5/30/12

TOS Review: DVD: Dive into Diversity

When I started planning our school year, I pulled resources together for a science unit studying oceans and sea creatures.  I called it “Under the Sea.”  Then I found out the TOS Homeschool Crew was going to have an opportunity to review DVDs from Dive into Your imagination.  We would be able to give our preference for which dvd we would like:  Dive into Diversity, Who lives in the Sea?, What Makes a Fish, a Fish? Much to my joy we were assigned to this review and we received Dive into Diversity.

Much to the disappointment of Supergirl,  I postponed our Under the Sea unit so that we could include the Dive into Diversity DVD and the Educator Guide that Annie Crawley generously provided in PDF format.

Let me speak just a bit about the Educator Guides.  These are HUGE (over 300 pages for the guide for Dive into Diversity!)  They are jam packed with information and activities. The sections include: “How to use this book”, a section devoted to each “chapter” of the DVD, Treasure Chest Terms (vocabulary definitions), Special Section: “Ocean Annie teaches you about Scuba Diving”, and “Educator Key” (Answer key).

For each of the DVD “Chapter” sections you will find: Concept/Topics to teach, Character Education, Getting Started, Imagination Value, Classroom Activity Station (each chapter has several of these),  Activity Station Book Stall which includes book suggestions, DVD Transcript, Go Blue! Ocean Annie Tips to Help Our Environment, and Activity Pages. 

My favorite aspect of the Educator Guide is the section of questions and answers.  These are intended for a brainstorming session with a group of students but I used them as comprehension/discussion questions with Supergirl.

DIVE questions

I also found several of the activity sheets to be very appropriate for Suprgirl (developmentally delayed.  Functions at 1st grade level).   I had both the Prek_K level and the Grade 1-3 level and I used material from the grade 1-3 guide.  She especially liked the coloring pages:

100_4614

 

Now let’s talk about these beautiful DVD’s!  Here’s a description from the back of the Dive into Diversity DVD:

Dive into Diversity teaches children about the variety of life under the sea and how animals rely upon on one another for survival. Take a ride to a dept of 1500 feet in the deep sea with a submarine pilot! Find out what happens on the reef at NIGHT. Learn what eating ice cream and brushing your teeth have in common. Why do crabs have claws? What can grow three feet in just one day? You and your children will be entertained  while learning about the sea with an upbeat original score just like the first two DVD’s in the series, What Makes a Fish, a Fish? and Who Lives in the Sea?

There are 8 chapters on this dvd:

  • Night Diving on the Reef
  • Submarine Pilot
  • Swim in a Kelp Forest
  • Invertebrates of the Sea
  • Coral Reef Living
  • Vertebrates: Animals With A Backbone
  • Wacky, Weird, Crusty Crustaceans

 

I am so glad  I waited until we had received this DVD to start our “Under the Sea Unit”.   I’ve been using the dvd clips to introduce a topic.  Then we discuss the questions.  I have other resources so we can read more about the topic like coral reefs or invertebrates and we’re using a lapbook to create a notebook.  I’ve inserted some of the activity pages in the notebook.  Sometimes she just watches the DVD just because.  Whenever I put the dvd on, her sisters come to watch it as well.  Each chapter is fairly short.  Also you can watch the dvd with English, Spanish or just music.   We have really enjoyed watching this dvd and we’ll continue to use it as part of our “Under the Sea” studies. The DVD is a very enjoyable part of of our studies!

Dive into Diversity retails for $19.95.  Here are some special offers:

Annie sent out this offer by email:

For the entire month of May and June, there will be free shipping with any order placed at www.AnnieCrawley.com/store in honor of your followers. Also I will have discounted rates on the educator guides too.

She communicated that the both levels of the educator guide would be free with the purchase of the DVD.  Here is what I was told:

As a special for the Homeschool Crew and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and followers Annie Crawley of Dive Into Your Imagination, she will gift you a set of PDFs with purchase of the DVDs. When you place your DVD order, just let her know in the notes that you are a Homeschool Parent!

Here are some websites you’ll want to check out!  She has books, DVD’s and even coloring pages!

www.AnnieCrawley.com
www.DiveIntoYourImagination.com
www.Youtube.com/AnnieCrawley
www.Youtube.com/OceanAnnieTV

 My Bottom Line: I highly recommend the DVD.  We have loved it so much that when we found another title at the library we had to check it out.  I think the Educator Guide is really geared for school situations.  Many of the activities would be very difficult to use in a homeschool setting with just one student.  I could see the guide being useful in a homeschool co-op setting where you have a group of students.

Click on the banner below to read what my fellow crew mates had to say about the three different DVD’s from Dive into Your Imagination.PhotobucketAll information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

5/24/12

TOS Review: Heritage History: British Middle Ages

HeritageHistoryThumbnail

If you know me or if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I prefer a literature based approach to learning history. History comes alive when you use living books, that is books generally written by one author who has love and enthusiasm for his subject.  I am so thankful to the Crew for introducing me to Heritage History.  The girls and I have been studying the British Middle Ages from the Heritage Classical Curriculum.

Heritage History Classical Curriculum is a literature rich approach to studying history.  They “put the story back into history.”   In the Curriculum Guide, you can read about the philosophy, approach and even the recommended sequence for teaching.  In addition to the website, this guide is also included as a PDF file on the Classical Curriculum CD.  I also recommend exploring the FAQ page

As a TOS Homeschool Crew member I received the both the British Middle Ages Classical Curriculum CD ($24.99) and a printed color copy ($24.99) of the British Middle Ages Study Guide.  If you have purchased the curriculum CD, it is not necessary to purchase the printed study guide because the study guide, outline maps, color maps and reading forms are all included in the CD.  The printed study guide is offered for those who wish to use use the online library.  It is also available as “a convenience to families who don't have access to low-cost color printers, [they] provide ready-to-use, pre-printed Study Guides. The pre-printed guides are ready to be placed in any standard three ring binder and include front and back covers.”  A downloadable e-book Study Guide ($12.99) is available for those who wish to purchase books one at a time or use the online library.

HeritageHistory-BritishMiddleAgesTG

Each Study Guide includes:

  • historical maps
  • outline maps
  • timelines
  • era summaries
  • character lists
  • battle dictionaries
  • recommending reading lists

Heritage History designed the Study Guides to provide reference materials that complement the reading program. 

The Classical Curriculum CD is overflowing with goodies!  The CD doesn’t just include all the e-books, but includes all the e-books in 4 (yes FOUR) formats: PDF, EPub, and Mobi and HTML.  The HTML format opens in web browser and must be read on the computer.  In addition to the books and the Study Guide the CD includes files for:

HeritageHistory-BritishMiddleAgesCD

  • Guides (the Study Guide, Curriculum Guide, Electronic Text user Guide and more!)
  • images
  • maps
  • HTML (the book list and more in a format that uses your browser but does not require internet access.  It reads the files on the CD)

 

How we’ve been using the program:  At first, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around *how* to use the program.  There are suggestions in the study guide and I couldn’t decide which approach I wanted to take.  I started with more of a hodgepodge type approach letting the three “older” girls choose a spine to read and also choosing a book from the recommended reading list.  I picked a book to read aloud to all four girls.  This meant that although we were all studying the British Middle Ages we were not all in the same timeframe.  After about two weeks of this method we switched gears.  We decided to approach it more systemically with a focus on the historical eras. 

Using the “Recommended Reading—Early Britain”, I selected different books to read aloud.  I set aside Famous Men of the Middle Ages (we’ll come back to it!) in favor of reading selected chapters from the Cambridge Historical Reader and Stories from English History.  We had already finished the book about Robin Hood so now we added Our Island Saints to our read aloud time. 

So the “big” girls have their independent reading and we have our “group” read aloud time.  During this time I have the binder with the printed color Study Guide available. (It is also available for the girls to use with their independent reading.)  We do the reading and then we talk about what they’ve been reading and what we’ve just read.  We refer to the timelines to see how it all fits together.  We’ve talked about creating a large timeline to go on our wall but we haven’t set it up yet.   I love the discussions that we have as a group and I love that all four girls are studying the SAME time period at the SAME time but at a pace and level appropriate for their age/development. 

The books used in the classical curriculum are divided into Young Readers, Intermediate and Advanced.  To independently read the Young Readers selections, the student must read at or above a 4th grade level.  The intermediate books are suitable for Middle School and the Advanced selections are appropriate for high school.  I think the program can be used with a wider range of ages  if the parent or older sibling is willing to read aloud. I am able to make this work with all four of my girls with the wide range in developmental ability because we are using a combination of independent reading and reading aloud.

What makes this program different from other “classic” or “old” books now available in e-book?: Simple answer?  The Study Guide.  Many (if not most or all) of the books used by Heritage History can be found for free elsewhere on the internet.  Heritage History even makes those books available for free *on their website*.  You must read them on the computer but they are free.  The study guide takes those books, ties them together with study aids and creates a curriculum. You will not find a nice laid out “read this many chapters from this book on this day” schedule but you will find suggestions and tips for scheduling.  You have to do the daily scheduling yourself but the study guide does the coordination for you.  It tells you which books (and which parts of larger spine books) should be read for which era.   We’ll read all the Early Britain books (or parts of books) and then we’ll move on to the next era: “Saxons, Danes, and Normans.”  It’s a structured plan and yet very flexible. We read as much (or as little) as we want. At a pace that works for us but we have a guideline and some structure on which we can build.

So what did my the girls think of the program? Here are their thoughts about Heritage History’s British Middle Ages Classical Curriculum.

Thoughts from BooBear (11th Grade): “British Middle Ages is one of my favorite time places and I was very excited to study it. I love learning about the British royalty. And I like to read books.  There are a lot of books and that makes me very excited”.

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (9th Grade): “Well, I’m a history geek so this really appealed to me. I liked the  fact there were so many books from the different periods in the middle ages. I liked the books themselves as well. I look forward to doing more.  I like that the study guide gives you an overview of the middle ages. The maps are cool.”

Thoughts from Tailorbear (7th Grade): “It was awesome. The books are really good. They have really good stories. I’m learning a little bit more about a culture I didn’t like and starting to like it more.”

Thoughts from Supergirl (developmentally 1st Grade): “I like when Mama reads to me. I like the Robin Hood stories.”

My Bottom Line:  I really love this product.  It fits my educational philosophy and my approach to learning history.  I love the structure of the study guide.  I love that I can use this with all of the girls.  I want to own all of the different Classical Curriculum CD’s (especially the Ancient Rome one).   Some of their library collections (especially the Early American one) are very appealing as well. And I am in love with the convenience of the printed Study Guide.

Photobucket

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.

5/21/12

TOS Review: WriteShop Primary Level A

WriteShop Oval For the last several weeks, Supergirl and I have been using WriteShop Primary Level A as part of our LanguageArts Studies.  Or rather as part of her studies. As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we received the E-book version of the Teacher Guide and Student Activity book.

 From the Website: Book A is recommended for kindergarten or first grade. It may also be used with reluctant second graders. The program accommodates pre-writers as well as beginning and developing writers, teaching the skills of the writing process at the very simplest level.”

Primary Level A is available in both e-book ($24.25) and print formats (softcover with plastic coil binding $26.95).  You’ll also need the reproducible student activity pack which also available in both e-book ($4.50) and print ($4.95) formats.  For this level, I prefer having the e-book for the activity pages but I think I might have preferred the print version for the teacher guide, however, I am not unhappy with the e-book version and it has worked well for me to have it on my laptop to my right while my daughter sits to my left.

Included in the Teacher Guide is a section about scheduling.  I’m using the 3 week plan which means I will complete 1 lesson every 3 weeks, working at 3 days a week.   The 10 lessons in this level should last about 30 weeks. This is a good pace for Supergirl, who is developmentally challenged and is working at roughly a first grade level. 

Each lesson contains 8 activity sets and a section entitled “want to do more”:

  • Guided Writing Practice (Activity Set 1): This is not a separate activity set but rather is included in every activity set.  This is, in my opinion, the greatest feature of the program.  Activity set one only has the guided writing practice
  • Pre-writing activities (Activity Set 2): This section always includes reading a book or story to your child.  It may include an additional activity or two. 
  • Brainstorming Activities (Activity Set 3):  In lessons 1 and 2 this is just a list of words you create but I do see graphic organizers in future lessons.  This was easier than I thought it would be, though Supergirl did need some prompting. 
  • The Writing Project (Activity Set 4):  My favorite aspect is the Guided Writing Practice, but I think Supergirl’s favorite is the writing project.  There is one major writing project for each lesson.  There are additional suggestions for advanced students or if you want to do more. 
  • Editing and Revising (Activity Set 5): Just like what it says.  It starts out very simple and becomes more complex.  The teacher guide gives specific things to talk about and look at. 
  • Worksheet: (Activity Set 6): This is from the student activity book
  • Publishing  the Project (Activity Set 7):  For Lesson 1, we turned her “story” into a kite.  In Lesson 2 we made a paper plate book.   I see in a future lesson that we’ll make a caterpillar pull toy.
  • Evaluating the Student’s work: Included with the program is an evaluation check list that you can use to evaluate progress. 

WriteShop Primary has three levels A, B and C.  But WriteShop isn’t just for early elementary.  There is WriteShop Junior as well as products for grades 6-10 and grades 8-12.  Be sure an check out the website: www.writeshop.com

Cons (or things I didn’t like):

  • Some activities require advance prep (these are clearly marked) using magazines or catalogs.  I don’t usually have magazines or catalogs lying around so getting pictures to cut out was extra work for me.
  • I could not find instruction or suggestions on what to do with extra practice pages in the student activity book.   The pages are cute but I found them unnecessary and did not print them out.  (We are using the pages that are assigned in the lesson.)

Pros (or things I loved):

  • The daily guided writing practice.  I have seen so much improvement in my daughter’s ability to give a one word answer, to a phrase to stopping herself and creating a complete sentence.
  • The flexibility.  I loved that I could go as fast or as slow as I needed and that if my student was more advanced or needing more work that it included suggestions.
  • The encouragement to have my student physically write as much or as little as we were comfortable with.  Ms. Kautz encourages the parent to share the marker with the student.  This isn’t a technique that works for us but I loved how she gave suggestions and didn’t imply that the student would do all the writing or imply that a young student should only dictate.
  • That one of the activities for each lesson was to “revise” the work.  This lays the foundation for writing and re-writing and editing.  For Lessons 1 and 2 this was very simple but looking ahead I see that it gets more and more involved.  I like that.

My Bottom Line: Supergirl is really enjoying the program.  She is so proud of herself and her two projects.  She looks forward to the daily guided writing practice and she has gone from giving me a one word answer to phrase to a complete thought to slowly telling me each word so I can write it down.  Some of the more crafty type activities are not as successful here as the guided writing practice, however, I will adapt or modify as needed so that we can continue with the program.  I like that the actual daily sessions only take an average of 15 minutes.  It’s easy to fit this program into our day.  I like that even within Primary A the lessons get incrementally more complex and difficult.

100_4597

Some of the Crew reviewed different Primary Levels and some reviewed the Junior level. Click on the banner below to read what my fellow crew mates had to say about WriteShop!PhotobucketAll information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

5/18/12

Day 5: Home Organization: Meal Planning

I had not really planned on writing a post about Meal Planning as part of my 5 Days of Home Organization but as the week drew closer I found myself pondering and re-visiting some old ideas.  Having a plan or being organized with menus can make the difference between eating home cooked food and living off of fast food. 

It also means the difference between insanity and staying sane.  I have come to despise the question “what’s for dinner?”  If I have to stop and think about it, I get grouchy and irritable.  If I have meal plan I can just say “go look and see for yourself.”

I have found that if I do not know what is for dinner by the time we’re eating lunch, I can practically guarantee that I will not be cooking and that we’ll be eating some type of take out.

I’ve written about meal planning before.  I wrote about setting up and creating a rotating meal plan.  Part 1 talks about rotating menu plans and in Part 2 I walk you through how I set up my rotating menu plan.

There are seasons in the year and seasons of life.  As these change, my strategies for meal planning alter.  Lately,  I’ve been feeling the need for a transformation or at least a regrouping.  I usually go through this every May. 

Dinners are not the only meal of the day.  For some reason those children want to eat breakfast and lunch, too!  I have a set menu or frame for breakfasts and lunches. Yes I change it up and make alterations when we get bored (or the seasons change). 

So here’s our basic Breakfast menu that we’ve been following: 

Monday:  Oatmeal – we vary this by adding different fruits or flavorings Tuesday:  Eggs  (unless it’s Bible study, then it’s breakfast at Bible Study) Wednesday: Bagels or Muffins or even English Muffins (with fruit and/or yogurt)
Thursday: Cold Cereal
Friday: Farina

Notice I don’t mention Saturday or Sunday.  For religious reasons, we don’t eat breakfast on Sunday.  And Saturday’s breakfast depends on our plans.  We tend to do waffles, or pancakes, or biscuits and gravy on Saturdays.  I don’t tend to plan on Saturday lunches either.  Sometimes, after a big breakfast, we just don’t want or need a lunch.   Sunday’s depend on what we’ve got planned. 

So here’s our basic Lunch Menu:

Monday: Sandwiches (usually lunch meat, but they might be egg salad or tuna salad)  (sometimes we have left over pizza instead of sandwiches but that’s only if we have left over pizza)
Tuesday: Convenience Lunch. This means something easy to make that I buy like corn dogs or chicken nuggets or mac & Cheese
Wednesday: Soup
Thursday: Sandwiches or leftovers
Friday: Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches

So now that brings us back to dinner.  So what I’ve been doing for the last six months (well 9 months really) is use Emeals.com.  ( You can read my review here.) I received a 3 month subscription as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew and it made life so much easier that I purchased a 6 month subscription, but as I said above I’m needing a change.  For the last several weeks, emeals.com hasn’t thrilled me.  It gets old trying new recipes nearly every day week after week.  We’re all wanting to revisit some old family favorites.  What I’ll miss most about emeals.com though is the grocery list. 

So what will I be doing now?  I’m revisiting the idea of bulk cooking.  Not necessarily doing the full “cook for a day, eat for month” concept but here’s what I will be doing:

Buying fresh chicken breasts and freezing them in meal sized portions with the marinade.  As the chicken defrosts, it will marinate and then I can have Honeybear grill it.  

I’ll get some cheaper cuts of beef (like round steak or chuck steak) and do the same thing. Freeze them in a marinade, thaw and grill.

I’ll cook up a basic ground beef mix (I learned about this from Frozen Assets by Deborah Taylor-Hough).  It’s ground beef cooked with onions, celery, and green pepper.  I’ll freeze it in meal size portions and use it for spaghetti sauce, chili, cheeseburger pie,, sloppy joes, tacos etc.   This is great to have on hand for those times when you forget to plan a meal and you really don’t want to do take out for the 5th day in a row. 

I’ll also buy some ground beef to make into different hamburgers.  (Currently in the freezer I have teriyaki burgers.  The idea is from the Once a Month Cooking book..).   I’ll do some “plain” and some flavored and we’ll have these available to grill. 

And when Honeybear is grilling meat, I’ll have him grill extra chicken that can be used in my Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch pasta salad or Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad.

I still have a few weeks left of my emeals.com subscription so I’ll be pondering what kind of frame or structure I want for our weekly meals.  I find it so much easier if I have something like “Grill on Sunday, Pasta on Monday, ”  It helps me to sort and organize my meal ideas.

I also want to get back into using my crock pot more often but I think that is topic for another post on another day.  Do you have a meal preparation or meal planning tip that helps you?  How do you organize your meals?

Be sure and take time to visit the other blogs participating in the 5 Days of Blogging.  Click on the Button below to go to the Crew Blog to see all the different topics!


Photobucket

TOS Review: CAPJAXMATHFAX

It can be quite a challenge to find products that will drill math facts to mastery and still keep the interest of the student. I want something that will be fun and keep the interest of my students but I don’t want them distracted by playing games that entertain more than they educate.  Enter CapJaxMathFax

CapJaxMathFax is a software that you download.  An annual license is $29.95 and is good for up to 10 students.  You may, for an additional fee, choose to purchase the program on a cd.  You can try CapJax using the Free Evaluation version.  When I first  installed the software but before installing my license, I noticed a message that told me to look for a secret code while playing.  I could then use the secret word code to receive a discount when I purchase a license.  (Please note I did not purchase a license, one was provided for me.)  In addition to the program, you can also purchase buttons to award your students.

From the Website: Meet Captain Jack: “Starboard Training Systems is headed by Jack Fretwell. Jack earned a MasterĂ¢€™s degree in Educational Technology and has spent over thirty years in education and computers. He has taught math to elementary students and computer and business skills to Xerox Corporation executives. As an undergraduate Jack belonged to Pi Mu Epsilon honorary mathematics fraternity. In graduate school his Miller Analogy Test scores qualified him for membership to Mensa. Jack is a sailor and holds several patents relating to sailing and mathematic software. In Jack’s spare time you might find him with his harmonica playing some blues with his band in Northern Virginia.”

For more information be sure to check out the website: www.capjax.com The Full story may be of particular interest!

Using the Program: When you open the program you see:

CpaJaxStart

To Enter the program click the yellow “Go For It”.  To exit click the gray “Bail” button.  For notes to pop up to explain things click on the green “Startup Notes” button.

After clicking on “Go For It” you’ll see:

capjaxselection screen

If you are only practicing you do not need to sign in at all.  You will want to make sure that you set the number of Facts in Set.  Why?  Because it will continue to give you facts and never reach a stopping point.  If check the box for Facts in Set, it will reach a stopping point and you’ll know you’ve finished practicing that group.

You can choose Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, or Division and then click on play for rating.  If you do not make an operation selection, CapJax will start you with Addition or if you’ve played before, start you where you left off.  You must sign in to use the Play for Rating mode.

 

Cons (or things I didn’t like):

  • Must type name in each time. I really wish there was a drop down list of names to choose from.
  • No way to adjust the Super seconds.  For students with disabilities it can be discouraging to not make progress because you can get the answer in 4 secs but not 3.  I wish there was a way to make adjustments for special needs students (Edited to add for clarification: super seconds can be adjusted in the practice mode but I could not find a way to do it in the play for rating mode.)
  • No way (that I  could find) to see detailed reports of students progress.  If I am right there at the computer I can click the details button at the end of that session but I can’t come back later and get that information.

Pros (or Things I did like):

  • The message in a bottle: Although Supergirl couldn’t read them, she still liked clicking on them having someone read them to her.  These “messages” are quotes.  Some of them famous. She preferred doing the “play for rating” to get the messages even though she would have benefitted from more practice.
  • The encouragement that pops up at the end of each section.
  • I like that it included Keyboard Practice.  This has been very helpful for Supergirl though she finds it boring. 
  • In practice mode, you can include negative numbers.  I love this!
  • In practice mode you can include “word thinkers”.  Not word problems but words instead of symbols. 
  • The Cappers.  These come up when you are in the “Play for Rating Mode.”  These come at the end and it is extra practice for the facts that you did not get Super on or that you got wrong.  They are not rated.
  • This can be used for students from first grade and up!

Here are some screen shots of the things I liked:

CapJaxJCquote

 

 

This shows the message in the bottle.  I love that this quote is from Jesus! 

 

 

 

 

CapJaxWayToGo

 

 

Supergirl increased her rating and got an encouraging “Way to Go”.  This particular one does not contain a message in bottle.

 

 

Here is the goal:

Capjaxmastery

And finally some thoughts from my children:

Thoughts from Supergirl (developmentally 1st grade): “I like it. It is so much fun. I play it and I get points. I go up and up. I learn my math facts.”

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (9th grade): “I really liked it. It helped me brush up on my math facts. I really needed practice for multiplication and subtraction and it helped me. My algebra is much easier when I know my facts. It was also really fun to do.”

Thoughts from Tailorbear (7th grade): “I’m not a big fan of math.  I kind of liked the style of it.  The ‘word thinker’ problems were kind of cool.”

Click on the banner below to read what my fellow crew mates had to say about CapJaxMathFax.PhotobucketAll information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a 6 month license of this downloadable software free of charge to review. I am required to write a review but I am not required to write a positive review. This review contains my and/or my daughters’ honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I/ we liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

5/17/12

Day 4: Organizing the Home School Stuff

Earlier this Crew year, I blogged about organizing my home school. It was part of a Blog Cruise.  I wanted to write again about organizing supplies.  Not just our school supplies but my office type supplies.

There are three kinds of stores that I could spend hours and hours wondering and browsing.  They are not clothing stores.  Not shoe stores either.  Office Supply stores, Kitchen Gadgets and Books.  Consequently, my husband rarely takes me to the outlet mall.  (Truth be told he’s a sucker for the Kitchen Gadget and Book stores, too!)

I love pencils and pens and all those neat little gadgets like clips and pins and containers to hold everything.  And the perfectionist who wants everything to match and be perfect drools and covets paper trays, markers and clipboards.

Reality is not so pretty but I still have a need to be able to find a working pen or sharpened pencil without having to scrounge through the cushions of the couch.  Mugs and baskets make perfect containers for pens and pencils.  I have a freestanding cabinet in my dining room that holds office supplies, math manipulatives and other school related items. 

100_4595

This is the top shelf.  On the left in the back you can see where I store my pens.  I have four glass mugs.  These were part of my “Mug Collection” and I needed to do something with them, and I needed a way to store pens.  But I’m weird and I wanted my pens sorted.  So I have a mug for black ink pens, a mug for blue ink pens, a mug that is supposed to be for red/purple ink pens and a fourth mug for all others.  Some other colors have migrated into the red/purple mug and all my blue pens are missing at the moment.  But in theory, it is really easy to find a pen and to find the kind I want. 

You can also see, on the right, one of those paper sorter thing-a-ma-jigs.  On the top shelf of that is the pencil basket.  It has erasers, as well.  Every now and again we go through the basket and pull out the pens and colored pencils that come to visit the regular pencils.

The paper is sorted (roughly) into 3 hole punched loose leaf notebook paper and special Handwriting Without Tears paper.  Of course we have the “other” category where whatever paper goes. :)

The other baskets hold things like bookmarks and sharpies.

I don’t want to just talk about pens and pencils.  I want to talk about my favorite way to store those spiral bound teacher and student books.  Softcover and spiral bound books/notebooks just do NOT stand on a shelf very well.  And if you lay them flat, you have to move them all to find the one you want (which always seems to be at the bottom of the pile.  Even if you used it this morning!).

My solution?  Magazine racks.  These plastic do-hickeys are available at office supply stores and even Walmart.   I have lots of them.  I even use some of them to hold magazines.  I use one for holding my home school catalogs.  Want to see some?  Good cause I have a picture! :)

100_4596

In this picture you can see the one I have for Math, Science/Latin, Misc and on the right end, my items from Institute for Excellence in Writing.   I love that I can easily find what I am looking for and they look impressive on the bookcase.  Each of my daughters have one (you can see the tops of them at the bottom of the picture.)

For more about the magazine racks and a couple of other school room organization tips, check out my old post I Need Organization to Keep My Sanity.

Click on the banner below to go visit more 5 Days of Blogging Posts.  So many different topics!!


Photobucket

5/16/12

Day 3: Home Organization Laundry and the Linen Closet

Originally I thought… hmm.. I should do one post for the Linen Closet and a second post for laundry.  But then I found (since I really talk too much anyway) that I had more to say than I thought I did so I need to combine topics.  And then I realized my laundry system isn’t really working now so maybe I don’t want to draw attention to it.  If I reveal my laundry secrets then you’ll know I’m not perfect. (and if you’ve been reading my Home Organization posts then you’ll know I really struggle with that inner perfectionist.)

Well since we’re talking about laundry (and you’ll know I’m behind in laundry cause the linen closet picture has a big empty space.  That’s where the clean towels would go.  You know once the ones in the clean basket are folded and the ones in the hamper finally make it through the washer and dryer and get folded).  Oh right we were talking about laundry. 

As with all other areas of my life,, I’m perfectionist.  Fortunately, I’ve come a long way when it comes to washing clothes.  (*sh*  don’t tell.  I’ve regressed with the folding and putting away part.)  So here’s my old system (the one I do NOT recommend).  Grab a gazillion laundry baskets to use as hamper/sorter things.  And if you’re a perfectionist you’ll want them to be the same size and brand and type and all that jazz.  Make sure you have plenty of space on your laundry room floor to line those babies up.  Now sort your mountain of laundry.  Are you ready?  Cold wash: light, cold wash: dark, warm wash: light, cold wash dark.  cold wash: whites, warm wash: whites, cold wash: baby clothes, warm wash: baby clothes, sheets, towels.  Are you exhausted yet?  Now you’re going to do a marathon of washing and drying and folding. Why?  Because mom always did laundry only one day week so we have to do laundry only one day a week.  Except that the baby will cry or need to be fed or something will come up and the laundry doesn’t quite get folded and put away.  Laundry sucks.  But we’ve got to do all that sorting.  The TAG says we have to wash it it in warm water with like colors.  The earth will stand still if we don’t follow the tag and do laundry one day a week like mom.

Thank goodness the smell of laundry detergent or something woke me up! I have a love/hate relationship with Flylady (maybe I’ll blog about it someday.)  One thing that I did take away from Flylady was that I could wash ALL of my laundry in COLD water.  Yes, it’s true.  You can wash those items that “wash in warm water” in COLD WATER.  Amazing!  And despite my deepest fears that I would ruin the clothing, the laundry didn’t get wrecked. 

But before I made the amazing discovery of washing ALL clothes in COLD water, I was introduced to the idea one load of laundry a day.  Some people are B.O.  That is Born Organized (Pam and Peggy explain this concept in the Sidetrack Home Executives book.)  I’m not B.O.   But my B.O. friend shared with me that she did ONE load of laundry a day.  EVERY day.  Her house was always clean and tidy and organized.  She did ONE load of laundry every day.  Really.  That’s not how mom did it.  But the idea stuck.

<confession time> When we lived in the apartment, I didn’t have a gazillion laundry baskets or space to put them but I did sort all the clothes into piles and continued to do that when we moved into the house and had space for the all the laundry baskets.  But by the time the military moved us across the country I was ready to ditch those laundry baskets. < end confession time>

So I had a gazillion laundry baskets but now I did one (or sometime two.  I had a growing family.) loads of laundry every day.  I just looked to see which basket was the fullest and that’s what I washed.  

Did you see the confession above?  By the time we moved I had streamlined my laundry and I had a new system.  I didn’t sort clothes.  I sorted out sheets and towels from the clothes but I did not sort clothes.  They all got washed in cold water.  Whites, darks, colors.  All mixed up.  (are you cringing? I did when I read that Flylady did that!) But this made laundry so much easier.  I just brought the dirty laundry down and threw it in the washer.  I had a system for getting it folded and put away too. And then we moved again.  (such is the life of a military family.)

I really do prefer to sort my clothes into darks/colors and whites.  We’ve been in this house now for 11 years.  Though I’ve regressed with the folding and putting away the basic system I’ve been using is still set up.   In my laundry room I have one of those hanging mesh basket thingys.  (very technical term).  There are two baskets.  One holds darks.  One holds whites.  I have a hamper that holds sheets and towels.  Once upon a time I had second mesh basket thingy but it didn’t fit as well into my laundry room.  A hamper works better.  I just dig through to grab the towels or sheets whichever I am washing.

I do 1-2 loads of laundry Monday through Saturday.  I tend to do 3 to 4 loads on Monday and 2-3 on Thursday.  I try to avoid doing laundry on Sunday.   This method means that you will never be “caught up” with laundry.  There will (most often) still be dirty laundry in mesh bag or hamper but I have learned to get over that.  I have learned to define “caught up” as not having enough in any category for a FULL washer load.  I used to define “caught up” as “nothing dirty but the clothes on our backs.”

Now for the really helpful laundry tip of the day: pin your socks.  Yes, with a safety pin.  My least favorite part of laundry was socks.  I hated mating them.  So now we pin our socks.  Each bedroom has a magnetic “pin cushion”.  When you take your socks off you pin them together and put them in the laundry.  They go through the washer and the dryer together.  No mating necessary.  Just grab the socks and put them in the drawer.   It took some time to train the girls but generally speaking it makes finding a pair of clean socks so much easier on Sunday morning when you needed to leave 10 minutes ago for church.

Hm, this post was supposed to be about organizing the linen closet with a short rabbit trail about laundry.  Guess it’s more laundry rambling with an after thought of “oh that’s right I’m talking about linen closets.”

I love linen closets.  It is hard for me to imagine that there are houses without them.  Who designs these things?  Certainly not people who value a place for storing clean sheets and towels.  And what’s up with NO bathroom storage and NO linen closet.  I am thankful that I have a linen closet.

100_4589

My linen closet is actually not as narrow as this picture implies.  It’s not that skinny.  The towels go on the empty shelf.  There is a lot of space at the top.  So I have curtains and mattress pads, quilts and blankets up there. On the next shelf I have tablecloths, some of Supergirl’s blankets and different sheet sets.  I don’t do anything fancy with them.  I do try to make sure that the sets are together and I have read somewhere a tip where you put the top sheet and the fitted sheet together inside the pillowcase but that doesn’t work for me.  There are some blankets on the third shelf.  I really should go through them.  They are mostly baby blankets.  My baby is 13 YEARS old now.  They do make great “take outside and sit on the ground” blankets so we keep them around.   Yes, those are toys and not linens but I don’t really have a good place for them and Supergirl still plays with them.

I need a new system for getting laundry folded and put away.  I’ve conquered Mount Washmore’s sorting and washing and sock side but the folding and putting away grew a new forest that must be remapped.

 


Photobucket

5/15/12

Finding What You Need in the Kitchen Pantry

I’m just not sure I’ve mentioned enough just how much I hate not being able to find what I need.  I open the pantry door and grunt in frustration because I know the coconut oil is there and I need it.  But I can’t find it.  And then I have to move stuff around and things start falling on top of me.  AAAAAHHHHH!  You do not want to witness my melt down when that happens.  And when that happens, the girls know it’s time to clean the pantry.

The really nice thing about having a pantry organization system is that, when things start to “fall apart”, it takes a lot less time and effort to restore the system into good working order.  I have a family of humans.  I love them but they are not perfect (and that really rubs the perfectionist in me the wrong way).  This means that no matter how much I have strived to teach them to put things back in the “proper” place at some point things get “shoved here or there or anywhere”.  

I don’t think there is only one right way to organize a pantry and I don’t think there is a wrong way except maybe a way that makes no logical sense to the pantry owner and causes more headaches and frustration than no system at all.  

So I’ll share my system and you make any/all modifications necessary to make it your own system that works for you.

I’d like to come up with some sort of gimmicky statement that uses some type of catch phrase but it isn’t working for me.  The Best I can come up with is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Here’s a before picture.  Well it’s an “after everything has its place but we’ve let it get out of hand and things aren’t in their place” picture:

100_4585

In the above picture you can see that I have some plastic baskets and a couple of boxes.  I used the “corral and contain” principle.    I have all these little baggies and little jars of spices.  If I don’t corral them and keep them contained they will migrate all over the pantry.  Then I buy more cause I can’t find what I’m looking for.  *ugh*.  (See having an organized pantry can save you money as well as time!)  In the center white basket I keep the baggies of things like lemon pepper, garlic granules, Italian seasonings and other things.  In the basket on the right I keep the jars of spices like the Penzy spices I won in a giveaway.

<Rabbit Trail alert> I try to buy as many spices as I can in the bulk section because they are so much cheaper that way.  I have some spice jars in a spinning rack on my counter but I do not have enough jars for the different spices.  You can’t see the glass jar but I put baggies of spices that are “extra” in a glass jar behind the plastic wrap.  I pull those out to refill my spice rack jars. <end Rabbit Trail alert>

Maybe I should show you the after picture?  By after I mean after we’ve done a bit of straightening up because those little baggies were starting to migrate and other things (like the coconut oil) hadn’t been put back in the designated home.  But the cool thing with the above picture is that because we invested in organizing the basic structure was still there.  It doesn’t take hours and hours and tons of work to put it “back to rights”.

 100_4586

Here you can see two shelves.  The top shelf has boxed mixes like my biscuit mix and some cornbread mixes on the left.  The middle has large bottles like syrup and honey.  The right side has things like crackers and cereal.

The next shelf is my “cooking” shelf.  It has things like corn starch, spices, and drink mixes.  I use a plastic shelf to give me more space.   The perfectionist in me wanted to wait to organize everything until I had the perfect containers.  She cringes when she sees old boxes and jars being use to contain and corral, but I smile when I can easily grab the corn starch and thicken the sauce for dinner.

On the third shelf (no picture.  Sorry) I keep grains and pastas.  You’ll find oatmeal, farina, brown rice, white rice on the right and elbows, medium shells, egg noodles, and other pasta on the right.  In the center, because I ran out of room in the kitchen drawer, you’ll find various types of storage bags, from snack size to gallon size and freezer bags as well.  

<confession> I’ve been struggling with what to do with the bags.  They would migrate all over the pantry.  When we needed them we couldn’t find them.  I’ve been frustrated.  My oldest daughter’s been frustrated.  I knew I had purchased quart sized freezer bags and she could.not.find.them.  Guess what? I found them. Tucked behind some bag of some grain I haven’t identified.  Yes, in honor of this post I’ve been working on my pantry.  So now I have an empty microwave popcorn box (held 24 bags.. it’s long and skinny box) and it holds the boxes of bags.  They’ve been corralled and contained! <end confession>

The fourth (and last shelf) contains baking items.  Flour, sugar, powdered milk, baking chips etc.  It’s also the shelf we end up sticking the paper plates (on top of the infrequently used Whispermill).

On the flour of the pantry is my 18 qt roaster.  And misc. items that I can’t seem to find a home for.  More often than not the tortilla and potato chip bags end up down there (usually on top of the roaster.) 

Basically the key I have found is to decide what makes sense to me.  In my favorite book The Organizational Map, Pam McClellan mentions keeping items that you use together, together.  And then contain items.   Shoeboxes work great!  Those boxes that those Cuties come in also work great.

My pantry isn’t perfect but most of the time it works for me.  I have found that my system is evolves and grows.  You may have to play around a bit and try different ways before you find a system that works for you but it is well worth the time and effort! 

 

Photobucket

5/14/12

5 Days of Home Organization: An Introduction

About a year and a half ago I wrote a post for the TOS Blog Cruise for the theme "organizing your home school". I started that post with an explanation of why I need organization. I think it only fitting that on day 1 of a 5 Days of Home Organization that I again share why I need organization.

And I think I need to explain something very important. Being organized and having it all together are TWO DIFFERENT animals. I may have several areas in my home that have some semblance of organization but I do not have it all together. With my perfectionist streak I am my own worst enemy!

I get frazzled, flustered and frustrated when I cannot easily find what I am looking for.  If I need a pillowcase, I want to be able to just open the linen closet and grab one.  If I’m looking for the letter opener I want to be able to go to the bin and have it waiting there just for me.  When I open the pantry to find the glass jar of chives, I want it to be with all the other spices.  I don’t want to worry about having things fall on my head when I open the freezer or the pantry or the linen closet.  I don’t want to have dig or hunt.

This week I’m going to focus on how I have organized my pantry, school/office supplies, meal organization/planning and the linen closet.  But first let’s talk about what resources I have used over the years to inspire me.  My style is eclectic and based on my own weirdness oh yes and on my needs and the needs of my family.

Have you heard of Flylady?  She is (or was.  I haven’t kept up with her) heavily influenced by the book: Sidetracked Home Executives (S.H.E.) by Pam Young and Peggy Jones.  I joined Flylady’s email group long before she was “famous” and I did so because of S.H.E.   Flylady has modernized S.H.E. but for many years I stuck to the “old” method of “index cards.”   I think this book was written in the 70’s.. yup.. just checked the oldest copyright on my book at it is 1977.  But the information is timeless.

The Organizational Map by Pam McClellan is a resource I turn to often.  This is the the book that inspired me to start creating my own rotating menu plans.  I think this is my favorite how to get organized book.  Lots of similar thoughts to S.H.E. but more my style. (S.H.E. is excellent for setting up a system that you can use to maintain your organization.)

Emily Barnes is the guru of being organized.  She’s written many books on the subject. I’ve read several but the one that I have kept is More Hours in My Day.

There’s a reason S.H.E is so applicable to me. It’s because I am a sidetracked home (school) executive! I’m writing this post and I find myself getting distracted by thumbing through the books and getting excited and I want to re-read the books but I’ll reign myself in.  Join me this week as we work on some specific areas of home organization.

There are over 65 Crew members participating in the Blog Hop.  Each one with a different theme.  Grab your favorite beverage (and you might even need a snack) and hop on over to read more blogs!


Photobucket

5/12/12

A Perfect May Day in the Pacific Northwest

When I was growing up, September was my favorite month of the year.  Not just because that’s my birthday month.  In Minnesota, the September weather is nearly perfect. The heat of August has passed.  The cold of November is still far away. The trees begin to display their gorgeous colors.

Since moving to the PNW, my favorite month is May. In May we have a taste of truly perfect weather. Not too hot. Not too cold. Not rainy.  Just an abundance of glorious sunshine.

In the 11 years we have lived here I’ve noticed a pattern.  May is beautiful.  Gorgeous. And then June reverts to cold and rainy.  We wonder what happened to summer? And then sometime after the 4th of July we get roughly 6 weeks of summer. 

It is days like today that remind why I love the PNW so much and why May is my favorite month. I think the high today was the lower to mid 70’s.  Earlier in the day there was a refreshing breeze and having the windows open just felt wonderful. Later in the afternoon it warmed up enough that we needed to close the windows (the breeze was no longer refreshing.  It was warm.)

It’s early evening. Supper’s finished (it was early because of commitments two of my girls had). Honeybear set up the A/C and today for the first time in 2012 we turned it on. 

Flowers are blooming.  Sun is shining.  It’s the perfect day!

100_4582

5/11/12

TOS Review: Go Science DVD’s

I think Supergirl’s favorite way to learn is watching DVD’s.  One of the first words she learned to sign was “movie”.  Recently we’ve been watching two Go Science DVD’s. provided by Library & Educational Services.

For each crew member selected for the review, Library & Educational Services (LES) gave a choice of two (yes TWO!) of the 6 available DVD’s for Go Science.  I chose Volume 4 (Chemistry, States of Matter, and Life Sciences) and Volume 6 (Water, Space and the Solar System)

Description from the website: Even kids who claim an aversion to science will be engaged by the high-energy science demonstrations of Ben Roy! Ben teaches science methods at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is the former director of a science program on television. With this expertise, Ben captivates, motivates, and inspires students to be excited about science, while providing effective instruction based on science phenomena. Each of the 67 spectacular demonstrations of physical or chemical science has a spiritual application and points to our Creator! Recommended for ages 6 to 14”  The website also states: “These episodes were originally produced for a religious television show.” GOSCIENCE-SET

Supergirl loves the two DVD’s we received.  She frequently requests them.  Often I will hear “mom can we  do that.”   Developmentally, these science demonstrations seem perfect for her.  They engage her interest, excite a desire to learn more about science and they entertain her.

I love Ben Roy’s enthusiasm.  He loves what he does and that love pours out into the demonstrations. Turtlegirl, age 14 1/2, says Mr. Roy’s enthusiasm is the only reason she watches the DVDs. “When he says isn’t that cool, you know he means it because it is obvious from his facial expressions and body language.”  She also commented on Mr. Roy’s faith. “It is clear he really believes what he’s teaching in the devotional part of each demonstration.”  *sh* don’t tell but she confessed that she watches to see how  he does it and not the results.  

Her biggest complaint (and I agree with her) is that we want to know more about why it works. We want more science.  More explanations.  But I think that just may be his point: get students excited about science so that they’ll want to go and learn more.

My 13 year old shared this with me: “he didn’t get down into the science of why these experiments worked otherwise I really liked the way he did things.  He’s a really happy person. He can really grab the kids’ attention.”  In other words she had the same complaint as her older sister.  She wants to know more about the why.  She still recommends the dvds.  But she stresses that you’ll want to have some science books around to explain the stuff.

I do want to stress that these are science demonstrations.  These are not experiments.  We are not given full scientific explanations.  We are not given information on how to “do this at home.”  In fact for several of the demonstrations he states “do not do this at home.”  That being said, these demonstrations have inspired Supergirl to want to do more hands on science activities and have confirmed for my 13 and 14 year olds that yes they really do love science and want to know more about how the world around them works.

I also appreciated seeing a wide range of ages in the audience.  The cover and website states ages 6-14 and there are children from that range in the audience and as helpers.  I think this DVD series is a good choice for getting children excited about science.  I want to caution that these are also devotionals centered around science.  Ben Roy uses each demonstration as a take off point for a biblical concept devotional.  For example, he uses a flash paper demonstration as a jump off point to talk to kids about God’s forgiveness.  This wasn’t a problem for my family, though some of the concepts did not align with our Orthodox faith.

These DVDs are available from L.E.S. as a bundle package for $47.95 or individually for $8.95. You can visit the L.E.S. website to see all the Go Science titles.  I love L.E.S.  They have so many great deals.  I love the fact that they consider homeschool teachers as educators so that homeschoolers qualify for those great deals.  You can visit the L.E.S website to learn more.  To browse the online catalog you must first register but it is free. 

Click on the banner below to read what my fellow crew mates had to say about these GoScience DVD’s:PhotobucketAll information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.

This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

5/9/12

It’s coming! It’s Coming! 5 Days of… Blog Hop

My dear readers, you may have noticed that occasionally I participate in the TOS Blog Cruise.  Well our Cruise Director, Marcy has organized a TOS Blog Hop! 

Starting May 14th and running for 5 days the TOS Crew will be doing the 5 Days of… Blog Hop!  Each of the participants will be blogging about one topic or theme for 5 days.  I’ve heard that there will be topics such as “Using Technology in Homeschool”,  “Graduating a Homeschooler”, “Boy Scouts.”  I’ll be blogging for 5 days about Home Organization.

Each of my posts will include a link to the TOS Homeschool Blog Post where you can hop between blogs.  At last count I thought I heard Marcy say “65 crew members”.    So carve some time out of your schedule.  Line up your beverage of choice and prepare to Blog Hop for 5 Days!

Look for this Graphic in my sidebar to see my posts:

homeorganization blog button

Look for this Graphic on the participating blogs and in participating posts.  Oh and yes I’ll have it on my sidebar so you can easily find the rest of the blogs!


Photobucket

Looking forward to chatting with you all about my thoughts about home organization in general as well as some specific areas such as the kitchen pantry and the linen closet!

5/8/12

The little red furry monster

In June 2004 Honeybear and I took all four girls and we headed east to visit family in Minnesota.  While back “home” we visited the national cemetery to see my father’s grave.   My grandparents (my mother’s parents) are buried not to far away in the same cemetery.

When we went over to pay our respects to my grandparents, my children made a shocking discovery!  Elmo was dead.  I had hysterical children who couldn’t quite make the connection that the little red  furry monster was NOT their great grandfather and therefore Elmo the monster was not dead.

It’s become a family joke of sorts.  This morning, 1 month shy of 8 years since that trip and we have this conversation:

Me to Supergirl: “What’s the name of the first book with Edmund and Lucy?”

Supergirl: <shrugs shoulders> She doesn’t want to say it.

Me: “Is it the tiger, the wizard and the closet?”

Supergirl: <giggles and points to Turtlegirl “You tell her”

Eventually we get her to say the word we want to hear “wardrobe”

Turtlegirl: “Did she just say Woodrow?  The Lion, the Witch and the Woodrow?”

Me: “Woodrow?  The Lion, the Witch and the Grandpa?”

Turtlegirl: “Wasn’t there a Woodrow Wilson?”

Tailorbear: “We have a Woodrow Wilson for a grandpa?”

Me: “No we do not have a Woodrow Wilson for a grandpa but we  do have a Woodrow for a grandpa.  He was granny Elsie’s  husband.”

Tailorbear: “Then who was Elmo?”  [note to my readers: you knew it had to come back to Elmo.]”

Me: “Elmo was Nana’s daddy"

Turtlegirl: “I can’t believe we’re related to a little furry red monster.”

5/5/12

The Forgiven Duke (Book review & Giveaway!)

Last February I had the opportunity to read and review The Guardian Duke  by Jamie Carie.  The Guardian Duke is the first book in the Forgotten Castle series.   I very much enjoyed the adventure part of the story and two of my daughters loved the book.  So I had to jump at the chance to read and review The Forgiven Duke.  We received confirmation that I would be receiving an advanced reader copy on Tailorbear’s 13th birthday. She was so excited.  She declared the book her birthday present!  This book releases July 12, 2012.
Here’s some websites you may be interested in:
http://jamiecarie.com/books/the-forgiven-duke
http://www.amazon.com/Forgiven-Duke-Forgotten-Castles-Novel/dp/1433673231
 http://jamiecarie.com/books/the-forgiven-duke

Forgive DukeAbout the Book: Tethered by her impulsive promise to marry Lord John Lemon - the path of least resistance - Alexandria Featherstone sets off toward Iceland in search of her parents with a leaden heart. A glimpse of her guardian, the Duke of St. Easton - the path less traveled by - on Dublin’s shore still haunts her.
Will he come after her? Will he drag her back to London, quelling her mission to rescue her treasure-seeking parents, or might he decide to throw caution to the wind and choose Foy Pour Devoir: “Faith for Duty,” the St. Easton motto. The Featherstone motto Valens et Volens: “Willing and Able,” beats in her heart and thrums through her veins. She will find her parents and find their love, no matter the cost.
The powerful yet wing-clipped Duke of St. Easton has never known the challenge that has become his life since hearing his ward’s name. Alexandria Featherstone will be the life or the death of him. Only time and God’s plan will reveal just how much this man can endure for the prize of love.


I did not enjoy this installment of the series as much as I did the first.  I think I found the romance aspect of a little too much “over the top” and a bit unbelievable for my taste.  I confess that I do not like Alexandra.  I can’t relate to her and I find her immature, selfish and at times quite stupid.  She is not the role model I would have for my daughters.


I did however enjoy the adventure mystery aspect.  What exactly is/was Alexandria’s parents after? Where does Iceland fit in?  Are the Spanish going to ruin everything? When will Alex realize that John Lemon is bad news?


I do have to point out though that this book should not be considered “historical fiction” in the sense of supplementing a study of the Regency period.  I struggled with getting past the incorrect use of peerage titles and at times I stumbled when very modern ideas and culture appeared.  I liked the plot.  I got pulled into the story but it only worked for me if I set aside the idea that it was set in the Regency era.  (I’m sorry but a daughter of the peer is not going to tell a stranger to call her by her first name and she would not be Lady Alexandria in one breath and Lady Featherstone in the next.)


I also like the character of the Duke. I find him more believable than the female character.  I especially enjoyed the passages where the Duke accepts his circumstances and learns to adapt.  I am fascinated by how he can see colors now instead of hearing music.  I appreciated the tenderness that he shows towards his sister in her time of grief.


As I said above my daughter Tailorbear really enjoyed The Guardian Duke. Here are her thoughts about The Forgiven Duke: “It was almost as good as the first one.  I really really enjoyed it. My favorite part was pretty much every part the Duke was in except when he was on the Spanish ship. I really didn’t like Alexandria as much in this book as I did in the first book. I enjoy her faith that her parents are still alive but what she has done to get to her parents is unpleasant at points. Especially if you really like the Duke.”
 
My Bottom Line: It took a a few chapters for me to get into this book but I did get drawn into the story.  I will be looking for the 3rd book in the series when it becomes available in the fall.  Despite the fact that I don’t particularly care for this type of romance, I feel comfortable offering my readers an opportunity to win a copy for themselves.  I don’t particularly care for peas in my tuna macaroni salad but if the salad is good overall I’ll recommend it.  Overall I liked the sense of adventure.  I liked the mystery.  I liked the travel to different countries.  With the tuna salad, I would just pick out the peas, with this book I just skimmed over the overly romantic parts and soaked  in the adventure and mystery.  I enjoyed this book enough that I am wanting to check to see if my library has any of Jamie Carie’s other series.
 
To enter my giveaway, which ends at 9:01pm Pacific time on Monday May 14th (that’s 12:01 am Eastern time May 15th) you must use Rafflecopter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway “Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” (Please note I received an advanced reader copy of the book The Forgiven Duke.)