Monday, February 27, 2012

Crime and Consequences? - Our Trip to Court

Today we went to court.  A teenager very close to my heart had to make an appearance for attempting to steal a beer from a local grocery store.  I took my two youngest boys so that they could see what court was like.  It was an interesting experience.

The first thing that made an impression was the 210 people on the docket for the morning.  210!  I know people make dumb mistakes, but 210!!!  This is a small county – it just goes to show that poor judgment is rampant.  I don’t know if this is a daily event or only a couple of times a week.  If it’s daily, that’s 1000 people who pass through this small court system for misdemeanor offences a week. 

The second thing we immediately noticed was the people.  There were all kinds there – young, old, well-dressed, tattooed, tall, short, disheveled. 

The boys were wide-eyed listening to the conversation happening right next to us.  A young man was talking about the last time he was locked up and who his cell mate was.  He then rattled off his current charges including possession, drug paraphernalia, etc.  He was speaking very openly as if this was an any-day event.  His expectation was to spend at least 45 days behind bars this time.  What struck me the most though was his attitude. 

I’ll do my 45 days and pay my fine, but…  They aren’t here to do anything for me, so I’m not doing anything for them.  I’ll do my time and get out.  F#$& them!

Really?  You Are A Criminal!!!  What do “they” owe you?  Seriously?

As we went into the courtroom and were seated, we noticed the carving on the back of the bench in front of us.  F#@! Cops.  F@#$ this place.  My youngest was most bothered by the attitudes of the people there including this inscription.  He immediately noted how they weren’t taking it seriously.  A good lesson for him, but sad.

Our final lesson was as court started.  All those wanting a court-appointed attorney were told to come forward.  A long line formed.  There goes our tax money to pay for other’s mistakes. 

I know just like the teen we were with that mistakes are made; goodness knows I've made my share, but consequences have to be the logical repercussion of mistakes.  Sometimes mistakes are accidental.  Breaking the law is not accidental – it’s willful and should be treated that way.  The point of repercussions is to dissuade.  Obviously, as evidenced by what we saw in the courtroom, for many, the consequences they receive are just a bump in the road.  Scary.

I would have liked to stay longer and see the proceedings, but our teen was pulled out by his attorney as they were getting started.  Our teen got a continuation as did his friend who was also charged.  They will find out shortly if they have to complete a class or community service before the next court date.  If they do, their cases will be dismissed.  I don’t want their permanent records affected, but, I can say, that a little community service or a class feels like a slap on the wrist rather than a consequence for them.  I hope they are both smart enough to learn their lesson before they become a regular like some of the others we saw today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

April IPad Frenzy is Coming - Win an IPad 3 or $550 cash

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The February frenzy iPad2 and Cash giveaway was such a success that we’re going to have another one in April!

- Event Dates: April 1 – 21, 2012

- Prize: iPad or $550 Cash (winner’s choice)

- Signup Fee: $11 for Facebook & Twitter (+ $2 for each additional link)

- $10 will go towards the prize and $1 admin fee will be used to cover advertising and the blogger referral prize

- Isis of Bay Area Mommy will be randomly selecting blogs where follow tasks will be hosted (Great for pageviews!)

- Giveaway will be open worldwide
To sign up:

- Send your $11 (+$2/addl link) signup fee to AS A GIFT or add $0.60 if sending as a service. Please write your blog’s name on the notes.

- Fill out the signup form HERE!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Bearded Dragon Photo Shoot

My son decided to do a photo shoot of our bearded dragon, Marley.  She was feeling especially photogenic that day.  Isn't she a cutie-pie?  Such a sweet little smile. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Knorr Green Chicken Chili

Knorr has a new product out - Knorr Homestyle Stock in chicken and beef.  I was excited to try these as they small tubs of stock flavor that fit nicely in the pantry and are a quick go-to when you don't have stock readily available.

Knorr recently sent me an email with recipes - one that caught my eye was the Green Chicken Chili.  I love green chili!  This is a healthy recipe that sounded great and let me testdrive the Homestyle Stock I had in my cupboard.  Here's the recipe:

I made a couple minor modifications.  First, my husband can't eat jalapeno, so I left it out. 

Chicken, Onion and Garlic
Second, I doubled the recipe. 

Four cups of water, 2 Knorr Homestyle Stock and a full can of Green Chili
When I tasted it, it was a little bland sans the jalapeno, so I added a can of diced tomatoes with green chili to give it more flavor.  Yum!  I also added another can of beans (or 1/2 can for a single recipe).  This gave it a more chili-like consistency.

Three Cans of Cannellini or Great Northern Beans
I have to say - this one was a winner.  My VERY finicky son who swore he'd hate it loved it as did my husband.  I'm adding it to the repetiore as it's quick, easy and healthy.  Yum!

Finished with Tomatoes and Cheddar Cheese on top
Looking for a quick, easy recipe that's a little different from the same 'ol, same 'ol - give this one a try!

Knorr® Homestyle Stock: Thanks Knorr for my free sample. Learn more about Knorr Homestyle Stock and get great recipe ideas at

Blog Cruise - Our Favorite Free Resource - Alice 3D Programming

This week's cruise asks - What is your favorite free or cheap homeschool resource?

There are TONS of free or cheap resources out there.  Of course, my favorite resource is simply – the internet.   What a wealth of information right at the tip of my and my student’s fingers.  We can find information, exercises, lessons, supplements, etc. on just about everything. 

However, if I had to narrow it down to one favorite resource, for right now – it’s Alice.  Alice is a 3D programming environment created by Carnegie Melon at that is free to download and use.  It comes with some tutorials, but, a quick scan of the internet will lead you to Duke University’s site where there are numerous additional tutorials to help your student understand basic programming. 

I don’t think I have to tell you that we are living in a technological world.  Even if your student isn’t interested in being a great programmer one day, he/she should understand the basics of what goes into programming all those games and web sites they enjoy.  Additionally, using Alice helps your student understand basic logic in a very dynamic way.  If this, then that – if this, else that – loop this – do together – do in order.  Learning how to group actions to get desired results is not only an experience in programming, but an experience in basic ordinal logic.  
I have found that kids really enjoy Alice.  Unlike basic coding where you write a bunch of lines of script and then hope they work, Alice is visual and dynamic.  There is a drag and drop approach to the coding that can automatically be tested with each step.  Student automatically see if they have achieved their desired result or not.

I am currently teaching Alice 2.2 at our local co-op.  It’s been fun for both me and the students.  They get really excited seeing their programs leap into action.  When we finish the course, they will have not only learned basic programming, but will have learned how to program a story using a storyboard, create a dynamic quiz, and develop a basic game.

Note: there are several downloads on the Alice site.  Alice Storytelling is a brief tutorial for PC users.  Alice 2.2 is the most recent stable version and includes several “getting started” tutorials.  Alice 3 will include java integration, but, is still in beta and not considered ready for regular use.  I recommend starting with Alice 2.2 for middle or high school aged students.
No, your student won’t be ready for MIT once they complete Alice, but they will have a sense of what programming is about.  This taste just might lead to a college computer science major, or it just might lead to a better understanding of the computing environment and logic.  It’s a win-win.

Here are some additional free resources that can be used with Alice:

If you have children interested in computers, I can’t recommend this highly enough.  The Duke University tutorials are easy enough for a parent and student to walk through.
If you have questions about how I approached using Alice for a co-op or the order to use tutorials with your student, just leave me a comment and I’ll happily share my experiences.

To see what other TOS Homeschool Crew Members consider their favorite free/cheap homeschooling resource – click here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review - BeeYouTiful Facial Bar and Lip Balm

Milk and Honey Facial Bar and B.A.L.M Lip Moisturizer
Cost: $10.00 (Facial Bar)
How often do we pamper ourselves?  If you’re like me, not often.  There just isn’t enough time or money to spend on the Mom part of the family.  That’s not to say I don’t have everything I need, but it is nice every now and then to indulge.
Imagine how happy I was to find out I got to review  BeeYouTiful products!  There were a wide range of options for what we’d receive.  I was just excited to review something for me!  J 

When the package came, it had a 4.25oz Milk and Honey Facial Bar and B.A.L.M All Natural Lip Moisturizer.  The lip moisturizer immediately went into my purse.  We live in the South where it is humid seventy-five percent of the time – we are currently in the other twenty-five percent and my skin is drying out.  It does every winter.  The lip balm is a perfect go-to for keeping my lips from chapping and peeling.
I thought the facial bar was just adorable.  It’s shaped like a bee hive with little bees on it.  They sent it to me in a bubble envelope, so some of it got dented.  If it were a gift, I would not have wanted it to be dented because it is just so cute.

The scent of the bar is hard to describe.  It is made from honey and goats milk.  It’s a very earthy scent.  Not at all unpleasing.  It’s not perfumey or artificially floral/fruity like a lot of body washes are these days.  I found it to be a refreshing change.  The key though is my husband.  He says he has a “Bob Hope nose” meaning he is very sensitive to different smells.  He usually picks out my shampoos, colognes, etc. so that he is comfortable with the odor.  He hasn’t said a word since I started bathing with the Milk and Honey Facial Bar so I can definitely say it is pleasing and very mild.
Note I said “bathing” above.  While it is a facial bar, it is also winter and I’m drying out head to toe.  The web site notes:

Two natural treasures in one bar of soap help repair sores, fight acne, soothe chapping, and balance uneven or oily skin. Bee products—honey, propolis, pollen and wax—meet goat milk to clean up the toughest skin problems you can muster.
Honey cleanses dirt and impurities while smoothing wrinkles by increasing your skin’s elasticity. Propolis—a mixture of the essential oils, pollen, and wax bees harvest from plants—nourishes dry, itchy skin. Pollen, rich in enzymes and vitamins, contains the complete family of amino acids. It promotes new skin cell growth while scrubbing away built-up dead cells without stripping the skin of its natural protection. Milk & Honey’s beeswax base is the all-natural “carrier” for other ingredients that leaves your skin feeling soft and clean.

Raw goat milk is rich in enzymes beneficial to your skin, and five natural, skin-replenishing oils balance and moisturize. This abundance of revitalizing components is topped off with a touch of sweet orange essential oil for an agreeable, bright aroma.”
Why should only my face get these wonderful benefits?  I do believe my skin feels softer and a lot less itchy since I’ve started using the bar every morning.  Yay!

This review turned out to be exactly what I selfishly hoped it would – a little indulgence for me.  It has been fun trying out the Milk and Honey Facial Bar and the B.A.L.M lip moisturizer.  My skin feels better, and I feel just a little bit pampered.
I love the BeeYouTiful web site – it’s so inviting with several products aimed at keeping yourself healthy and happy.  Personally, I’m looking forward to reading the reviews from other crew members who received different products from  BeeYouTiful.  I’m excited to hear what they received and what they thought of their products.

*** I received these products free as a member of the TOS Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Apologia Who Am I? Review

Who Am I? And What Am I Doing Here?

Web Site:
Cost: Text - $39, Journal - $24, Coloring Book - $8, Audio CD - $19
Ages: Elementary to Middle School
I was simply amazed by the generosity of Apologia when they sent us their Who Am I? curriculum for review.  Not only did they send the text, but also a coloring book, notebooking journal and the entire book recorded on MP3-CD for audio learners.
I’ve always been a big fan of Apologia.  Since we started homeschooling, Apologia has been our go-to curriculum for science.  Last year, I was blessed to review Volume 1 in their What We Believe series – Who is God?  You can see that review here.  Who Am I? is the second volume in the series.

We have not had the opportunity to finish the series; however, as usual, I am impressed with the organization and approach Apologia has taken to discussing with children their faith and the Christian worldview.  You can view the Table of Contents to see the organization and thorough breakdown for each chapter.  Each chapter contains scripture, story, discussion and relevant aspects of both Christian and non-Christian life today.    For example, we learn about the day-to-day life of a girl living in a Muslim country.  Another chapter discusses communism and North Korea.  By including history, present day example, biblical study and fictional story – children are exposed to a wide-range of learning methods to better define their own Christian walk.  To see a sample lesson - click here.

I LOVE the note-booking journals available for many of Apologia’s subjects.  My son completed two while working through science the last few years.  This journal is no different.  It’s a hands-on way for students to not only read the material, but interact with, contemplate, practice and illustrate their reactions to each lesson.  The Journal begins with lesson plans to help you coordinate reading the text with using the journal.  My younger son particularly enjoys the mini-book projects, crosswords and word searches.  These journals help the kids really own and enjoy the material they learn.  Additionally, when the book is complete and the journal has been finished, they have a nice memento of their time spent learning that they can refer back to.  I think it would be especially nice to keep these journals and then have them revisited once the kids are in high school to see how their perspective and their faith has grown and matured.  To see a sample page from the journal, click here.

My boys are too old for the coloring book and are not auditory learners, so we didn’t really use these tools.  However, I believe if you have a mixed age group of children using this book, having the coloring pages would be great for the younger children while the older ones work on their journals.  Additionally, the auditory CD is good not only for auditory learners, but for groups of children where the parent can have the younger ones listening while the older ones follow along in the book.

I can’t recommend Apologia enough.  Their materials are always high quality, in-depth and include the tools necessary for your student to not only learn, but exerpience the materials being taught.  I’ve seen first-hand how this leads to long-term learning.

To see other reviews by the TOS Crew – click here.

*** I received this curriculum as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

6 Days Left to Enter to Win an IPad 2 or $50 ...

Only 6 Days Left to Enter!  Don't miss your chance to win!

Welcome to the February Frenzy iPad 2 and Cash giveaway!

Bay Area Mommy and Swagbucks has teamed up with 60 wonderful bloggers to give you a chance to win the following prizes!

1st prize: 16g Wifi iPad2 with smartcover (1 winner; US/CAN)
2nd prize: $50 cash (3 winners; WorldWide)

Like all Facebook pages here.
Follow all Twitter profiles here.

Remember, you can't win if you don't enter! And the more entries you "send", the more chances of winning!

Swagbucks is the online rewards community that works, rewarding people for all of the things they're already doing online - search, games, watching videos, shopping, surveys and more! The Swag Bucks earned by users have helped purchase everything from diapers to video games - it's easy, it's rewarding, and it's 100% free!

Giveaway is open for entries from February 1, 12AM EST until February 21, 11:59PM EST.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

101 Bible Adventures - Review

101 Bible Adventures - The Ultimate Quest for Truth

Author: Carolyn Larsen

101 Bible Adventures is a fun book for kids, and a great way to teach them the great stories of the Bible on a level they can understand.
Each story begins with an explanation of what is going to happen in the story.  Then, the story is told in language that a elementary aged child can understand.  The wording is captivating and exciting helping the child become engaged in what is going on with the characters in the tale.  A key verse is also provided that could serve as an excellent memory verse or just a way to further illustrate that these aren’t just fun stories but are actual events depicted in the Bible.  A cartoon drawing in the upper right-hand corner provides a visual for the reader giving the youngster visual context.  Finally, after the story is always a “Now What?” that discusses what can be taken away from this story.  Questions provide food for thought and for further conversation.

I can see this book being used either as a homeschool Bible study, as a fun bedtime or dinner time reader, or effectively being used in a Sunday school setting to help children really understand the events and characters of the Bible on their level.  The author, Carolyn Larsen, has invested a lot of time into making sure the stories are encapsulated in such a way as to hit the main historical and chronological events in short, concise stories.  For young children,  this is the best way to help them become familiar with each story and the people who participated.  Additionally, the short story format allows the child the opportunity to be able to retell the story aiding in learning and understanding.
Finally, for slightly older children, maybe early middle school, this book could be a fun devotional for them to use at bedtime or any time.  A quick nightly read to help keep the Bible present in a fun and engaging format.  This age-range of students could use the ending questions for journaling or simple personal reflection.

*** I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Media in exchange for my honest review.

Our Favorite Fieldtrips - Learning via Adventure

This week's cruise asks - What has been your favorite fieldtrip?

We love taking fieldtrips.  Over the last few years of homeschooling, we’ve been truly blessed to go on some wonderful excursions.

The principal, AKA my hubby, likes to schedule a special excursion for us each year. I’m hoping it becomes tradition!

Our first year homeschooling, we were looking at ancient civilizations. Scott surprised us by taking us to Cancun so that we could make the trip to Chichen Itza to see the Mayan ruins. What an amazing trip! It made such a difference seeing these ruins up close and really understanding the history and the building that went along with the culture.

While we were there, I was able to finagle us an almost free snorkeling trip in the gulf of Mexico. We got to see the reef and its inhabitants. Normally, I don't do cold water, but this time it was just take the plunge and enjoy the experience.

Year two we were still in World History, but were up to more recent times. This time he took us to Washington D.C. We’ve been before, but not in many years. It was good for the boys to go back. We saw the Air/Space Museum, Natural History Museum, American History Museum, National Art Museum, Monuments (Washington, Jefferson, WWII, Vietnam, Korean War), Capital Building, Library of Congress, National Archives. Phew! Yes, it was a whirlwind.

At the end of last year, we went to Tybee Island in GA for a field study. If you can go, I HIGHLY recommend it. Very inexpensive with lots and lots of science. See my post about this trip.

This year, the boys and I decided to climb a local mountaintop, Crowder's Mountain - that was quite an adventure.  We plan on conquering a couple more peaks as the weather warms up.

What’s next on the horizon?  We’re headed to San Francisco in May.  Our plan is to go to Alcatraz, China Town, ride the street cars, walk the Golden Gate bridge and take a day to visit the giant redwoods.
One thing we love best about homeschooling is fieldtrips.  We can go and do and see!  There's nothing like learning about life up close and personal.

Want to see other favorite fieldtrips from the Homeschool Crew?  Click here.

What was your favorite fieldtrip growing up?  What is your favorite with your kids?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Discipline Gone Wrong - Dad Shoots Laptop

I’ve seen a lot of support for the father who shot his daughter’s laptop and posted it to Facebook.  I know while watching it on screen it seems funny, but, if this is reality, there’s nothing funny about it.

I wish people would put themselves in the daughter’s shoes.  Not that she doesn’t deserve consequences for her rant on Facebook, but she has a father whose solution is to use a .45 caliber gun and shoot her laptop.  What’s wrong with this picture?  So many things are wrong…

1.  His reaction is equally juvenile – you can’t discipline immaturity with immaturity.
2.  His reaction is violent – he didn’t have to use a gun.  A hammer would have the same effect.  Or, how about this?  Wipe everything off the laptop and donate it to charity.  Same effect but better message.

3.  He complains about her swearing in the post all the while swearing away himself.
4.  His solution to her rant is to embarrass her in front of all of her friends.  He’s retaliating, not parenting.

What happens after that post?  What does he do that we don’t see on Facebook? 
Those of us with teens have all been on the brink of ultimate frustration, but fighting fire with fire will only lead to more drama and pain down the road. 

Yeah, Dad, you got your fifteen minutes of fame and embarrassed your daughter on Facebook, but long term, what did you accomplish other than to alienate her even further?
What are your thoughts?

Friday, February 10, 2012

We have a Winner!

Congratulations to Vanessa
Winner of the Cooper and Me and the Military giveaway!

Vanessa - I'll be emailing you and the sponsor shortly to get your prize delivered to you!

*** Winners are selected randomly using Rafflecopter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Starry Night

My youngest son took this pic last night and just loved it.  I love it too - a singularity in a huge universe.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Defining Success in Our Homeschool

This week's cruise asks - How do you measure homeschooling success?

How do we measure success?  What a great question.  Success – what is it?  Academically it depends on who you ask.   One of the reasons we exited the public school system is because success was defined as a score on end of grade testing.  Classes were taught with this in mind.  Teach to the test.  Actual knowledge, critical thinking and long-term retention were not bi-products of this approach.

So, how do we measure success?

Well...  Before anyone asks – yes, I do assign grades.  This is especially true once we hit high school as a transcript is necessary for college.  I make sure my boys are mindful that what they earn goes on the transcript.  Since we participate in a co-op, about half their grades are assigned by the teacher there making their accountability to someone else. 
However, grades are not success.

To us, success is knowledge.  What have we learned?  What have we gained from the study of the subject?  What experiences will we take with us that will shape our worldview and how we choose to interact in that world.  That is success.  If the boys find their passion, if they walk away with a broad knowledge of what impacts the world and a deep knowledge of the topics that are their strengths – then we have success.

As for measurements – can we quantify success?  If we had to, then I would say, besides grades, we will measure success in our preparedness for college and beyond.  The amount of college credits earned through CLEP or dual-enrollment prior to graduation, the SAT or ACT scores, entrance into the school of their choosing – these are our tangible measure of success.

In the end, though, success is about the young men they become.  No matter what track they take as adults - success is measured by their integrity, their relationships with others, their faith and their compassion.  No number, no grade, no dollar amount is more important than that.

How do you measure success either in your homeschooled or private/public schooled child?  How do you measure success in your own life?

See how other TOS Homeschool Crew families measure success by clicking here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Karen
Winner of the I Love Your Presence CD download giveaway!

Karen - I'll be emailing you and the sponsor shortly to get your prize delivered to your inbox!

*** Winners are selected randomly using Rafflecopter.

See-N-Spell Review

Spelling and Vocabulary Quick Reference Tool

Age: 4th Grade to Adult
Cost: $9.99

As an English teacher, I was excited to be selected to review See-N-Spell Spelling and Vocabulary Quick Reference Guide.  Spelling is an essential part of writing even though we often take it for granted with the strong improvements in spelling correction for word processing.
The forty-page booklet contains a page for each letter of the alphabet.  On each page is a list of words starting with that letter organized by the following: Noun, Pronoun, Article, Conjunction, Verb, Irregular Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Preposition and Homophones.  In addition, there is a list of commonly misspelled words and pages for Notes and Special Interest Words.

According to the web site, “Writers typically possess a larger everyday spoken (social) language vocabulary than written academic language vocabulary. They might know the sound of the first letter, the first few letters in a word and/or can recognize the word in print but still not be confident about how to spell the word correctly. These writers often misspell or, to avoid misspelling, choose simpler words that do not clearly express their thoughts or develop their language skills (e.g., choosing the word "hard" rather than "difficult").”
The concept is that if a writer knows the first few letters to spell a word, he can look it up using this tool.  I like the idea; however, for older students like mine, the internet affords tools that can easily be used and provide not only spelling but definition and a thesaurus for word variation. 

I do think this is a good option for younger students.  The age range specified is from 4th grade to adult.  Younger students and those less familiar with the internet would benefit from a quick, inexpensive, hands-on resource like this for their writing.  Additionally, younger students would learn to use reference material by using this book.

We were also sent the See-n-Read tool.  This tool, according to the web site, does the following: "See-N-Read® (U.S. Patent No. 7,954,444) is a practical assistive reading technology that is designed to help readers see, focus and remember what they read. These interventions for struggling readers reduce word- and line-skipping and pattern glare, enhancing reading fluency and improving reading comprehension."

We didn’t have a need to use this tool, but, for struggling readers, it would be a great advantage.  My older son struggled some with reading when he was younger and would have benefitted from a tool like this.
To see other reviews by the TOS Homeschool Crew - click here.
***  I was sent these tools free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Healthy Bean Dip for the Super Bowl

I know that calories are a big issue when it comes to Super Bowl eating.  Goodness knows around our house my hubby likes to break out those high cal munchy foods. 

One dip I love, that is actually healthy, is a bean dip recipe I got from a friend several years ago.  No sour cream, no refried beans in a can, no guac, only fresh ingredients.   I thought I'd share it with you.  Of course, what you dip into it may make or break the healthy aspect.  :-)

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
1 bag frozen whole kernel sweet corn
1 tomato diced
1/2 onion diced
3 tbs cilantro chopped fine (or to taste - can use dried if you want)
1 1/2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs lime juice
salt/pepper to taste

Mix and let set for a few hours for the flavors to meld. Delicious cold or room temp. We LOVE it!

Be warned - it's addictive!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Classical Astronomy Celestial Almanack Review

The Classical Astronomy Celestial Almanack
a Visual Representation of the sky

Author:  Jay Ryan
Web Site
Ages:  Middle School to Adult
Cost: $3.00

My husband is a star gazer.  He’s always been interested in looking at the stars and identifying constellations.  Countless times he’s come into the house of an evening and asked us to step outside to show us a constellation or to just marvel at the stars on a clear night.

Last year, my younger son studied astronomy as a middle schooler.  It was a fun subject that he really enjoyed.  I wish we had known about the Celestial Almanac then – what a terrific supplement it would have been.

This Almanac is a monthly download from curr-click costing only three dollars, but chock full of all kinds of astronomical information.  For example – have you ever wondered why there is a leap year?  Or which constellations are present in the daytime sky?  Or why the winter sky is best for enjoying the starry night?
This simple twenty-page booklet, written in the style of Poor Richard’s Almanac, is a veritable wealth of star-studded information.  (Pardon my pun.)  Vivid pictures are included to really help the reader understand the science behind astronomy and to appreciate the beauty of studying the stars.  What I love most is the author’s passion for his subject.  Here’s the best example from the email we received in addition to the download:

“Thanks so much for your help in spreading the word about the exciting sky events coming up in 2012. Over the next six months, the Celestial Almanack will be promoting three very rare sky events for 2012:

1) the Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 15 (once every 24 years);
2) the annular solar eclipse on May 20 (once every 18 years); and
3) the transit of Venus on June 5 (last one til 2117!).

I'm absolutely frantic about trying to make sure that every single American, besides homeschoolers, finds out about these events and how to observe them! Thanks for your help in making that happen!

God bless and clear skies!  - jay ryan”
That's passion!  That’s the kind of teaching I seek out for my children, and that's the kind of passion that is delivered in these Almanacs.  The audience for the Celestial Almanack would probably be Middle School ages and up.  However, with parental input, younger sibilings would enjoy the experience as well.

If you are thinking about studying astronomy with your homeschoolers, or if you are already, you will love this inexpensive addition to your curriculum.  I have the feeling my husband will be downloading future additions as well.

If, after downloading, you are as impressed with his work as I am, venture over to Jay Ryan's web site,, to see the other exciting astronomy related products he offers. 

To see other reviews from the TOS Homeschool Crew – click here.

*** I received this download free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cooper and Me and the Military - Review and Giveaway

Cooper and Me and the Military

Author: Monique and Alexa Peters

Cost:  $12.99
Ages:  Preschool to early elementary
Cooper and Me and the Military is an adorable book about children whose parents are in the military and deployed. Through simple rhyme, the story shows what it is like to be a child staying behind while mom and dad serve our country. Additionally, the book shows an upbeat way that children can reach out to loved ones deployed and let them know they are thinking of them.
I come from a family with military background; however, I’ve never had to have a parent deployed. I can only imagine this is a very scary time for a child. This book through not only the verse but heartwarming illustration helps relate to those children and provide a way for friends to understand what they are going through: a great story for young grade school and preschool aged children.
I have several friends who have children of their own in the military or deployed. Younger siblings would get a lot from reading this book as well.
Not only is the book great, but they take the experience a step further by offering interactive features including a special memory creation, life lesson, connections and learning together. You can download a Cooper and Me Parent Reading Guide on the website to supplement the activities provided in the book. The memory creation is a scripted fill-in-the-blank letter to that special someone overseas. Not only will a child feel good sending the card, but it most certainly will warm the heart of the one receiving it.
When you are done with this book, you can hop on the website and download fun activity and coloring pages to complete with your child.
The Cooper and Me series was started by a mother/daughter team. Per their web site:
Explore life along with Cooper, a fun-loving black Labrador Retriever, whose entertaining adventures help kids navigate the emotions and challenges of everyday living. Created by mother-daughter team Monique and Alexa Peters and inspired by their real-life family dog, Cooper and Me provides adults and children with opportunities for meaningful conversation and tools for constructive problem-solving. Kids will laugh at Cooper’s antics, and adults will appreciate the resilience nurtured in their children.
Cooper and Me can be found at the following:
Would you like to own a copy of Cooper and Me and the Military? If so, use the rafflecopter entry below. Propeller is offering one free copy as a giveaway through this blog.
If you have a young person struggling with having a loved one in the military and possibly overseas, then this book would be a welcome gift. I wish I could give all military youngsters one.
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