those kids are a lot smarter than me and use much bigger words, but helped me understand some of the poems better than I had in just reading through them.

See? The first 2 chapters go through Images and Metaphor in poetry.  The discussion made you think and open your eyes to what some of the underlying messages were in these poems.

We also liked the Appendix A part of the book that has short biographies of the poets included in the book.  Because part of analyzing  the authors work is understanding them as a person and what their view on life is....which really makes total sense, but I hadn't really thought of it before.

By the way, see Appendix C?  A Simplified Plan?  That is another way this book took a load of guilt off my back.  It gave me permission not to just shove poems down the kids throat in a hasty manner, via this textbook,  but gave suggestions on how to help initiate us into the world of poetry....even if we weren't going to sit down and dig into the textbook.

L-girl liked this program much more when she was using the DVD discussions.  I still wouldn't say she loves poetry, but look at what she created:

In the fall, the leaves on the tree
Blow off to be free
And the tree is left bare
Though it seems not to care
Then, when the time is near
In the middle of the year
They will start the cycle once more
And the leaves will once again drop to the floor

I must have asked her about 5 or 6 times if she copied that from somewhere!  She never would have been able to put that together before The Art of Poetry.  Never.

There is a whole Art of Poetry bundle that you can get which costs $124.95.  The bundle includes the student text, the teacher's text and the DVD set.  You can get these as individual items too.  The Student book is $24.95.  The Teacher's Edition is $29.95 (which, believe want to get). The DVD set is $89.95 (which, we really ended up needing.) 

But, if you wait until April 1st, they are lowering their prices!!!  The Art of Poetry prices for the complete program and DVD will be $99.95, or $69.95 for the DVD. 
Others on the Review Crew got a chance to be logical as well as poetic this time around. Take a look and see what they thought.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I didn't sleep well last night, because of V-girl.

For some reason, she had a restless night last night. 

She came in shortly after everyone went to bed and said she wanted to sleep with Rainman and I.

Rainman told her to come sleep beside the bed and he would hold her hand.  (That is her thing for calming down and going to sleep - she likes to have her hand held.)

For those of you who don't know, we keep a mini bed set up beside our bed.  It has pillows and blankets, etc.  So, the kids all know that if they have a bad dream or just want to be near us, they can just come in and lay down.....most times, they don't even wake us up, they just come in and make themselves at home.  We discover them in the morning when we step on them.  (although my "Mom radar" is almost always on, so I usually know somebody has come in). Makes for a much better nights sleep for everyone!

Anyway, V-girl came in last night, laid down next to our bed and Rainman held her hand until she fell asleep.

At some point, she ended up rolling under the bed and then thumped her head and started crying.  So, Rainman got her out and, got her all set up again in her little bed on the floor.

Then a little while later she did the same thing.  I told him to just put her in bed with us so we could all get some sleep.

She is getting pretty big now and she likes to stretch out when she is sleeping.

At one point, I rolled over and must have bumped her or landed on her.  Without waking up, she started having a fit.  She was kicking and yelling (incoherently) that I needed to move and get off.  I guess that is her natural response since she has always shared a bed with someone...(protecting her turf)!

I said, "It's mommy.  Mommy is laying next to you."

As soon as I said the word "mommy" she stopped.

Just stopped.

No kicking.  No yelling.  Nothing.

I smiled to myself about this instant response to me.....

My voice.

My name.

Then it hit me.

That is a lot of responsibility.

To be that person  - that even when she is not even entirely awake -  that she trusts enough to stop fighting....and just be calm and quiet....knowing that I wouldn't do anything to harm her.


It only took me 6 kids to have that epiphany.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Essentials In Writing

It used to be the "essentials" you needed for writing were some new quills, a fresh pot of ink and some parchment.  Fast forward a few years and you needed several sharp #2 pencils and a fresh sheath of paper.  A few more years forward you would find a (insert name of typewriter) typewriter with fresh ribbon.  Now things are digital and you may not need any of those other  tools for writing.

What hasn't changed is the need for basic spelling, (yes, spelling you texters out there!) grammar, and composition skills.

Luckily for my kids, I have received access to a great comprehensive writing program/language arts program called Essentials in Writing - Where Students Learn to Write by Matthew Stephens.

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This time around, A-girl got to try the program for 7th grade.  Here is what their website says about the 7th grade curriculum:

Your child will learn:  detailed sentence structure, additional grammar, additional capitalization/punctuation rules, proper use of a friendly letter, using the writing process to compose narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive writing (including formal paragraphs), and five paragraph essays, compare and contrast writing, response to literature essay, effective writing skills, multi-paragraph composition, the process to complete a research project, other forms of written communication, and other topics.

We had already begun focusing on the five paragraph essays.  Something that I find funny that my kids think is "soooo hard", because for some reason they all think five sentence essays are plenty of information!

Anyway, this program touches on a lot of stuff that A-girl needs work on, sometimes because we haven't really covered it yet and sometimes just explaining things in a new way.  Mr. Stephens is so infectious in his enthusiasm for this topic that, I think he was a way better fit for A-girl than my more laid back (boring) approach to teaching writing.

Essentials in Writing Grade 7 photo EIW7thgrade_zps7e459c7d.jpg

This particular grade level comes with 4 DVDs, 3 are the teaching DVDs and the 4th is one that has all the worksheets and various assignments on it.  Essentials in Writing is actually in the process of changing this up a bit and will soon offer PDF versions of all the worksheets, etc.  (UPDATE - Essentials in Writing has just completed this, so all workbook pages, regardless of age level are available in a PDF download).

This course covers about 120-130 class periods - 150 class periods if including grammar review.  There are 53 video lessons and 143 workbook pages.
So, basically, you watch a little short lecture/lesson that takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes.  Then you print off the worksheet or assignment and work through what you need to.  None of this has taken A-girl very long at all - probably 30 minutes tops on most days. 

I mostly let her use this program on her own without too much input/assistance from me.  I did watch a few of the teaching lessons with A-girl and here is what I noticed.  The lessons are sort of like a college lecture style.  He stands at the white board writing out examples, talking the students through whatever it is he is trying to teach, and asking for input or answers to various things. 

I had one of those "light bulb" moments that my kids - A-girl on down - have never sat in on a lecture series (unless you count the ones mom gives about messy rooms).

Mr. Stephens appears to be speaking in front of an actual classroom.  Because of this, he never really had eye contact with the camera.  It always looked like he was looking just below the camera lens.  I found it annoying.  A-girl assured me that you get used to it.  I appreciated his repeated references to writing drafts and that you will go back and edit and make changes.  Somehow my kids have a "one and done" mentality when it comes to writing and editing makes them angry. 

I will say that you can tell Mr. Stephens loves his work.  Unlike some of my college professors that took to lecturing in a flat monotone voice, Mr. Stephens still seems excited about the material he is teaching and isn't afraid to show it.  Although, because of that, I wondered if A-girl would take him seriously.  You know?

Here is a sample from one his lessons  towards the end of the program on putting together a research paper.

Here is what A-girl thought:

The lessons were short (even though she complained at first that I was making her watch them).

You get used to the fact that Mr. Stephens isn't looking at the camera.

The actual writing assignments are broken down into smaller bits so they don't seem like too big of a deal.

He made quite a few spelling errors on the board that he had to go back and fix. (Welcome to the club, Mr. Stephens!)

I plan to continue having A-girl use this as her writing curriculum for the rest of the year, even when my review period is up, because I really feel it is a strong program that she has responded well to.

The Seventh Grade Essentials in Writing Program is available for $40.  I will go out on a limb and say that is a great price for a lecture style writing curriculum - that depending on your child, can be used  with as little or much parent time involved. Even if you opt for the pre-printed workbook for $20.  That is still not a bad price. 

The Review Crew took a look at all the different age levels available in Essentials in Writing, so if you aren't looking for ideas for a 7th grader, go take a look and see what they thought of the other levels.

Disclaimer: I received a DVD ROM of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Excellence In Writing Giveaway!

Yes, people.....I said giveaway!

Does that mean I am a "real" blogger now?

This is my very first giveaway for my readers.

Can you tell I am kind of excited?

This giveaway is being sponsored by Institute for Excellence in Writing.

You might remember that I wrote a review of their PAL (Primary Arts of Language) program a while back and they ended up featuring my review on their site.  (I am under week eight!)

You get a chance to win a $50 gift certificate for the Institute for Excellence in Writing!

I know I am a grown up and everything, but $50 is still a lot of money to me.

All you have to do is follow this link and enter.

In addition to the chance to win the $50, you will get 4 free downloads, 1 product download on Articles and Stories and 3 audio downloads.

The audio downloads are:

Reaching the Reluctant Writer
Nurturing Competent Communicators
Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing

That is a lot of good info - for free!

The drawing will be on May 1, 2013!  So get over there and enter and download your free stuff.

In other breaking news, I am not Pioneer Woman, so you won't be competing with a bazillion people to win this drawing!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

V-girl's Day Of Rest

I really try hard to made Sunday a day of rest.  Sometimes, though it isn't worth it on Monday morning, if you know what I mean.

But, yesterday, when I looked around at my messy house and especially the kitchen, I just didn't have the oomph to knock out the kitchen before I went to bed.

At one point in the night, I sent V-girl into the kitchen to wash her hands.  She did and while she was there asked if she could do the dishes.

I said, no thanks, Mommy will just do them tomorrow.  She asked again.  I said not this time.  (I think most of you know that having a 3 year help with certain chores....sometimes makes for more chores for you later, you know?)

Anyway, I went back to making my list of things to get done on Monday morning, with the kitchen right at the top.

But, V-girl didn't come back.

Then I heard the water running.

She just went about her business as if I hadn't said no.  Of course, the kitchen was so messy, she had no counter space to put the "clean" dishes.  She washed each piece individually and then just marched right up and down those little steps everytime she had another one clean.....and placed it carefully on the floor.  She then proceeded to warn any and all that she had clean dishes on the floor and not to step on them.

I guess there are times when it is sort of okay for your kids to disobey you, hmmmm?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Another One Bites The Dust....

And another one's gone and another one's gone.

Yup.  A-girl got glasses.

D-man played basketball....or football....with his glasses on (can't remember which now) and broke his hipster glasses about 4 or 5 months ago.  He had another back up pair of regular glasses - since his prescription only costs like $15 for glasses at Zenni Optical.  Since A-girl was ordering, he decided to use his own money and replace his cool glasses.
And, since I have been wearing my glasses sort of semi-sideways on my face since this happened....
....on the first day of our vacation at the beach.  Forgot to tell you about that part of my fabulous trip to the ocean (I forgot to mention that I did have a great visit with my brother in-law and sister in-law on that vacation though - don't want to discount that part of the trip.  There was good mixed in with the not so good!) 
Back to my glasses:  We were getting ready to unpack the van and there was confusion about where to park the van, getting a luggage cart, who was going to be in the van while Rainman moved it, whether we could do it in one trip, etc. 
L-girl, was being the helpful messenger to tell us what the latest plan was and then rushed back to get in the van. 
Meanwhile, Rainman had decided she was going to stay with me while he rearranged the van, so he had just started backing up when she tried to get back in.  He was not happy.  I heard him yell from the other side of the parking lot.  She was upset and came running to my open arms. 
Seriously, picture it in your was just like in the movies....just not in slow motion with our hair blowing in the breeze.  I threw my arms open and said something like, "He didn't mean it, sweetie...he just didn't want you to get hurt...blah, blah, blah".
Anyway, when she threw herself into my arms, I put my head down to apparently complete the hug with my skull and the side piece of my glasses snapped off when her head hit them.
So, I got to get these....
The kids actually picked them out for me and I sort of love them.  I feel young  Emoji

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Word Problems, Oh My!

Has every person on earth hated word problems at one time or another?

I know I have.

I know my kids have.

Rainman?  Well, he is weird.  He loves those kinds of things.

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Thanks to Lonestar Learning and Target the Question, my kids....and even me....are learning that word problems don't necessarily have to be feared.

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This is a digital or on-line program that gives you access to 40 weeks of problems. 

What I really liked about this program is you use the same set of information or data for each day of that particular week.  Does that make sense? 

There is one paragraph of information with a lot of information.  And then, each day, there is a different question your student must answer.  So, they need to figure out what information they need to dig out of the information for each day and problem. 

So, different daily questions and you need to weed through all the available information and just take what you need to answer the question of the day.

Get it?

This program is available for grades 1 through 7.  Although this program is also available in Spanish, but that is only for grades 1 through 5. 

We used this with L-girl who is in grade 5.  She would log on, usually once a day, and do her question of the day.  If we happened to miss a day, she would just do 2 questions the next time she logged on.  Each days work only takes about 5 or 10 minutes, so it wasn't a big deal for her to do more than one question in a sitting, if she needed to.

Here is an example of what the screen looks like:

Then, for example, Tuesday's question would be, "How many albums will Teri need for her pictures?"
On the page, you have your paragraph of information, and at the bottom there are tabs for each day of the week. So, obviously, on Monday, you click the Monday tab for that day's question, and so on and so forth. There are other extra thingies available like a digital scratch (Draw Pad) pad to work out your answers.   After you finish your work, you can click on the View Answer button. 
While there is a Draw Pad button where you can do your work, and even choose different colors to work with, but, both L-girl and I decided we didn't like using it and would much rather use our own scratch paper and pencil to work the answers.
Rainman and I both liked being able to talk L-girl through figuring out what information she could ignore for the daily questions.....when she needed us.  Like I said, Rainman loves word problems, so he found it fun and easy to weed through the information.  Sometimes, I had to stop and think before I could help guide her into finding the right information and ignoring the rest. 

The good thing was, if I didn't have time to think through and help her figure out the right answer, the digital access comes with PDF access to the answer key and other printables for the problems, so we could have easily checked that, in addition to just viewing the answer while we were on the page.

The only thing that I would consider a possible negative is that there isn't a cheaper option for families that may want to use this with more than one child.  I could actually see using this for A-man and S-girl....A-girl too if they had an older option, but the price makes that impossible for us to consider.  Right now, you pay for the yearly access to Target the Question for one  specific grade level. 

You can try it out for free too.  Just pick a grade level and take a look.  It is a pretty neat product, that I can guarantee you would have helped me with my math/word problem skills as a child.

You can get access to Target the Question, digital edition for $59.99.

Others on the TOS Review Crew also got to try Target the Question, plus some other products, like:

 photo Greek-Latin-Roots.jpg Greek and Latin root cards...(I want to try these!)

 photo Target-Vocabulary-Pictures.jpg Target Vocabulary cards (math stuff) ....

 photo Science-Vocabulary-Pictures.pngand Science Vocabulary cards....

  Take a look and see what they thought. 

Disclaimer: I received digital access to this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Trip to the Ocean...

For those of you that know me in real life, you already know that when we took a recent trip to the Ocean....Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to be exact, I didn't have a stellar vacation.

Rainman and the kids had an awesome time.

I did not, for various,  too detailed and whiny reasons to go into here.  But, it boils down to the fact that I really ended up doing the same things I do at home:  cooking, cleaning, laundry and following little people around to the activities they wanted to do.

Don't get me wrong.  I love doing those things for my family, but, I wanted a break.  I wanted other people to take care of me and clean up after me.  I wanted to do something that I wanted to do.  Whine.  Whine.  Whine.

The worst part was that the rest of my family was clueless about how I was feeling until I managed to blow up one day at the waterpark because they were bugging me to go on the waterslide.  I even did the finger shaking thing at them.  That is so not me.

stock vector : Retro or vintage cartoon mom or mother shaking her finger as if mad, angry or upset.
(Except I didn't look nearly this cute or happy....remember I was in my swim suit......)

Anyway, Rainman and I ended up having a good talk about it after he opened his eyes and realized that yes, he and the kids were having a fabulous time and I was doing the "same old, same old" in a hotel room.

It wasn't awful the whole time here are some pictures of our visit to the ocean.

There was a whipped cream eating contest....

None of my children emerged victorious....but then didn't seem to care!

A-man discovered his love of all things pirates...

The girls became princesses....

Got to spend time with Grandma....

This was the view from our room....wonderful!  Traveling in the off season is super helpful for that sort of thing.

I learned that S-girl gets cold sores.

I learned that A-girl and my mother-in-law can consume really large servings of food with no leftovers.

Seriously.  No leftovers.  In that thing there are burgers and grilled cheese and fried eggs, plus there are fries that you can't see hiding behind the "burger"!

I learned that I really love the ocean.  Listening to it, watching it (plus I got to see some dolphins) and playing in the sand with my girls....

That D-man and Rainman look a lot alike...

Except the differences in their outfits, cracks me up!

We all decided that there was just something about the ocean that we loved.

I learned that V-girl always has something to say.

I am thankful that we were able to take a vacation at all.  Selfishly though, I am hoping that I will get a little more vacation time time.

Abraham's Journey

If I told you this review was going to be about a children's book where the main character, Abraham, finds out that his Christmas is going to be a real bummer because both of his parents have been laid off, would you want to run right out and get it?

Can you think of any of your childhood books that were realistic like that?

Me either.


But, weirdly, this book from Inspiring The American Dream called Abraham's Journey, by Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian, is uplifting and encouraging.

Weird, right?


I won't give away the whole plot, but the book's subtitle is called:

 A Celebration of the American Dream. 

And, it is.

The main character, a boy named, Abraham, travels through the past and present (via his smart phone) meeting people who truly believed in, worked hard for, and achieved the American Dream.

This book is recommended for ages 7-12, So, at first, I just tried to hand this to A-man and L-girl to read on their own.  They sort of glanced at it and set it aside for "later".....but, later never came.  Then, I decided I would just read it and see what it was all about. 

I started reading, and after the first page, thought, "What in the world?"  Especially after the first picture in the book....

(Here are the parents giving the kids the bad news about their jobs and Christmas.)

After I read it, I told the kids we were either going to do is as a read aloud or I wanted them to really read it.  They opted for a read aloud, so as we got to the various people Abraham met, we could stop and talk a bit about who they were and what they had done in history.

The book is like a little mini-history book (although it does jump around and doesn't necessarily follow a chronological path through history) about some of the people that have been important to America.  But,  even if your kids are reading this on their own and don't know some of the characters Abraham meets, there is a biography section at the back of the book that gives a little synopsis of who they are and what they are famous Norman Rockwell and Melinda Gates.

This is a modern children's book that uses smart phones and social media to get its point across, but also teaches that faith, compassion and hard work are some of the most important things in life, and are key to achieving the American Dream.

It may have been unintentional, but, I thought the book conveyed the point that it is not always what you know, but who you know that leads to success.  I happen to agree with that sentiment.  I keep telling my addition to hard work, the concept of "networking" and keeping in contact with friends and acquaintances is important.  Not that my kids will actually meet Amelia Earhart or even Mark Zuckerberg, but I think you get my point.

I sometimes feel in this day and age, the American Dream, as we have often thought of it, is dead and gone and people just want the handouts that the government can give to them.  But, this gives me hope that we are raising a new generation up to recognize their God given talents to come up with new ideas and  to persevere and put in the time and effort, take some risks to attain the.... not actually dead and gone.....American Dream.

This book is weird, but good.  And, you know me, I like weird.

You can get Abraham's Journey to help you and your children follow their own American Dream for $14.99.  Or, if you have one of those fancy Kindle thingies, you can get it for a bit less.

See what others on the TOS Review Crew thought of Abraham's Journey.

Disclaimer: I received  a physical copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

College Common Sense


Nope.  It is a fabulous product/company that is going to help us handle helping our children  go to college and finding a way to for it!

Pesky little detail, isn't it?  Paying for college.

This is one of those reviews that is not just for homeschoolers. I repeat....this is NOT just for homeschoolers. Keep reading public school friends!

The product is called Going to College and Paying for it Online Video and Workbook by College Common Sense.

There seems to be a mindset these days that everyone should go to college and it doesn't matter if it costs you an arm and a leg and a loan whose fine print terms costs you your firstborn child.

When I was in high school that wasn't really the case.  You certainly could go to college and my parents encouraged us to get additional education, but not necessarily at a 4 year school, and certainly not to get it while amassing a huge loan to hang over our heads. 

My parents didn't pay for college for us, (except for you, Kandi Emoji).  They did help us.  We worked.  I got a miniscule scholarship.  But, really, we were all clueless.  For some reason, there wasn't really a lot of help or guidance at my school and my parents certainly didn't know how to help us get scholarships or "free" money for school.  And, really, it probably boiled down to the fact that we didn't know who  or what to ask about anyway.  We just knew that my Dad made just enough money that we didn't qualify for financial aid.

That is why Going to College and Paying For It is a fabulous product for your student.  Officially, it can be used with any aged student, (there are even scholarships available for as young as 6 years old!), but it makes a lot of sense for high schoolers and even, in some cases, middle schoolers. 

I guess it is even for parents.  But, I think most parents have some idea of how much college costs and the value of financial aid and scholarships, but not necessarily how to get our kids there.  For example,  I didn't even know what the FAFSA was before we started this program.  (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

What is has done for us is open D-man and A-girls eyes to what it really takes to get accepted into a school, to come up with money to pay for that schooling, and how to keep the money coming in.

Here, before we move on and I tell you about how Going to College and Paying For It has worked at our house, watch the creator of this program, Denise Ames, who has worked in college admissions and financial aid offices for over ten years.  Watch and see what she has to say to parents.

What this course boils down to is that the job of a parent at this stage in life is to be the navigator and guide your kids through the process of furthering their education.  Did you catch that?  Help guide them....NOT do it for them.

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Here is how this course works.  There is a workbook and six videos to watch. We reviewed this program on-line, so we printed off PDF versions of the workbook pages, accessed her free lesson plans, and logged in and watched the videos on-line, and then did our homework on the workbook pages we printed off. But, there is a physical workbook and DVD course also available.

The six video segments are:
1.  The Big Picture
2.  How Financial Aid Works
3.  All About Free Money
4.  The System That Works
5.  You In The Process
6.  Pull It All Together

I love how much of the responsibility for finding "free" money  (also known as scholarships and grants) is put on the student to find people or entities that are willing to invest in their education. 

Your child has to find them and figure out how to get them to invest in them.  And.....this part is important.....not just wait for this money to fall into their the ever elusive "college fairy"!

While I love the personal responsibility part of this program, it also makes me a little nervous, just like I feel when D-man, with his crisp new driver's permit, is behind the wheel, instead of me.

I think one of my favorite parts of this program was towards the beginning of the program when D-man and A-girl had to pick their top schools and fill out worksheets on the actual cost for attending those schools. They had to go dig around the schools website and find the information that showed the costs of room and board, tuition, textbooks and any other expenses there may be.

Boy, was that an eye opener for all of us, but especially A-girl, who has dreams of going to a school like Julliard.  I think it helped both of them take thinking about college now, rather than later, more seriously, because they are going to have to come up with some serious money.

See, we have told the kids that we will try to help them with paying for school, but we won't be able to pay for it completely. They have known that since they were theory.  I think actually looking at some of the numbers, was a little depressing for them. 

But, Ms. Ames really goes into great detail on how to wade through this information, piece by peice, step by step.....and she does repeat some of the things over and over (which the kids found kind of boring).  I took that to mean this stuff was really important. 

She recommends that with your younger students you work on this once a month and when you students are older (high school aged) this is something that you work on at least one day a week.  I told the kids to think of this as an increasingly important part-time job for them.

Do not, I repeat, do not, wait until your child's senior year.

My hope for this program in our family is that none of my children will end up like many young people I know who have a college degree for a job that will pay them $20,000-$25,000 a year, but also student loans to pay back that are  $100,000+. 

Not a good outcome.

This program will be used at our house over and over again.  I plan to pay the $25 a year for the 12 month access, because then I know the information will be the latest and up to date.  She seems to be really good at updating all her website helps and links so they are up to date and accurate. 

Ms. Ames has a lot of helpful information available on her website and even has a free newsletter that can help keep you on track and give you ideas as you move into the college years.  She even offers  free lesson plans so you can get an idea of what she has in her College Common Sense course. 

Again, though, I really think this course is well worth the $25 for the on-line access.  There are just so many details of how getting into colleges...and paying for it that no parent or child can keep track of on their own. It can be overwhelming.  Deadlines can be missed.  Essays can be skipped because they are hard.  But, with her systematic approach, it is all doable.

The downside to this program for some people may be the the video is not super high quality.  There are simple slides and some shots of Ms. Ames talking (sometimes she isn't even looking at the camera that is filming her).  This stuff didn't really bother me, but it may be annoying to some people.  I just chose to listen to all the helpful information she was handing out.

D-man and A-girl have started a binder for all of this information, that they will continue to add all of information and to keep track of what information they have gathered, and eventually move into creating a scholarship binder to... keep track of everything that is needed to keep track of everything.

Like I said, it will sort of become their part-time job through the high school years.

I love that Ms. Ames is helping encourage them to be organized to create a way for something as simple as making sure that they don't miss any deadlines for scholarships.  She helps point the way through her common sense approach and sort of nags them, so you don't have to!  I guess, in a way, Ms. Ames is that magical "college fairy" after all. 

So, don't wait.  Start the process of Going to College and Paying For It with your kids now.

There are two ways you can get some College Common Sense in your household.  You can get the DVD and workbook for $55 (includes shipping and handling), or go the on-line access route and pay $25 for 12 months of access to the program.

Read what others on the TOS Review Crew thought about College Common Sense.

Disclaimer:  I received free on-line access to this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC.