Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Alphabet Workout

I am SO going to be doing this with the kids each morning before we start our lessons! Pin It Now!

Yes, My Love Language is Gifts.

Look at my presents!!!
So I couldn't resist signing up for the HSBA Saturday Swap this time around. Basically, after filling a survey about your likes and dislikes, you are paired up with a Swap Sister and her survey is sent to you. In addition to praying for her, you send her a goodie box (about $15) and she sends you one too!!! Isn't that fun?!
So my generous Swap Sister, Liz, sent me some much needed stickers for my gang, a cute handtowel for my kitchen, a bag of delicious peanut butter pretzels, peppermint sticks-just in time for Christmas, yummy chai tea (which both Chad and I love), and a pair of lovely, pretty plastic cups...it's a very weird, not so secret fetish of mine.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Liz! It was such a fun Christmas present!
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

All About Spelling

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion.

I've mentioned before that for our first four years of homeschool (including two years of preschool for my oldest), our children went to a cottage school for homeschooled children. They attended school there two days a week and I taught them at home three days a week. The school provided all of the curriculum and I simply followed the lesson plans that they handed me each week. In both Kindergarten and 1st Grade, the focus of the student's lessons were spent following the Riggs Institute The Writing and Spelling Road to Reading. While we saw some success with this method, I quickly felt like the kids were bogged down by the tedious writing involved. When we decided we were not returning to the school, this was the first curriculum we dropped...well, sort of.

I went looking for a program online that was similar to The Riggs program, but ...well...more interesting. I know...spelling? Interesting? I was asking a lot. That's when I found All About Spelling. I wasn't quite ready to purchase another Spelling program, but I bookmarked the site promising myself to do more research on it later. You can imagine how elated I was to find out I would be receiving all 4 levels of All About Spelling from the TOS Crew! That's what I call a kiss from the King...when God reaches down to give us something we want 'just because'.

All About Spelling is similar to the Riggs program in that it teaches reading using a parts-to-whole concept, which I really like. Let me give you an example...

In most public schools today, pre-reading students are shown a picture of a cat with the letters c-a-t written underneath it. Soon those students have memorized that the letters c-a-t spell 'cat'. Eventually when they memorize enough words like 'car' and 'can', they realize that the letter 'c' says /k/. Sometime after that they will realize that the letter 'c' also has the soft sound /s/. This way of learning is called 'whole-to-parts'.

But when you use a program like AAS with your child, you will first teach them the sounds of all 72 phonograms (26 letters and 46 multi-letter combinations like 'sh' or 'ch'). They will learn from the beginning that 'c' has two sounds, /k/ and /c/. They memorize them in the order they are most often used. This is called a parts-to-whole method, because you are giving your child all of the tools they need from the start to put together any English word they would need to spell or read.

In addition to memorizing the phonograms the students will also memorize significant spelling rules using AAS like the Silent Final E Rules, or

The sound of /ch/ is
usually spelled tch after
a short vowel.

It is spelled ch after
everything else.
(match, lunch)

I've heard people say that having students memorize the sounds of 72 phonograms and spelling rules seems like too much. But besides the fact that all of my children have memorized them quickly and even had fun doing it...the only other way of teaching students to spell is to have them memorize the spelling of thousands of individual words. Which seems easier to you?

I believe the key component to AAS that makes this program a fun way of teaching spelling are the letter tiles which includes all of the phonograms (with double of the 26 English letters). You can purchase magnets for the tiles for $5.95, which I highly recommend doing unless you already have magnetic backing at home. We placed a magnetic white board on the wall at the kids' height to keep the tiles on it and they can simply stand at the board and move the tiles around to spell out words.

There is virtually no teacher prep time after initially familiarizing yourself with the program and cutting the tiles. Each lesson can be completed in about 15 minutes. You should start at Level One regardless of what grade your child is in, realizing the older your child is the faster they will move through the beginning levels. There will be six levels, but four are currently available. Each level is $29.95 which includes the teacher's manual and one student packet. You'll also need to purchase one set of tiles for $9.95. I think this is an incredible value considering I have seen other spelling programs that cost upwards of $200.

I also wanted to mention that All About Spelling also has an inexpensive bingo and file folder game that you can purchase and download. We love incorporating games into our school subjects and I have particularly liked using the file folder game to help the kids review their phonograms. I can just hand two or more of them the game and they can play it themselves while I am teaching one of the others.

I am thrilled to say that I need to look no further for a spelling program. We will be using All About Spelling for many years in this house!

For more reviews of All About Spelling, check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Doctors Visit and more...

When it rains, it pours ... doesn't it?

Let's go back to two Thursdays ago...

All six kids are loaded into our purple minivan...how do we do it, you ask? Well, before Baby L was born we realized we needed a bigger van since we were at maximum capacity in our 7-passenger, 220,000-mile, hasn't-had-air-conditioning-in-3-years van. Since we had our house on the market before the positive pregnancy test, we were certain the house would sell and we could purchase a bigger van as we downsized in house. Alas, the house didn't sell...but my smart hubby called in a couple of favors and got a bench seat just like the bench seat in the back of our van from a local junkyard for FREE. He took out the bucket seats in the middle, replaced it with the second bench and wah-la...an 8 passenger van!

Okay, so all six kids are loaded into our purple minivan with hubby driving. We are headed to the big Wal-Mart to pick up supplies and decorations for a Christmas program I am organizing for our homeschool group THAT NIGHT. Not to mention, we were coming from a co-op Christmas party...you know...50 plus kids running around like mad making messy crafts and eating cookies. When all of the sudden we hear a loud...POP...and the van starts shaking. We're on a busy 4 lane road, so Chad gets into the turning lane in the median to turn left into the gas station (there's no where to turn on the right). Van stops. Chad gets out to push van with 7 people in it across two lanes of oncoming traffic while I steer. Chad is unsuccessful and traffic thankfully comes to a stop since we are blocking the way. Two men get out of their cars to help Chad push (gotta love the South). And I call my mommy.

Well, the transmission is ka-put, but Chad knows a guy who can fix it and my Mom lets me borrow her car for a few days.

Fast-forward to this past Saturday. I have already returned the car to Mom, even though the van STILL is not fixed (we're only paying for parts...so you know, we'll wait). Baby L wakes up congested, but we leave for a company Christmas party that evening. MIL calls to tell us Baby L coughed and cried for an hour. We come home to sleeping babies, but A6 wakes in the middle of the night throwing up. G8 starts about an hour later. Sunday is not fun. Prior to Sunday, we had only purchased ONE Christmas present...I know...so Chad stays home with all the sick kids while I head to Wal-Mart...again. This time to shop for SIX kids, 3 grandmas, 3 sets of parents, 3 sisters, 1 brother, 3 nephews, 1 niece, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I wrote about Sunday night in the previous post...up all night walking around with a screaming baby. Monday the only one vomiting is Baby L and hubby. But Baby L is throwing up every time she has a coughing fit, since the congestion is getting worse. Plus E1 has got the congestion, runny nose, cough as well. By nighttime, coughing is REALLY bad, so I call Mom once again since Chad has to go back to work today.

This morning, Mom drives over and we cram all the kids in her car and head to the doctor's office. Two hours and one headache later, I find out that both Baby L and E1 have RSV and ear infections. RSV is a respiratory virus that can get particularly bad in infants...like hospitalization...but the doctor says they both are handling it well and don't need breathing treatments...right now. Nothing but time will heal it and it will take about two weeks for it to pass. Ugh.

Um, merry Christmas?

Ah, well...such is life.

I still have pillowcases to embroider, peanut butter balls to make, cookie bags to assemble, and presents to wrap, but I did get these five blankets made for the kids yesterday.

Hancocks Fabricks had a big sale on fleece Black Friday and I bought enough for each of the five oldest. Their rooms don't get as much heat in the winter and the double fleece make super warm blankets. This is a no sew project, but still time consuming to cut the one inch wide strips and knot them all.

Well, I'm off to partake in more merriment! Thanks to all who are praying!! Pin It Now!

Monday, December 22, 2008


We had a six hour stomach virus sweep through the house yesterday, effectively wiping out three of the children. Baby L just cried and cried last night from about 10pm to nearly 1am. It was the first time that I couldn't calm her down by nursung her, which made me want to cry. But she refused to nurse. Chad and I took turns walking around the living room with her.

This morning I awoke to a horrible smell permiating from her bassinet. When it smells really bad, you can be sure that the contents are not packaged away neatly in the diaper...and they weren't. But after a bath, she is back to her happy self (well, despite a small cough and runny nose).

I have many, many Christmas projects to work on today so wish me luck...I'm hoping to finish up and post pictures later! Pin It Now!

Crayola Art Studio from Core Learning

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion.

We have had so much fun playing with our new Crayola Art Studio Software from Core Learning. It reminds me a lot of the traditional Paint program, but so...much...better!

We have five little budding artists around here (Baby L isn't quite big enough to hold a crayon yet). All day long I have someone presenting another masterpiece and announcing, "I made this for you, Mommy!" I have piles and piles of artwork and if I want to dispose...er, um...'file away'...any of it, I need to do it in the middle of the night when no little eyes are watching. But with our Crayola Art Studio, the kids can create and save...no paper laying around!

The program really is easy to use. Even my three year old can use it! There are tons of "stamps" to choose from to create a background or add images into your artwork. Plus you can create your own images using one of the twelve realistic art brushes (crayons, markers, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, chalk, and more). You can mix your own colors or create symmetrical pictures using a cool symmetry tool.

You can purchase Crayola Art Studio from Core Learning for $24.95. Core Learning also offers software programs for math, language arts, health and more. I'm particularly interested in purchasing Creativity Express. You'll find screen shots and demos of their products on their website.

Here are some of my kids' Crayola Masterpieces...so far.

E5 titled this one "Sleepy Sleep". (I love the names they come up with as much as the pictures.)

"Mean" by G8...see the peeping tom in the window?

A6 created "Happy Princess".

For more reviews of Crayola Art Studio, visit the TOS Crew blog.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008


As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion.

I would definitely not describe myself as a playful mom...quirky maybe, but not playful. I wish I could tell you that we have family game nights and that I'm constantly incorporating new and fun ways of learning into our homeschool. But the most I can give you is that I occasionally do these things.

So if you're playfully challenged like me perhaps you would be interested in a website called Puppetools. This site is all about teaching by playing...playing with puppets that is.

"A playful quality of mind will help your child self-start, be self-expressive, creative-minded, and self-confident. A child nurtured through play is more receptive to learning and more able to absorb the jolts and challenges of factory education." -Jeff Peyton

Jeff Peyton is the passionate creator of Puppetools and has invested much time and energy into the research and writing of "The Language of Play". You will find that the meat of his website is this information in order to make you "a more effective and knowledgeable 'play teacher' to your child."

To put things into perspective, purchasing a subscription to the Puppetools website is very much like buying a very thorough book about using puppets to teach. You'll also find instructions on how to make Peyton's own "Hinge" fold - the basic fold for beginning all your puppets, 37 puppet patterns, parent forums, and tons of pictures of students and teacher's puppet examples to get your creative juices flowing.

You can subscribe to the site in two ways.


2) $99.00 REGULAR SUBSCRIPTION (up to 30 users) Designed for small & large GROUPS such as families, home schoolers, classrooms, scout troops, 4-H, entire schools, and non-profit organizations with educational missions.

Unfortunately, I have to admit the site is rather difficult to navigate and the information sometimes feels a little monotonous and...well, boring. Not exactly what you would expect on a website dedicated to play. Nevertheless, I would certainly pay $20 for a book that included this information (and the patterns and picture examples) and you shouldn't need more than 60 days to gather information and examples from Puppetools. Plus, if you could get 30 families from your homeschool co-op to go in on a yearly group subscription that would be even better (bringing the cost down to only $3.30 per family!)

The kids really did have fun making and playing with their puppets and I'm looking forward to incorporating them into their other subjects. I wanted to show you some of the puppets we made using the Puppetools patterns:

H3's purple and pink butterfly...her favorite colors.

A6 is horse crazy and G8 made a dragon.

I think E5's Spider is my favorite. Isn't it cute?
For more reviews of Puppetools, visit the TOS Blog.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let it Snow.

It finally snowed on Tuesday here in our neck of the woods. It wasn't exactly a lot of snow, but enough to have a little fun in. I didn't want to take Baby L out in the cold, so as soon as she was safely tucked in for her nap I began barking orders to the troops. There was much searching and fumbling and a little arguing, but socks, shoes, and snow clothes were found for all! Though you will notice that G8 has Chad's coat and my scarf on and E5's snow pants are just a tad too small...oh well, they could have cared less...it had snowed!

Unfortunately, the snow was not soft and way too icy to make snow angels in, but that didn't stop E5 from trying. He is so going to look at this picture 20 years from now and say, "C'mon Mom, was it really that hard to find me clothes that fit?"

Winter's version of a Slip N Slide: an icy driveway.

A6 and H3 had fun making miniature snowmen...my crafty girls!

E1 kept smiling and saying, "It's t..oooo...ld." (cold). H3 was the only one with gloves because her's are sewn on to her coat...I will be purchasing gloves this week and sewing EVERYONE's on! It's just about the best idea I've ever heard of!
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Drumroll please...

Giveaway #1 was: 12 Days of Christmas Gift Pack from TOS
The winner is...Mrs. Hewett!!!

Giveaway #2 was: Beginning Calligraphy for Grade 5Through Adult CD-Rom from Spears Art.
The winner is...Yabby!!!

Giveaway #3 was: 3 book from Salem Ridge Press
The winner of Down the Snow Stairs is...Michelle L.!!!
The winner of Soldier Fritz is...Leah !!!
The winner of The American Twins of the Revolution is...Amy @ kids love learning!!!

Giveaway #4 was: 1 free class membership to Homeschooling ABCs
The winner is...Becky Soyster!!!

Giveaway #5 was: 1 free month of Time4Learning
The winner is...Heather Bice!!!

Giveaway #6 was: The Little Man in the Map book, teacher's guide, and word puzzle.
The winner is...Denise @ Fixed on Him!!!

Giveaway #7 was: the Original Times Tales
The winner is...Karen @ Homespun Simplicity!!!

Congratulations to all the winners!!! I have notified all of you either by email or on your blog. If you haven't contacted me yet, please leave your email in the comment section and I will email you to let you know how to claim your prize. I will need your addresses by this Friday in order to get the products shipped to you. If someone does not email me with this information by Friday, I will draw another winner Saturday morning.

Also, check out the giveaway for the Trigger Memory Clean N' Flip Charts at Classless and Lovin' It! Pin It Now!

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Not Over Yet!

**Please Note: I will keep this posted at the top of my blog until Wednesday. All new posts will appear below this one.**

Wow! I can't believe all 7 reviews and giveaways have finally been posted! Wasn't that fun?

Don't worry though, there's still time to enter. Just scroll through the posts or click on the links to each review below, then read the post and comment on any of the 7 reviews and you will be entered into that giveaway. Make sure you get all of your entries in by Wednesday, December 17th at 8pm(EST) because that's when the giveaways end. I will then randomly select all of the winners and contact them. They will have 48 hours to respond, before I draw another winner.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my reviews and I hope you come back often. As well as reviews, you'll find that I blog about our faith, our school, and our life.

To see Monday's review/giveaway, click here.
To see Tuesday's review/giveaway, click here.
To see Wednesday's review/giveaway, click here.
To see Thursday's review/giveaway, click here.
To see Friday's review/giveaway, click here.
To see Saturday's review/giveaway, click here.
To see Sunday's review/giveaway, click here. Pin It Now!

A Christmas Card from Us to YOU!

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Let's Make a Web Page

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion.

So, I just spent the morning teaching my 8 and 6 year old how to make a web page. No kidding. Pretty cool, huh?

Let's Make A Web Page by Motherboard Books is an e-book that gives your student step by step directions on how to make a web page. This is a great introduction to html code for your student (or self) and this e-book teaches several things. During the course of the nine lessons (we did them all in one day), your student will:

Download a trial software that converts images into html(It's completely free, you don't have to give any information, but its only usable for 30 days.)
Add text and photos to the web page.
Choose a background and apply it.
Add sounds and links.
Post their work.

Once the web page is complete, the student learns how to set it up as their homepage. They can also post it on the internet, but this would require the purchase of a domain, so we didn't do that.
The recommended age is from 8 to 12, but I would say 10 and up is probably more appropriate. If your child is under 10, it is very likely that you will be doing most of the work (as I did). While there are wonderful visuals and the directions are easy to understand, there aren't any cutesy illustrations or characters that would be distracting to a teen or adult so I don't necessarily think that an age max should really be put on it. Most of the adults I know would definitely need instruction if they wanted to make a web page!

Actually, working on making this web page inspired the kids to want to start their own blog! So I helped them get Crew 6 up and running. They've already picked out a background and created their first post. I don't let the kids have much computer time, so they won't be posting often. But I plan to let them post pictures of their projects and post about what they are learning.

The price for Let's Make a Web Page is $29.99 but is currently discounted to $19.99. If you've been wanting to teach your child about computers, but don't know where to start, check out Motherboard Books for this e-book and others including a FREE internet scavenger hunt.

**Please Note: This post is not a part of 7 Reviews/7 Giveaways.**
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Oh, Christmas Tree

I thought I'd share a couple photos of our Christmas tree. It always looks so pretty the first day we put it up. We have a pre-lit tree that we bought a couple of years ago. My mom has a pre-lit tree that she actually puts more lights on, because she doesn't think there's enough lights on it. I don't know if this is normal or not, but I think putting lights on a pre-lit tree defeats the purpose, so if ours looks a little bare in the light department, that's why.

I alternate gold and red garland and then put poinsettas all over the tree. All of our decorations came from the Everythings a Dollar Store including the round ball ornaments that are plastic, not glass...you didn't really think I'd use glass ornaments with six kids, did you? The ornaments are purple and pearl white (in the picture the purple onaments look blue). Then I curl two gold ribbons and two red ribbons and drape them down the tree. Oh, and my dad bought me the pretty angel that we use at the top of the tree.

I always proclaim that there will be "NO crafty, homemade ornaments on the tree this year", which I realize sounds mean...but I just want it to be simply pretty. I like it that way. And it has always been my intention to buy a small tree to put in the playroom that the kids could decorate with all their homemade ornaments. But we never have the extra cash at Christmas to purchase one, and I always give in by about the second week of December and let the kids put there gazillion ornaments that they have already made that year on the tree. It doesn't seem to matter as the tree is already drooping and disorganized by the constant poking and reorganizing of the ornaments that the little ones do.

The exception to the "no glass" rule are these pretty ornaments that a friend made for me with our names and each of the kids names. She used clear and frosted ornaments, sprinkled glitter inside them, hotglued a ribbon and holly leaves on the top, and then wrote our names with a paint pen. She did this for her entire family for Christmas gifts that year. I thought it was such a pretty and inexpensive gift idea. I actually bought the ornaments and paint pens to write 25 different attributes of God, thinking that each night in December leading up to Christmas we could pull out a new ornament and discuss that attribute. That was three years ago and I've yet to do it....oh well, maybe next year. Pin It Now!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

7 Reviews/ 7 Giveaways- Day 7

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion. This week I will post one review and host a giveaway each day. Please read this review and make sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

I'm writing today to tell you about two wonderful sets of products from Trigger Memory Systems. I'll be honest, I'll be a little surprised if you've never heard of them before, because I've had my eyes on them for quite some time now. They've elicited some pretty rave testimonials and though I always enjoy a good twist in the plot, you're not going to find one here. These are products that I totally recommend.

Most of you know that I have six kids ages 8 and under, and I am here to tell you that many kids make MANY messes. That is why our children start helping with chores from the time that they learn how to walk. (I'm not kidding...my one year old stands next to me while I'm changing the baby's dirty diaper and happily takes it to the garbage. He can also deposit sippy cups in the sink and wipe down walls with wet dish cloths.) However, like all kids my little ones still need lots and LOTS of guidance and this has been a source of frustration for me.

That is why I am so happy to tell you that Bedroom Cleaning For Kids and Zone Cleaning for Kids from the Clean N' Flip Series have brought me more relief than any chore chart, schedule, or reward system we have ever implemented. These sturdy, little flipcharts teach children to clean the rooms of their house by breaking it down into very...simple...steps. Once a step is completed, the child simply flips the page to see the next step. The detailed illustrations with each step make these flipcharts usable even for your non-readers.

Our kids use Bedroom Cleaning for cleaning both their bedrooms and the playroom, (Can I hear an 'Amen'?!) since the steps deal with picking up toys, books, and videos which are all mostly located in the playroom in our house. Zone Cleaning has steps for cleaning the Living Room, Kitchen, and Bathrooms including one special job in each zone each day (Monday through Friday) that does not need to be done daily. There is also space for you to write in additional chores with a dry erase marker. I simply hand the flipcharts to the kids and they can actually complete the chores without me!

Bedroom Cleaning for Kids is only $7.95 and Zone Cleaning for Kids is $17.95, but I especially recommend buying the set of two for $22.95. Besides the value, I really think you are going to want both.

When I began lesson planning for this year's school year, I asked G8, my second grader what he wanted to learn about. To my surprise, he said he wanted to learn cursive writing and how to do multiplication. Well, the math curriculum we use doesn't introduce multiplication in 2nd grade, but I figured if he wanted to learn it, then why should I say no? So when I received Times Tales Deluxe from Trigger Memory to review, I knew he was going to be excited.

Times Tales is a memory aide to help make memorizing the most difficult times tables easy. Below is an example:

First, the student learns to recognize that each number has a special symbol in Times Tales (for example: the number 9 is symbolized by a tree house). The numbers are clearly visible in the symbols and it took my 4, 5, 6, and 8 year old only a couple of minutes to easily remember these symbols.

Next you introduce the story pages one at a time (like the one above). You read the simple story two or three times and then ask the student to repeat it back to you. You can turn the page to show a page that has only the illustration without the words, so the student can repeat it to you several times by memory. You don't even explain the multiplication table at this point...the goal is just for them to memorize the story. Once they have memorized all of the stories (this took us less than a half hour), show your student the included flashcards. For the example above, the flashcard will show the Treehouse symbol times the Treehouse sybol. You would ask them what 9x9 is and they will immediately remember the story and be able to tell you that it is 81.

Note: Times Tales is a memory aid to help with fast recall of the most difficult times tables, not all of them. It also does not teach how to multiply. Nonetheless, even my four year old could easily memorize the stories and both my 6 and 8 year old were immediately able to do the flashcards. (None of them had prior introduction to multiplication.) Times Tales Deluxe includes a 2 Part Story Flipchart, Trigger Memory & Regular Flashcards (multiplication & division), Roll 'Em Cube Game, Easy Instruction Manual, Memory Story Discussion Guide, and Various Tests & Challenges. You can purchase it for $29.95 from the Schoolhouse Store.

Okay, it's Giveaway time again...

Today, I am giving away a copy of the Original Times Tales.

This book teaches the upper 6, 7, 8, & 9 times tables and includes :

Story Flipchart

Trigger Memory & Regular Flashcards

Mix & Match Game

Easy Instruction Guide

Memory Story Discussion Guide

2 Practice Test

2 Test Challenges

Entering the giveaway is easy. Just leave a comment with your email or blog address in this post and you are entered! If you'd like 2 extra entries into ALL 7 of this week's giveaways, just grab the 7 Reviews/ 7 Giveaways button from my sidebar and paste it on your blog. You have until Wed., Dec. 17th at 8pm (EST) to enter. Good luck!

For more reviews of Trigger Memory, visit the TOS blog.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

7 Reviews/ 7 Giveaways- Day 6

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion. This week I will post one review and host a giveaway each day. Please read this review and make sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

In case you haven't figured it out already, I am always a little overambitious. As I was finishing up the school year last spring, I decided that I wanted to use the summer to teach our children about US Geography. I had recently discovered that when I asked the children what state we lived in, they would promptly answer with the name of a neighboring city...yes, neighboring... not even the city we lived in. So, I created an entire US Geography unit complete with story books, notebook pages, lapbooks, puzzles, games, flash cards, and even an inflatable globe. We were ready to learn all about the 50 states and their locations. There was one tiny problem however. I was due to deliver our sixth child at the beginning of June. Well, the kids did finally learn what state we lived in, but that was pretty much all they learned about US Geography this summer.

Fast forward to about a month ago and you will find this happy Mama jumping for joy over a colorfully illustrated storybook that had just arrived in the mail. The Little Man in the Map by E. Andrew Martonyi makes learning to recognize and locate the 50 states easy...no joke, easy. Want proof? I just quizzed my two oldest (ages 8 and 6) with a blank map this morning. We've casually read The Little Man in the Map about 4-5 times and the only state they could recognize before reading this book was our own. This morning they were able to identify 31 states! That's pretty incredible!

Watch this short video to see how it works:

MIM is the name of the Little Man in the Map, which is short for his full name MinIow MisArkLou...you really have to say it a few times to get the pronunciation straight. It's the first three letters of each of the five states that make up his frame. I'll be honest, the first time I read it I was quite skeptical that my kids could remember a name like that or what it meant. But the kids picked it up right away and have no problem locating and rattling off the names of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

The entire book is written in rhyme with fun pictures to use as memory aides to help remember each state. You and your children will have to stretch your imagination a bit to "see" some of the memory aides, but my experience is that this isn't such a hard task for the kids to do. The kids will catch on to some of the states immediately, while others will take a bit more work.

The Little Man in the Map is decorated with the Moonbeam Children's Book Award, Foreward Magazine's Book of the Year Award Finalist, Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist, and an Independent Publisher's Book Award. It retails for $19.95 and can be purchased at several places including the Schoolhouse Store. If your children do not know the shape, names, and location of the 50 states then I encourage you to put this book on your wish list....or better yet under your Christmas tree!

So what would you like me to give away today?

Any suggestions?

Oh, okay....YOU GOT IT!

I've just ordered a copy of The Little Man in the Map from the Schoolhouse Store and its ready to be shipped out next week to our winner! Andrew Martonyi, the book's author, is even throwing in a free Downloadable Teacher's Guide and MIM Word Puzzle to the winner!! The Teacher's Guide is not even available for purchase yet, so our winner will be one of the first people to have it!

Just leave a comment to this post no later that 8pm (EST) on Wed., Dec. 17th (making sure to include your email or blog address) and you are entered! You can grab the 7 Reviews/7 Giveaways button and paste it on your blog to get two EXTRA ENTRIES into EACH of the 7 giveaways as well.

Oh, I hope you win!!!

Our last giveaway will be tomorrow, so don't forget to come back and check it out. You can also read more reviews of The Little Man in the Map at the TOS Crew blog.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Thank YOU!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have been SO blessed by everyone's comments. You all are bringing MANY smiles to my day!! I plan to stop by each one of your blogs very soon, but all of my computer time is being spent writing reviews and entering each one of you lovely people into the giveaways. Thank you so much for reading! Pin It Now!

7 Reviews/7 Giveaways- Day 5

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion. This week I will post one review and host a giveaway each day. Please read this review and make sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning at the time I intended to. Sometimes breakfast and breakfast clean-up go very smoothly. Sometimes we start our lessons on time. Sometimes there are minimal interruptions and lots of learning occurs around here....sometimes. On the other hand, sometimes from the moment I wake up nothing goes right and nothing gets done. And while I truly believe that as homeschoolers its okay to set aside the books for a day every once in a while to teach our children that sometimes life just happens...I can't help but feel guilty for not "getting school done". Anyone out there know what I mean?

Our kids have had the opportunity to use the online curriculum from Time 4 Learning for a little more than a month now. Time 4 Learning offers a full curriculum for Language Arts and Math. Plus, they throw in science and social studies programs for most grades at no additional costs. They even keep track of all the lessons your child has completed and the scores they made. You also have the ability to access lessons a grade higher or a grade lower so that the program is tailor made to fit your child's need.

So are you following where I'm going? Time 4 Learning does the teaching for you all through an animated, interactive and safe website. So on those days that the baby won't let you put her down, the toddler is sick, the preschooler is whiny, you can't walk from one room to another because the house hasn't been tended to in weeks, and this wonderful life has suddenly become all too overwhelming...school is taken care of with a click of the mouse.

It is $19.95 per month for your child to join Time 4 Learning and $14.95 per month for each additional child. For that price, your child will be able to log into the site and receive new lessons everyday as well as assessments and printable worksheets. Our kids enjoyed the lessons and thought they were fun, asking often when we were going to "do school online" again. They also especially liked the reward of getting to go to the "playground" once they had finished the lessons. The Playground is essentially an extensive list of direct links to safe sites with online games and activities. As the parent, you can log into the Parent area and set an amount of time you would like for your child to work on their lessons. A counter at the top of the screen counts down the amount of time. Then the child is free to go to the Playground to play (again for an allotted amount of time).

The website states that you can use Time 4 Learning for enrichment, as core curriculum for homeschooled students, or as part of an overall homeschool program. I am pretty certain that our family would not use this program as core curriculum simply because I want the majority of our curriculum to be taught by me and not by the computer screen. However, I think it is wonderful enrichment program in addition to our core lessons. There is one note that I feel is important to state...this is a secular website and there is content that includes the teaching of evolution. As the parent, you have the ability to preview all the lessons your child would be doing and I would certainly recommend doing this. Also, you have the option of completely removing the science programs from your child's access.

The cost of this program would certainly be an issue for us being a large family. However, if you were planning on using the program as your core curriculum, than twenty bucks a month really isn't all that bad. Plus, I can think of seasons in our lives when it would be quite beneficial to invest in Time 4 Learning...for us, it would be the 3 months or so that we are welcoming a new little one to the family. It is always a bit of an adjustment (and not to mention exhausting!) to have a newborn in the house. And when this blessed event occurs in our household, I take the help wherever I can get it!

Check out Time 4 Learning and see if it would be a good fit for your family. Don't miss these free lesson demos as well.

Giveaway: I contacted Jennifer at Time 4 Learning last week and she emailed me back to say that she would love to give a Free One-Month Membership to Time 4 Learning to one lucky winner!

So here's what you need to do:


Seriously, its that easy. You can get two extra entries into each of the 7 Reviews/7 Giveaways by grabbing the button at the top of my sidebar and pasting it on your blog. You have until Wed., Dec. 17th at 8pm (EST) to enter. I will then randomly select a winner for all seven of the giveaways and contact the winners. The winners will have 48 hours to contact me back before I draw again. Good Luck!

We still have two more days of reviews and giveaways so make sure you come back tomorrow. For more reviews of Time 4 Learning, be sure to check out the TOS Crew blog!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

7 Reviews/ 7 Giveaways-Day 4

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion. This week I will post one review and host a giveaway each day. Please read this review and make sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

From the moment I received the first email from Terri Johnson at Knowledge Quest, I have been excited about Homeschooling ABCs. Homeschooling ABCs is a 26 week online class designed specifically for new homeschooling moms and delivered directly to your inbox. If you are new to homeschooling, you must sign up for this! If you know someone who is new to homeschooling, you must tell them to sign up for this! But can I let you in on a little secret...this great product isn't just helpful for new homeschooling moms, but for the veteran homeschoolers as well.

Each week one of the 26 lessons are emailed and gives you step by step instructions on how to make your first homeschooling year a successful and memorable one. As a matter of fact, the first lesson teaches you how to get your homeschool up and running in 48 hours. Remember all those questions you had when you first began homeschooling? Remember how you just wanted to sit down with a veteran homeschool mom and pick her brain for a couple of hours? Homeschooling ABCs lessons are filled with the answers to every question you ever had about homeschooling and its delivered to you in bite-sized peices. Just a little bit a week so that you can mull over it and have time to apply it. Other lessons cover:

Determining your philosophy of education
Understanding your children's learning styles
Learning the in's and out's of buying and selling curriculum
Finding out how to get and stay organized
Learning how to teach multiple ages at the same time
Making the most of field trips
How to handle the "S" question - socialization
How to start each day WELL and keep it going that way

Plus, you'll receive over $200 worth of downloadable FREEBIES over the six months of instruction. Talk about putting a cherry on top!

The cost to participate is $10 a month for six months. Plus, when you sign up now you will also get 10 free bonus gifts (in addition to all the freebies throughout the course). I have to tell you, I think this is an incredible value and whole-heartedly recommend this e-course. I look forward to each new lesson written by Terri and finding a freebie attached to the lesson is like discovering a Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped.

So...any guesses on what the giveaway might be???

Oh, I was nearly jumping for joy when Terri emailed me to tell me she would like to give away
1 free class membership to Homeschooling ABCs - $60 value (plus over $200 in free curriculum from participating companies). One of you blessed readers will be the winner of this very grand prize! So here's what you need to do:

1. First, check out the Homeschooling ABCs website.

2. Come back here and leave me a comment telling me what you think looks most exciting about this program.

And that's it! Just be sure to leave me an email or blog address where I can contact you if you win in the comment. Don't forget that you can earn extra entries by pasting the 7 Reviews/7 Giveaways button from my sidebar on your blog...I'll enter you TWO times into EACH giveaway for doing so in addition to your entry for commenting.

You have until Wednesday, December 17th at 8pm to leave to enter into this and all 7 of the giveaways. The winner will be randomly drawn and I will announce the winners that evening. See you tomorrow!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Meet Molly Green

In such a time as this, it seems that we are all looking for ways to pinch our pennies. We are also in need of a little encouragement to help us during such stressful times.

Meet Molly Green. She is here to help.

Molly has a brand new website (http://www.econobusters.com/) with a great mission statement:

Molly Green’s purpose and passion is to empower and encourage keepers at home during this tough economic downturn. I am learning that while the challenges may be great, the opportunities to learn productive ways to care for our homes and families are even greater. Copyright, 2008.

Her site is still under construction, but you can already find great posts about frugal gift buying and recipes and even Six Easy Ways To Stop Spending Now. Soon, you'll be able to sign up for a free newsletter. But that's not all.

The Old Schoolhouse has an exciting new line of ebooks coming out soon with Molly as its main character. Each downloadable digest will be published monthly for women who are wanting to learn how to 'survive and thrive in today's economy'.

I had the unique opportunity to preview a draft copy of the January e-book, Molly's Money-Saving Digest: Let's Get Organized for Fiscal Fitness. January's issue focus' on inspiring and helping you to make real changes in your budget by providing you with articles about:

cooking frugally and healthy (including several EASY bread recipes),
redecorating your home by using items already lying around the house,
and creating a Home Management Binder (forms are included in the digest!)

You'll also find reacurring articles such as:

Parenting That Pays (parenting advice that doesn't cost a cent)
Pull Up A Chair (ideas for frugal hospitality)
and On Sale This Month (a list of items that are usually discounted this time of year)

I enjoyed reading through these helpful and pratical articles and am looking forward to the finished product. Molly has certainly come at a time when our family could use a friend wise in the ways of homemaking and frugality. Molly's Money-Saving Digest: Let's Get Organized for Fiscal Fitness will be available to purchase from TOS in early January for $4.95. Watch the Schoolhouse Store for more information and updates.
**Please note: This post is not a part of the 7 Reviews/7 Giveaways.**
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7 Reviews/7 Giveaways- Day 3

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion. This week I will post one review and host a giveaway each day. Please read this review and make sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

Would you join me for a moment during my favorite time of our homeschool day? The kitchen table has just been cleared of our lunch dishes. I kiss my one year old's head as I lay him in his crib and he sleepily snuggles into his blankets for his afternoon nap. I sit down on the couch holding my infant in my lap. My three year old lays her head on my shoulder as my oldest hands me the chapter book we've been reading. The oldest three spread out on the floor, either coloring in their history notebooks or resting on pillows.

We call this our 'Family Read-Aloud' and during this time the kids and I have went on wonderful journeys together as I read to them from great books. There are few statements I enjoy hearing more from my little ones than, "Awwww, Mom...just one more chapter?"

Salem Ridge Press is a publishing company that reprints quality books from the 1800's and early 1900's. They 'strive to republish books that are well-written, interesting and wholesome'. Believe me when I say, they have achieved their goal! I was sent three of their books to review and I will definitely be going back to order more books from this company again and again.

Mary Jane: Her Book is a charming and simple tale all about the activities of five year old Mary Jane. We joined her as she mourned for a broken doll, performed an errand for her mother, helped a nest of baby robins, visited with her aunt, and more. My girls especially liked listening to her sweet stories and laughing at her antics. She often reminded me of my three year old and we enjoyed reading this book set in a simpler time. This book was originally published in 1918 and has a sequel as well.

You will find three brave heroes in the young twins, Sally and Roger, and their mother Mrs. Priestley in The American Twins of the Revolution by Lucy Fitch Perkins. Originally published in 1926 and set in 1776, this book is based on a true story of heroism directly from our own American history. Why in the world would anyone teach history from a textbook when there are such wonderful living history books such as this one? Sally and Roger along with their mother and two loyal slaves brave British spies and soldiers while traveling to deliver gold and supplies to General Washington and the American soldiers. The suggested ages for this book is age 8 to adult, but I plan to read this aloud to all of my children when we study the Revolutionary War in the Spring.

Glaucia The Greek Slave was written by Emma Leslie in 1874 and is the exciting telling of the story of Glaucia, a young girl sold into slavery to pay her father's debt after he dies. Her brother Laon is desperate to find her and free her. And they are both on a quest to find the God who loves even the slaves. The story is set in first century Athens and I totally agree with the age recommendation of age 10 to adult. Like The Twins book, I did not want to put this book down. It reminded me so much of one of my favorite series, The Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers, that I had to wonder if Ms. Rivers had read this fascinating little book and been inspired by it.

I guess what I love about Salem Ridge Press, is that having read these three books and enjoyed them so well, I now feel that I have a trusted source to go to find quality literature for my children. They do not offer a very long list of books, currently only 23 titles. But their website offers you the ability to search alphabetically, by time period and location, by author, or by age range. The books retail for about $10-$13 for softcover and about $25 for hardcover. You can order them from your local bookstore or at other retail vendors including Amazon.

**Special Note-Salem Ridge book are available in the UK and Austraila as well as the States, so feel free to enter the giveaways!**

Giveaway- Daniel Mills from Salem Ridge Press has generously donated 3 Books from Salem Ridge. Each book will go to a different winner. Yes! That's right...today we will have 3 winners!
One winner will receive Down the Snow Stairs by Alice Corkran (Hardcover with dust jacket $24.95 value)- On Christmas Eve, eight-year-old Kitty cannot sleep, knowing that her beloved little brother is critically ill due to her own disobedience. Traveling in a dream to Naughty Children Land, she meets many strange people, including Daddy Coax and Lady Love. Kitty longs to return to the Path of Obedience but can she resist the many temptations she faces? Will she find her way home in time for Christmas? An imaginative and delightful read-aloud for the whole family!

One winner will receive The American Twins of the Revolution by Lucy Fitch Perkins (softcover $12.95 value)- General Washington has no money to pay his discouraged troops and twins Sally and Roger are asked by their father, General Priestly, to help hide a shipment of gold which will be used to pay the American soldiers. Unfortunately, British spies have also learned about the gold and will stop at nothing to prevent it from reaching General Washington. Based on a true story, this is a thrilling episode from our nation’s history!

One winner will receive Soldier Fritz by Emma Leslie (softcover $10.95 value).- Young Fritz wants to follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther and be a soldier for the Lord, so he chooses a Bible from the peddler’s pack as his birthday gift. When his father, the Count, goes off to war, however, Fritz and his mother and little sister are forced to flee into the forest to escape being thrown in prison for their new faith. Disguising themselves as commoners, they must trust the Lord as they wait and hope for the Count to rescue them. But how will he ever be able to find them?

To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment in the comment section of this post telling me the following:

1. Tell which of these books you would like to receive. You may list one or all three, but I will only enter you into the drawings of the books you list.

2. Leave an email or blog address that I can contact you at if you win.

You can leave comments to enter until Wednesday, Dec. 17th at 8pm(EST) when I will randomly select three winners. The winners will be contacted and will have 48 hours to respond before I draw another winner.

If you'd like to earn more entries, grab the button at the top of my sidebar and post it on your sidebar. This will get you two extra entries into all 7 of the giveaways.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for another fun giveaway and check out the TOS Crew Blog for more reviews of Salem Ridge.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Critic

Well, I took a break from all of my reviewing to feed Baby L her first jar of baby food. She's officially six months old today. We tried sweet potatoes. It definitely wasn't Mama's milk and Baby L was a little uncertain...

I thought she'd like a bottle of juice much better...

Nope. I'd say not. Maybe tomorrow we'll try pears. And I'll definitely need to water down the juice...alot.

I thought you might like to see an updated picture of Baby L without a sour expression on her face. I took this one last night.
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Wow! I can't believe the response that the 7 Reviews/7 Giveaways is getting! I'm so excited that so many of you are participating and commenting. Just scroll down a bit for today's post ang giveawy, but first a wanted to give you a couple reminders:

-PLEASE make sure to leave some way for me to contact you (blog address or email) if you win. There were a handful of people who didn't yesterday. Also, check your blogger profile if you are assuming your info is there. Sometimes when I click on your profiles, it says that the profile is unavailable for viewing. Also, I had one person leave a blog address but when I clicked on it I needed an invitation from the blog owner to read or comment there...just letting you know a few of the problems I am running into with contacting you guys. I want to make sure the winners know when they win!! :o)

-Don't forget to check back EACH day this week (through Sunday)as I have some GREAT reviews and giveaways planned! You won't want to miss them!

Finally I wanted to let you know that The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at The Daily Planet. Click the button below to find links to some great homeschooling posts!

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7 Reviews/7 Giveaways- Day 2

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out the products and giving you my honest opinion. This week I will post one review and host a giveaway each day. Please read this review and make sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

I co-owned a small business painting wall murals for five years and taught art for four at a cottage school for homeschoolers. Needless to say, art instruction is near and dear to my heart. For that reason, I was really looking forward to reviewing the K-8 Christian Art Curriculum CD Rom from Spears Art Studio.

In addition to their K-8 Program, Spears Art Studio also offers Christian Art Curriculum for high school, Calligraphy workbooks, and literature guides. All of their curriculum supports the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages of classical education.

As a busy homeschool mom art seems to be a subject that is often pushed to the side even in our house. Nevertheless, I feel there is true value in including art in our homeschools. Read what Diane Spears has to say in her article, Art is Good for my Brain?

"Our modern world of intense and rapid visual stimuli has programmed a great number of children to be primarily visual learners. Therefore we must have an abundance of visual aids with studies. There should also be the opportunities to interpret studies and to make them visually concrete in art. All curriculum materials should be rich with visual aids and suggestions for extending the learning visually. Students who are missing information about design, color, depth perception, how to cut straight, how to think the quickest, most economical solution, etc., will not progress to their potential. All the fine arts provide experiences that assist in the development of manual skills,problem solving, critical thinking skills, and perceptual awareness. They provide an atmosphere for applying new learning without the fear of making mistakes.

The fine arts are also a vehicle for introducing, developing, and reinforcing students to the important values of life. Students learn patience, perseverance, appreciation for varied expression, aesthetic awareness, respect for materials, and academic information. All of these help establish a foundation for personal goals, because they are learning a great deal more than just information. The arts are an opportunity to reach students who are otherwise unresponsive and unconvinced that a particular study is relevant to their own lives."

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Realizing the importance of art in education is just the first step. I'm often approached by moms who want to teach their children art but tell me they "just can't" because "they can't even draw a stick figure". Well, from a woman who learned how to draw and paint from her best friend while they were painting on other people's walls...I'm here to tell you that YOU CAN LEARN ART, TOO! And Spears Art is your new best friend!

My absolute favorite part about the K-8 Christian Art Curriculum CD-Rom is that for only $39.95 (shipping included) you will get EIGHT YEARS OF ART CURRICULUM! The curriculum is divided into months with seasonal themes. The themes stay the same regardless of grade, but each grade level has different art projects. So this means if you have a Kindergartner, 4th grader, and 6th grader your children will all learn the same theme but can each do their own age appropriate project.

During the course of using this program students will learn to recognize the basic elements of art and the basic principles of art. Each week's lessons also offer Theme Scriptures and study suggestions for Teacher Inspiration which goes along with the Spears mission statement to "help students make connections between the Creator, creativity, and personal maturity". You will also find art history and vocab suggestions with each lessons.

The program uses a wide variety of mediums, but not surprisingly most of the projects our family have completed are more of the "crafty" type since they are still so young (all 2nd grade and under). Instead of doing a different project with each child when we did our art lessons, I opted to choose one project in the general age range of all of them so that we were all doing the same project. You can scroll down to the previous post or click here to see some the Spears Art projects we have completed. The kids love, love, LOVE doing their art lessons!

Truly, the only downside of this program is when I first opened the lessons and began reading through them, there just seemed to be... so... much (because there is). It was a little overwhelming. But I found that when I just took it lesson by lesson, it really was easy to use. As with every curriculum we use in our homeschool, I have taken the liberty to skip over projects that wouldn't work for us right now and use the ones that do.

I highly recommend the K-8 Christian Art Curriculum from Spears Art as a wonderful art program and a tremendous value. You can find out more details about all of their programs as well as look at sample lessons on their website.

Today's Giveaway: Diane Spears as so generously donated the Beginning Calligraphy Workbook for Grades 5 through Adult on CD Rom!

I am so totally jealous of the lucky winner of today's giveaway because I have always wanted to learn the art of calligraphy! This CD ROM includes:

-easy directions to follow
-tracing pages for each uppercase letter, lowercase letter, and numeral
-tracing pages for passages
-62 pages

To enter, please leave a comment in the comment section of this post MAKING SURE to include some way for me to contact you if you win (blog address or email). It's that simple!

If you'd like extra entries, just grab the 7 Reviews/7 Giveaways button (see my sidebar) and paste it on the sidebar of your blog. I will give you 2 extra entries into EACH of the 7 giveaways for doing so.

You have until Wednesday, December 17th at 8pm(EST) to enter. I will randomly draw a winner for each of the 7 giveaways at that time and then post and contact the winners. The winners will have 48 hours to contact me back with their mailing information before I draw a new winner.

If you'd like to see more reviews of Spears Art, head on over to the TOS Blog. See you tomorrow!

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