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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Who Knew Gluten Free Tasted So Good!

When Udi’s Gluten Free Foods offered me the opportunity to taste test and blog about their gluten free granola I jumped at the chance.  I LOVE granola.  There just something wholesome and delicious about granola.  I’m a crunch lover.  Crunchy textures really appeal to me – yes, I’m the one eating the overcooked crunchy French fries and the half-popped kernel of popped corn. 

So, first, what is gluten?  Gluten is a protein found in foods processed with wheat and grains related to wheat.  For most of us, gluten isn’t a concern.  However, there are some with Celiac disease that cannot eat products with gluten.  I am surprised how many people have to deal with this issue.
Udi’s is based in Denver, Colorado.  My home state!  They have a whole line of gluten free products including bagels, bread, buns, cookies, muffins, pizza and crust, brownies and granola.  Their website includes tips for going gluten free, living with Celiac disease, recipes and a community blog  where you can connect with other people living gluten free. 

I must say, I was quite excited when the box arrived!  They know how to make a reviewer feel good!  Aces for the presentation – if what’s inside is as good as the package, I’m stoked!



Breaking open the box, I discovered four packages of granola – Original, Au Naturel, Vanilla and Cranberry.


I felt I had to try the Original first as it sets the stage for the others.  Straight out of the package it was delicious!  I kid you not – addictive kind of delicious.  Don’t put it down kind of delicious!  Oats, wildflower honey, raisins, banana chips, walnuts, cashews, almonds and pistachios.  I’m not a banana fan, but eating around the chips is easy!  The nuts are amazing – I’m a nut fanatic.  I go to baseball games just so I can sit there shelling and eating peanuts.  (Ok, for the record, a peanut isn’t a nut, but…  It tastes like one, so there!)  Just look at all this goodness!

The other three flavors include –

Au Naturel – Oats and wildflower honey
Cranberry – Oats, wildflower honey, dried cranberries and walnuts
Vanilla – Oats, wildflower honey, almonds, vanilla

The Au Naturel is almost like a cereal with loads of wonderful oats.  The Cranberry has that wonderful tang from the berries and the crunch of the walnuts that taste wonderful.  (Reminds me of my favorite salad that has cranberries and walnuts.)  Finally, the vanilla is sweeter with a lovely crunch from almonds (my favorite nut) along with the delicious oats.  Yum!

How do I eat my granola you ask?  My favorite ways to eat granola are:
1.  By the handful
2.  Over yogurt
3.  On ice cream
4.  On top of a baked apple (reminds me of apple crisp)
Yep, I keep it simple.  Nothing too fancy.  If you want to get more creative, the website has recipes that sound just wonderful!  How about UdiGooey Granola Bars, or Pumpkin "Pie" Oatmeal Muffins?  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  I may have to try some of these myself. 
As this was my first foray into the gluten-free world of foods, I have to say it was a great experience!  Who knew?  I sort of assumed that gluten-free would be less tasty.  I was totally wrong.  What a wonderful, crunchy snack!

One added bonus – it’s only 120 calories for 1/4 of a cup!  I can put individual servings in small baggies and grab them on the run.  I’m always needing a little extra energy right before taekwondo.  This will serve that purpose perfectly!
A big Thank You to Udi’s Gluten Free Foods for giving me this opportunity.  They’ve earned a new customer in me.  I hope you’ll try them out!  You can get a $1.00 off coupon from their web site to get started, and then go to their store locator to find Udi's in a store near you! 

Disclaimer:  I received this granola package free from Udi's Gluten Free Foods in exchange for my honest review. 

Heat Relief

We're supposed to break another record today hitting 105 with high humidity.  These pics make me feel so much better just looking at them.  A little frost before we melt... 




Friday, June 29, 2012

Beating the Heat with Teens

Next week is shaping up to be miserably hot for most of the U.S.  We’re still thinking about our friends and family in Colorado/Wyoming dealing with the horrible fires.  I lived there for over 20 years and never went through anything like that.  Scary!

So, what is a family with teens to do on days when it’s even too hot to sit by the pool?
Movie Days!  We don’t watch TV much and rarely go to the theater, but I’m all about watching movies with literary ties to them.  My boys, not so much.  However, if it’s Lord of the Rings, they are willing to give it a shot.  I’ve seen one of the movies, and they haven’t see any of them, so, for nine plus hours, we’re going to watch them.  I’m really hoping it encourages them to read the books.  Plus – the Hobbit is coming to the big screen this year!

My middle son wants to invite a bunch of friends, buy copious amounts of snacks, and make it a marathon.  I’m thinking more like a three day run.  We’ll see.  I like the fact he’s getting into it!
What to do with the rest of the week?  I’m not quite sure.  Why is it that we have all these wonderful plans for summer and then the heat just makes us want to veg inside?  Blech!

What do your teens and tweens do to beat the heat?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Wedding Reminds Me...

We went to a wedding of a good friend’s son on Sunday.  I haven’t been to a wedding in ages.  It was outdoors, so, of course, it rained, but only for a bit.  Then, it stopped, the sun came out, and the wedding went on as planned.  Beautiful.

What I loved most, though, was being there with my husband.  He’s been sick all week, but he was finally well enough to come with me.  Hearing the vows makes us remember our vows to each other so many moons, so many children, so many joys, so many obstacles ago.

Not only is it good to remember them, but to recall the for betters and the for worses we’ve gotten through.  The for richers and the for poorers.  Those times when we’ve supported each other through sickness and enjoyed our health. 
It was good to remember that our family started with the two of us making vows before God that we were in this together.  Solid.

I may be the one sending a thank you note to the couple – thanking them for the wonderful reminder that our marriage is beautiful too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review - Homeschool Spanish Academy - We LOVED it!

Homeschool Spanish Academy

Ages:  Early Learner to Adult

Cost:  Varies by Age Group (See Below for High School)

There’s an old joke that goes like this:
  What do you call a person who speaks three languages?  Trilingual
What do you call a person who speaks two languages?  Bilingual
What do you call a person who speaks one language?  American
  
While this obviously isn’t true in all cases, most of us can only fluently speak one language.  I believe there are two reasons for this.  First, our schools don’t emphasize learning another language fluently.  Second, we aren’t in a situation where we can practice that language consistently in order to really learn it. 
All this being said, it makes it very difficult for those of us that homeschool to provide our students with a strong language background if we parents aren’t fluent in another language either.  Foreign language is one of the very few subjects that intimidates me.  Why?  Because I can’t just pick up a book and learn it before trying to teach it to my boys.  With almost all other subjects, if I invest some time, I can be competent enough to facilitate their learning.

For homeschool foreign language, there are a few options.  First, buy a textbook and have your kids try to learn that way.  Second, spend the money on an expensive conversational program.  Third, try to find a class that your children can attend.  Initially, we went with the second option.  After a year of both of my boys using the program for four hours per week, our progress wasn’t very good.  I was disappointed because I really do believe that knowing another language is very important.
That's when I learned I was going to be reviewing the Homeschool Spanish Academy.  My middle son would be taking seven classes online one-on-one with a qualified Spanish instructor from Guatemala (this counts as 1/2 a semester).  I was thrilled!  My son, however, had his reservations.  He’s a nervous type and didn’t like the idea having to talk with a stranger over Skype.

I followed the instructions and got us setup for our first lesson.  Before the lesson occured, we received a call from the owner, Ron Fortin, making sure our Skype was setup properly and our computer was able to handle it.  I appreciated this service tremendously!  We knew before we officially started how things were going to work.
   

At exactly 11:00 on the first day, Elda, his instructor, contacted him and asked if he was ready.  He said he was, and they were off. She began speaking Spanish to him right away asking simple questions to determine what he already knew.  Once she had a sense of his abilities, she walked him through their first lesson almost entirely in Spanish.  I sat off to the side for the first lesson to hear how it went.  I was so impressed!  She had a way of getting him engaged and encouraging him right away.  His nervousness melted, and he was in trying to answer her questions and learning from her the right words or phrases to use. 
The Skype platform is great.  They can see and hear each other.  You have a personal instructor sitting with your child and working one-on-one!  She would bring up a presentation at times showing him graphics and asking him to name them or to respond to questions about them. 

Once this was over, we went right in to schedule his final six classes.  You schedule them all ahead of time picking the times the instructor is available.  Right now they are using Schedualicity – a separate program that allows you to schedule your classes.  However, they are migrating to a program on their own website in the future.  It’s very simple and even allows you to download the appointments into your calendar and sends you a reminder the day before the lesson.  I like the ability to schedule far out in advance.

Before each class, Elda emails us the lesson and the homework for that day.  The lesson is the same one she uses online so that my son can refer back to it later when doing his homework.  He emails his homework back prior to the next class and has always received it corrected within a couple of days.  What a great process!  The instructor is available via email for questions between classes.
My son finished his seventh class last week.  I cannot believe how much he has learned!  Plus, given the conversational approach between he and Elda, his confidence in trying to speak Spanish has dramatically increased.  All year, I rarely recall him trying out phrases.  This past several weeks he’s tried speaking to the waiters at our favorite local Mexican restaurant.  Wow!  He loved taking the lessons and asked if he could continue with the Homeschool Spanish Academy and Elda when we start school back in August.  I’m thrilled!  I contacted Ron and he noted that classes are on a first come, first serve basis.  We scheduled the fall last week as well! 
Interested?  Homeschool  Spanish Academy offers course options for Early Learners, Middle School, High School and Adults. They offer a free trial lesson so that you can try it for yourself before committing.  Once you decide you want to continue, they offer one and two day a week formats along with the option to have a second student participating at the same time.  Additionally, if you choose to like them on Facebook or on Twitter, you receive a five dollar discount.  Every dollar counts! 

I believe the prices are very reasonable given the high quality of the instruction. For example, my son is in high school, so, below, you can see the cost for him. If I wanted to have his brother join him, the cost is shown also.



I cannot recommend this program more highly! If you really want your student to learn a language and not simply meet a foreign language requirement, then this is the way to go. 

Interested in what other members of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew thought - click here.
Disclaimer:  I received seven weeks of classes free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Youngest Riding the Rapids - Yikes!

Youngest is still away at camp, but he comes home tomorrow!  Yay!

Today, they are whitewater rafting.  Yikes!  I’m excited for him because I know it’s going to be a blast.

However…  My mom mind races with all the what if’s.  What if something happens?  Does your mind do that?  Run to all those places it shouldn’t.  I know we’re not supposed to worry and put it in God’s hands, but it’s so hard to do especially when he is so far away.
Motherhood is tough.  We’re that she-lion waiting to extend our claws and terminate anything that challenges our cubs, but, on the other hand, we’re also that mama bird throwing them out of the nest and telling them it’s time to take flight on their own. 

Maybe it’s good we’re forced to place them in God’s hands since in reality they are always there.  I know it’s a mental thing.  No wonder motherhood drives us all crazy!
One more day…

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Youngest Spreads His Wings

My youngest is 12 going on 13 mid-July.  He’s my more adventurous one of my last two children.  When the opportunity to go to a church retreat for a week came up, he was all for it.  I was nervous.  It’s six hours away!

My two oldest kids have done things like this before, but it’s different with my baby.  I’m not sure why.

So, with a nervous stomach, we packed him on the church van with six other middle schoolers and sent him off to a college campus to have his first mountain top experience learning about God.

My first fear was passed when they arrived.  I don't like other people driving my kids.  Phew!  Of course, they still have to come back.

Then comes the first phone call, he’s having a blast!  They are playing on water slides, investigating the “way cool” dorm room they will call home for the week, and he’s buying snacks with the money  sent.  He’s a BIG snacker.  I hope the money lasts!

The next day – the mild heart attack.  He and his friend have managed to become separated from the group and are wondering around campus trying to find them.  He did the right thing – he called his dad for his counselors phone number.  I had to smile at his maturity in handling the situation.  He did finally find them and all is well.  I knew it would be, but when there’s a small crisis like this all the horror stories I’ve read immediately go on instant replay.

Four more days.  Wednesday is my next concern – they will either be white water rafting or on a zip line.  Yikes!  Ok, yes, I’m over protective.  How can I not be?  Life is precious and oh so fragile… 

No, I’m not sitting here in a frenzy counting down the days, it’s not as bad as I’m making it seem.  However, he’s my baby.  They all are, and I want so much to keep them safe.  But, much like each mama bird, sometimes we have to let them out of the nest to spread their wings.  It’s just such a relief when they fly back home full of wonderful tales, and you can put your arms around their neck, hug them tight and breathe a sigh of relief. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Snakes are Friends not Foes - Let Them Live!

Lately, I’m seeing a lot of Facebook posts about killing snakes here in the Piedmont area of North Carolina.  This makes me sad – while I fully understand that snakes are not most people’s favorite animal, they are typically harmless and are very beneficial.  Snakes eat small rodents and insects.  Much like spiders, you wouldn’t want to live in a world where these two creatures weren’t around to do their jobs.

So, why do people in our area kill snakes?  Fear. 

According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, there are 37 species of snakes in North Carolina.  Of those, six are venomous.  Of those, only three live in the Piedmont.  The three venomous snakes are the copperhead (which most of us worry about), the timber rattlesnake (rare!)  and the cottonmouth (rare!).
Venomous snakes, at least the ones in our area, typically have a broad or triangular head.  Additionally, the slits of their eyes are elliptical like a cats, not round like a humans.  However, you should never be close enough to figure this piece out!

I understand the fear of copperheads; they are not in short supply in our region.  However, with a little knowledge, one can distinguish between a copperhead and his harmless cousins.  Copperheads, and most venomous snakes, have a triangular or broad shaped head.  In addition, the pattern on the scales looks like an hourglass.  While their bite is painful, their venom is on the weaker range.  Don’t want to get bit?  Walk away.  NEVER try to pick up a snake!  AND, one way to get bit is to go after it to kill it.  If you were coming to kill me, I’d bite you too!

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/copperhead.htm

 
Timber rattlesnakes are now fairly rare in the Piedmont.  They have a stout body, that triangular or broad head mentioned with copperheads and a rattle on their tail.  The rattle is pretty distinctive.  They are non-aggressive and will only strike if you get too close (step on them, try to pick them up, try to kill them).  Leave them alone, and they’ll go on their way. 

http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/species_info/nhfacts/crotalus_horridus.pdf

To read more about them, go here: http://www.herpsofnc.org/herps_of_NC/snakes/Crohor/Cro_hor.html

Finally, there is the cottonmouth.  These are very rare, but still do exist in the Piedmont.  They are typically found around water sources and swim with their heads above the water.  Again, they have the triangular shaped head and cat’s eye pupils.  These ARE dangerous.  Their venom is more potent than the copperhead.  However, you won’t find these slinking around your lawn unless you live next to a water source or swamp.  They have a distinctive light stripe along the side of their head. 
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/cottonmouth.htm

To read more about them, go here:
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/cottonmouth.htm

I highlighted the three venomous snakes and provided links for education.  Much like the bunnies and squirrels and other animals we coexist with daily, our slithery friends are just trying to live their lives.  They aren’t here to attack you, and they are just as afraid of you as you are of them.  If you leave them alone, they will gladly go away and do their best not to be seen again. 

As stated, you should NEVER try to pick up a snake.  All snakes have the potential to bite when they feel threatened.  Can you blame them? 
Here are a few of the non-venomous snakes we have around here that I think are particularly beautiful:


http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/pages/corn2.htm

The corn snake is one of my favorites.  The colored varieties are just gorgeous - they range in colors of reds, oranges, whites (albino), violet (really beautiful), etc.  Sometimes mistaken for a copperhead, note that the markings on the back are more square.  A copperhead, if you remember, has hourglass shaped markings.
http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/pages/emilk.htm

Gorgeous markings on this milk snake make this species a stunning example of reptilian beauty.

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/pages/hognose.htm

This guy is an Eastern Hognose or Puff Adder.  You're thinking - hey, he has a wide head!  That's why he's called a Puff Adder because he flattens out his head to give the appearance of size when threatened.  However, if you look at his eyes, you'll see that the pupils are round and not slits.  Funny thing about this guy, who typically won't bite even when threatened, he'll play dead if you aren't scared by his big headed display.

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/Pests/reptiles/pages/rat.htm

Finally, the black rat snake is very common in our area.  In our area, most of the ones we see are that trademark black.  However, if you'll follow the link under the picture, you'll see they come in different patterns of color.  Leave these guys alone - they are only doing their job keeping the rodents at bay.

As stated earlier, there are 31 species of non-venomous snakes in NC.  So, don't grab up your hoe and wage war the next time you see one slithering across the yard, say a little thank you for keeping the mice out of your kitchen from a distance and go about your day.  Educate yourself and your children on the types of snakes in your area.  Then, you can admire the non-venomous snakes from a distance and walk away from the venomous ones safely. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review - Creation Illustrated

Creation Illustrated

Web Site: http://www.creationillustrated.com/

Age:  6 and Up

Cost:  $19.95 - One Year, 4 Issues

Creation Illustrated is a Christian nature magazine.  I love nature.  So do my boys.  One of my favorite ways to experience God is to spend time in nature.  How can you not see design in the magnificence of the mountains or the majesty of the ocean?

Creation Illustrated has been in print for the last nineteen years.  It is the combined effort of husband and wife team – Tom and Jennifer Ish.  They wanted a way to work from home after the birth of their daughter, Melissa, using their talents to glorify God.
The magazine is beautifully illustrated as one would imagine.  Freelance photographers send in pictures that are selected based on the quality of the pictures and the story they will represent.  The stories themselves are mostly in first person - very personal and written to both show the magnificence of creation and God’s presence in it.  At first, I didn’t like the first person approach.  It seemed too informal.  After reading several articles, however, I began to see how it was easier to identify with the experience when it was personal and not formal.

The magazine is broken into three sections – In Nature, In Scripture and In Living. 

In Nature focuses on topics like Creation Up Close, seasonal aspects of creation; Re-Creation and Restoration through Outdoor Adventure, offer inspirational accounts of spiritual experiences happening in natural settings like National Parks; Creatures Near and Dear to Us, focusing on a specific type of creature and its reflection of creation; and Children’s Stories aimed at 6 to 12 year olds.

In Living focuses on topics like Gardens from Eden Around the World, encouraging readers to trying their hands at gardening and glean the spiritual lessons from working in nature; My Walk with God, personal anecdotes about spending time in nature with God; Wholesome Genesis Cuisine Recipes, vegetarian recipes; and Creative Fun for all to Enjoy which are small snippets mostly for the kids.
In Scripture focuses on specific days of creation and God’s purpose for us.

There were several articles from each section that caught my interest.  I loved the story about the hummingbird moth as we have those around here.  Its appearance as another creature (the ones here look like a hybrid between a bee and a hummingbird) allows it to survive.  What a remarkable design.  Another story was about a female park ranger and her encounter with five men in the wilderness.  Her ability to share her faith allowed her to get out of a potentially sticky situation and share inspiration with these men. 
The stories I read were a great combination of science, scripture, testimony and light-heartedness.  This is the type of magazine I enjoy grabbing when I want time to relax and read without dealing with the heaviness of the news and activity going on around me. 

One thing I appreciated was the guidelines for deeper study at the back of each magazine.  This would allow homeschooling families to use the magazine as part of their education by digging deeper into the content of each story.  Additionally, the magazine provides photography contests for youth and accepts submissions of stories that are unsolicited.  If you have a budding photographer or writer who loves nature or science, this is an opportunity for them to submit their works.  You can check out the Writer and Photographer guidelines here.
Interested?  You can receive a free issue by clicking here and checking out Creation Illustrated for yourself.

To see additional reviews by the TOS Homeschool Crew, click here.
Disclaimer:  I received this magazine free of charge in exchange for my honest review as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew.



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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Evicted by Snoring

Snoring is a problem in our home.  First, the dog.  She’s a Boston terrier with a scrunched face, and boy can she snore!  During our homeschool day, there is at least once where we have to locate the snoring animal and make her stop because the noise is distracting.

However, the real issue is at night.  The dog has been relegated to sleeping in the bathroom on blankets.  Yes, she was located there because she kept us both up at night.  So, her snoring is a non-issue.  However…  I have very sensitive hearing, and my beloved hubby is a snorer.  I’m not saying I don’t snore – I probably do, but, if so, his hearing isn’t as sensitive.

Sadly, when he’s in a snoring pattern be it from allergies or a cold, I often find myself relocating to other parts of the house.  This relocation is no biggie – we have plenty of comfortable places to sleep.  It’s just that I want to sleep with my hubby.   He always wants me to wake him up and make him leave, but he has work in the morning and I'm already up, so I move on. 

This makes me think.  For as long as I can remember, my grandparents had separate bedrooms.  I never asked why.  I have no idea if it was generational, for comfort, because of snoring or what have you.  My father and his wife have separate rooms expressly because he snores.

Maybe it’s just normal that as we get older sleep takes precedence over proximity?

Hubby says I need earphones or to take a Benedryl so that I sleep through the noise.  While appealing, I’m a worrier and I want to be able to hear if something is happening in my home.  Maybe the best solution is just a relocation when the need arises.

How does your family deal with snoring?    

Monday, June 11, 2012

Review - myWorld Social Studies: The Growth of Our Country

MyWorld Social Studies - The Growth of Our Country
Pearson

Web Site: http://pearsonhomeschool.com/

Age: Grade 5

Price:  $69.99 for the bundle

When I was offered the opportunity to review Pearson’s my WorldSocial Studies - The Growth of Our Country, I thought it would be good to have a supplement to finish off the rest of our school year.  My youngest had finished his world geography, yet we still had several weeks left in our school year.  My review would be of the 5th grade product even though my son is in 7th grade, but, again, it was just going to be supplementary.  Little did I know I would fall in love with the curriculum to the point that I ordered the 8th grade World History for next year.

For the Student

My youngest son is very visual - the more pictures and interaction he has with a subject, the better.
The first thing that we loved was the myStory Video that started out each Chapter of the book.  Many of these videos include a young person touring a historic site and learning information about the events that took place there from a tour guide.  It felt like a mini-field trip each time.  I loved the fact he got to see these sites we otherwise may never visit.  Other videos told a story about a historical figure like Susan B. Anthony.

Chapters are broken into three to four lessons.  Chapters start with a My Story Spark – where the student is asked to reflect on what they might do in a situation.  For example, one spark is “Congratulations!  Your classmates have just elected you class president.  What will you do ifyou disagree with what our classmates ask of you?”  At the end of the chapter is a My Story Book where the student reflects on his thoughts about the chapter, what it might mean in present day and what his/her choices might have been along with a space for drawing.

Each lesson gives strong details about the period in history it covers.  What my son loved is that every page includes a small activity that the student must complete.  In some cases it’s filling in a chart, or reflecting on the situation, or finding information on a map.  Since he was constantly interacting with the material, he learned and retained it better.

At the end of each chapter is a review, here multiple questions are found (primarily fill-in-the-blank) allowing the student to reflect back on what he has learned. 
Finally, each chapter includes an extra section aimed at skills like map reading, critical thinking, collaboration, media, etc.

 

This format really keeps he student engaged in history.  He not only reflects on what he might personally do or have done, but what actually happened and how it could impact us today.  The interactive format is excellent for those visual or kinetic students who enjoy really engaging in the material instead of simply reading it.  Additionally, your auditory child will benefit from the videos at the beginning giving him/her a way to hear about the history in addition to reading about it.

For the Teacher

An additional CD accompanies this product – it is the Teacher Resource Library. These resources are outstanding!  Below is an example of the resources available for each chapter.


The Teacher Guide and Podcast, while aimed at teaching in a public setting, are developed to really help an instructor or parent understand the motivations for the chapter and the best way to guide the student’s understanding.
Short tests are available for each lesson along with a comprehensive test for each chapter.  These tests can either be printed out or used in an editable format so that the student can type his/her responses.  My son is a bit dysgraphic, so, being able to type his responses enables him to provide much more details.

Activities, lesson plans, and, yes, answer keys are also all part of the teacher resources.  I, personally, am just thrilled by the levels of detail that have gone into this curriculum.  In fact, the teachers resources even breaks the material down by student level.  In the classroom situation, this would be to help the instructor deal with the spectrum of stronger to weaker students.  As homeschoolers, what this also allows us to do is to modify the content to meet the needs of differing age ranges of our children.  We all know the value of using one curriculum for more than one grade level in the home.
What I'm saying is that for history, I can’t recommend this program enough.  The my World format is engaging, thorough for both student and parent, and incorporates valuable long-term critical thinking skills.

I can’t wait to get started next year with the 8th grade program!

To see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of their Pearson products, click here.

Disclaimer:  I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew.


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Thursday, June 7, 2012

To Dye or Not to Dye - 42 and Growing Grays

So, I colored my hair last night.  No, not a different color, exactly…  See, I have really dark brown hair naturally – the problem is that I'm starting to see grays creeping in.  And…  They are multiplying.

My mother colored her hair for as long as I can remember.  Even as a child, the ritual stuck out to me.  She went with black.  I tried to explain to her that we are Caucasian, so, black, not so much.  But, black it is.  She was old-school though – ask her and she will swear up and down it’s natural.  She’s in her late 60’s now, and from what I hear, it’s still black. 

My father has this gorgeous, soft silver hair.  Since we live so far apart, I remember the first time I visited and the silver had taken over.  Very distinguished on a man…
So, now I’m going gray.  As far as I can tell, it’s that beautiful silver my dad has; however, it’s not soft.  It’s wiry.  Like stick straight out of my head wiry.  Like run your fingernail along it and it curls up like a bow wiry.  Urgh!

So, for now, I’m electing to color it albeit just dyeing it to match the hair that hasn’t succumbed to stress and old age. 
What I don’t know is when it is time to commit to gray?  I mean, I’ll be forty-two in July.  That seems young enough to stay in denial.  50?  60?  At what point do I give up all pretense and let it ride? 

And how exactly does one go gray?  Slowly, just let it happen.  Or, overnight?  Like buy a silver dyeing kit and go for it?  For that matter, what hairstyle is apropos for wiry?  Short?  Will I look like I’ve stuck my finger in a socket?  Or long…  Hoping the length will keep it under control? 
I guess only time will tell, but if you have advice, I’d sure love to hear how you grew gray gracefully!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review - Rainbow Sentences IPad App

Rainbow Sentences
by Mobile Education Tools

Cost:  $7.99 (downloadable to IPad)
Ages: 3-6, 6-10 or Special Needs

As an English teacher, I was interested in reviewing an IPod app that would help young students with sentence development.  Even though my boys are out of the age range for this product, I did want to see what types of apps were available for beginning writers.
Rainbow Sentences is a simple application that helps young students learn how to place words in proper order to construct sentences.  Per the developer, the features of Rainbow Sentences include:

FEATURES
-168 images to create sentence from
-Intuitive drag and drop to create sentences
-Words are spoken as they are being dragged for non readers
-Words can be color coded for added visual support
-Word groups can be selected to simplify sentence construction
-6 levels of sentence complexity
-Pictograph lessons to help students learn proper sentence construction
-Record feature allows students to record sentences in their own voice
-Save and email recorded sentences
-Students earn puzzle pieces during play to encourage continued play
-Puzzles come to life once level is complete

Visually, this is a vibrant app.  The are three levels of play along with helps including audio and color coding.  The ability to toggle audio assistance, color coding, word grouping , etc. gives this app the ability to grow with your child.  The more options you turn off, the more complex and challenging the game becomes.  The audio is engaging as well.  Audio instructions are articulated clearly, and the “help” does assist the youngster with understanding how the sentences are being constructed.

I found the application easy to work with; however, some of the menuing could be confusing especially for youngsters.  Because colorful buttons are included on the application screen, it is easy to not realize that the IPad option like Info, Settings, and Play at the bottom of the screen are available as well.  It just takes a little getting used to.

As an introductory sentence structure app, I think this would be fun for kids.  I could see using this with my children when they were in early elementary.  Kids love to touch and do.  The drag and drop function of the sentences is fun for kids.  I have not worked with special needs children, but noted that several reviews on the web site indicated it was a strong application for this purpose as well.
At just $7.99, I would call this a good investment for youngsters who enjoy technology and are beginning to learn basic sentence structure.

To see additional review by the TOS Homeschool Crew – click here.

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



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