Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not A Fan Anymore

Two Sundays ago our associate pastor preached a message at our church. We go to a rather large church and the response has been quite overwhelming. Like so many others, I was moved as well. But to be honest this is a message that God has been working in my heart for awhile now...since long before last Sunday.

The passage we looked at was in Luke 14:25-27:

"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'"

Are you on facebook? Are you aware that you can become a fan of different things on facebook...a fan of a band, or a person, or a place...and Jesus actually has a 'fan page'. Yes, you can actually become a 'fan' of Jesus on facebook. Our pastor explained that in this point in Jesus' ministry(in Luke 14), he had attracted a lot of fans.

"But Jesus was not interested in having a lot of fans...he was interested in having followers," he said.

You see, large crowds never impressed Jesus, but the commitment of the individual believer is what he was concerned about.

He also shared some alarming statistics.

Below is the results of a survey given to adults age 42+ who call themselves Christians, but consider the following things "acceptable".

Cohabitation 33%
Sexual thoughts or fantasies about someone other than their spouse 35%
Sex outside of marriage 23%
Getting drunk 13%
Having an abortion 27%
Having a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex 13%

The results of the same survey given to adults age 23-41 who call themselves Christians:

Cohabitation 59%
Sexual thoughts or fantasies about someone other than their spouse 57%
Sex outside of marriage 44%
Getting drunk 35%
Having an abortion 32%
Having a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex 28%

Isn't it amazing the difference that only one generation makes. And it makes me wonder.

Another story our pastor shared was about a Texan man who shared the story of his prodigal daughter with tears in his eyes...and this is what he said.

"We raised her in church, but we didn't raise her in Christ."

And can I be real honest with you...this is my fear.

It's not that I meant to be just a fan. But I have been. I've went to church and I've read a chapter in my Bible each day and I've written in my prayer journal. I know the worship songs, go to Bible Study, and can even recite memorized scripture. But Jesus is not impressed with this.

The fact of the matter is that my heart has gotten lost somewhere amidst the dirty diapers and the lesson plans and the volunteer commitments and answering emails. My heart has been chasing after the busyness of life instead of following whom it truly desires...the Love of my life. Jesus.

And it stops now.

It stops because I cannot bear to imagine my children being anything less than His follower. And it stops because it is what He desires of me. And there truly is no sweeter way than His.

But how can I move from a fan to a follower? Only by God's grace, I'm certain. So will you pray for me? Please pray for my commitment to be a follower and consider making this commitment as well. We can pray for each other.

Right now you can actually watch the entire sermon on our church's website at this link. Pin It Now!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mathmatical Reasoning

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.

My first year with the TOS Homeschool Review Crew is nearing an end with only a handful of products left to review. It has been a lot of work, but SUCH a blessing to us this year for many reasons. One of the unexpected blessings was the way God provided for our very specific homeschool needs through the Crew.

By January I had abandoned the Kindergarten math curriculum we had decided to use with E5. It had worked for our oldest two, but was just too teacher intensive now that I had so many to homeschool in a day. I was using a more 'living math' approach with E5, trying to work math into our daily living and even using math dvds. This was fine, but E5 was asking to do more math. I had decided I could try to find a simple math workbook for him to use a couple of days a week. My search was short-lived, however,when wouldn't you know it....a complete Kindergarten math curriculum workbook showed up on my doorstep to review!

The Critical Thinking Co. is a company committed to creating curriculum that teach children to become critical thinkers. This gives them the ability to figure out any problem...not just the ones they've memorized. They offer core curriculum in Reasoning/Problem Solving, Language Arts, Mathematics,and Science for grades Pre-K through 6th grade.

I received Mathematical Reasoning Level A for Kindergarten and E5 has been begging to do math every day since I showed him this colorful workbook. Each page is in full color and the book covers so many topics such as addition, calendar, coins, fractions, odd/even numbers, subtraction, shapes, patterns, and more.

Mathematical Reasoning uses a spiral approach to teaching math which means once your child is introduced to a concept, it will be revisited again and again throughout the book. E5 does a few pages each day and is moving quite quickly through the book. I really think this is perfect for Kindergarten math because it is simple but thorough. Plus the book just looks fun...which is appealing to E5.

Mathematical Reasoning is a consumable workbook, but we have enjoyed using it so much that I plan to purchase a second copy for my pre-schooler for next year. It is $32.99 and can be purchased through the Critical Thinking website. You'll also find more reviews at the TOS Crew Blog. Pin It Now!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Easter Freebies and Ideas

I opened my emails last night to find that The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is giving away some great Easter Freebies.

Three freebies, as a matter of fact:

The Real Easter Story: An In-Depth Study for the Whole Family,
The Real Easter Story: Copywork for the Whole Family,
Easter Place Cards

I downloaded mine last night and I'm getting excited about preparing a week long unit on Easter.
Here's the link from TOS to the great freebies for YOU!:

Cindy from Our Journey Westward shares some great Easter links as well including this link for how to make Ressurection Rolls. It's a really simple and cute idea.

Another link is free Easter lesson plans for a week that also has a great idea to give your children Easter baskets that emphasize Jesus. Here are directions from the site:

Place in this basket a card and the following items. Write on the card the meaning of each item:

A Lamb: This represents the Lamb of God who came to take away our sin.

In a plastic egg: Jelly Beans that are the following colors:

black : Stands for the darkness of our lives before Jesus when we were still in sin
red: Stands for Jesus shed blood
white: Stands for our sins that are washed away
yellow: Stands for streets of gold in heaven
green: Stands for growing in Jesus

Bookmarks or story books from the Bible Book Store that represent the story of Easter.

Rock candy to represent the stone that was rolled away.

Chocolate coins to remind us of the 30 pieces of silver.

An empty plastic egg in their basket and with a marking pen write "He is Risen" on the outside. The egg is empty for the "Empty Tomb."
-J.Brown, 1997
Copyright(c) 2001 by the author or Christianity Today, Inc. For reprintinformation call 630-260-6200.
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sew Cute

Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to get together with some friends and participate in a service project. The boys played, the girls made beaded bracelets, and the moms made pillowcase dresses to send off with our church members who are going on a mission trip to Africa. To learn more about making pillowcase dresses as a missions project make sure to check out http://littledressesforafrica.org/ .

Now, I should tell you that I have very limited experience with a sewing machine even though I've owned one since I was about 10. However, these dresses are so easy to make, that I learned how to make them in less than an hour and promptly came home and made matching dresses for all three of my girls last week. I've never made dresses before, so these are the first. The girls wore them last Sunday to a birthday party.

They are summer dresses and the weather is still cool here, so we put long sleeve shirts and tights on the girls as well. Also, these dresses can be made out of pillowcases, but it was actually cheaper to just buy the fabric and easy enough to start from scratch. I bought 2 yards of the green fabric for $4.50 a yard and 1 yard of the pink fabric for $1.50 a yard. So for less than $15 I had enough to make 3 dresses, a headband, and still had fabric left over.

A standard size pillowcase will make a size 7/8 dress. You can find complete instructions and a very helpful video tutorial here.

I think the dresses are a little "boxy looking" so I sewed a decorative ribbon on the front and let the ribbons hang loose in the back to tie. I think it gives the dress better shape.

The older girls' long hair cover it up, but you can see in this picture of Baby L that the dresses tie at the shoulder. I finished the dresses a little past midnight on Saturday night and quickly used some extra fabric and elastic to sew up a headband and bow for Baby L. She was asleep so I couldn't measure her head and it wound up being a little snug. But it was awfully cute. :o) Pin It Now!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I'm Back

Oh, I have been missing for awhile now! We have seemed to be extra busy around here, but when I try to figure out what exactly has been accomplished I can't seem to figure it out.

Anyway, I've been wanting to share this list of questions that my friend sent me on facebook. There are 22 questions to ask your children and they are all about YOU. I brought my 4 oldest in the room one at a time to answer the questions and typed them in. It was really quite funny to hear their answers. I was thinking it would also be a fun Mother's Day gift if Dad got the kids to answer them without Mom knowing.

So here's what my kids really think of me...

1. What is something mom always says to you?
A7-I love you.
G8-Do your cursive and your math. (This is so true, I say it at least three times a day to both G8 and A7.)
E5-I love you.
H3-I love you.

2. What makes mom happy?
A7-whenever we do something without her telling us to.
G8-when we do what she says.
E5-she really likes seeing me, because when she leaves she really wants me. (I nearly fell off the chair after this one, he was so serious. I always tell the kids, "I missed you while I was gone" when I come home from somewhere...it's funny how they interpret things.)
H3-when I draw a picture for her.

3. What makes mom sad?
A7-when I don’t help her.
G8-when we disobey her.
E5-when people hit each other.
H3- when I don’t let her watch tv. (This is because I always get stressed out when I am trying to watch a television show and all 204 of my children are running around the living room and asking me questions.)

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
A7-whenever she tells us a really funny story about her life. (Um, okay? I can't recall ever doing that.)
G8-when she sings a funny song. (I actually do this all the time.)
E5-she tickles me a lot.
H3-she tickles me.

5. What was your mom like as a child?
A7-she was nice and she had a lot of animals. (This implies I lived on a farm or something. Actually, I had a dog and a bird and we had 3 dogs at my dad's...this is a lot of animals to the child who has none.)
G8-she worked at a whole bunch of jobs. (We had recently had a conversation about what type of jobs I had before I had all of them to take care of.)
E5-she was like a girl. (He knows me so well.)
H3-she had a pretty shirt on. (Apparently this is in reference to a picture.)

6. How old is your mom? (I'm 26.)

7. How tall is your mom? (I'm 5 ft. 10 in.)
A7-10 feet tall
G8-about 6 feet
E5-I think three feet tall.
H3- 500 feet
(I'm so glad a weight question wasn't on here.)

8. What is her favorite thing to watch on TV?
A7-Gilmore Girls
G8- Gilmore Girls
H3-Gilmore Girls (This show comes on every day at 5pm and with this pregnancy that has been the precise time that my by body gives out on me. I collapse on the couch in front of the tv for an hour and watch the Gilmore Girls.)

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
A7-sew a lot (Not so, but I had recently been doing some sewing.)
G8-she’s on the computer. (This IS true...as you know.)
E5-she usually takes a shower. (???)
H3-watch tv. (This is only true Feb.-April when the new seasons of American Idol and Lost come on.)

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
G8-scrap booking
E5-I’m thinkin’…movie star. (lol!)
H3-for being a Mommy (I figure this is the most accurate as my only chance of fame is if some reality show comes knocking at my door wanting to film me and my gazillion kids.)

11. What is your mom really good at?
A7-cooking (That's sweet but REALLY not true.)
G8-Do you want me to just give you one? (Awwwwww! I, of course, replied, "No, say them all!!!") sewing and scrap booking
E5-she’s really good at teaching.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
A7-remembering our names (:o))
G8-Wii Boxing
E5-all of the maths.
H3-the dance game

13. What does your mom do for her job?
A7-take care of us
G8-home school
E5-her job is scrap booking (I sell Creative Memories.)
H3-to help us do homeschool

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
E5-I guess vegetables
H3-salad (I like all foods...I'm not sure why they all said salad except that I apparently like it more than they do.)

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
A7-whenever she finishes something she had a hard time doing.
G8-she watches us
E5-letting me do my math
H3-helping us do homeschool

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
A7-Mrs. Jetson
G8-Granny from Baby Looney Tunes (Um, thanks?)
E5-Sandy from Spongebob

17. What do you and your mom do together?
G8-home school
E5- home school

18. How are you and your mom the same?
A7-both like animals
G8-We both like to read.
E5-we both like the color green.
H3-we like to play

19. How are you and your mom different?
A7-She likes salad and I don’t.
G8-she’s older, I’m younger.
E5-“I’m really funny and you’re kind of funny…nooo…I don’t want to tell the WORLD that!” (He's a hoot.)
H3-she has short hair and my hair is long.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
A7-I know it because God made Mom to love me.
G8-she tells me.
E5-because every night she gives me kisses.
H3-with her heart

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
A7-he helps us a lot (because its kind of hard having 6 kids and one more on the way). (lol!)
G8-that he gets the work done.
E5-they go on dates with each other.
H3-talking to Daddy

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
A7- church
G8- upstairs to do home school
E5-Chinese restaurant (I really only kind of like Chinese, don't know where that came from.)
H3-the store

You've got to try this with your kids. It was really fun.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Two by Two


The account of Noah and the Ark seems to be known and loved by all children regardless of religious heritage. Truly, who cannot be fascinated by the miracle of pairs of all of the animals of the world gathering together in one boat constructed by one faithful man? What child cannot relate to the fear of pounding rain and booming thunder? And finally, who will not delight in the protection and provision of a just God who loves mercifully and gives a promise?

Tales of Glory have created a fun toy to remind your children of this beautiful Bible story. It comes complete with a large ark that opens to store 15 figurines (Noah and seven pairs of animals). One aspect of Tales of Glory that I have been quite impressed by in the past is the incredible durability of their toys. I was a little surprised that the ark did not quite measure up to my expectations. I'm waiting for the drop to the hard floor or the attempt to use the ark as a stepping stool by the preschooler that will surely crack the poor boat, but I will admit it has held up thus far. Also, I have to say that I was quite impressed that the ark actually floats - which totally adds points to its fun factor.

Noah and his 14 animals are definitely durable though...and adorable. They are made from PVC. And don't be fooled when I say seven pairs of animals because they are not exactly alike. This Noah's Ark set comes with a male and a female version (don't worry...one just looks more girly!) of each of the following animals: elephants, lions, donkeys, sheep, camels, ostrich,and monkeys. Their cartoon like expressions give them a colorful and fun appeal.

My girls (7 & 3) have especially enjoyed playing with the Tales of Glory Noah's Ark Set as they seem to be more interested in "pretend play" than my boys...well, at least they are more interested in "pretend play" that doesn't necessarily involve sword fighting. The Noah's Ark set can be purchased for $29.99 from the Tales of Glory website. This is a little more than I generally like to spend on a toy set with lots of pieces that can so easily be lost, but I'm always willing to spend a little extra when buying from a company like Tales of Glory who are committed to creating quality children's toys with purpose.

Check out more reviews of this product at the TOS Crew Blog.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

A Birthday for A7

Our oldest daughter turned 7 at the end of February and we celebrated last weekend with a fun birthday party at a local pottery painting place. Each of the kids picked a small figurine to paint. This was really the perfect event for A7 as she loves all arts and crafts.

It's so easy to keep moving through these days not noticing how much time has passed. Every once in a while a wave of reality will hit me and I think, "I can't believe that young lady is my daughter." What a blessing it is to be a part of her life. Pin It Now!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Artistic Pursuits

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.

You've seen the above paragraph at the top of all of my reviews and in that paragraph I promise to give you my honest opinion. I mean that. So at the risk of giving you yet another glowing review, I have to shoot it straight with you...I am loving Artistic Pursuits.

Artistic Pursuits offers three books for grades K-3, two books for grades 4-6, two books for grades 7-8, and two books for grades 9-12. I received the Grade K-3 Book 2 titled Stories of Artists and Their Art.

What I like most about this program is that it is not just an art instruction program, but also an art history program. Each lesson gives a brief summary of an artist in storybook fashion. The artists were chosen from "major periods of art from the 13th century late Gothic period to the academy artists of the 18th century". Also included within the books are full-color examples of the artist's works for the students to observe. That's right...no hunting through questionable art books or Internet sites...the art is already pictured in the book.

Once you have studied the artist, your students can complete an art project in the style of the artist. Most projects are simple, (but of course fun!), and introduce your student to wide variety of medium and style. Projects include work with watercolors, oil pastels, papier-mache, tempera paints, and more. This isn't a problem for us because we have quite a bit of art supplies around our house. But it could be quite pricey to purchase all of these supplies if you don't already have them handy. Artistic Pursuits does offer discounted bundles of art supplies to go along with each book through Mister Art Discount Art and Craft Supplies. The art supply bundle that coincides with Stories of Artists and Their Art is $61.

There are 32 lessons in Stories of Artists and Their Art and artists studied include da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Durer, Rembrandt, and Millet. Projects include making watercolor calender pages, scratch art, sculpting a puppet, and drawing people. Each book offered by Artistic Pursuits for K-3 is $42.95 and can be purchased through their website. This is probably going to seem a bit steep to some of you, but as far as quality art curriculum go its comparatively priced. Also many art curriculum only offer a collection of art projects and or/instruction, so the inclusion of an art history program is a big bonus!

Check out more reviews at the TOS Crew Blog.

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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.

While attending a cottage school during our first years of homeschooling, we used a program that focused heavily on Spelling beginning in Kindergarten. To be honest we felt a little bogged down by all the spelling and this year I decided to step away from it for a time to simply focus on the joy of reading. I'm happy to say that our children's reading fluency and comprehension have improved by leaps and bounds this year! Spelling, however...well, not so much.

For that reason, I was totally excited to try out a fun spelling software called SpellQuizzer. You can use it with any spelling program you own and it is so simple. SpellQuizzer is designed to quiz your student on their spelling words, making spelling practice fun.

This shows the main menu of SpellQuizzer. Students will either choose "Quiz me on a list!" or "Create a spelling list". That's right...if you don't have time to enter the weekly spelling list in, let your student enter in their words for even more practice. SpellQuizzer has a built in spell-checker, so there's no need to worry about misspelled words. You can even import or export spelling lists to other SpellQuizer users (great for homeschool co-ops) or from the SpellQuizzer website.

Now here's where I think this program gets really fun. When you are making your spelling lists you will need to do one of two things for SpellQuizzer to do its job. First, you can type in a reminder phrase to prompt your student to type in the correct word. OR you can use the microphone on your computer to record a sentence that will play to quiz your students. If you don't have a microphone on your computer, you can use the "reminder phrase" option, but I highly recommend purchasing a $10 microphone because this is the true gem of this program! My kids love hearing my voice, or their own, and the silly phrases we come up with for their spelling words. I always try to use their names in the sentences as well, which they especially like. They can't wait to type in the word correctly and hear the next sentence.

Finally, the student is quizzed on the words. If they need to hear the sentence again, they can hit "Play Word". They type in the word (and my kids really appreciate the option of typing rather than writing the words over and over) and click on "Check Spelling". If they spelled the word wrong, they will immediately be shown the correct spelling and will have the option of repeating the word at the end of the list.

While not its specific purpose, I have found other creative options for SpellQuizzer as well. You can quiz your students' on Vocabulary words or even dictate sentences to them using this software. Pretty cool.

Check out video demonstrations of SpellQuizzer or try a FREE 30 Day Trial. You can purchase the downloadable program for only $29.95. Even with the purchase of a computer microphone, I think that's a pretty good deal.

Check out other reviews of this product at the TOS Crew blog.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

More Good Math

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.

Yes, I'm writing to tell you about another great math product and believe me when I tell you, you're going to want to hear about it.

You see math and I have a very sordid past. It all started in 3rd grade when I missed a few days of school due to being sick. When I came back all the other kids had memorized half of their multiplication tables and I was desperately behind. For the rest of my public education, I always felt as if math just wasn't my subject and I was always trying to catch up with the rest of the class.

Skip ahead to my oldest son telling me in 1st grade he wants to learn times tables. We have frequent conversations that go something like this:

Me: "G...what time is it?"
G (immediately): "37 minutes until 4:00, Mom."


At the grocery store...
Checkout lady: "That will be $23.44."
G: "Just 56 cents more and it would be $24, Mom."

Well, it seems my young man is math-minded. And it has been a difficult search to find the right math curriculum to fit his brain and my sanity...and by that, I mean one that doesn't require me to gather materials, cut out shapes, and give lengthy instructions and demonstrations on the board. This is very important to me since I have several kids to teach, all on different math levels.

By December of this year, I was completely fed up with the math program we were using. It wasn't challenging G8 and was taking up way too much time to teach and prepare. That's when I got the email from Maria Miller asking me to review Math Mammoth. I started using Math Mammoth Lightblue Series Grade 1 with A7 and the Math Mammoth Lightblue Series Grade 2 for G8 in January. I have been SO PLEASED with this program and have already decided to continue with the 3rd grade books as soon as we are finished using the ones we have.

I received Math Mammoth as a downloadable ebook, though if you prefer consumable print versions are available. Each grade has two Lightblue Series books that can be purchased together or separately. For example, we received both Math Mammoth Lightblue Series Grade 2A and 2B books and teacher's answer keys. Books 2A and 2B together are a complete 2nd grade math curriculum. There is no teacher's manual but there are notes for the teacher included in the introduction of each chapter. Maria Miller answers this in her own words:

"I've tried to create a text that is as self-explanatory as possible, so that a separate manual wouldn't be needed. This saves time for the teacher. Also, many elementary students will be able to just read and learn through the lessons on their own (once they can read)."

Exactly what I was looking for! Most days both my 2nd grader and 1st grader complete their math work on their own while I am working one-on-one with my Kindergartner and Pre-K student. Occasionally they will need my attention briefly to explain a problem or section they don't understand.

Concepts covered in the 1st grade curriculum include:
Addition and subtraction (starting with 0-10 and eventually 0-100)
Place values (ones and tens)
Shapes and Measuring
Counting coins

Concepts covered in the 2nd grade curriculum include:
Addition and Subtraction
Carrying and Borrowing
Place Value to 1000
Mental math

Each chapter of Math Mammoth includes several links to games and sites for further learning and play with the subject being covered. The only real downside to this program that I can find is that it is strictly workbook oriented. Math manipulatives are rarely mentioned, but could easily be worked in for your hands-on learners.

Seriously, I highly recommend Math Mammoth to any mom who has struggled to find the right math program. It has been the perfect fit for our family. You can order the complete Math Mammoth Lightbue Series Grade 1 or 2 downloadable program (includes both A and B parts)for $29.70 or the print versions with CDS for $54. Personally I love how affordable the downloadable version is and that I can use it again and again. I simply print out about 50 pages at a time and put them in a 3 ring binder for the kids.

For more reviews of this and other series from Math Mammoth check out the TOS Crew Blog.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Read any good books lately?

E2 has been asking to sit on the potty recently. Nothing has happened yet, but he is getting some good reading time in. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


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.

Okay. Can I just take a second to join in with the chorus of homeschool mothers who are all letting out at collective sigh of relief after discovering this DVD. Finally! Someone. Has. Made. Math. FUN!

No kidding. FUN math! Where can you find such a thing? From Sonlight Curriculum. It's MathTacular: Unbelievably Understandable Math.

So here's what Sonlight did. They compiled a list of Kindergarten Math concepts from three biggie math programs...Horizons, Saxon, and Singapore. Then they created a DVD demonstrating these concepts in fun, informative, real-life scenarios. Your Pre-K through 2nd grader will enjoy watching one or more of the 88 bite-sized segments. (Each segment lasts anywhere from less than a minute to six minutes.) Concepts covered are:

Number Recognition
Odd & Even Pairs
Shapes & Geometry
Telling Time

MathTacular is designed to be a supplement to regular math curriculum. Your children are already learning these concepts in their bookwork. MathTacular brings them to life. How? Well, meet Justin...

Justin is not your typical math professor...actually, he's much more like your kid's fun older brother. He doesn't do his teaching in front of a classroom either. Each video segment will find Justin in a different place...the living room, kitchen, a parking lot...every day places. Why? To teach your children that math happens everywhere!

When we first received MathTacular I decided to just watch a little bit of it to see what it was like. It was right after lunch and I had just laid my 1 year old down for a nap. I settled the 8, 6, 5, and 3 year old in front of the t.v. and sat down to rock and feed my fussy newborn. After watching several segments my little one had finally drifted off to sleep and my older ones were still happily watching the DVD. So what does a mother of six do when she has two sleeping babies and four content older siblings....why, she takes a shower of course! Thirty minutes later I was smelling nice and clean and the house was still quiet. Thinking my children had long since abandoned the math DVD and found some fun toy... or fun trouble, I walked into the living room. They were all still watching MathTacular!

Now we use MathTacular a couple of times a week (mostly with my Pre-K and Kindergartner). We'll watch a segment and then usually try it out ourselves. So if Justin is playing Go Fish to help with number recognition, then we play Go Fish. If Justin is learning about pairs by matching socks, we match socks. It's been fun and simple to use MathTacular in our homeschool and our kids love it!

You can purchase MathTacular for $29.99 from the Sonlight website. You'll also find MathTacular 2 for grades 2-4 and MathTacular 3 for grades 3-6. Both of these are officially on my "New School Year Wish List".

Check out more reviews of Sonlight programs on the TOS Crew Blog.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Five in a Row

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 heard about Five in a Row by Jane Clare Lambert. I've looked into it, considered it, thumbed through it in vendor halls...my kids have even taken a Five in a Row class at co-op. And to be honest, if you're a homeschool mom I'd be surprised if you haven't heard of Five in a Row. But I've never gotten the chance to try the Five in a Row curriculum...until now, that is.

The process behind Five in a Row is simple. Gather all the kiddos (especially ages 4-8)together for some snuggle time on the couch. Pull out a great picture storybook and read it. Expand your study of the book by doing one or more of the suggested activities from FIAR that correspond with the book you are reading. Read the same book for five days, each day trying new activities. Simple. Relaxing. Fun.

We received Five in a Row Volume 3 to review. There are lesson plans to go along with 15 books such as The Bee Tree by Patricia Pallaco, The Wild Horses of Sweetbriar by Natalie Kinsey-Warnoc, Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Little Nino's Pizzeria by Karen Barbour. The book includes instructions on how to use FIAR by itself or in combination with other curriculum, reproducible planning sheets, and reproducible worksheets. Each book has corresponding activities in Social Studies, Language Arts (including Vocabulary), Art, Math, and Science.

I love using a curriculum that is completely based on good literature so this method is very appealing to me. However, I would have a hard time using this as anything other than a supplement. I really like to have order to our subjects, letting each idea build on another. The lessons for each subject in FIAR are not in any particular order...they are just themed according to the book you are reading. Also, while I have heard others rave about minimum to no teacher prep with FIAR, I found that the teacher prep was rather involved for me. While FIAR offers great suggested activity ideas, some of them were rather vague. For example, when reading The Bee Tree, the suggested idea for Science is to study "Gold". The curriculum suggests several different avenues to take, such as to explore gold mentioned in the Bible, gold leaf, or the gold rush. These are all great ideas, but all require a lot of research, planning, and prep on my behalf to prepare appropriate projects and books for all four of my school age children.

Overall, I think Five in a Row is a charming curriculum and its easy to see why it has found its way into the hearts of homeschoolers everywhere. You can purchase Five in a Row Volume 3 for just $19.95 from the FIAR website. Along with other Five in a Row volumes, you'll also find Before Five in a Row for 2-4 year olds, Beyond Five in a Row for 8-12 year olds, and Above Five in a Row for ages 12 and up.

You can also read more reviews of other FIAR books at the TOS Crew Blog.

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