Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Adding Fun to the Homeschool Day

This week's cruise asks - How do you add fun to your homeschool day?

Wow, what a great question!  It’s interesting because adding fun was a lot easier when the boys were younger.  We could do creative projects or just get outside, but now that they are older, we are heads down in study a lot of the time.

One thing we try to do is take a walk around the block with our dog.  It’s good to get some fresh air, relax and just enjoy a breather before heading back to studies.  We occasionally go out to lunch.  This is especially true on Wednesdays when we go to taekwondo during the day.  TKD alone is a break from the routine, but grabbing lunch afterwards lets us sit together and just talk before finishing our school day.
While we are in our co-op, there is little time for fieldtrips.  There is so much to accomplish week to week that adding in trips just makes us cramped for time the remaining days.  Fortunately, the co-op ends right before Thanksgiving, so we have a couple weeks before Christmas to be more relaxed.  We bake, see Christmas sites, hang out more with other people in addition to schoolwork. 

Co-op starts back up after the New Year and ends the second week in April.  We go until the second week in June, so we will once again incorporate more experiential learning.  We found we enjoy hiking and may add a few close by mountain peaks to our agenda.  We are hoping to go to San Francisco this year to see the sites: the bridges, China Town, the redwoods.  We’ve been to Mexico and Washington D.C. on other trips.  We may do a Cherokee trip this year as well – I hear they have teepees you can rent to sleep in.  How cool is that? 
How do you add fun to your school day with teenagers?

To see how other homeschoolers from the TOS Homeschool Crew add fun to their day - click here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Love Your Presence - Review and Giveaway

I Love Your Presence - Live from Phoenix

My husband has a gift for music.  He would disagree, but he doesn’t understand how those of us who have no musical gift admire those that do.  He plays in our church’s praise band – it’s his creative outlet after spending time with his head in computer code during the day.

I offered to review I Love Your Presence Live from Phoenix because I knew he would enjoy hearing new praise songs and might even find a few for his band to do.  For me, music is about the words and the beat.  He can hear each individual instrument, the arrangement, and all aspects of the music.  He has enjoyed the CD.  In fact, we were both excited to find both the lyrics and the chord progressions here Makes sense that these are available if the aim is to use them in worship.

I really enjoyed this download.  The songs are great for worship!  There’s just something special about live recordings - the feeling of being there, the raw sound of the artists rather than the studio manufactured sound. 
This album includes:

  1. Let It Come
  2. Glory To The King
  3. Saving Grace
  4. What Can I Bring
  5. Love Of God
  6. One Thing Remains
  7. Now And Ever
  8. Invitacion Fountain
  9. Sweet Mercies
  10. Isn't He / Amazing Grace
  11. I Love Your Presence
  12. Perfect Sacrifice
  13. I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121)
Another aspect I appreciate about this album is where it came from. Vineyard Music is a non-profit music company specializing in worship music and the worship experience.

“Vineyard Worship exists as an organic extension of the Vineyard church movement in the USA (Vineyard USA). We are, in a phrase, "from the church, for the church". We are not a music company first and foremost; we are a non-profit worship ministry. Our efforts will be centered in the cultivation and empowerment of the core value of worship in the Vineyard or more simply put "to help the local church experience God", rather than in a profit-driven music business model.”

Non-profits have a place in my heart.  This is especially appealing for the music industry that seems aimed at stealing our children’s values to make a dime.
Interested in a copy of this – to enter just use the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

Union County Literacy Council Chocoholic Frolic

Thursday, February 9, 2012
6:00-8:00 pm General Admission ($25 advance/$30 door)
5:00-8:00 pm Patron Admission ($50)
at Dale Jarrett Ford on Hwy 74 West in Indian Trail
Tickets available online and at our office.

I want to encourage everyone in the Charlotte, Monroe or surrounding areas to consider attending the Literacy Council's Chocoholic Frolic!

Back when I taught at a local community college, the Literacy Council was located in our building and shared a computer lab with my department.  Each day I was able to see the good they were doing helping adults achieve literacy.  We often take for granted our ability to read and write; however, many struggle with this seemingly simple task.  As an adult, this can be not only embarrassing, but a strong barrier to success.  Some of their students never learned to read and some have suffered traumas that have made relearning necessary.

As Kelly Norton, the Executive Director notes:

Literacy Council of Union County, which serves nearly 300 adult students, operates a computer lab for 56.5 hours a week, and coordinates reading tutor programs across 13 sites in Union County... Our program depends on dedicated, volunteer tutors who teach adults in the community to read and write,” said Kelly Helms Norton, executive director at Literacy Council of Union County. This special event is the result of the generosity of volunteers, vendors and businesses that are creating a festive fundraiser in support of adult literacy.

My oldest son and a teenaged neighbor had the privelege of volunteering at the Literacy Council while in high school.

The Literacy Council is hoping to raise funds to continue doing this invaluable work.  All they are asking is that you come by and eat some wonderful chocolate themed foods prepared by local restaurants.

Restaurants in attendance will include:

All American Eggrolls
Barking Dog Chocolatiers
Bruster's Ice Cream
Buddy Boy Candy
Carolina Cake Artistry
Diamond Springs Water & Coffee
Dove Chocolate Discoveries
Gallery Restaurant at The Ballantyne (pictured right)
Gimme a Cupcake
LINDT Chocolate RSVP
Lone Cone Toffee & Dolce Paradiso Bakery
Macaroni Grill
New South Kitchen & Bar
The Pampered  Chef
Reflections Salon & Spa
The South Charlotte Chef

In addition to the chocolate, there will be a raffle with prizes including a string of chocolate freshwater pearls with matching earrings provided by James Michael & Co. and a selection of chocolate from Trader Joe’s.

I don't know about you, but they had me at "chocolate."

The Literacy Council of Union County is a United Way of Central Carolinas member agency.  Find information about volunteering, about referring adults to be students and about purchasing tickets for Chocoholic Frolic at

Friday, January 27, 2012

How to Help a Teen Stop Smoking?

You may not remember, but a few months ago I posted about my oldest son playing with fire.  Well, sorta, he was smoking.  Literally and figuratively playing with fire.  At the time, I called him on it and he swore up and down he wasn't a smoker.  Eventually, when caught red-handed he said, "Mom, I smoke, but I'm not a smoker."

All that has changed.  He's now an official smoker and he hates it.  Yes, we warned him of the dangers of addiction, but as many of you know, older teens don't always want to listen.

Now, he's realized it's a very expensive, very unappealing habit.  The problem is it's very hard to quit.  I sympathize with him as much as I can - short of caffeine, I can't speak to addiction.  I don't know what it's like to have a substance have control over my life.

I do, very much, want to help him quit!  I'm very worried about his longterm health.

We had a deal - he said he was going cold turkey and didn't need help.  He agreed that if he smoked another cigarette, he'd let me make a doctor's appointment and we'd try to get him some help quitting.  We did try the nicorette gum, but he says it makes him feel funny so he won't chew it.

True to his word, he texted me to make an appointment, and he's going Monday.  I wish I knew the right thing to do to remove this issue from his life.  I'm a mom - I want to fix it.  I'm the daughter of a Marine - Just Do It!  But, it's not that simple.

Have you ever had to deal with stopping smoking?  What worked for you?  What didn't?  What advice can you offer a mom who truly wants to see her son shake this habit before it becomes a lifelong burden he can't escape?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

B-Man Passed His First CLEP! One Step Closer to College Success!

One of the things we have hoped to do with our homeschool journey is to provide the boys with more options for success.  One of those options includes taking college level tests allowing them to test out of those subjects they have a level of expertise in rather than having to take them as general education in college.

Today was the first step in that direction.  CLEP or College-Level Examination Program tests allow students to take a test demonstrating a level of mastery in particular subjects.  Based on the score they earn, colleges will give them credit for that course instead of requiring them to take it.  This varies by college (the score expected and the subjects they allow for credit).
Having done our research, most of the NC state schools give credit for several exams.  The first one on our list is the American History I exam.  B-Man has been taking American History through our local co-op this year.  He's an American History buff.  The American History I exam covers all the content he covered at the co-op up until January.  So, from November to today, he has been studying to take the CLEP in addition to working towards success in that class. 

The CLEP taken at our local community college is $90.  Less than the cost of a college textbook. 

He was extremely nervous.  B-Man was very aware that he was the only fourteen year old there, and he isn’t a fan of new situations.  Scott and I figured that it would be a good experience whether he passed or not.  He’d have experience on a college campus, experience studying college level material, and experience taking a test in a timed, intensive setting.

The score is given as soon as the test is over.  He passed!  He wasn’t happy with his score, it was lower than he wanted, but it was passing and we’re thrilled.  Next time, he’ll know what to expect, be less tense, and I believe he’ll achieve the scores he sets out to get.

B-Man was mentally exhausted when it was over.  He's convinced his brain was swelling from all the pressure.  Ha!  I guess it should feel that way if you get credit for a college course.  I told him to take two Advil.  We celebrated with an appetizer platter from Applebee's - he was a happy camper.
American History II is next on the horizon when he finishes this semester’s class.  It’s exciting to start working towards college now instead of four years from now, and I'm really proud of his hard work and accomplishment!

Have your kids taken a CLEP?  How did you prepare?

Monday, January 23, 2012

iPad 2 Giveaway Event - Blogger Signup

6650589505 15e13e63da m February Frenzy iPad Giveaway Signups Until Jan25!
Want to gain lots and lots of new followers AND get a chance to win an iPad 2?

Come join us in this iPad 2 Giveaway event!!!
Head over to this signup post for more details!

Please enter my blog’s name when asked for the blog who referred you!
This is not the actual giveaway yet.

This is for BLOGGERS who want to participate in this giveaway event. icon smile February Frenzy iPad Giveaway Signups Until Jan25!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Driver's Ed? It can't be possible!

At our home, the last few months have brought a lot of transition.  Since October, my two oldest children have moved out into apartments for college.  That was a change, but one we’ve been through before as my daughter was going back to college after having been out on her own before.

With everything going on, what has us unnerved the most isn't the relocating, it is the fact that we just signed up our third child for driver’s ed!  You would think having been through this twice before, it wouldn’t be a big deal.   But, it is! 

This is partially because we feel like we have two sets of kids.  My oldest two are from a previous marriage – so, we’ve been through the early teens with them while still having “babies” in the home.  Not babies, really.  There is only a five year difference between my second and third child, but when kids are growing up, five years is a big difference.
Besides, driving scares me to death.  I’m not a very good driver, and I’m an even worse parent side-seat driver.  I panic, I yell, I cover my eyes, I make them pull over.   Bad for both our nerves! 
Yes, homeschoolers get to go through driver's ed.  Just for those of you who are wondering.  We can sign-up through the local schools.  Our family  is especialy lucky because a woman we love at our church teaches the seated portion of driver's ed at a local charter school, so we have an 'in' with the teacher.  :-)  No favoritism, of course, but mom feels better knowing the teacher is a good one!
So, here we are on the cusp of another driver.  For now, he’s only talking driver’s ed.  It’ll be next September before he’s eligible for a driver’s permit and another year before he’s eligible to get a driver’s license.  It’s not like he’ll drive away tomorrow.  But – time so does fly with children.  We’ll turn around twice and it’ll be my now twelve-year old taking driver’s ed.
Sigh!  Why can’t we come up with that bubble that freezes time?  The roads are a scary place, and I haven't had any success getting them to wear helmets while in the car (don't laugh - I've tried.  You can ask them!).

How do you maintain your sanity and let your kids drive? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy19th Birthday

Today is my oldest son's 19th birthday!  Hard to believe it's already been 19 years! 
We love him!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Review - A Year with Jesus

A Year with Jesus: Daily Readings and Reflections on Jesus' Own Words

Author: R.P. Nettelhorst

A Year with Jesus was exactly what I needed to ring in the New Year.  I’m a patterns person, and having a devotional book that I can refer to daily throughout a year, starting on day one, meets my need for order.
I really like this book.  The one page readings are quick and easy, yet they give me a lot to digest in just  a few minutes of reading.  Each day starts with a title and scripture. This is followed by a short reflection to get the reader thinking about what Jesus was teaching you through his thoughts, words and actions. 

The book is broken into ten sections:
·         Love and Hate
·         Truths and Lies
·         Arrogance and Humility
·         Friends and Enemies
·         Belief and Disbelief
·         Patience and Impatience
·         Deserved and Undeserved
·         Good and Evil
·         Fidelity and Treachery
·         Life and Death

Each section speaks to the character and mission of Jesus. I’m not through the entire book (obviously), but my experience so far is that it forces me to reflect on what Jesus was saying and what it means in my life.  I can see that some of the above sections will include some conviction, come challenge and some comfort.  This is all something I look forward to.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone.  Why?  Because you don't have to be Christian to learn from Jesus’ teachings.  If you are seeking, learning one small step at a time might be the ticket to helping you define your faith.  What did Jesus have to say?  What was His message?   What do his words say about me, to me and what am I to take away.

If you’re seeking, why not take it one small step at a time?  The daily reading is very short allowing you to explore further if you have questions or are seeking additional answers.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Time for a Tune Up - Blog Name Changing!!!

Yep, it’s a New Year, a time to reassess where we are and where we want to go.  I’ve been thinking about doing this with my blog for a while now.  What started out solely for homeschooling has branched out into many different areas.  As my kids get older, homeschooling is just one facet of our very busy lives.   So – the blog will be changing with us. 

You’d be surprised how hard it is to come up with a new name for a blog.  Many of my little brainstorms at night turned out to be someone else’s blog name already.  Durn! 
After much contemplation, much thinking and rethinking, many hours staring at my family, my blog, Facebook and even the dictionary, and I’m renaming it Eclectic Montage. 

Eclectic - not following any one system, as of philosophy, medicine, etc., but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems.

Montage – Any combination of disparate elements that forms or is felt to form a unified whole, single image. 

I wanted something that reflects our family.  We are certainly eclectic.  We are all prone to pick and choose what works best with our unique personalities and our unique family.  A “boxed set” approach has never worked with us.  This is especially true in our homeschool.  But, more than that, we are a montage.  If you put all six of us in a crowded room, you’d never think we all belonged together.  I know – all families have different personalities, but ours takes in a huge range of possibility – in a good way, of course.
We have two talkers and four introverts.  We have a writer, a mechanic, two programmers, a musician, and a martial artist.  Two type A’s and four rather laid back souls.  We all love technology.  Three of us love to get out and explore, and three of us are total homebodies.  Two like math and four of us could just as soon leave it.  Five of us love to read.  Two of us are fashionable, three prefer comfort over style, one prefers to blend in, and one has a style all his own.  Not one of us can speak another language even after years and classes aimed at trying.  Two of us like it spicy, one does but can’t, and three prefer it bland.  Three of us love the country and three go for city life.  You get the idea – a true montage.

A montage we may be, but we are first and foremost family.
So, don’t be surprised when the name changes in a few days.  The content’s not changing; the blog name is just reflecting more about what we as a family would like to share.

I hope you like it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Dreary Winter Day

We haven't really had winter this year.  It's been on the warm side actually.  These past few days, however, have been downright dreary.  Rain, rain...  Go away!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Open Season on My Cat?

My neighbor allows his dog to chase our cat.  It’s frustrating.  I don’t understand what pleasure he gets out of seeing his dog trying to mangle our kitty. 

I realize, he doesn't like our cat in his yard.  Cats, unlike dogs, don’t obey fences.  How does one keep an outdoor cat away from someone’s yard?
It’s not like Larry is over there all of the time.  He does go into the yard; I’ve seen it.  One time I saw Larry trying to catch a rat that was in that neighbor’s bushes.  You think that service would be appreciated.

I would never call open season on this man’s dog – why on my cat?  Larry’s already come home with a limp once.  He barely escaped this morning, and it really upset my son. 
I don't know what to do about it.  I’m not one to create a confrontation, and I don’t want to take it out on the dog – it’s the owners fault.  However, if I don’t do something, one day, Larry may not get away.

What would you do?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Losing Weight Vs. Eating Right

Since the new year is fully underway now, I’m excited to really succeed with my resolutions.  I have five – if you missed them, they are here. 

One, the most important one, is exercise and eating right.  I told my daughter about it and she scoffed.  Not in an unkind way, mind you, but in a been there, done that sort of way.

Mom – you know you’re going to eat next to nothing, lose weight, get tired of it and give up.  You do this all the time.  You’ll say you want to lose weight, then you’ll realize you like eating better and since it doesn’t really matter, you’ll stop.

I’d be grumpy if she wasn’t right.  I lose weight, and then I realize that I like food so much better than the idea of skinny jeans.  Ha!
Okay, you say, so what’s different this time.  Well…  I have a real goal that isn’t on a scale.  It is around my waist, but it’s not fat, it’s a black belt.  So.  That’s different. 

The second thing – it’s not about losing weight this time.  I just need to eat healthier.  While I may get on the scale from time to time, it’s about eating in a way that enables my body to produce energy and muscle and be more successful at exercise.  There's no reason that I should be working out five days a week and still carrying around extra weight other than the fact I'm putting more in my mouth than into my exercising.
I’m liking the mindset.  There isn’t anything off limits – I just know that I need to make good choices.  Every meal, I ask myself, what is a good choice and what isn’t?  Is it worth it to splurge?  Not because I’ll gain weight, but because I won’t feel good when I need to exercise later.  Worth it - so delicious and rare I can't pass it up.  Not worth it - well, I kinda like that and it's here
I’m hoping, given I’m a whopping seven days in, that this new mindset will be the road to success.  I want to be healthy.  I’ll never be a supermodel, and I have no aspirations to wear a bikini, but I’d like to be have higher roundhouse kicks, more energy and a lot more stamina!
How about you – what is your path to success when it comes to being healthy?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Eating Healthy in the New Year - Zero Point Soup

My personal postings have been lacking lately – I apologize.  Between spending a week in CO for my grandfather’s funeral and some issues with a place I volunteer for, it’s been hard to think about blogging.

HOWEVER!  I did start my New Year’s Resolutions.  So – I thought I’d share a favorite recipe my sister gave me for a Zero Point Soup.  If you do Weight Watcher’s (I don’t, but I think it’s a great program), then you know zero points means very low-cal and low-fat!  Woot!  That’s the way to start eating healthy in the new year.  I’ll post a pic when I get time to get the ingredients and make it.

Zero Point Soup
3 cups fat free chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cabbage
1 cup cooked green beans
1 cup onion
2/3 cup carrots
1 clove garlic
1tsp dried oregano
1 tsp table salt
1/2 cup zucchini

Put everything except the cabbage in a pot and boil away until the veggies are tender.  Add cabbage and cook to desired tenderness. 

I keep the leftovers in the refrigerator for future meals or as a warm, healthy snack.

What recipes help you focus on eating healthy?

Review - Maestro Classics Swan Lake

Maestro Classics - Swan Lake

Cost:  $16.98 CD or $9.98 Download MP3

Ages:  1st to 5th Grade

I personally love the symphony, the ballet, the stage.  It’s always been important to me to expose my children to the arts.  They may not enjoy all of it – let’s just say opera makes them hide, but they have has exposure to it.  Then, as they get older and their tastes mature, they can choose for themselves what facets of the arts they enjoy.

Swan Lake is a beautiful ballet.  I haven’t had the chance to take the kids to this particular ballet yet, but they are familiar with Tchaikovsky’s music.  In fact, my youngest has the pleasure of attending a class on composers all last year through our local co-op.
When Maestro Classics, Swan Lake, arrived, youngest is the one I thought might enjoy it most. He enjoys classical music.  I know Swan Lake isn’t very masculine for a 12-year-old boy, but we gave it a try.

The verdict – he enjoyed listening to it with me!  The CD first offers the music of Swan Lake along with a reader who explains what is going on.  Youngest thought the story was funny.  When the prince won’t dance and then gets a crossbow and starts dancing, he had to laugh.  Just like a boy to dance after getting a weapon!
The nice feature of this program is that not only are the students exposed to the music and the story, but there are several other educational features on the CD.  For Swan Lake, these included:

1.  The life of Tchaikovsky
2.  Discussion about the music itself

3.  Speed Metal Swan – a fun rendition of Swan Lake set to rock music
4.  A little ditty about Swan Lake that Youngest thought was hilarious

You can get a taste of each section by clicking here.  I thought he wouldn’t be interested in the little song about Swan Lake, but he still goes around singing “Tchaikovsky wrote a gr-eat ballet – it’s name was Swa-ha-ha-ha-han Lake.”
The CD I received included an insert that has little puzzles that the student can complete along with information to coincide with the content on the CD.  Much of this is structured for younger kids – grades 1-5. 

I have to say, I’m really impressed with the homeschooling resources for each CD provided on the web site.  While we didn’t use them, if I wanted to make a unit study using Swan Lake, it could easily be done using their links.  What a great feature for those in younger grades!
I thought this was a fun supplement to our pre-holiday studies.  So did Youngest.  I will recommend these CD’s to other homeschoolers with younger children.  Hurray for studying the arts!

If you would like to see other reviews of Swan Lake by the TOS Homeschool Crew – click here.
Maestro Classics can also be found on FaceBook here or on Twitter here.
*** I received this product free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review - Z-Guide Jason and the Argonauts

Z-Guide, Jason and the Argonauts
Ages:  Middle/High School
Cost:  $12.99 single-license download
 When I was in high school, I was fascinated by mythology.  The fantastical ways the Greeks and Romans explained their world through the development of numerous gods was intriguing.  It always broke my heart to see how they believed their lives were subject to the whims of the gods.
My two boys are carrying on my fascination with mythology.  They enjoy reading the stories of the antics of the gods and even reading legends from Native Americans and Norse.  Each year, they take the National Mythology Exam given between February and March.
To kick off our studies for the exam, I thought Jason and the Argonauts would be fun.  Zeezok offers movie study guides, Z-Guides, that help students not only study the movie, but understand the concepts presented in the movie.

The first part of the study guide is a set of questions students are to answer while watching the movie.  Since this was the 1963 version, the boys thought the movie itself was hilarious.  Special effects have come a long way since then.  They didn’t really like trying to answer questions while watching – “Mom, just let us pay attention to the movie.”  After a while, they opted to answer the questions after the movie as a good review.  I think in a co-op setting, having them answer questions along with the movie would work better as it would help keep the students concentrated on the movie and not each other.
The accompanying study guide is great.  It allows the student to evaluate the story from many different perspectives.  There are straight forward activities like matching and a crossword, but there are also activities that require the student to think critically.  What if the Argonauts had to go against King Arthur?  If you were in Jason’s shoes, what would you do in several given instances?  What is better – brains or brawn?  If you were sent on this quest today, how you would organize the recovery of the Golden Fleece?  In addition, there are Worldview questions that ask the student to evaluate the circumstances in the movie against his/her own worldview.
Honestly, this was a nice break from literature.  I’m a huge believer in incorporating a lot of literature into our schooling, but having the opportunity to visually experience a story and evaluate it based on the director’s interpretation was a fun approach.  My youngest is very visual – I will look to see if other stories can be incorporated into our lessons as we move forward. 
If you would like to read other reviews of Z-Guides by the Homeschool Crew – click here.
*** I was given this guide free in exchange for my honest review as a part of the TOS Homeschool Crew.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Determination for 2012

I’ve made resolutions on and off over the years.  I tend to stick to things when I set my mind to them, so I have to be certain I want to declare a resolution.  However, this year, I have several I want to work on and be successful at.

My resolutions (putting them in writing for all the world to see adds just enough pressure to ensure I feel obligated to follow through):

1.  Watch what I eat AND exercise.  I’m good at doing one or the other, but not so good at committing to do both.  Starting today, I’ll do both.  I waited until the third because that’s when our break ended – may as well whoop it up until the break is over!

2.  Sign up for and “run” at least three 5K’s this spring.  I’m working on running for my black belt testing, but that is a long term goal.  I need some smaller, short-term goals to keep me motivated in the interim.  Plus, the hubby said he’d do it with me!  Yay!

3.  Earn a black belt in Taekwondo.  This is the most significant to me.  Both Middle son and I are working hard at TKD and want to successfully reach this milestone by the end of this year.

4.  Get off Facebook and Blogging more.  Yes, I spend way too much time staring at a screen.  Some of it is productive and some of it isn’t.  I’m going to focus on the productive and remove what isn’t. 

5.  Take a trip somewhere new.  We didn’t take a trip last year – the first time in fifteen years.  I want to go somewhere exotic and learn something new – no lazy beaches for me; give me education and experience!

These are the main ones.  Feel free to remind me of my resolutions should you see me on FB too much, blogging at all hours of the night, or posting the latest uber-calorie goodie online!  :-)

 I have several minor “self-improvement” projects I will be working on, but these are the keys to the 2012 kingdom.
What about you?  What are you resolving to do this year?  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Review - Toydle Forts

Toydle Forts

Age:  4 and Up
Cost: $149 - $229.99

Toys today are more about electronics than they are about imagination.  At least, that’s how I feel now that my kids are past the “toy” stage but still enjoy playing.  My twelve-year-old is especially creative and loves anything that lets his imagination run.

We were so excited to learn we would be reviewing the Toydle forts.  Youngest has been asking us to build him a treehouse for years.  The problem is that we don’t have a tree sufficient enough to house a tree house.  Then, he wanted to build a fort.  When we were picked for Toydle – this was just the ticket.
You remember the days when we were kids.  Our forts were dining room chairs with blankets draped over them.  This concept is very similar, only much more structured.  The kit comes with pvc pipes for building, blocks with holes in all sides to aid in assembly, and clips so you can attach the blankets when the project is finished. 

Youngest immediately took the kit up to his room to begin building.
After a few tries, he came up with a fort that would fit in his room giving him plenty of space to create a clubhouse of sorts.  First he built the high wall, and then he built extensions coming off of it. 

Finally, we found a hodgepodge of sheets for coverage, and wa-la – a fort to call his own.

 He wanted to sleep in it the first night.  J

I keep suggesting he build something else, but he says no he likes his secret lair and prefers we leave it just the way it is.

These forts are great for the imagination!  They can be easily stored if you don’t have the room to keep them up. There are dozens of variations of structures that can be built.  Before the final fort, we even tried an arch over his bed.

The materials are all very sturdy and easy to work with.  I have emailed a couple of times with the company and am thrilled with the service they provide.
Check this cool video out to see how easy they are to build:

You have two sizes to choose from:

In my opinion, Toydle Forts are a "toy" that can last a very long time justifying the higher pricetag.  As your kids grow, they can use their imaginations to make all sorts of different structures.  This isn't a toy kids will quickly age out of.  I love the kinesthetic aspect of this set.  Kids are forced to use their imagination to create.  I can even see easy homeschool applications like mathmatics, science, and logic using these forts.  I'm glad we are blessed to own one.

To see review by other TOS Crew members - click here.

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