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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday Month! Part 1

April is sort of a crazy birthday month around here.

Three of my four girls were born in April.

This year it has made for a particularly crazy month, since we also put our house on the market in April.

So, here is the first of an update on our birthday girls.

We will start with S-girl whose birthday comes first in the month.

We started with our usual pancake breakfast.  She turned 6 this year (in case you can't tell by my slightly deformed pancake).

She chose to go out to lunch with her dad for her special day and picked.....McDonald's....because I was able to talk Rainman into letting her spend some time at the playplace.  We really never go to McDonald' it is a really big deal to our 6 year old!

We had cake:

I had to choose this shot with V-girl photo bombing the picture....looking like a boy that has had a very active day! 

We had presents....even ones.....from teenage brothers.

It isn't totally readable in the picture, but it says:

"This coupon is redeemable for Spending time with Doug!!!  Yay!  You get to choose what we do together! (smiley face)"

Here are her other presents:

Most things were princess related....or just pink.  No I do not know what Doug and A-girl are doing back there.  Notice V-girl looks more like a girl now....but she still has the crazy hair thing going on....and she is, once again, photo bombing her sister's birthday picture!

Overall, S-girl had a great day....although I am not sure if her wish came true....

I love you more than you will ever know, S-girl!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Math Rider

Oh, we had excited little people when we got a chance to review Math Rider again.

S-girl was especially excited because she was now finally old enough to ride her horse on the quest!

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We used and reviewed this really cool math program before. 

You are a rider in this game and must jump over fences of math problems - which are your math facts from 0-12 for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as you travel on a quest.  The quest is revealed at the beginning through a sort of story/slide show.  So you have a reason to try to go faster and get all your problems correct.

This program is so great in many ways.  It is fun.  My kids really and truly ask to do their Math Rider "lesson" and fight over computer time to do it.

There are so many ways of tracking your child's progress.

The speed of the horse is designed around the speed of your child's answers and their accuracy.

If your child gets an answer wrong, they get another chance to get it right....if they still don't a voice says the problem and the they have heard  the correct answer...and then it will give it to them again.

This program was created by a dad who wanted to help his daughters to better in math...and not always have them counting on their fingers.

I think he did a brilliant job.

I even sit down sometimes (and steal the kid's account) and try a few problems.  It really is sort of addicting to try to go faster and get them all right.

If you master a level....and in this case that means getting 100% correct - there is a pretty cool graphics "reward" that your child gets.  After "we" got over the initial frustration that you had to really and truly get 100% to get the reward, it was all good.

We loved this game the last time we were lucky enough to try it and we still love it.  Like I said, S-girl was over the moon that she was finally old enough to ride her horse and do math!

You can try a free 7 day trial, by just entering you e-mail on their home page....believe me, you will be sold you on this program. 

If you want to go ahead and try this for your kids, Math Rider is $47 and that includes free software upgrades.....for life.  Yes, for life!

Don't just take my word for it though, see what the other TOS Reviewers thought.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

We've Been "Marked"

As of last Saturday, our home is officially for sale!

I have been working like a semi-crazy woman for a while now to get everything ready, and quite honestly to make it look like a family of 8 doesn't live here!

It is a beautiful house.  It is a great house.  It is a fabulous house.

If you don't happen to have 6 children and be open to more children in the future.

It just wasn't a good fit for us.

It was bought on impulse when Rainman got transferred down here and my doctor told me that I had only a short time left that he would let me fly down to look at houses. 

We flew down on the first flight out one Saturday morning...looked at a few houses....and flew up Saturday evening after stopping at the mortgage office to make an offer.

The whole plane ride home I was worried we had made a mistake and that all of us weren't going to comfortably fit here.

I was right.

There are great things about this house that I will miss.  The backyard and pool.  The granite counter tops.

And things I won't miss.

But, we are hoping and praying that this house will be a blessing to a family with 2 or 3 children and that we will be able to find a house in our area that was designed with a bigger family in our price range.

Faith, my dear friends, faith.

V-girl has been announcing to anyone who gives her a second look, that our house is "marked".  Then she turns to be and says, "Right, mom?  Our house is marked?"  I say yes, even though I wasn't sure what she was talking about.

Then I heard myself tell someone our house was finally on the "market" and figured it out.  When we got home later that day, she looked at the sign in our yard and said, "See?  We are marked, right, mom?"

If you know of anyone looked for a really beautiful, great family home south of Atlanta....send me a message and I will get you more information!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Treasure Island and Progeny Press

The following is a review. 

I have used Progeny Press products before, and even written about them

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If you remember, they offer literature study guides from a Christian perspective.

So, you basically read a selection and after you are done (or as you are reading) you work through the questions to help you get a deeper understand of the work or to think of things from a different perspective.

My reading selection this time was Treasure Island.

Yes, I said "my" reading selection.  We have been crazy busy around here trying to get our house ready for the market.  The kids go from doing their school to working like slaves for me for the remainder of the day.  I go from teaching school to working like a slave for the remainder of the day.

So, I needed a little something.  A little something called reading.  And, this book and study guide were designed for middle school readers (5th through 8th grade), so I thought I would be able to handle it!

Plus, I had never read Treasure Island. 

I have seen Muppets Treasure Island though, so I had a general idea of the storyline.  ;)

The guide has a synopsis before you even start the, just in case your only experience is with the Muppet would still be good to go!   Emoji

It also had a helpful/interesting section on the author, Robert Louis Stevenson.

The guide then has pre-reading activities to do, like things as simple as researching the different coins and money, nautical terms, or even terms from that time period and their "thither".

You are supposed to work through the guides with access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, a Bible....and the internet.

Moving into the actual book and the corresponding interactive study guide, there is obviously a vocabulary piece that goes along with the story, but it also moves into deeper thinking about the story and its mood and plot technique like foreshadowing.

It moves from those areas into a Dig Deeper section where it asks a question about something that happened or something a character chose to do and then has you read some Bible verses to see what the Bible says about the situation or choice. 

It really makes you think about things in a different manner than the world would encourage you to do. Even wizened old me had to think pretty deeply about a few things.  The guide is interactive, so I could have typed in my answers to the questions right on the PDF file...but, you know me....old school.  Pencil and paper.  That is me.  But, I like that the option is there for my not so "old school" children!

The end of the guide is filled with essay ideas or research papers if you want your child to dig even deeper.

These literature guides are really little gems that help your kids get something out of their reading assignments and not just check the box that they have read something.  And they are something so easy to incorporate into your school work.

These literature study guides are available between $16.99 and $18.99 depending on the format you choose(instant download, printed booklet or CD).

Progeny Press has a ton of other guides available from elementary ages all the way through high school.

Members of the TOS Review Crew got a chance to use a wide variety of literature study guides....see if one of them interests you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sacagawea....History Coming Alive.

This is a review.  I have been told that I need to inform you right away that this is going to be a review.  So, there you have it.  This is a review.  This is not a test.  This is a review.

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Have you seen Night at the Museum - Part II?  The one set in the Smithsonian.  We love both of the Night at the Museum movies, and took "lines" to quote at each other from both of them.  The "lines" we took away from Part II was the  joke the fact that Colonel Custer couldn't pronounce Sacagawea's name.  So, whenever we hear her name or someone says it....we go to that spiel. 

It really doesn't matter if you know how to pronounce her name or not.  The important part is that you realize what a profoundly brave and inspiring person she is in the history of the United States....and that I am glad I wasn't her.

We got a chance to read an e-book by Knowledge Quest all about Sacagawea....that tells more than the night at the museum version of events.....or even the little paragraph or two that is in most history books.

You may remember I reviewed Knowledge Quests Map Trek product last year which we fell in love with (but them my computer sort of crashed and for some reason, the Geek Squad decided not to retrieve the information from my downloads folder.....and they are lost to me  :(  )

The Sacagawea book, written by Karla Akins, is part of their Brave Explorers You Should Know series.

The book has 4 parts, starting with Stolen, then Passage, then Survival and concludes with Equal. I just read it as a book, the way it was written, they flow easily into each other. Tthe whole thing is only a little over 100, it is quick reading.

This book will easily fold into our American History study next year and I will use it for A-girl.  Partly because that is what she will study next year and partly because I feel the content of the book is more suitable to her age (early teenager).

I read the book myself first and was planning to have one of the kids read it after me(it is recommended for ages 10 and up), but just the first 30 pages or so had topics and things that happened to Sacagawea that I wasn't ready for my kids to ask questions about....if you know what I mean.

I mean things like she and her sister being kidnapped when they were young (13ish), being slaves, and eventually being bought together as wives.  A few too many TLC shows tied up in that, don't you think?.  Yes, I know it is history.  Yes, I know it happened.  But, I like my kids to stay as safely naive as they can, for as long as they can.

I found this book really interesting and it is a quick read.  Your child will not have a chance to get bored or complain about having to read this for history.

There are interactive links to click in order to gain a deeper understanding of the life and times of one Sacagawea, but also just the content of the book has so much interesting history.  From little things like the way the Shosone tribe lived, versus the tribe that kidnapped them.  Or, the heirarchy of their sleeping positions, or the way wives were treated versus the way slaves were treated (I will tell was not a huge difference).  Lots of little stuff that your kids probably won't even realize that they are learning.  You know that is one of my favorite ways for my kids to learn, right?

This book can easily be fit into various courses of study, geography, history, explorers, brave women, but really it can also just stand alone as a book to read.  Period.  There are lots of activities that you can have your child do (timelines, map work).  But, they can also just.....wait for it.

You can order the e-book off of Amazon for $4.97

The TOS Review Crew also got a chance to try out the timeline builder app in additional to the Sacagawea book.  Go take a look and see what they thought.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

V-Girl has "Sugar Bugs"

V-girl finally got to go to the dentist.  She has been looking forward to this for about a year now.

We found out that she has the same deeply grooved teeth that A-man (and I) have.  They said, it is not completely our fault when we get cavities....or sugar bugs....because our anatomy doesn't always let us get to where we need to be.

(See, mom?  Remember that time when I had 5 wasn't my fault.  It was my anatomy!)

Anyway, she goes back later this week to get the fillings in.  They wanted to send her to a children's dentist...but the one they sent me to a few years ago for A-man was horrible and waaaay I asked if they would at least try to do the work themselves.

They agreed.  We go to a wonderful husband and wife team of dentists.  The wife does most of the pediatric work.  So, send a few prayers up on Thursday morning that V-girl and Dr. Davis get along swimmingly and the work gets completed smoothly.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Magic Runes

Every now and again, I get an actual, real-live book to review.  That makes me happy.  Because then I don't have to feel guilty if I am ever caught in the middle of the day reading a book, that isn't planning a curriculum or ways to keep my house clean and organized!

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This time around, I got the chance to read and review a book by Salem Ridge Press.  The whole basic premise of this company is to bring back books from the 1800's and early 1900's for our kids to read.  Back from when books were a bit know?

They have a whole Historical Fiction section that is just brilliant. That makes me feel a bit British....just brilliant....would you like a spot of tea?  Anyway....they actually have three sections you can choose from; Church History, American History, and World History.

Salem Ridge Press let the reviewers pick from a list of historical fiction books and I picked The Magic Runes - A Tale of the Times of Charlemagne which is part of their junior historical fiction section and meant for about ages 10 and up.

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The Magic Runes was written by Emma Leslie, whose actual name was Emma Dixon, and was originally published in 1888.

I picked this book from the list just purely based on the fact that it sounded interesting, not because we were working on that time period in history or working on a unit about Charlemagne.  I just thought it sounded interesting and it was.

I read it for myself.  It is definitely written in an "older" style of writing and with "older" vocabulary words.....most of which I knew....but reminded me how small, and watered down, our children's vocabularies our becoming.

One of the really cool things is that on almost every page at the bottom is a little dictionary of words that you or your child may not know. 

I loved, loved, loved that it was right there on the same page....I didn't have to flip back to the end of the book and look through the whole list of "new" words from the book. 

Honestly, I found myself skipping over those words and then would notice that there was one at the I would read the word and its definition and then go back and find it in the writing.  I think I am so used to figuring out words by their context that I just went on.  I don't think my kids are at that point yet, so, it is great that it is right there on the page.

It sort of makes me want to have a whole spelling list/vocabulary list taken from just this book alone.  There are 19 new words in Chapter One alone.

The book itself is only about 120 pages long and covers a time period of a few years, so obviously there is a lot of skimming over details, but it gives insight into the time period as well as the fight between the Saxons and the Christians.

I kept thinking while I was reading it that this book would be a great conversation starter with my kids.  So, my next step is going to be doing this as a read aloud with them. 

In addition to the historical discussions you could have, there are so many points to talk about in how to "win" people over for Christ....and how it has been done so harshly and horribly over the years.  How a little girl just being nice and doing the right thing, changed the course of so many other lives....even though it was hard for her and she just (like all of us) wanted to be selfish.  Definitely somethings to learn from what hasn't worked in history that can be used today.

I also learned a little bit about the history behind our weekday names....definitely pagan origins.  It was interesting though to hear a child explain it in the book. 

I definitely recommend Salem Ridge Press and their historical fiction selections.  Like I said, they are books from the 1800's and early 1900's, so the "writing style" of the book is most definitely different, but the content makes getting used to this writing worth it.

The Magic Runes is available through Salem Ridge Press for $10.95 for a softcover edition, and a bit more for a hardcover version. 

The others on the TOS Review Crew got to pick other books from Salem Ridge Press, so make sure you go take a look and see what they thought of their choices.  /They really gave us a ton of interesting books to choose from. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Computer Science for Kids

I remember when computers "came out".  That makes me sound so old....but I'm not....really.  Really.

I remember, in high school, the big, exciting thing was Mr. Johnson's computer class.  This was back in the 80's and it was very, very exciting.

Pretty sure I worked on one of these babies....with a floppy disk.

Sadly, my gifts in life didn't include having any skills as a computer programmer.  None.  I would gleefully enter my little lines and symbols and watch other people spell out their names or make the little cart move, and mine wouldn't do a thing.  Nothing.

So, as part of the TOS review crew, I got a chance for my kids to try some basic programming, I signed right up.

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Computer Science for Kids offers programming for Small Basic, Visual Basic, Visual C# and Oracle Java.  See?  It says so on the little cartoon monitor!

This curriculum is designed for ages 10 and up.  L-girl and A-man (who is only 8 but knows his way pretty well around a computer) were excited to give this a try.

It did prove to be too much of a challenge for A-man, so he dropped out of "class" and just told us to come and show him the fun stuff when we got there.  That was really what he wanted anyway....the games!

The company actually gave us a chance to try two different programs, one was just a basic programming course that creates games at the end and the other was a basic programming that created a Bible game at the end. 

We opted to try the Bible Games version of Small Basic.

Towards the end of the Beginning Small Basic, they get to create these fun thingies:  a savings calculator, a number guessing game, a card game, a state capitals game, Tic-Tac-Toe, a simple drawing program, fun logic games and a basic video game .

The Bible games course has essentially the same as the Beginning Small Basic course, but when they get to the end, it has these game options for the kids:

Noah's Ark
Daniel and the Lions Den

Elijah and the Ravens

The Good Shepherd

The Prodigal Son

The Lost Coin

Bible Scramble

I so want us to get there....I want to play those games!!!

Did you know that Small Basic is a free program that anyone can download to their computer?  I didn't.  It is pretty cool.

L-girl worked mostly on her own with this curriculum, until Chapter 3, when she just couldn't get it.  She told me that she couldn't get her program to run.  Honestly, I think she had tried to get it to run 3 or 4 days without any success.  I was busy painting things around here and just kept saying that I would sit down and help her.....but it took me a while, so I just kept telling her to keep on trying.

She would come back to me totally frustrated that she was "doing everything she was supposed to" and it still wasn't working.

When I finally did have her show me where she was having trouble.....I wasn't a lot of help.  Took me right back to Mr. Johnson's computer class.  I just couldn't see where she had gone looked the same as their example, to me.  But, then I noticed a little helpful detail at the bottom of the program page.

It is sort of hard to read at this size....but in the tan area, it says "Sorry, we found some errors..." and then it goes line by line, character by character where we went wrong....on lines 13-16....just little stuff...that makes a big difference.

We were able to figure most of where we went wrong out by looking at their clues for us...but still some of it looked the same to us.  So, we ended up copying and pasting from the lesson right into the program....and voila!  It worked. 

L-girl went back to working on her own and is liking it.  She is only on Chapter 5, and the games show up around Chapter we have a few more weeks to go, but she will be there by the end of the quarter.  So, she and A-man are excited to get to that point.

In reading through the lessons and the e-book we found it easy to follow and mostly easy to understand.  We didn't always understand the computer vocabulary, but we were still able to figure out what to do...which is really what counts.  Each lesson always reviewed a bit of what you had covered already, so, if you had spring break in there, like we did, you sort of refreshed your memory as to what you were working on in the last lesson.

I feel like this program is giving L-girl a great behind the scenes look at the details that go into how computer programs run.  There is a lot of work behind the scenes to get things to work right. 

If you would like your child (or you) to understand how basic programming works, you can  get the Small Basic Curriculum for either $34.95 or $59.95 (depending on whether you want a physical textbook option or not).....although there is a sale going on right now that will let you get either option for just $34.95.  The Computer Bible games curriculum is also either $34.95 or $59.95 depending on you need for a physically printed textbook. Again, this one is on sale too for just $34.95.

See what other people on the TOS Review Crew thought of Computer Science for Kids.  I am sure there were a few programming geniuses discovered.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Belated Good Friday...

I was cleaning out my purse this morning and came upon a drawing that S-girl did during our Good Friday service at church.

It sort of crushes me with its simplicity.  The sad faces, the tears on Jesus' face.