TOS Review: Amazing Animals By Design

I love being part of the crew.  As a crew member I often get the chance to discover great books that I just never would have known about.  Amazing Animals by Design by Debra Haagen is one of those finds.

As part of the TOS Crew, I received a copy of this book in PDF format.   I have a Simple Touch Nook but I wasn’t sure how well this would work.  As soon as I received my PDF copy, I uploaded it to my e-ink technology Nook. Though the formatting wasn’t perfect, and the pictures were black and white, it was very easy to read and allowed me to read the book while snuggling on the couch or while on the go at McDonald’s.  I’m not usually happy with PDF’s on my NOOK, but this worked really well.

Because the drawings are adorable and look even better in color, I did take the time to read it to my daughter from the laptop.  We sat at the table with the laptop between us and savored the pictures.  Supergirl loves the book so much that she asks her sisters to read it to her as well.  Here Turtlegirl and Supergirl enjoy Amazing Animals by Design together.


This book sparked some interesting conversation and dialogue between my daughter and I.  The first time we read through it, I realized that she did not understand what “design” meant.  Though familiar with the idea of God as creator, she couldn’t quite grasp the concept of God as designer.  By reading and re-reading this book we learned a new vocabulary word and we learned about the special designs of several zoo animals.

Reading Amazing Animals by Design ignited a renewed desire in my daughter to visit the zoo.  She begs to go to the zoo so she can see all these animals, especially the “barbarian sheep that don’t need to drink water.”  (Here’s the exact quote:  “Mama, can we go to the zoo.  I want to see the barbarian sheep.  You know, the ones that don’t need to drink water.”  And yes we’ve been reading about the barbarian invasions of Rome.  And she was referring to Barbary sheep but you’ll have to read Ms. Haagan’s book to learn more <grin>)

Barbary Sheep

This delightful book is currently in Pre-Release but you can purchase it now directly from Tate Publishing. It is available in paperback format for $8.99 or as a PDF file for $7.99. The release date for this book is April 3rd. 

Check out the Amazing Animals by Design blog to learn more about the book, the author (who is also a home schooling mama herself!) and the writing process.  Ms. Haagen also blogs about upcoming events such as book signings.

Check it out! Amazing Animals by Design is also on Facebook

This book is just perfect to use when planning a trip to the zoo and a great way to introduce intelligent design to children. Oh and Supergirl’s thoughts? “I just love this book.”

Tate Publishing

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

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this book in PDF format 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.


A New Season

I took a little break from blogging this past week.  But it’s been an eventful week worthy of a couple of different blog posts.

Last week the calendar announced “First Day of Spring”.   That first day of spring wasn’t very spring like here at all but towards the end of week we did have some gorgeous spring like days full of sunshine.  But this post isn’t about spring.

As a mother I entered into a new chapter or season of motherhood:  all of my children are teenagers.  At least chronologically.   I have been a mother for nearly 17 years and I gave birth to my last baby 13 years ago.

On the first day of spring, my “baby” girl celebrated the anniversary of her birth.  She became an “official” teenager.  Her age now ends with the word teen.  She’s thirteen.

I look at her and though I can see the beautiful, thoughtful, kind and caring young woman she is becoming, I still see my little girl. The baby who demanded to nurse every 2 hours, the daring toddler who had to explore the whole world.  The preschooler whose motto was a stranger is just a friend whose name I haven’t learned.

She jumps into things with both feet and drives me utterly insane by not doing things in a more logical sane matter but oh grateful I am that she is my daughter.  I can not imagine life without her.

So I begin a new season of motherhood: a season where all my girls are teens. 

Happy Birthday, Tailorbear.  I love you very much.



E is for Eating


I’ve been silent for over a week on my blog.  It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say.  (If you know me “in real life” you know I always have something to say <grin>) Nor has it been overly busy here.  Oh we’ve been busy but not so busy that I couldn’t take a few minutes and write a blog post.

No,  we had some pretty big stuff happening here and I’ve been trying to process.   I don’t usually post twice in a day especially when I’ve been, to use a theater term, dark for so long but look for another post later today about the new season in my life. 

So now on to the topic at hand.  I really am enjoying the Blogging Through the Alphabet meme that Marcy is hosting over at her blog Ben & MeToday is the end of the E week.

I’ve been struggling to find something that begins with the letter E.   Elephants?  Everything?  Expectations?  Wait.  I haven’t blogged about Bountiful Baskets or shared some of my photos of the great edible fruits and veggies.  E is for Edible? Um.. Edible fruits?  As opposed to what wax fruits? Nope that doesn’t work for me.

E is for Eating.  Eating great fruits and veggies from Bountiful Baskets Food Co-Op.   I don’t have a picture from my last basket which included potatoes, cabbage, and savoy.  I had never really heard of savoy.  (We haven’t eaten it yet.  I’m going to go on a recipe hunt for a soup recipe for dinner tonight.  I’ve heard that savoy is like a cross between kale and cabbage so I’m thinking I should be able to make a nice lenten soup to have tonight.)

So here are some pictures of some great fruits and veggies  we have been eating. (These pictures are from several different baskets we have received over the last couple of months)


We love eating the variety of fruits and veggies.  We love eating asparagus roasted.  I discovered that the only way to eat brussel sprouts is to roast them.  With lots of garlic!  Turtlegirl especially enjoys eating apples right out of the fridge (after washing them of course).  Honeybear doesn’t especially enjoy eating soup but he’s been eating soup I make with things like celery, potatoes and cauliflower.  What do you especially enjoy eating?

Have an E topic you want to share? Come join in at the Blogging Through The Alphabet meme.


TOS Review: Progeny Press Literature Guides

I prefer a literature based approach to learning. That means we read a lot of books here at Aletheia Academy.  But I don’t just want the girls to read great books.  I want them to learn from great books.  Progeny Press Study Guides for Literature offer the opportunity to go deeper with a great novel.

From the Notes to Instructor: “Progeny Press study guides are designed to help students better understand and enjoy literature by getting them to notice and understand how authors craft their stories.”

We received two study guides in the PDF format. Customers can choose PDF format and receive an email with the PDF attachment.  Others forms include CD and Booklet.  As a convenience, Progeny Press also carries the novels for the study guides.

The TOS Crew could choose between several study guides as well as between Middle School, High School or one of each.  I choose to do one Middle School study guide (The Bronze Bow $16.99) and one High School study guide (The Screwtape Letters, $18.99).

I assigned The Bronze Bow Study Guide to Tailorbear, my 7th grader.  She is studying World History this year and read this book as part of her required reading for school.  She had completed reading the book before starting the study guide.  She says she would rather “ look at the study guide and read the chapters that it says for each section then do the questions. It was really difficult for me to remember things like what Daniel was doing in chapter 8.”  She liked working independently and I loved how this product engaged her. I never had to fuss at her to work on her assignments in the interactive study guide.  I did wish that I was more involved and when I asked her she replied "If Mom was reading the book with me and sharing her thoughts that would be cool, but I like being independent."

Some final thoughts from Tailorbear:”It's a wonderful product. It's easy to do. Makes you think about what you read. I want to do more of these. I like being independent with the study guide and stating my thoughts. Don't have to print every page. Like the format of typing it in. Much easier to type than to write. I really like it.”

You can view a sample of The Bronze Bow Study Guide here.

Both Boobear (11th grade) and Turtlegirl (9th) grade are working through the study for The Screwtape Letters.  Turtlegirl had so much to say about this product that she wrote her own review.  Please click on the link to read her details about this study guide.

Boobear read the book according to the sections she needed.  She would take a day or two to read those “letters” and then worked through the questions for that section at about a page a day.  The study guide suggests a pace of about a section per week. 

Thoughts from BooBear:"I really enjoyed the questions. They made me think about the book in a proactive way not just a passive way. I liked the vocabulary questions. They are similar to what would be on the SAT. I don't like that they have 5 or 6 questions inside one so-called question."

You can view a sample of The Screwtape Letters Study Guide here.

Both study guides suggest working through approximately one section per week.  Most guides will take 8-10 weeks to complete.  All three  girls found this to be a good pace.

My Thoughts: I found the Middle School guide very appropriate for my 7th grader student.  If I were to use this study guide with either my 9th or my 11th graders I would have to add writing assignments to bring it up to a high school level.  I found the level of work in the high school level appropriate for my high school students.  The content of the book The Screwtape Letters is too mature for my 7th grader, however, put that aside, I would have to reduce the writing assignments so as to not overwhelm my younger daughter.  I would think this applies to all high school level guides, if the content is appropriate for your student, you may have to reduce the expectations and the writing assignments.  That said I think I would stick to using the age guidelines given for each study guide.

With over 100 titles to choose from, I’m sure Progeny Press has something to offer everyone.  There are a variety of genres and guides for every level from K through High School.  I see lots of titles that interest me such as Frog and Toad are Friends, a K-2 level study guide that looks fun for Supergirl.

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

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received two literature guides 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.

Guest Review! Screwtape Letters Study Guide

As I sat down to write my review for Progeny Press I began to question the girls.  I needed to get a better feel for the study guides.  They used them.  I just looked them over.  Turtlegirl suggested that she write the review.  So this is her guest review. 

Turtlegirl’s Review of Progeny Press study Guide for the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

My mom was given the opportunity to review The Screwtape Letters study guide from Progeny Press. C.S. Lewis’s epistolary novel is well known for its spiritual and cultural legacy. Since I was already supposed to read the book and answer questions about the book for school, my mom and I decided it would be good for me (and BooBear) to shoot for this review product.

The Study Guide consists of a single PDF file thing (Mom, what’s it called again?) that enables the typing up of answers on the computer, instead of having to print it out. [Tess Notes: We received, the interactive study guide, the answer key and a read me file for the interactive study guide.]

The Study Guide was designed  for the person to read the book and then complete the guide. However, I just read what I needed to read for each section or two and then completed the section(s) for those letters.

Each section included a Vocabulary section, a ‘Questions’ section, an Analysis section, and a ‘Digging Deeper’ section. At the end were ‘Optional Activities’ which are supposed to help you take what you learn from the book and apply it to real life. (What is ‘real’ life? What does Screwtape mean by ‘real’ life? are some questions you would find in the guide.)

I enjoyed the vocabulary sections because each one was different. Plus, I have always loved vocabulary. The Analysis and Digging Deeper questions often required a Bible, and as I am not good at navigating a Bible that was a little difficult. A lot of times it felt like they were using the Screwtape Letters to springboard self-examination. I’m not sure if I like that.  But I do enjoy the general ‘questions’ section because that is more reading comprehension. It usually includes questions like: What event prompts Wormwood to become ‘delirious with joy’? Those are the kind of questions I enjoy answering.

For me, the Study Guide was fun, and I was glad that for the most part the questions were open-ended. I don’t like being put in a box. So I was happy that I wasn’t put in a box.  The questions were also thought-provoking. That was nice because usually I like thinking.

I’m about halfway through the Study Guide, but I have looked ahead at the Final Essays. Mom and I haven’t discussed which ones of those I’m going to do yet. I am looking forward to completing this Study Guide, and I would love it if my Mom got me another one! (Hint, hint.) 

Review by Turtlegirl, Age 14 Grade 9.

Please note that I (Tess) received this study guide for free through TOS Homeschool Crew for review purposes.  This review is my daughter’s honest opinion.  Click on the link to read my review: TOS Review: Progeny Press Study Guides.


D is for Daughters


A, B, D….  Did you notice I skipped C?  Yup.  I missed last week’s Blogging Through the Alphabet and that was the letter C.  So I’m going to sneak in a quick little C blurb.  You won’t tell on me, right?

C is for Cell Phone.  Cell Phones have been around for years and years.  My first cell phone was a shared phone and was really more of my husband’s phone  It was 1998 and we decided it would be good to have so that we could get in touch with Daddy very easily.  We have had one or two cell phones ever since.  We’re not really cell phone people.  We have the phones mostly for convenience and emergency. 

I could almost live without my phone and most days I do.  But since there are times I do need a phone, I was rather bummed when my daughter informed my husband that my cell phone was now cleaner than any phone should be.  And dry too.  Yup, it went through the washer and then through the dryer.  Honeybear and I set off to the store to replace my phone.  We came with an upgrade for me, an upgrade for him and somehow or another we ended up with a third phone!  Yes, we decided it was time that our oldest daughter have a cell phone.  She would borrow mine when she’d go babysitting or to youth group activities but now she can have her own.

So speaking of daughters, that brings me to the letter d and the real subject of this post <grin>.  I’m rather embarrassed to confess that I couldn’t think of a D topic so I asked my girls.  I said “girls.  I need a topic for the letter D.”  One replied “dinner.”  Another replied “daughters.  You have enough of them.”  <hangs head> why didn’t I think of daughters?

I have incredible daughters.  They are beautiful, witty, talented and bring such joy and happiness to our lives.  Consider this more of a “photo post”


My musical BooBear.  She sings in the choir at church and delights us here at home with her piano playing.





Technically my second born, Supergirl who wants to be just like her sisters and on the day of this picture that meant playing outside in the snow!







Turtlegirl always has her nose in a book.  She’s always been my bookworm!





Tailorbear isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and loves to help in the kitchen. I’m grateful that she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty!



Aren’t they beautiful?


This post is linked up to Marcy’s blog Ben & Me as part of the Blogging through the Alphabet  meme.  Come and join us this week as we blog through the letter D.


TOS Review: the Art of Argument

Last year, as part of the TOS Crew, I had the opportunity to review Song School Latin from Classical Academic Press.  We loved the introductory Latin program so I was really excited to see CAP on the upcoming Vendor list for this Crew year.  I was even more excited when I found out it was for the logic program The Art of Argument.

From the Website: The Art of Argument was designed to teach the argumentative adolescent how to reason with clarity, relevance and purpose at a time when he has a penchant for the "why" and "how". It is designed to equip and sharpen young minds as they live, play, and grow in this highly commercial culture. This course teaches students to recognize and identify twenty-eight informal fallacies, and the eye-catching text includes over sixty slick and clever, “phony advertisements” for items from blue jeans to pick-up trucks, which apply the fallacies to a myriad of real life situations.”

Though targeted for junior high students, this course is appropriate for high school students who have not previously studied logic. I would go so far as to say it is appropriate for adults as well. Though I often recognize when someone is using a logical fallacy, I cannot always identify the fallacy. I am learning right along with my 3 students (7th grade, 9th grade and 11th grade).

I appreciated receiving both the student text and the teacher’s edition.  At first I was not sure if having the teacher edition was really necessary but I have decided that I love having it.  Along with having the exact student text with answers, the Teacher edition also has chapter quizzes and tests that I can use.   Permission is granted to photocopy those for classroom use.

Because I have three students using this program, we are doing more of an oral/discussion approach.  Instead of writing out answers, we take turn answering questions and this leads to more discussion.  If your students like to write out their answers, you may want to purchase a student book for each participating student.

Along with the Student Text and the Teacher Edition, we received disk 1 of the DVD set to sample.  Disk one includes an introduction and the first 6 fallacies.  We choose to watch the fallacy discussions after we had our own discussions.  All of us concur that the DVD would be very helpful for families where only one student is taking the course but the DVD is not necessary in situations like ours where we have 3 students plus mom working through the course.  We are able to have our own lively discussions. 

Thoughts from BooBear:"I really really like it. I like learning logical fallacies. I think it will be good life skills and I know that the SAT is a logic thinking testing so I think it will help me there as well. During this political season, I like being able to recognize and identify specific fallacies I see some candidates use. I’m enjoying arguing not just quarrelling with my sisters.”

Thoughts from Turtlegirl:”I enjoy learning about the fallacies but discussions with my sisters can be too much. Our arguments seem to disintegrate into quarrels and I get frustrated, but I really like program.  It’s given me the names for things I have recognized.  I can now properly identify the fallacy in my sister’s argument.”

Thoughts from Tailorbear:”Not being able to fall for commercials or political things is nice.  I guess I like it. It’s nice to be able to practice fallacies and argue with my sisters.”

Classical Academic Press has two other Logic programs as well.  We had a small mix up and were sent The Argument Builder by mistake.  When we received our copy of The Art of Argument, I received a lovely apology letter.  CAP is graciously allowing me to keep The Argument Builder. The letter alone, in my opinion, demonstrates good customer service.  Being allowed to keep the wrong material? That goes above and beyond basic customer service. Thank you CAP!  When BooBear has finished working through The Art of Argument, she’ll be able to tackle the more mature material of The Argument Builder.  Perhaps next year Turtlegirl can use it and in a few more years Tailorbear should be ready to handle the writing requirements.

The Art of Argument student book retails for $21.95, the teacher’s edition retails for $24.95.  The DVD set is available for $54.95.  There is a bundle package available for $88.95.

Update:  You may also be interested in my review of Discovery of Deduction.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about The Art of Argument.


DVD Review (and Giveaway!) The Woodcarver

I enjoyed John Ratzenberger years ago on Cheers and more recently my family has loved his voice work in the Disney Pixar movies, so I was excited to see his name as the Woodcarver is this new DVD from Faith &Family Films available from Christian Cinema.


About this movie:”Matthew Stevenson is a troubled kid from a broken home. When he vandalizes the local church to get back at his parents, Matthew has to repair the damage to the church to avoid criminal charges. While working at the church, he meets Ernest (John Ratzenberger), an accomplished wood carver who created the intricate woodwork decoration that Matthew destroyed. Ernest has become something of a hermit, but reluctantly comes out of reclusion to help repair the church. Now Ernest and Matthew must work together to preserve the church's beautiful antiquity, and along the way, they also manage to restore their faith in God and in life.”

I have a nearly 13 year old daughter who is going through the “contrary stage”.  You know the stage where she says she doesn’t like something just because you do or she doesn’t want to watch a movie just because you do?  She told me that she didn’t think she would like the movie.  She was afraid it would be “too sappy and over the top Christian”.  She didn’t want to watch it. Towards the end of the movie my daughter remarked, “What is it with me not wanting to watch these movies and ending up liking them?”  I think that says a lot.  She was riveted to the screen. 

I wonder if she identified with the troubled teen?  I wonder if she just recognized the voice of Ernest Otto?  In any case this was a movie that my whole family enjoyed and one that we will be watching again.  The characters were believable and John Ratzenberger did an excellent job portraying the struggle between faith and loss.  He was a widower who had strong faith but when his wife died, he felt as though God had ignored his prayers.  He finds his balance again in mentoring a boy and both are restored to a stronger relationship with God.

Woven throughout the story is the theme of forgiveness, restoration and the idea of doing what Jesus would do.   Ernest tells Matthew that he can stay with him under one simple condition.  Before making any choices or any decisions, he must ask himself “what would Jesus do?”  

You can watch a trailer of the movie by visiting the Woodcarver page at Christian Cinema. The link for the DVD is on the left hand side directly under the cover image.

I think this is an excellent movie to add to a family collection for a family movie night and I am thrilled to be able to host a giveaway.  One of my blog readers will have the opportunity to add this DVD to his/her family’s collection.

I’ll be using Rafflecopter to handle the giveaway details.  Giveaway will end at 9:01pm  Pacific Time on March 20th (12:01 am Eastern Time 3/21)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products orservices 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.”


The Library: A (practically) unlimited source for Science materials

Blog Cruise Button

Marcy, our Crew Leader that hosts the weekly TOS Blog Cruises, has posted a list of upcoming topics/questions.  I was really excited when I saw this question “What’s your favorite science resource?”

The first thought that went through my head was Schlessinger Media.   I discovered educational DVD’s produced by Schlessinger media at my local library.  I am sure that if you searched the web you could find the website and maybe even order some great DVD’s but I love just checking them out for free from my library. 

I use these videos as supplements.  I especially love the All About Series for grades K-4.  My girls loved them. When the girls were younger, I would search the library for DVD’s to match the topics in the science curriculum.

My second thought for my favorite resource is even broader: the library.  My library has “theme packs” and I would sit on the floor and flip through them looking for specific science related topics.  I still browse the non-fiction shelves for books for Supergirl. 

The library is a rich resource for materials to supplement science.  It is the first place I go to to find books that we need to deeper explore a topic.  It is the first place I check when I want to get science related DVD’s.

Now I feel the need to schedule a trip to my local library to see what new science dvd’s and science books I can find.

“What’s your favorite science resource?” will go live March 13th.  In the meantime you can check out past Blog Cruise topics at the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.


TOS Review: Creek Edge Press: Chemistry

creek Edge press logo

Tailorbear (age 12, 7th grade) and I are polar opposites when it comes to teaching and learning.  She wants to jump in with both feet and explore her own interests.  I want everything laid out nice and neat with structure and plans and an answer key.

While looking over the Creek Edge Press website, I knew I had to express interest in reviewing this for the crew.  Not because it fits my style.  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t appeal to me.  It’s too open ended. It’s not structured enough for my taste.  But I knew it would appeal to Tailorbear. I hoped it would meet her “I can do it myself and let me just jump in with both feet” style.

Creek Edge Press utilizes task cards.  Each card contains “discovery-oriented activities designed to facilitate engaged learning.”  The course we reviewed, Chemistry and Great Scientists Task Cards, explores “the world of atoms and molecules.  Investigate tasks open up the periodic table through an in depth study of the families of elements.  A survey of great scientists wraps up the course.” 

This particular course is labeled for grades K-8 and the accompanying booklet gives guidelines for using the task cards with younger children as well as suggestions for older, more independent students.  Because I need more structure, I would be intimidated using these cards with Supergirl (developmentally delayed, doing 1st grade work.)  It would require more time and teacher preparation than I am able to do.  However, for older students who can work independently and who are highly motivated by the subject matter, the cards could work well.

The Chemistry Task Card set  retails for $18 (US)  It includes 30 task cards and a Course Introduction Booklet.  The Course Introduction includes “instructions for using the cards, step by step instructions for preparing the learning environment, and a guide for selecting books and materials to use throughout the course.”  To see samples of Task Cards please visit the Gallery.  You can check out the scope and sequence and a suggested book list by visiting the At Creek’s Edge tab of the Creek Edge Press Website.

Tailorbear’s Thougths: “It wasn’t as great as I thought it would be.  I didn’t like how little structure it had. Otherwise building models and doing posters was really fun.  Research for writing was difficult but then again it’s never easy. I really enjoyed this product overall.” 100_4161

My Thoughts: I liked how independent Tailorbear could be with these cards.  I think the Chemistry Task card projects met her need for hands on learning.  I loved how excited she got over the idea of making a model of an atom.  She was completely self directed and even searched for her own materials.  Tailorbear impressed me by creating her own assignment notebook so that she could “better organize her week.”  These cards were more successful in my homeschool than I thought they would be.

For an older child who is looking for an independent study course, I think Creek Edge Press would be an excellent choice.  In addition to Chemistry, there are several other science sets.  In addition to science there are also history, geography and culture cards, art cards, and music card sets. My oldest daughter (age 16, 11th grade) is intrigued by the task card approach and has asked for the Task Card set for Music.

Click on the banner below to read what my fellow crew mates had to say about Creek Edge Press.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. 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.


Manic Monday oh wait it’s Wednesday

It’s early for me.  It’s only 6:30 am.  I’ve been up for half an hour now.  The house is quiet.  Somewhere down the hall my husband is getting ready for work.  I hear the heat kick on and I hear the air being forced out.  The girls are still sleeping.

I have a to do list a mile and a half long but I’m not sure where to start.  It’s Wednesday and I’m looking forward to going to Liturgy tonight.  There’s things to do to prepare for church (Such as make sure we all have  clean clothes and get the soup prepared ahead of time so it can stay warm in the crock pot until we get home.).

And I have things like look over review products to figure out a plan to use them.  (Just got THREE new homeschool products to review for the Crew.)  And I’ve got some reviews coming up (look for Creek Edge Press in the next day or two), so I have some research and writing to do for those reviews.


Here is hours later.  The sun is shining brightly.  I’ve washed two loads of laundry (one load of towels and one load of darks).  Tailorbear made bagels for breakfast.  But something is missing.  Something still nags at me.  It tugs at my heart.  I ignore it.

I’ve done Art of Argument with the three big girls.  Meanwhile Supergirl was supposed to be using the white board easel to practice her letters.  Instead she did this:


Finished with Art of Argument and confronted with the antics of a disagreeable little girl, my heart can take it no longer.   PRAY.   My heart cries out “you forgot to pray.”  I realize that what I crave; what I need is some time with the Lord.  It is Lent and I told myself I would spend more time in prayer. 

I grabbed my prayer book and hid in my room.  After completing mid-day prayers with my own private devotions, I flip through my booklet and I find this nugget.  (How have I missed this one?!)

Almighty God, our Help and Refuge, Fountain of of wisdom and Tower of strength, who knowest that I can do nothing without Thy guidance and help; assist me, I pray Thee, and direct me to divine wisdom and power, that I might accomplish this task, and whatever I may undertake to do, faithfully and diligently, according to Thy will, so that it may be profitable to myself and others, and to the glory of Thy Holy Name. For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: Now and ever and unto ages of ages amen.

My heart longed to be filled and now that I’ve met that longing, my stomach longs to be filled. 


Great Lent 2012: A Time of Reflection

 When I was growing up Lent was a time to be endured. I confess it had little meaning for me and I strongly disliked it.  I remember one year crying about Ash Wednesday.  I didn’t want to go to church.  I didn’t want ashes on my forehead and I certainly didn’t want to start eating fish on Fridays.  I like my meat thankyouverymuch.

I don’t particularly care for my mother’s tuna noodle casserole (with potato chips on top) nor was a big fan of cheese pizza (pizza? Yes.  With pepperoni preferably).  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t eat what I wanted.  All I understood about Lent was that I couldn’t eat meat on Fridays.

Lent had no meaning for me. My focus was only on how I could live through fish sticks and fish sandwiches at school for lunch on Fridays.

And then I grew up, became Protestant and rejected Lent altogether.  I had some friends who “gave up something” (usually chocolate) but none of them could ever tell me *why* they were avoiding chocolate or why they willingly ordered a fish sandwich for lunch. (blech!)

And I discovered Orthodoxy.  Orthodox fasting rules make Catholic Lent seem like child’s play.   No meat, no fish, no dairy, no eggs, no (olive) oil and no wine.  (Is there anything left?) I often joke that I should have returned to Rome at least then I could beef broth with vegetables even if I couldn’t actually have the beef.

(Please note, dear readers, that the Orthodox fasting guidelines are not rigid and are between the individual, God and spiritual advisor.   We are never to judge a brother or sister in Christ.)

But food stuff aside, Lent has become so much more to me.  It’s not about the fasting.  (Yes that is a BIG part of Lent).  It’s about evaluating myself.  It’s about teaching myself discipline.  It’s about reflecting on how far I have fallen and how I can repent and return to God.

I find myself wanting more time for prayer.  I find myself doing self-examination and I am repulsed by what I see in my heart.  I find myself needing to be at church more.  I need more of God. 

Lent is the season where I fall in love all over again with my Savior as I reflect on how desperately I need Him and I am awed by how much He loves me.


This post is linked up to 40 Days of Seeking Him hosted by Trish at A House upon the Rock and Laura at Day by Day in our World.


TOS Review: K5 Learning.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a 6 week free trial of K5 Learning, an online learning website.  I was given access for 4 students, however, only 1 of my students falls in the grade k-5 range.

Subscriptions are available for monthly ($25 for first child $15 for additional children) or annual ($199 for first child, $129 for additional children) terms.  Prices are US dollars.  A K5 subscription includes “4 modules: K5 Reading and K5 Math (curricula based lessons), K5 Math Facts (an adaptive program for developing instant recall in math facts) and K5 Spelling (an advanced spelling and vocabulary tutor).”

From K5 about the program: “K5 Learning was conceived primarily as a supplemental aid for after-school study, and doesn’t provide a full curriculum for homeschooling. Our intent is to help kids build reading, math and study skills through independent study.  K5 is designed for use at home, after-school, on weekends and during the summer, and can also be used in conjunction with a homeschooling program.”

Before I share our experience with the program, I need to share a bit about Supergirl.  She is not a typically developing young lady. (You can read about some of her story on Through the Eyes of A Child blog).  She has DiGeorge Syndrome which has associated learning delays and disabilities as well as cognitive issues.

With her delays I see all the steps she goes through all stretched out.  Typically developing children go through all the same steps but much quicker and it isn’t as noticeable.

The Assessments: I found the assessment frustrating.  According to the website K5 assesses students based on 8 key math and reading skills. I found the assessment counterintuitive and developmentally out of sync.

For example, I found the reading assessment reading comprehension particularly frustrating because I wasn’t sure if my daughter was supposed to read the passage herself or if she was supposed to have it read to her and then answer questions.  There were no instructions. The passages were well beyond what she could read herself. She placed below grade level in reading comprehension but I do not believe she was adequately or appropriately assessed for that skill.

We started the lessons based on the placement from the assessment but after a few lessons, I realized that she wasn’t placed in appropriate places for her skill levels.

Using the K5 program: I do not have the space to detail everything about the program so be sure to check out more reviews at the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.  I’m going to focus on the K5 Math program.  In examining the scope and sequence for math, I see an illogical approach that presumes that if a child knows D, she also already knows and grasps A, B, and C.  Let me explore this with an example from one of our lessons. 

K5 approaches place value from the concept of addition.  Rather than teaching that the number 72 is comprised of 7 tens and 2 units the program teaches that 70 + 2 = 72. This presumes that the student understands and grasps the concept of addition.  Place value is a lower level, foundational skill that teaches counting.  A student only needs to count 0-9 and that each place can only hold up to 9 objects.  My daughter “gets” this.  She is starting to grasp the idea of “addition” which is taking two groups of numbers and making them into one number.  She is still trying to learn her basic single digit addition and this presentation of place value confused and frustrated her.

Skip counting also has developmental increments.  Skip counting by 10’s is usually taught first because it is an easy pattern to learn.  Supergirl had skip counting lessons that began with 5’s.  This is a more complicated pattern.  The student *must* already grasp the 10’s (10, 20, 30, 40) and then apply the pattern (5, 10, 15, 20). 

After muddling our way through skip counting by 5’s, 10’s and place value we encountered two digit + one digit addition. This was completely inappropriate for her. She hasn’t even learned her single digit addition and she is being asked to add numbers such as 22 + 4 and estimate whether or not is below 25.  This requires her to know that 2 + 4 = 6 and to understand that 6 is great than 5 and that 20 + 6 = 26.  At this time I decided to ask for another assessment. 

This is the reply I received: “Unfortunately, our system is a bit rigid and the technology does not allow for us to carry out re-assessments.”  I found this disturbing.  Assessments should be done periodically to ensure that progress is being made and that the level remains appropriate.  8 skill levels for reading and math is too broad of a scope and presumes that child’s learning and development is linear or equal in all aspects of each skill level. You can see a brief outline of the scope and sequence for math here and for reading here.

My Thoughts: I found the K5 Reading and Math to be developmentally inappropriate for Supergirl and a very poor fit for us.  The website states that this program works well for special needs, however, those special needs do not include those with cognitive impairments or learning disabilities.  I think this program would indeed work well for those with ADD or ADHD. I can see that this would work well for typically developing  students who do not have a large gap in skill levels within a discipline. For example, no gaps in understanding place value, counting or addition which are all part of the Numbers and Operations skill area. Also, I  believe that this could work well for typically developing children who are at one level in one skill area and another level in another skill area such as being at early 1st grade in geometry but late 2nd grade in vocabulary. But I do not think this is the best choice for students with cognitive impairment or developmental disabilities. 

We tried the K5 Spelling but she was not ready for it.  I believe this would be a good drill/practice program for older students who need the practice. We did however love the K5 Math Facts for learning and drilling math facts.

If you are looking for an online supplemental program, please do check out the K5 reviews from my fellow crewmates on the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

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

Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received a six week free trial  of K5 Learning 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.


B is for (not) Broken Bones


I had originally planned to write my Blogging through the alphabet letter B post on Books.   I like books.  I have lots of books.  I was even going to post pictures of bookcases.

But I spent the late morning/early afternoon at urgent care getting x-rays of my foot to make sure that when I smashed my toes, I didn’t actually break the bones.

I have no idea exactly how it happened.  I mean I know what happened.  I know how my foot (my toes specifically) got hut but I don’t know the WHY of the how.  I mean how does one NOT know where one’s foot is?  How does one get so distracted that when one is pulling the chair forward, she puts it down (with full force and full weight in the chair) ON the foot.  How?  How did I do that?

I guess I just wasn’t paying enough attention to what I was doing.  One of the girls was talking at me.  I was trying to get my breakfast and I had some computer work I was doing.

We don’t have the official report from the radiologist but it does look like I only managed to damage the soft tissue of three toes at the base of the toe.   No visible breaks, cracks or fractures in the bones.

I’ve been told that it could take weeks to heal and I am to take it easy for the next couple of days.   Ibuprofen is my friend.  The ice pack is my friend.  I am very glad that I am writing a post that says that B is (NOT) for Broken Bones instead of telling ya’ll that I broke bones. 

Join Marcy at Ben & Me and Blog through the Alphabet!  This week Marcy says B is for Boy!

Great Lent: The Prayer of St. Ephrem

Some friends of mine are hosting a “blogging through Lent” event.   I want to participate in 40 Days of Seeking Him but I won’t be blogging about Lent every day.  I started, though with my post about Forgiveness Sunday. Today I want to focus on a prayer that I need to spend more time with, that  I need to be meditating and praying more.

During Great Lent,  Orthodox Christians spend more time attending services.  One of the most beautiful services is the Presanctified Liturgy which is served on Wednesday and Friday evenings.

During the service we say this prayer:

The Prayer of St. Ephrem

O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages.

This is a prayer that I need to pray daily, not just during Lent but throughout the year.  I need chastity, humility, patience and love.  And boy do I need the Lord to take from laziness, depression, and idle talk.  (I bet I need to have lust of power removed as well but I’m in denial about that one right now <grin>)


I’ll be linking this post up to Trish’s blog A House Upon the Rock but just so ya’ll know Laura over at Day by Day in our World is also hosting 40 Days of Seeking Him.