TOS Review: Wits & Wagers Family Game


Does your family like board games?  Does your family like trivia?  Does your family like not needing the correct answer and still scoring points? My family does!  We love board games and we love tidbits of facts. We’ve been playing Wits and Wagers Family from North Star Games and my side hurts from laughing so much.


How to Play:  The youngest player gets to be the first to read the question  Each player or team is given a dry erase marker ( 5 are included in the game), a color coordinated dry erase board for making their “wager”, and two “meeples” that match the color of their board. 

Every answer is a number. After the question is read, each person ( or team) writes his answer on his dry erase board and turns it upside down.  After everyone has recorded an answer the boards are flipped and arranged in a line from smallest to largest.  Now you place your meeples.   There is a large meeple, worth two points, and a small meeple worth 1 point..  


If you are confident in your answer you can place both of your meeples on your board.   Not so sure you got the right answer?  Place your meeples on someone else’s board. Pretty sure you got the right answer but maybe your spouse is right?  Put one meeple on your board and one on his.  

After all the meeples have been placed the reader reads the answer.  Along with the answer is a bit of trivia or a fact relating to the question.  To score points look for the board closest to the correct answer without going over.  The board is worth 1 point.  So if you place both your meeples on your board and your board is closest to the correct answer without going over you get 4 points.


Wits and Wagers Family states ages 8 and up and for 3 to 10 ten players.  I would say that it is good for 3 to 5 individuals or teams or combination of individuals and teams.

My family loves board games.  This game has become a family favorite.  Why do we love this game so much? With so many board games it can be difficult with young children.  Each person takes a turn and you sit and wait and do nothing while you wait for your turn.  This equals boredom for a couple of my children, but with Wits and Wagers Family there is no real down time.  Everyone participates in every question.

Sometimes those trivia style games go on forever and ever and this also leads to boredom for the children, but with this game from North Star Games there isn’t time for the doldrums.  The games are fast paced and only take about 30 minutes to complete.

My favorite aspect of the game is that you do not need to know the answer!  The points are scored based on which answer is closest to the correct answer without going over.  Don’t know how tall the Sears Tower is in Chicago?  That’s OK, give your best estimate!

Not needing the exact answer takes the pressure off and lets us relax and enjoy the game.  In many many rounds, NO ONE has the correct answer so we actually learn something.  Maybe not something I need to know but still it is something new I didn’t know before :)

Wits and Wagers Family states ages 8 and up and for 3 to 10 ten players.  I would say that it is good for 3 to 5 individuals or teams or combination of individuals and teams.   This game can be adapted to younger children.  Supergirl functions around 6 years of age.  Most of the time that we play she is “partners” with a sibling but we did play a few games where she could play “alone”.   She loved it!  She liked trying to write her number down and then choosing where to place her meeples.

My “big” girls enjoyed trying to remember if they actually knew the correct answer.  They even liked estimating and getting it wrong.  Turtlegirl has even asked for the Say Anything game from North Star Games.  I see from the website that there is a family version of Say Anything coming in the spring.  I think that is going on our wishlist!

Wits and Wagers Family retails for $19.99.   As of this morning it appears to be sold out through the shopping cart link.  To check for availability click here and then click on the shopping cart on the right hand side next to the game.  You may want to check your local retailers such as Barnes and Noble.  This would make an excellent Christmas gift.

You can also click here to see what games North Star Games has produced as well as  what is coming soon.

Click on the banner below to read what my fellow crew mates have to say about Wits and Wagers Family.Photobucket

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. This review is my honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

North Star Games provided the game Wits and Wagers Family for review


The End of the End

For everything in life there is a season.   I am sad today because a season ended.  

If I’m honest, today was just the end of the end.   The beginning of the end occurred months ago when we had to switch from mornings to afternoons.

Are you lost?  I’m sorry.  Monday we were supposed to go to a local nursing home with some other homeschooling families and the students were to play and sing Christmas songs for and with the residents.  I have very fond memories of doing this last year and my girls were really looking forward to doing it again this year.

Once again a scheduling conflict bars the path of performance.  The nursing home activities director scheduled an orchestra to play for the residents during the time we were scheduled to play.  This is the fourth month in a row that we are unable to minister at the nursing home because of scheduling conflicts.

I’m angry because I feel that we are not wanted.  I wish that they would have said “thanks but no thanks” when we began working with the activities director months and months ago.

Remember my post about the homeschooling myths? (You can refresh your memory by reading about it here)I’m feeling like myth number three: we homeschool so our schedule is completely blank and we can drop whatever we were doing to change our plans because you screwed up the schedule.  That may not be the reality of the situation but that is my current perception based on the “oh can you come at 11 instead?”

My heart aches because I will miss those residents, but I wouldn’t be honest with myself or with my blog readers if I didn’t say that I also am relieved to not have the stress of wondering “will we actually go to the nursing home this month?”  I won’t have the stress of reminding my girls to do extra piano practice to prepare enough pieces to fill our slot on the activity schedule.

Maybe it was time to move because my heart filled with pride?  I was proud of my girls and even blogged about it here. One cannot have a servant’s heart if one’s heart is too swollen with pride.

Maybe it was time to move on because there are other service opportunities that my daughters and I need.   Going to the nursing home and seeing those residents and trying to coordinate those sessions stretched me.  I don’t like making phone calls and I certainly don’t like being reminded of my own mortality.   But there was a blessing that can not be expressed in words   A sense of communion that can’t be explained.  And stretching means growing and the more I grow the more I (Lord have mercy!) become like Christ.

I do believe that we are called to love as Christ has loved us.  I can only trust that as this season of serving ends that a new season allowing us to love as Christ loves will begin.


TOS Review: Master Ruler

Master Innovations

No one told me when I joined the crew that I would have hidden benefits such as the opportunity to discover educational products I would never have found otherwise such as the Master Ruler from Master Innovations.

Master InnovationsAs part of the TOS Review Crew I received two rulers (one standard, one metric), an educational poster and a reproducible workbook to use with the rulers.  These are not ordinary rulers nor are they limited to simply measuring the length, width or height of an object.

The  Rulers: It is difficult to describe these rulers using words.  If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, what is a video worth?  In this case I think the video produced by Master Innovations explains and shows the product far better than my inadequate prose.

You can find the Master Ruler Video HERE along with videos of their other products Master Clock, Master Angle and Master Fractions.

The Workbook:  A standard size of 8 1/2” by 11” inches this workbook contains both English (standard) and Metric measuring activities.   Pages 1 is a measuring chart and pages 2 and 3 display an outline of teaching concepts and activities.     The workbook includes an answer key found on pages 23 & 24.   Workbook pages progress from simple such as measuring a line to the nearest inch to more complicated such as adding, subtracting and/or converting to find the answers to a puzzle.

Master InnovationsThe Poster:  A bright, colorful, large display shows at a glance such information as how many ounces are in a 1/4 pound or how many yards are in mile.  It is pictorial rather than just numerical so you can see that there are 8 pints in a gallon.   It can’t display a mile but instead has a picture of a road with the number of feet (or yards) in a mile.  It is not to scale but it shows clearly that one inch is a whole and two halves equal one whole.

Tailorbear’s (age 11) Thoughts:The Master Ruler would have been a great thing to have a couple of years ago when I was learning about fractions.  It was really fun to use to review fractions.”

Turtlegirl’s (age 13) Thoughts: “The Marvels of Measurement Poster is really good for reference.  The Master Ruler does really make it much easier to measure things.   It was fun to help teach Supergirl.  It would have been nice to have this around when I was little to teach me measurements and fractions.”

BooBear’s (age 15) Thoughts:   “I can see potential in the Master Rulers.  I can’t really use it now because I am way past the learning to measure stage.   I played teacher and used the Master Ruler with my special needs sister.  She really likes it.  You  can use just the 1 inch part and it made counting much easier”

My thoughts and impressions:  The concepts presented in the workbook, which retails for $15.95, were below the skills and abilities of three of my daughters and most of the pages were beyond Supergirl’s current skills.  The workbook would make a nice supplement beginning in first grade and continuing through 4th or 5th grade.   Because of the range of concepts and skills presented, I would not plan on using it all in one school year but spread it out over several years using it to supplement whatever math program I was using.

I love the rulers ($9.95 each) and find them easier to read than traditional rulers.  I like that I can use each layer separately.   Around here the Master Rulers are the first rulers we reach for when we need to measure something.

We are enjoying the $10  poster and it has reduced the number of times I hear “Mom, how many cups are in a gallon, again?”.   It is a large (about 2’ by 3’) so it takes some wall space to display, but it is colorful which brings cheer to my dining room.

You can read about the scientific research studies here.

Some of my fellow crew mates reviewed Master Ruler while others reviewed other Master Innovation products so be sure and click on the banner to read more reviewsPhotobucket

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this product free of charge to review. This review is my honest opinion with, hopefully, enough detail as to why I liked or did not like a product so that my readers can make an informed decision. I received no compensation.

Master Innovations provided the “Master Ruler” (both metric and standard) the Mastering the World of Measuring workbook and the “Marvels of Measures!” poster for review.


Birthday Cake for Breakfast and other Family Traditions

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When you hear the word 'tradition” do you hear the song from Fiddler on the Roof?  I do.  I avoided that movie for the longest time because “it’s a musical” (you must imagine Larry the Cucumber saying this from the Veggie Tale Lyle the Kindly Viking)

I may not care for many musicals, but I do like traditions.  This week’s topic for the Blog Cruise is Family Celebrations and Holiday Traditions.  We all have special things that we do or foods that we eat that make family time special.  

I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving.   Known as Turkey Day by many, this holiday is so much more than just turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.   For years this has been my family’s favorite day to celebrate.   This is the day that we give thanks to God for *all* that He has done for us and all that He has given us.

Some years we have even given “thanksgiving gifts”.   It’s been a few years since the girls have received gifts but this year, thanks to the TOS Review Crew, they’ll be getting a gift. The gift this year supports another long time family Thanksgiving tradition: game playing.  We love board games.   We spend the whole day playing different games.   This year we’ll be trying out the new product for the Review Crew but I suspect that we’ll also be pulling out some family favorites.

After we feast on some perfectly roasted turkey and mashed potatoes that do not need to be dressed up with gravy, we’ll watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD.

For the western Christian world Thanksgiving weekend flows into the first week of Advent.  For Orthodox Christians following the revised calendar, Advent begins November 15.   As I type this blog I look around the room I spot several fall harvest or Thanksgiving theme decorations.  In stark contrast stands the out of place  Advent Chain.   7 links shorter than it was on November 15, it hangs next to the door as a reminder that we are preparing our hearts for the coming Savior.   Each link contains a bible verse or passage that relates to the Incarnation of Christ.   Though this is a fairly new tradition for my family, it is a tradition we enjoy.  In the evenings we gather in the living room and Daddy reads the passage from the Bible.  We’re not always consist with reading each evening.  Usually we  skip a night or two and then read 2 or 3 links. 

When I was growing up I loved Christmas.  We would have an advent wreath and a Christmas Tree and presents and a turkey dinner.  My husband and I wanted Christmas to be very special for our children as well.   We adopted some traditions from his family and some we discovered on our own.   And then, for awhile, we did not celebrate Christmas at all.  Now that we are celebrating Christmas again, we search for new traditions that we can share with our daughters that perhaps in the (not as distant as it once seemed) future they can bring to their children..

Winter becomes spring and in our family the spring brings the first birthday of the calendar year.  The birthday girl (or I guess person.  Honeybear is NOT a  girl) gets to set the menu for the day.  Choosing favorite meals strikes me as the most common birthday tradition among my friends followed closely by choosing a favorite restaurant for dinner.   But what do we really look forward to here?  Breakfast.  The day after.   We eat left over birthday cake for breakfast the day after a birthday.   I don’t allow ice cream but I make sure we drink milk. 

Spring ushers in Easter as well as birthdays.   For years we’ve struggled with what to do.   Not anymore!  In 2010 we declared a new family tradition for Pascha.   (Pascha is Greek transliteration of Passover, but for Orthodox Christians it is the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord).     Paschal Divine Liturgy begins at Midnight and after feasting at 3am with church family we crawled into bed for a few hours of rest.   Sometime in the late morning we had “breakfast” or “brunch”.     We ate bacon.  We ate hard boiled eggs and we treated our taste buds to Pascha Cheese which is really more like a cream cheese frosting.  I’m quite certain it is a tiny sliver of heaven here on earth.   Although you can eat the cheese with a spoon, it is especially divine with Pascha Bread.  We feasted on two different types of Pascha bread (one in the Russian tradition which is sweeter and one in the Greek tradition both are excellent).  After this informal snaking style meal, we decreed that it should from that day forward be a family tradition to eat bacon, eggs, bread and cheese.

Like glue, traditions bind family members together.   It isn’t the tradition  itself or the length of time that makes it so sticky.  It’s the heart desiring to make memories and passing from one generation to the next the beautiful idea of family.

What are some of your family traditions?  What things do you do make an event a celebration?



Truth or Misconception: Exploring Homeschooling Myths

Blog Cruise ButtonOn more than one occasion, I’ve heard questions or comments like these:

1) Boy, it sure would be nice if my kids could take off as much time as yours do.

2) But what about socialization? 

3) You don’t have a job, you only home school so you can do this for me.

This week’s TOS Crew Blog Cruise addresses myths of homeschooling.  I don’t know if the questions and comments I encounter are truly myths but they do represent some misunderstandings of home education.  Let’s look at each of these comments.

Boy, it sure would be nice if my kids could take off as much time as yours do.  Home education is flexible.  We are not limited to Monday through Friday from 8am to 2pm (or 9-3 or what ever the public school hours are). We can school any day of the week!  We are not restricted to September through June (or August through May).  We can school year round or use a more traditional school calendar.  I plan our school year so that we meet the legal requirements of our state (equivalent instructional hours) and the personal goals and requirements my husband and I set for our girls. It may appear that my girls have more time off, but the reality is that we just have a different schedule than our public school district.

But What about Socialization? I would almost be willing to bet that this would be classified as the number 1 homeschooling myth: home school children are not socialized or do not have social skills.  

Socialization has several meanings.  Generally, when someone asks “what about socialization?” they mean “do they get enough time with friends?” or perhaps they mean “do they know how to work in groups and get along with people?”

I want to take a moment and explore a different meaning of the word socialization.  According to the American Heritage High School Dictionary the first definition listed is :”to place under government or group ownership or control”.   With that denotation first and foremost in my mind, I reply I do not want my children socialized.  I choose to home school because I do not believe my children belong to the government.

The second definition states “to make fit for companionship with others; make sociable”.    I do not believe the primary purpose of public education is socialization by this definition.  For the naturally outgoing child, public education may provide more of an outlet for social opportunities (chatting during lunch hour or on the bus or before the bell rings) but (and I could be wrong) I don’t remember any classes teaching me specially how to get along with others and to be a companion.   And for those children who are naturally shy or find crowds difficult, public education provides rich fodder for anxiety. 

I believe that it is imperative that we teach our children to love others as Christ loves us.   I believe that all children need to learn how to work with others and to give and take in relationships.   It is a myth that home school children do not have the opportunity to learn these skills.  

You don’t have a job. You only home school so you can do this for me.  Let’s get this out right now.  I do not sit around eating bon bons all day and watching television.  Being a home school parent is like having a full time job.   In addition to making sure that my family has clean clothes to wear, some hot food to eat and a reasonably clean house to live in,  I am also responsible for the education of my children which includes lesson planning, teaching, mentoring, grading and record keeping. Teaching is a full time job whether it be in a private, public or home school situation.  I think I get the most flexibility and the best benefits though.  I love it when people ask my children “do you like your teacher?” (the person doesn’t realize we home educate) and my daughter responds “No!  I love her!”

I love answering questions about home education and sharing about how it works for my family.   If you have a question I’d love to hear from you!

Check out the Crew Blog for this week’s Cruise to see what other myths Crew mates are debunking!



Gratitude Challenge Day 11

2010-Gratitude-Challenge-Button I sit staring at the computer screen and I wonder what to write.  It’s day 11 of the Gratitude Challenge hosted by my friend Brenda at Garden of Learning.

Should I write about my oldest daughter and how thankful I am for the young woman she is becoming?  Should I write about my second oldest daughter and how much we appreciate life because of her?

Perhaps I should write about my only dark haired daughter?  I could write about how thankful I am that she comes to me when she needs to talk.

Then there’s my youngest daughter.  No one can make me laugh the way she does.   How can I not be grateful for laughter?

I could write about my husband.   I don’t always appreciate him though, the way I should.  I often take him for granted and expect so much of him, but he loves me anyway.  I give thanks that he loves me enough to put up with me.

It’s getting late and I still haven’t decided what to blog about.  Maybe I should blog about the sunshine we’ve had this week.  It’s unusual to have so much sun in the month of November.

I’m tired.  It’s late and I want to go to sleep.  I know what I’ll write about!  I’ll express my thanksgiving for my comfortable bed.   I love my bed.  It’s a pillowtop mattress neither too hard, nor  too soft.   


Gratitude Challenge: Grateful for Home Schooling

Over at Garden of Learning, my friend Brenda is hosting a blog challenge for the month of November.  Participants are asked to post something they are grateful for each day this month.

Today is day 9.   You may notice that I did not post a gratitude post yesterday.  I found myself in a funk.   I just didn’t have the desire, energy or motivation to find the silver lining in my dreary day.  

Today however, I am inspired and motivated to write about my gratitude for the freedom to home educate my children.  Yes, FREEDOM.   I am grateful that I live in the USA and that I live in a state that recognizes the efficiency of home education.   The law recognizes that home education may take less time than traditional classroom education and states that we are to provide instruction “equivalent” to 1000 instructional hours.

We started investigating home education 14 years ago.   It is not without it’s limitations and like any other educational choice has its pros and its cons but I am grateful that I have the choice.  I am responsible for the education of my children and I am grateful that I have the freedom to choose whether to home school, private school or public school my girls.

I am thankful for the flexibility home schooling affords me.  When I plan out our school year, I am able to plan for days off that fit our calendar such as Feast Days.   If something comes up and we want to take a day off, we can.  That doesn’t mean that we just let school go.  For my family it means making the decision to open textbooks on a Saturday morning or doubling up on history or LA lessons in order to get the day off. 

For example I planned on taking Veteran’s Day off.  Honeybear gets a paid holiday for November 11.   I did not plan on him taking Friday off as well.   The girls will double up on some assignments tomorrow, due some assignments on Thursday (the scheduled day off!) so that we all can be off on Friday.

I am grateful that by home schooling I can tailor responsibilities, requirements and expectations to reflect the individual girls in my school.   I can blend my own requirements with their interests to customize their education.   If something is not challenging her enough, I can add more work to Turtlegirl’s list.   If the work is moving at too quick of a pace, I can slow it down for Supergirl.

I’d like to say thank you to the men and women, the husbands and wives and children who fought for the right to make home schooling LEGAL in all 50 states.   I’d like to say thank you to the members of our armed forces who have defended our freedoms in this country and that includes my freedom to educate my children at home.



Requirements, Credits, and Transcripts, Oh My!

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The Blog Cruise question this week explores graduation requirements and high school transcripts.  We’ve just started this new educational season with a 15 year old tenth grader.

Poor BooBear!  As the oldest child, she is my guinea pig for everything and that includes this home school stuff too.   We stumbled our way through 9th grade but realizing that high school was a present reality and not some distant concept, we’ve come up with a plan, a rough around the edges with wrinkles in the middle plan, but a plan nonetheless.

Legally, as a home school parent, I am not obligated to follow the state’s list of mandatory classes when setting the standard for my school.  We’re using suggestions from our state home school group and suggestions from Lee Binz, the home school scholar.

Though I can find recommendations such as 4 credits of science, 4 credits of English, etc,   I still had to determine what constitutes a credit.   High school credits are not configured the same as college credits.  For some courses this is easy.  If my daughter takes Geometry and completes the textbook, she gets 1 credit of geometry.

But what about courses we create on our own such as a music history class or a photography class? In those cases record keeping is essential.  The student must record what they are doing and how long it takes them to complete the task.  We’ve set the standard for “independent study” types of classes as 180 hours of work is equal to 1 credit.  

I’m using Homeschool Tracker Plus and The Old Schoolhouse High School Planner to plan out high school courses and keep detailed records.  HST + has a transcript report that will take the information I input and spit out a transcript. 

BooBear has a copy of the TOS High School Planner and she is responsible for recording work that she does independently towards her music and photography credits.  I’ll use those logs to input grades into HST +. 

I think by the time Tailorbear enters high school, I just might have the wrinkles smoothed out on the planning process.  Her requirements will be slightly different than Turtlegirl’s which are slightly different from BooBear’s but the principles will be the same: giving them what they need in high school to become successful adults.



Gratitude Challenge Day 7

Brenda at Garden of Learning has issued a Gratitude Challenge for the month of November.   The challenge is simple, write about what you are  grateful for each day.

Today is Day 7 and I am thankful for Sunday School.  Now if you know me, you’ll know that is a 180 degree turn from where I was at just 18 months ago.  I do still believe that parents are responsible for passing their faith to the children.  But I’ve also come to view the church as a community; as being truly the body of Christ.  

Sunday School (or Church School as some call it) is a community effort of passing on the faith to the children.  It’s not that I “pass the buck” and shed my responsibility more that I join with others to share the burden.    Sunday School doesn’t replace parental responsibility; it joins the parents to the community building the Body of Christ. am grateful for those who have walked the path longer than I have who are willing to come alongside and share this task.  

Today I am especially thankful for assistant teachers!   I agreed to teach the Preschool class this morning and though I was prepared, I was late.  Rushing into the room, I found the Mrs. S  with the boys gathered around her, reviewing the previous week’s material.   She had laid out the carpet squares for the boys to sit on and opened in prayer.

I’m also thankful for teenagers.  My teenagers to be exact.  I needed help getting the boys over to the church after Sunday School and my 13 year old and 15 year old were in the right place at the right time. 

One more Sunday School related thank you: thank you to whomever it was that invented cellophane tape.  Taping strips of paper to make a rainbow frame is much easier than trying to glue strips of paper to make a project especially with boys!



Gratitude Challenge Day 6


My Friend Brenda is hosting a Gratitude Challenge on her blog, Garden of Learning. It is very simple; post something you are grateful for every day for the month of November.

Some days are easier than others when being thankful.   Today is one of those days.

My husband and one of my daughters attended a lector workshop at church this morning.   My sweet husband got up, showered and headed over to the store to bring back donuts for our breakfast.   He grabbed some coffee and our daughter and headed out again.   I would have enjoyed my coffee and donuts more if he had been around but I’m still thankful for the breakfast treat.

I purchased around $110 worth of groceries for around $60.   My favorite green beans were on sale for 39 cents a can.  I only buy them when on sale and usually the sale is 50 cents  a can.   It just felt really good to get milk, bread, eggs, canned goods and even some fish and saving more money that I spent!

Today is the 1st Saturday of the month.  Why is that important?  Around here that means it’s bookmobile day.  I didn’t go to the bookmobile but my sweet husband took all four girls over to the bookmobile and brought back the books and dvds we had on hold *and* he picked out a book for me to read.  He’s usually good at picking books I’ll enjoy so I look forward to reading this one.

First Saturday of the month means that tomorrow is the first Sunday of the month and that means it is First Sunday Potluck at church.  My oldest is making brownies. Oh they smell so good right now!  I am thankful for a wonderful teenage daughter who loves to bake and for a wonderful smelling kitchen.  Now if I could just sneak a small bite of those brownies.

What are you thankful for today?


Gratitude Challenge Day 5


My Friend Brenda is hosting a Gratitude Challenge on her blog, Garden of Learning. It is very simple; post something you are grateful for every day for the month of November.

For Day 5, I am thankful for computers.   When we were first married we had a computer but it was a simple machine and we had no internet access.   14 Years ago we entered the online world with our first email account.   We were in Germany and we decided to get internet access with an email account so that my husband and I could communicate electronically while he was deployed.

We had “dial-up” access for many years but switched to “dsl” maybe 3 years ago.   I love being able to have access to my phone *and* access to the internet at the same time.

Today we have 4 computers: two laptops and two desktops.  We have a wireless router home network and all four computers are networked with access to the internet.   I really didn’t think we would need so many computers.

I find home schooling my children easier with computers.   Oh I don’t necessarily mean easier by having two of them take online science classes through a virtual home school group, nor do I mean easier because we use a computer based curriculum for a few subjects.

I mean that administrative aspect of home education is easier with a computer.   I use a software program to keep records.  I’ll be able to use those records and the software to create transcripts.   I use the software program (Homeschool Tracker Plus in case you were wondering!) to help me plan and schedule lessons.

I am grateful that computers with internet access provide enrichment for our home school.   If the girls have a question, or want to go deeper in a subject, we can use the internet to find the answer or go to the library catalog and request books.

I’m grateful that my husband bought me a laptop a year ago for our anniversary so that I don’t have to share with the girls.  I can do what I need to do on the computer and the 4 of them have 3 other computers they can share.


Gratitude Challenge Day 4


My Friend Brenda is hosting a Gratitude Challenge on her blog, Garden of Learning. It is very simple; post something you are grateful for every day for the month of November.

Today is November 4th.  Well at least for another 2 hours it is.  On this day, 77 years ago, my grandfather took my grandmother to be his lawfully wedded wife.   Both of them have gone from this world, but I am so grateful for them.

I once asked my grandmother how she met my grandfather.  She was a storyteller and I was sure I was going to get a story this time, but she only smiled and said “I don’t know.  I suppose we was just crawling on the floor while our mothers talked.”    She and my grandfather grew up together.  They were childhood sweethearts.

I miss them both so much and I am grateful that they got married 77 years ago.  If they had not married, my father would not have been born.   Thanks Papa for rescuing me from the snakes and making sure that Daddy bought me steak dinners.  Thanks Granny for teaching me how to make applesauce and sausage gravy and telling me stories.  My your memories be eternal.


Gratitude Challenge Day 3


My friend Brenda from Garden of Learning is hosting a Gratitude Challenge during the month of November. Today is day 3 and I am thankful the van did not start. That sounds strange doesn’t it. The girls were disappointed to miss piano and I was sorry they missed their lessons but I am grateful I did not have to go anywhere today.  I was able to get some things done today that I needed to do and wouldn’t have done if we had gone to piano.  If the van had started, Honeybear would have taken it to work and we would have had the car.  We’d have gone to piano and I would have stressed out about the things not getting done.

Tonight I am also grateful that we have two vehicles and that my husband was able to take the car and go to work. I’m thankful he has a job.  With so many people out of work and the economy the way it is,I am grateful that he has a steady job with benefits.

(This post links to Garden of Learning’s Gratitude Challenge Day 3)

What are you thankful for today?

TOS Review: Financial Accounting

prof in a box  A class that covers financial accounting principles is a must for anyone wanting to be in business.  Professor In A Box offers a course in Financial Accounting for home schooling high school students. As part of the TOS Review Crew, I received  Financial Accounting from Professor in a Box  to review.  

How is Financial Accounting set up?  How does it work? Financial Accounting really is a Professor in a Box.  Michael P. Licata, Ph.D presents Financial Accounting on 4 CD-ROMS containing everything you need to complete the course. There is nothing to install; the program runs from the CD.  This means that I  can have my student use any available computer giving me flexibility for scheduling. CD-ROMs include 1 Instructor’s CD and 3 Course CD’s.

To use the CD-ROM just insert into the CD/DVD ROM Drive and wait for the auto run prompt.  We have successfully used this on my laptop running Windows 7 and on my husbands laptop running Windows Vista. On our Windows XP desktop,  our Auto Play does not work, but I am able to go to ‘computer’, click on the drive containing the CD and bring up the menu for Financial Accounting.

This is not a traditional course and does not contain a textbook.  Material is presented to the student via audio lecture with a slide presentation.  Exercises and Problems are included as PDF files to print.

What’s on the Instructor CD? This is a supplement CD and  contains an introduction from the professor, two different suggested lesson plans, quizzes, exams, a course syllabus, excel templates, and a link to the website.

There are quizzes for chapters 2-12 and 3 exams that cover 4 chapters each.   The quizzes can be taken after completing each chapter or you may choose to take the quizzes at the end for a CLEP style exam.   Solutions for the quizzes and exams are also included.

What’s on the other 3 discs? Each disc contains the Chapter Lectures, Problems, Solutions, Key Concepts and Printable Slides.  Disc 1 contains chapters 1-4, disc 2 contains chapters 5-8, and disc 3 contains 9-12.   Professor in a Box breaks each chapter lecture into 2 or 3 parts with 15-40 slides per part.   

Describe a typical chapter or lesson: I printed out both lesson plan suggestions from the Instructor’s Guide so that I could compare them.  Lesson Plan A is the full college course where as Lesson Plan B lists slides and problems that may be skipped.  Both contain all the necessary content to prepare a student for the CLEP exam.  Both plans divide the 12 chapters over 28 lessons with three formats suggested.  For the College Semester option the student would complete 2 lessons per week for 14 weeks.   The Summer School format has 9 weeks with 3 lessons per week.  We’re doing the the Full Year format which suggests taking 1 week to do 1 lesson for 28 weeks.  

A Typical Lesson will take an average of 3 hours.   The Lesson Plan breaks down assignments into 3 or 4 parts and gives a time estimate for each part..

Using Lesson 6 as our example we see that this week we will need to review the solution to problem 3-2 (5 min), View the Chapter 3- Part 1 Lecture working through some problems while you view the lecture (60 minutes),  read Key Concepts and Terms (10 min) , and Homework (75 minutes).   The total estimate for this particular lesson is 150 minutes. Because you can pause the lecture and move to any slide within the lecture, it is possible for the student to take a break while viewing the lecture slides or even to decide to spread the lecture over 2 or more days or sessions.  It does not keep your place, but it is easy to get back to where you left off.

Thoughts from my student: I assigned Professor in A Box to BooBear.  She is 15 and most of her work is at a 10th grade level.  She has plans to become a private piano teacher with her own studio someday. We both feel this course is perfect for those plans.

She shares that he is very thorough and he gives a lot of information. She wishes the slides were just a little bit more clear in his presentations.  Not all of the slides, just some of them.   By not clear, she means she feels that something was missing.  She tells me, “I like this product and I am enjoying the course.” 

My Thoughts and Impressions: I really like the format.  I really felt like I was attending a lecture but with the advantage that I could take a break without missing anything.  I appreciate that the slides can be viewed separately.   With the slides being available separately, I could go back and re-read slides without having to listen to the lecture again. If I were a student, the Key Concepts and the Slides would provide what I would need to review and prepare for quizzes and exams. I think for students preparing for the CLEP, it will be very valuable to be able to return again to the slides and review the Key Concepts.

Although this is a business class, I am finding the principles of accounting found in the first 4 chapters inspiring for getting my household budget/finances in order. I will be requiring Turtlegirl (8th grade) to take this course soon and I will be requiring Tailorbear to complete it when she is in high school. I want to make time to really work through it for myself.  I’ve learned quite a bit from just reading through the key concepts and viewing slides and listening to a few lectures.   

At the time of this review, Professor in a Box is on sale for $99.  This is an online promotion.  According to the website, they have a Marketing Course that ships in Mid-November and another business class is expected in the spring of 2011.  Contact information for Professor in A Box is available by clicking here.

Click on the banner below to read what my fellow crew mates have to say about Financial Accounting from Professor in a Box.


Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received Financial Accounting from Professor In a Box free of charge for review purposes. I received no compensation.


Gratitude Challenge Day 2


Today I am thankful for God’s provision through the TOS Review Crew.   I wrote about how I came to be on the crew here.   I was excited then to see how God would work and I am amazed at what he has done and is doing.

Every product that we have received to review, so far, has either been exactly what I needed (at the exact right moment!) for school *or* has been used by God to cause me to grow. 

Today, I received a writing curriculum.   I’ve only spent about 45 minutes looking through it this afternoon but I am so excited.  It seems so perfect for the girls right now.  The timing is incredible.   I’ve looked at this vendor in the past but just couldn’t bring myself to purchase the product (we could not afford it) and here God has given it to me through the Review Crew.  (You can look for the review in May!)

I don’t really have the words to express how loved I feel by God right now.  I believe He works through people and circumstances and He worked it out so that I would receive this product.   It may seem like a small thing but we have really struggled with writing programs and I am grateful and excited to be handed this one.

But the Crew has been an incredible experience in other ways as well.   There are some wonderful people who are a part of this year’s TOS Crew and I am blessed by the friendship.

What are you grateful for today?

(This post is linked to Brenda’s Garden of Learning)


Gratitude Challenge Day 1

Blog button for Challenge

Brenda from Garden of Learning has challenged her readers to a Gratitude Challenge.   I’m going to post one thing that I am grateful for each day for the month of November.

On this first day of November I have much to be grateful for and I am grateful that I have 30 Days to post about it!  <grin>

Today I am thankful for my Church.  I’m thankful for Orthodoxy and I’m thankful for my Parish that strives to live out the Faith. We had such a wonderful time last night at the Spaghetti Dinner. Tonight we are enjoying some of the cake Supergirl won as well as the cake I won.

Speaking of winning, I am grateful to Debra at Footprints in the Butter for posting the What’s in the Bible Give-away which I won!  Thank you so much Debra!

(This post links to Gratitude Challenge November 1)

What are you thankful for today?

Giving back to the community

Blog Cruise Button

For this week’s Blog Cruise topic Jodi asks What are some volunteer opportunities that your family has participated in? What a timely topic for me this week as we just had a volunteer opportunity for our whole family on Friday and today (Sunday) two of my girls have volunteered to help at church this afternoon and just last week we were scheduled for a third volunteer opportunity. 

As homeschoolers, I think we often have more time and opportunity to give back to our community through volunteering, but  life is full of seasons and some seasons do not allow for as much volunteering as others.  With the girls being older and more independent we can volunteer more.   When they were so little, it just wasn’t the right season.  If you only have little ones, it may not be your season right now either and that’s ok.  

This past Friday our whole family participated in Fifth Friday Feed the Hungry.   On Fridays, another church hosts a dinner.  I think several churches take turns for the different Fridays.  Our church provides the meal and does the serving on the Fifth Friday. 

Our church asks for volunteers to help with cooking/cleaning up, transporting the food, serving the food, and more clean up.   We’ve not been able to help every time the 5th Friday comes around but it has been a wonderful experience for my family.  The girls and I go over to help the lady who does the cooking and later my husband comes to help transport.   We all take turns helping to serve.  Even supergirl likes to help though she’s not tall enough yet to reach!

Our other regular volunteer opportunity requires a piano and a nursing home or rather a nursing home that has a piano.   Some of our home school friends introduced us to playing piano for residents in a local nursing home. Once a month the girls and I head over to a local nursing home and my three piano playing daughters take turns playing music for the residents. Some times other families are able to join us and the children will sing a few simple songs at the end.

As I type this post, my husband has left to take BooBear and Turtlegirl over to church.  The girls have volunteered to help out with tonight’s Family Fun Night.

I’d like to give back more to the community.  I’ll be looking for more regular opportunities for my family or even for myself to volunteer.  We’ll continue also to respond to the call for the occasional volunteer for this or that.   For us, volunteering is a way that we demonstrate the love of God and the light of Christ.




French Dips and Burger Dips

Earlier this week I posted my Weekly Menu Plans for this week and I mentioned that I was making Burger Dips.  I’ve had a few people ask me about this different way of serving burgers. I wish I had taken pictures as I assembled them but alas I did not. 

I’ll state right here at the beginning that I simply copied what I have been able to order here at a few local restaurants.   Nothing fancy and no special recipe. 

But before I get to that I’m taking a walk down a bunny trail towards memory lane.  The Burger Dip is really a variation of the French Dip: thinly sliced roast beef piled high on a sandwich roll and served with Au Jus for dipping.   It was my daddy that introduced me to the French Dip sandwich.  I don’t remember how old I was but I was little girl.   He had taken us all out to dinner and he suggested I try the French Dip.   The French Dip is a sandwich that I have frequently ordered through the years.

The Burger Dip is just a hamburger patty served on a toasted sandwich roll and served with Au Jus for dipping.   I think the key to good Dip sandwich is the type of bread or roll used.  It has to be sturdy enough to withstand being dipped.   A regular hamburger bun, even toasted, really just turns to mush which dipped and just does not work for me for a Dip.   I like hard rolls or French Bread.

A lady named Mary posted an easy peasy Crock Pot Roast Beef recipe years and years and years ago on a message board I no longer frequent.   I’m going to share it here as my French Dip recipe:

1 roast,  about 1 1/2 cups water,  about 1/4-1/2 cup Soy Sauce (I use Braggs Liquid Aminos) and garlic.  You can use fresh minced or powder.   I put the roast in the crock pot, measure out some Liquid Aminos and fill the measuring up to 2 cups liquid and pour over roast. I sprinkle it with garlic and let it cook all day.    This makes an excellent French Dip.   The au jus is also wonderful for making gravy and having roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy.

For my Burger Dip, I cheat.  I buy the Au Jus packets from the grocery store and follow directions on the packet.   For the burger part, I sometimes just use the frozen hamburger patties but my preference is to use fresh ground beef and shape the patties to match my sandwich roll.    I also prefer to use the outdoor grill for the hamburger patties but frying them in a skillet or on a griddle works, too. 

My husband is not a fan of Dip style sandwiches.   When I make the roast beef he skips the Au Jus and just puts BBQ sauce on his sandwich.   For the Burger Dip, he just takes his oddly shaped patty and treats it like he would any other hamburger: adding ketchup, mustard, pickles etc.

I love that I can get what I want and he can have what he wants!


TOS Review: Buckets-O-Fun

If your family, church group or homeschool group likes messy, slimy fun, then I have just the product for you!


As a member of the TOS Review Crew, I received a sample pack  of Yuck from Buckets-O-Fun.  The sample pack contained samples of Chunky Yuck,  Saucy Yuck, Snowy Yuck and their newest Yuck product, Sticky Yuck.

What is Yuck?  Turtlegirl defines Yuck this way: “Yuck is a slimy, messy substance that can sometimes be fun to play with.”   When pressed to define Yuck, Tailorbear contributed:  “Yuck is a substance that can be played with but sometimes is just plain ole gross.”

Yuck is a polymer which means it is a “large molecule formed by repeated patterns of chemical units strung together.” (from the Yuck Science with Buckets-O-Fun handout included with our samples).


Chunky Yuck: This is the first Yuck that we tried.  When fully hydrated, it resembles ice machine ice cubes.   The texture reminded me of finger Jello.  Buckets-O-Fun included a hand-out with some science related activities to try with our Yuck.  We took it a step further and used our microscope.   We started by looking at the dry Chunky Yuck under the microscope.  We did observations of the color, texture and smell.   We measured the quantity and then began to hydrate the tiny rock salt size pieces.   We wanted to do some science experiments such as comparing how well a seed would sprout using Yuck as a water source versus a wet paper towel, but I just was not organized enough to pull it off.

When we were finished with all of our scientific style observations, I let the girls “have at it”.   Only Tailorbear was really interested in playing with it.  She took it outside and created a search and rescue game with her doll house people and some dollhouse furniture.  She buried people and furniture in the Chunky Yuck. Other dollhouse figures had to “dive in and save them.”

Because it is the consistency of jello, it does break apart easily when stirred or handled.  When Tailborbear finished her search and rescue game, the nice large chunks of Yuck resembled a bowl of jello peas.  Though the literature that came with the sample stated that you could use it again, in my opinion it really is a one use type of product.


Saucy Yuck: A few days later we tried Saucy Yuck.   Saucy Yuck has the consistency of applesauce.  None of the girls, nor I, cared for this one.   Perhaps it was because we are girls or we don’t like really messy things but this one didn’t even appeal to TailorBear who isn’t usually bothered by texture issues nor does she have sensory issues.  Turtlegirl, however, does have sensory issues and strongly dislikes this type of texture.   Supergirl ran away from us and BooBear didn’t want to be bothered.   I can see this product being used with an OT to work on texture issues but for playing purposes I do not recommend this variation of Yuck for anyone who struggles with textures and sensory issues.


Snowy Yuck and Sticky Yuck: After waiting a week or so, we decided to do both Snowy Yuck and Sticky Yuck at the same time.   We wanted to compare the two types of Yuck. Once again we got out the microscope and examined each one.  We did the same observations as we did for Chunky and Saucy.  After examining both Snowy and Sticky, I had the girls predict which one would absorb water faster and be ready first.   Supergirl stuck around and even dragged a chair over so she could be part of the action.  BooBear manned the microscope and then allowed us all to have a peak.  

At first we thought we had ruined the Sticky Yuck by adding too much water.   Supergirl was content to just keep stirring so we let her stir to her heart’s content while we focused on the Snowy Yuck.  The Science Activities brochure contained two additional suggestions for Snowy Yuck and we tried them both.   We all loved the Snowy Yuck. It was a fun texture to play with and all of us enjoyed squeezing it through our fingers and making clumps.  The girls all agreed that Snowy Yuck was the favorite of the four and would be the one Yuck product that we would consider purchasing.


At some point we noticed that the overly watery Sticky Yuck had transformed into a goopy slimy sticky gooey glop in the bucket.  We all took turns playing with it using the spoon and all though each of us took a turn actually touching the stuff, none of us could be persuaded to actually put our hand in it.  It was fun to stir it and to use the spoon to see how far it would stretch but other than that we were not interested in playing with it.

My Thoughts and Impressions: As a home school tool for learning about scientific observation and creating our own experiments, I find Yuck, especially Chunky and Snowy, to be very appealing.   Though we did not have time or enough product to try our ideas here are two that we would have liked to do:  1) mix dry Yuck with different liquids to compare how well they hydrate 2) create different growing experiments with seeds to see which type of Yuck provides the best hydration for a baby plant.

More about Buckets-O-Fun and Yuck: Buckets-O-Fun also included a hand out listing some of the games and activities you can do with Yuck.  Most of the games required more Yuck than we were given and were intended for large groups such as a birthday party, home school group event or perhaps a Church Youth Group event.  Most of the ideas seemed appropriate for Chunky or Saucy with one specifically designed for Snowy.

Be sure and check out the website for Buckets-O-Fun for their other products such as toys for water fun, inflatable fun, rubber barnyard animals, finger rockets and even accessories for Yuck.

Buckets-O-Fun states that their products appeal to all ages from 5 to 95.  I don’t know that I would necessarily agree with them.  I think it is appealing for those in the 20 something crowd and younger with the greatest appeal being for the junior high and younger crowd.  But I am not the mother of boys and my view may be skewed because I only have girls and I have never been interested in being slimed.

Each Yuck product is available in 1lb, 5 lb and 50 lb packages ranging from $16 to $600 depending on size of package and type of Yuck.  You can find information for ordering Yuck on this page.

You can order your own sample of Yuck by emailing orders@buckets-o-fun.com  From their FAQ page:

“We have Yuck samples available but please only one per organization/individual. If you need more samples for a conference or other reason please contact us and we will be glad to help you out.”

Many of my crew mates also reviewed the Yuck product.  Click on the banner below to see what fun things they did with Yuck. Photobucket

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a sample pack of Yuck to review.  This review is my honest opinion. I received no compensation.

Note:  Photos and images in this Blog Entry are taken from the Buckets-O-Fun website to aid my review.


This week’s meals

I went radio silent again.   I’m breaking the silence of my blog with a short and simple list of what I’m planning for meals this week.

Tonight (Sunday)—Burger Dips (a fancy way to do burgers) with some chips and fresh fruit.. maybe a salad if I get ambitious.

Monday--- Turkey Soup.  I’ve got turkey broth cooling right now and tomorrow I’m going to attempt to recreate my dad’s turkey soup.  My dad made the absolute best soup.  

Tuesday--- I’m making a ham and potato cheesy casserole type something or another.   I’ll take some frozen diced hash brown potatoes and mix them with bite size pieces of ham and cover it all with a creamy cheesy sauce.   I’ll serve it with a salad and some veggies.

Wednesday--- “Sloppy Joes”   I’m planning to rehydrate some TVP and mix it with a can of Manwich sauce.  Wednesday is Piano day and we get home very late in the day and I need something quick and easy.   I’m thinking of serving it with some veggie sticks and some chips.

Thursday--- Something Mexican.  Haven’t exactly decided yet but I’m leaning toward Chicken Tacos.   We’ll have some Mexi-Rice and Corn with them.

Friday—I haven’t really planned out Friday because we’ll be participating in our Church’s “Feed the Hungry” program.   In the past we’ve been told to “eat.  You need to eat too so get a plate and eat.”  There are some people you just have to obey.  It’s easier than arguing.  

Saturday—I’m thinking pizza!

I reserve the right to change, delete, rearrange or substitute as needed!

What are you planning this week?


The “Perfect” Day

Let me start off by saying that the day was not really perfect.  We planned to get some school done but I’m pretty sure no formal academics were achieved.   We’d planned to go to the post office to mail a package to a dear friend, but honeybear left the card with the address in the kitchen and the girls couldn’t read daddy’s writing when we called.   We’d talked about going to the park to feed the ducks again but time slipped away from us and we didn’t make it.

So what made it the perfect day?   Well it was a lazy day of relaxation that I desperately needed.   It was a relationship building kind of day that my honeybear and I needed.   We had noticed that we were being grumpy and grouchy and that we’d really not had a date in ages and with the girls so much older now we’d been having them fairly often.  We had looked at our schedules and decided that we needed a date.   We set a date and told the girls but we hadn’t made concrete plans.  But the date we set was not for the perfect day; it was scheduled for two days later.  

We slept in really late in the morning and had coffee in bed.   I made the comment that I couldn’t remember the last time we’d had coffee in bed.  He commented that he wasn’t sure we’d ever had coffee in bed.  I don’t think we left our room until after 10am!   We sat in bed drinking coffee, laughing, talking and relaxing!  The girls would come in and out to check on us (thanks BooBear for bringing the coffee!) and I could see from their expressions that they were happy that mom and dad were spending some time together.

While we lounged around with our coffee the girls, especially my 15 year old, were busy getting waffles and Morning Star sausage patties ready for brunch.    I came out to the kitchen smelling waffles.  What a wonderful way to start the late day!

We briefly decided that because we’d taken the morning off, we should probably do some school in the afternoon.   But it was afternoon and it was just so pleasant to just relax.

The girls did fold several loads of laundry while Daddy read a few chapters from a read aloud and I played on the computer and talked to a friend on the phone.   Then Honeybear and I attempted to do some errands.  It really wasn’t supposed to be a date.  We really had things to do.   We had to  go to the bank and the post office.  We had to get gas and milk and I wanted a coke.   

Off we went to the bank first.  Then it was off to Safeway to get the gas and milk (and coke!).   We opted to go inside first to get the milk and ended up at the deli getting a dinner for two and having a very late lunch date.   It wasn’t the date I had planned but it was still a date.

So we picked up some pizza to bake later for dinner, got a gallon of milk and a 2 liter of coke but realized that we did not have the address for the package we needed to mail. 

As lunch had been rather late, dinner was on the late side as well but I think the whole family enjoyed the old Muppets movie with their pizza. 

Normally, I would fret and worry and be stressed out about “not having gotten anything done.” and I’d have been complaining bitterly about “wasting the day”  but I find I  just can’t help thinking that coffee in bed was very much worth not getting anything done.  Sometimes stopping to smell the roses (or coffee) isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.


TOS Review: LanSchool


Through the Review Crew, I’ve been introduced to companies, vendors and products that I have never heard of before.  LanSchool is one such vendor.   I will confess that when I saw LanSchool on the list and first looked at their website I was a little less than ambivalent.  Classroom Management software?  How would that apply to me as a homeschooler.  My first thoughts were “oh I hope I don’t end up on the list cause I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

I spent a little more time looking at the website and looking at what the product offers and I moved to a more ambivalent position of “well if I get it, that’s fine and if I don’t get it that’s fine too”.   After seeing that I could limit web browsing for a certain young lady in my home, I moved to a warmer position of “I think I’d like to be on the list.”

Today?  I am so thankful that I was on the list.   There are some things in life that you think you can live without, then you experience them and you wonder how you would live without them.  You become dependent on them. LanSchool is one such product for my family.  We use it every single day!

What is LanSchool? LanSchool  is a software program that allows networked computers to be managed by a teacher.   But what does that mean?  In today’s world computers are used more and more as tools for education.  With LanSchool a teacher can sit at her desk and using the Teacher Console view what each student is doing on his computer. The Teacher can limit applications, web sites or even printing ability.  But it’s more than just limiting what a student can use on the computer. The student can ask the teacher a question via LanSchool and the teacher can respond in several ways.

But there’s more!  The teacher can browse the internet with the student. The teacher can show her screen to one or selected or all students. The teacher can show one student screen to other students.

What if the student is goofing off?  The teacher can “blank” the student screen.  She can even customize a message for the “blank” screen.  The teacher can also take control of the student computer through a “remote control” option.

I could go on and on about the features but I’m more than likely to miss one. You can read more about the features of LanSchool here.

How we’ve been using LanSchool in our home: Reading through the features, it’s still really hard to get a grasp of how this actually works, especially in a home school environment so I want to share how we’ve been using it.

Teaching: We are learning the Greek alphabet in our home school.  I used LanSchool to help me teach the girls the letters.   I opened a blank Word Document so that I would have a “white” screen.  Then I clicked on “Show Screen”.   I then chose to “draw on screen”.   The girls sat two at each student computer and both student computers were in hearing distance of my voice.   I would draw the Greek letter and the students would say the name of the letter and the sound it represents.  Though I have not yet done this, I could choose to demonstrate a letter and then “quiz” them by creating a question (either multiple choice or true/false).  So I could draw alpha and then using the tools send them a true/false question like “this sounds says d as in dog” (for those of you not studying Greek the answer is false.  Alpha says a as in father).   Using Lanschool was easier (and more fun) than standing at a whiteboard trying to draw the letters.

Assisting: Three of my girls are using a computer based software curriculum for a few subjects.  To say that LanSchool has been a blessing with helping me to assist my children would be an understatement.   In the days before LanSchool, if one of the girls had a question or needed assistance, I would have to physically go to their computer to see what they needed.  Or they would have to come find me and tell me what they needed and I would have to open up the program on my computer, but with LanSchool they can let me know they need help and I can pull up their screen on my computer.  If necessary, I can then use the remote control to assist with the curriculum.  I really love the View Screen and Remote Control options!

We have a few online subscriptions that require logging in to use.  Sometimes the girls forget their password or have some other trouble logging in.   I can use LanSchool’s remote control to type in their password or assist with logging in.   Again this saves me from having to physically go to them to provide assistance.

Monitoring: With LanSchool, I can monitor my girls’ activity on the computer.  I can have the Teacher Console open to a thumbnail view so that I can see what they are doing on the computer.  When one of them decides to check out her playlist at iTunes instead of working on her history lesson or another one decides she wants to find out more about the legend of Robin Hood instead of researching the geography of Rhode Island for her 13 Colonies Report, or the third one is playing some type of game instead of taking her LA test, I can cause the student computer screen to go blank with a simple message.   The default message is “Eyes to the front of the classroom, please”.  I customized the message with a question: “Is this what you are supposed to be doing?”   Though I have not done so, I can check web browsing history, key strokes and even take screen shots.

The monitoring aspect helps with Supergirl as well.  She likes to sneak onto the computer when it is available and play games.  With her I grab control of the mouse (using the Remote Control feature).   A little voice will  cry out: “Mom, give me back the mouse.  I need the mouse.”  (I am so mean!!)

I love that I can be at the kitchen table with Supergirl working with her on her phonics or math while I have LanSchool teacher console open on my laptop right next to me.   I can provide assistance and monitor  my other children while still supervising and teaching Supergirl.   I feel much more efficient as a parent teacher. 

Just for Fun: I have used the Chat Feature with my husband to chat with him without the girls “overhearing”.    I’ve used the “Vote” (question) option to poll my family on what kind of pizza to have for dinner.  My husband likes to show me things he is reading on the web.  In the days before LanSchool he would call out to me to “come over and see this.”  Now he calls over to me “hey can you pull up my screen and take a look at this.”   If I have something that I want to show him, I call out a warning and then I use the “Show Teacher Screen” option to share what I’ve found.

 As a member of the Review Crew, I received the Home Version which retails for $99 and is valid for monitoring up to 3 computers. The home license is free for educators, however, home schools are not included.   There is a trial version available here.   You can see the full range of options for educators and corporate licenses here.

  Click on the banner below to read what my fellow Crew Mates have to say about LanSchool.


Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this software from LanSchool free of charge so that I could provide my honest review. I received no compensation.


Chloe’s Virus Killing Chicken Soup

A few days (week or so?) ago I posted on Facebook that I was making Chloe’s Virus Killing Chicken Soup.  Not unexpectedly, I was asked for the recipe.

Chloe is an amazing woman and I am so blessed to have “met” her on a couple of forums and to be “friends” with her on Facebook.  I’m linking to Chloe’s recipe on her blog:  Chloe’s Virus Killing Soup.  You’ll want to read her original recipe because she includes veggies that I haven’t used.   

I did a swagbuck search to see if anybody else had posted Chloe’s recipe and I found this and this.

So now that you know where it came from let’s talk about where I took it.

Tess’s Variation of Virus Killing Soup:

Step One:

One chicken
Appx 20 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 Tbs salt
Cayenne pepper (to taste.Chloe says she uses about 1 tsp.  I don’t know how much I use.  At least a tsp maybe a tsp 1/2 to 2 tsp)
Fresh ground pepper

In a large soup pot place whole rinsed chicken, garlic and seasonings. Add water to cover chicken completely.   Chloe likes to use organic chicken broth in place of some of the water but I use just water and still get a great chicken broth. I like to bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is done.  I cook it until it’s wanting to start falling off the bone.   Remove chicken and drain (but reserve!!) the broth.  Set the chicken aside to cool.  You’ll need the broth for the next step.

Step Two:

1 large onion (coarsely chopped or sliced)
1 fennel bulb (sliced thin) (also known as anise)
1-2 leeks (sliced thin)
4-6 stalks of celery (coarse chopped)
1 large red pepper chunked
1/2 lb. (or about 6) carrots sliced

2 tbs olive oil
1/2 C good White Wine (I use one of those single serve bottles that come in 4 packs at the grocery store so I think it’s more of a full cup.  If you don’t want to use wine you can just omit it.)

Saute veggies in oil in a large soup pot until onions are just transparent.  Add wine and simmer for 3-5 minutes. After simmering in wine add broth to cover veggies.  If you do not have enough of broth from step 1 you can use canned or boxed broth.  I bring the broth to a boil, then I reduce heat and simmer until the veggies are just barely tender.  Then I add:

Step Three:

about 1/2 or so head of cabbage  (Cabbage is rich in vitamin C!) chopped into bite size pieces
1 to 2 zucchini sliced

1-(14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (12 oz can) V8 or other tomato juice.  (Chloe listed 1-2 cans tomatoes but we found we liked the tomato flavor from the juice but Tailorbear preferred less diced tomatoes in her bowl so feel free to just use diced tomatoes)

When all the veggies are tender I add in the chopped chicken and add salt and pepper to taste.   I love serving this with French bread.   You can add other veggies if you like or omit what you don’t have on hand.  

I have made a vegetarian version of this soup.   I start with with boxed organic NON Chicken Chicken broth (from Imagine) so I omit step 1.   I mince the garlic instead of chopping it and I add it to the veggies while sauting.   Sometimes I omit the wine when doing my veggie version.   After sauting the veggies with the garlic, I add the boxed NonChicken Chicken broth and I add the red pepper.  Continue as in steps 2 and 3 but of course I don’t add chopped chicken <grin>.

I have also done a “short cut” version where I start with a rotisserie chicken.  I start by removing the chicken from the bones and throwing the bones and skin in a soup pot with boxed organic chicken broth, chopped garlic and cayenne pepper.  I bring it to a boil reduce heat and then simmer for about 30 minutes.  I then proceed the same as steps 2 and 3.   My favorite (and I think the most effective for killing viruses) is the making broth from scratch with a whole chicken but the other two variations are very tasty and still full of immune boosting goodness!