Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Goal-Planning Update in Pictures

It seems like I post my goal plans more often on Tuesday (or Wednesday) than I do on Monday.

Two weeks ago, I listed four goals:

1. Run at least once.

2. Catch up (and stay caught up) with my daily Bible reading.
(I took this picture about mid-week last week. I was ahead.)

3. Unpack, purge, organize.
Baby steps.

4. Freeze pomegranates.
(Some were frozen whole, and I popped the arils out of the others. It's a science experiment.)

Last week, I made goals but I never actually posted them.

1. Move books from living room to upstairs.

2. Organize the books in the school area.
It's really hard to see an improvement so I didn't take a pictures. I've unpacked probably a dozen boxes worth of stuff, but the floor is still a disaster.

3. Run.
(I did better when I remembered to put on my knee support thingy.)

4. Stay caught up on my daily Bible reading -- focus on daily.
I was doing great with making the time for daily reading until I hit the craziness of the weekend, a few days of allergy sickness, etc.
5. Stay off of the computer (especially off of my gmail) until at least lunchtime every day. I did pretty good and got lots of work done. My inbox is bursting at the seams, though, because many of my afternoons were busy with activities away from home. I need to figure out a good balance.

My big accomplishment for the past few weeks is shown by all of the empty boxes below. 

I'm scaling way back on my goals for this week. I will definitely continue with my daily Bible reading (emphasis on the daily). We're having company come to visit and I want to enjoy time with them instead of worrying about getting the rest of the house unpacked. I have a few blog posts in mind and a few reviews due soon so I'll probably be online at least some in the evenings (or late at night). My running goal depends on how my allergies fare the rest of the week.

I'm linking my post with others at Real Life Unscripted. Thankfully, my friends there understand that my real life often means a Monday post that doesn't happen until early in the morning on Wednesday. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sugar Creek Gang from Beloved Books (Schoolhouse Crew Review)


My children have been audio book fans for years. It started with a few CDs that I checked out of the library when it seemed like we spent hours on the road to various doctors appointments in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and DC. Over the years, we've built a collection of CDs. We still listen to audiobooks in the car, and most nights Lauren and Brennan go to sleep listening to audiobooks.

PhotobucketRecently, we added Sugar Creek Gang stories to our collection, and they quickly became favorites. Paul Hutchins wrote a series of books about the Sugar Creek Gang starting in 1939. These books were later recorded as radio dramatizations.

As soon as I started the first CD, I was taken back to a simpler time -- a time when boys played outside for hours at a time. I thought it reminded me of  Leave it to Beaver, and Brennan, who had seen some of the old episodes at Nana's house, agreed.

Brennan likes this series because it is Christian focused without having any "lecture-preachy" parts. Addison elaborated by saying that it tells about "boys earnestly trying to figure out God." She remembers a line in one of the stories when a character says, "One night I slept over at Poetry's house and he talked to God like he was right there in the room" She appreciates the way the stories are told from a child's view of God and not from the perspective of an adult teaching about God.

All three of my children enjoyed listening to the Sugar Creek Gang in the car. We decided that it was most appropriate for children ages 8-12 and still entertaining for older children or adults. Lauren (age 6) is still a bit young for the series, and therefore it isn't her first choice of audiobooks.

The first volume of Sugar Creek Gang CDs contains twelve stories on 6 discs, approximately 12 hours long. There are six volumes available, and I have a feeling I'll be buying more of the stories for us to enjoy. Each volume costs $54.95, and there's a significant discount if you choose to buy all six volumes at once.

An mp3 version of the entire first story, "Swamp Robber," can be downloaded from the Beloved Books website here. Also, if you'd like to purchase anything from Beloved Books, they have generously offered a coupon code to share with my readers. The code Calm-Storm-20 will give you a 20% discount on your entire purchase.

Beloved Books specializes in wholesome literature in audio format. In addition to the Sugar Creek Gang audio CDs, they offer scripture songs, missionary stories, and more. I personally would love to hear the Jim Weiss audio version of Carry On, Mr Bowditch that they carry.

Disclaimer: I received Sugar Creek Gang, Volume 1 as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Samson's Classroom (Schoolhouse Crew Review)


Earlier this year, I looked at lots of programs that would provide extra reading comprehension practice for Brennan. I was looking for something formatted a lot like a standardized test -- read a short passage and then answer questions about the passage. Recently, I found just what I was looking for with an online reading skills program called Samson's Classroom.

Samson's Classroom offers activities for sight words, spelling, and reading. We focused almost exclusively on the Reading with Samson activity. There are four difficulty levels available for it. The passages increase in length and difficulty as you reach harder levels. In addition to more questions per passage, the questions themselves become more difficult in the higher levels.

Brennan enjoyed the passages and often told me a factoid that he had learned while reading. Last night he told me that a certain type of whale can stay under water for over an hour and that some animals that we call whales are really dolphins. I noticed that the passages covered a wide-range of styles -- fictional stories, non fiction reports, and even poetry.

Brennan's biggest worry about the Reading with Samson program is that he will finish all 23 passages for level three before he's ready to take on the challenge of the level four passages.


After reading the passage, the student then answers a series of multiple choice questions about it. If the student answers incorrectly the first time, the program highlights the portion of the passage that tells the answer. At the end of the passage, the student earns hammer swings based on the amount of questions answered correctly. If all the answers were correct, the student earns five hammer swings. If he used hints on some of the questions, he only gets one hammer swing. If any of the questions were answered incorrectly, then there are no hammer swings given as a reward.

This high-stakes reward system works fairly well for Brennan. I've noticed that sometimes when playing other games he won't even attempt to answer a difficult question correctly because the reward isn't worth the effort. He can just move on to a simpler question. With this program, he tries to answer each and every question correctly for the passage so that he can get the maximum number of swings with the hammer game. The hammer swings are spent on the short reward game shown below.

Samson's Classroom is available as a home plan subscription which costs $30 per year for one user or as a family plan subscription which costs $50 per year for up to four users.

I highly recommend this program for older students that need extra work on reading comprehension skills. The program lists a recommended age of K-5, but I think the reading comprehension section is appropriate for many students in grades 6-8 as well. Please note that Samson's Classroom also includes practice activities for sight words and spelling. Be sure to click the banner below to read other reviews to see what other homeschool families thought about those parts of the program.

Disclaimer: I received a family plan subscription to Samson's Classroom to user with my children as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

H is for Help

"I lift my eyes to the hills -- where does my help come from?"

"My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

Last Wednesday was a busy day for Lauren and me. She had a pulmonology appointment early that morning and then two pre-op appointments that afternoon. It was time for her annual heart cath procedure -- her first one with our new doctors and at our new hospital.

That morning I noticed the mountains and once again thought of how I should never doubt that God is taking care of us. The same God that created the beautiful mountains that surround our city is the same God that put our family here. With mountains on all four sides, it seems as if God has built a shelter of protection around us.

As we went through our busy day, I noticed how God must have reached down and provided an extra measure of help when I needed it.

All of our appointments went well, and Lauren was amazingly calm about the prospect of yet another heart cath. She got a bit teary while talking to the cardiologist about the procedure, but she is one amazingly brave little girl.

As we left the hospital that afternoon, I was a bit worn out from the busy day and knew that we still had Bible classes at church that night. I nearly cried with relief when a friend from church called to check with me about ingredients for that night's Fellowship meal. I usually pack a dinner for Lauren so that she can have something safe for her food restrictions, but she was able to eat what they were serving that night. They even set aside some corn without butter so that she could have some of that. What a relief not to worry about fixing a meal that night.

I picked up the big kids to go to church, and we were all treated to a gorgeous sunset.

"Have you ever looked at the sunset with the sky mellowing red, and the clouds suspended like feathers... then I say you've seen Jesus my Lord." I'm thankful for children that remind me of songs that touch my spirit and for children that notice when God is working in our lives.

Early Thursday morning, Tim and I headed to the hospital with Lauren. When we were a few blocks away from the University, the radio started playing Matt Redman's "You Never Let Go." That's always been one of Lauren's songs, and I was smiling as I heard her loudly singing along.

I could not have asked for a more encouraging sign from God than to hear my little girl singing at the top of her lungs. Even though we "walk through the valley of the storms of July," I know that God is near. (I love Lauren's version of the lyrics.)

Thank you, God, for the help I needed last week.

Blogging Through the AlphabetI'm linking this post up with Marcy at Ben and Me as my contribution to this week's Blogging through the Alphabet challenge.

As for the cath itself, everything looked great in the cath lab, and the final biopsy results will be back in another couple days. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Crossbow Education (Schoolhouse Crew Review)


Crossbow Education specializes in tools to help children with Dyslexia or Visual Stress. Some of their most popular products are colored overlays to make reading easier. For many children, using colored overlays to change the background color for a portion of text will reduce the amount of visual stress and allow them to read more easily. Crossbow offers these overlays in ten different colors so that the student can pick which shade works best for them.

I have heard about using colored overlays before, and I found the informative articles on the Crossbow website to be very interesting. According to the information here, students suffering from visual stress may fatigue quickly when working with text, skip words or lines when reading, seem to have more difficulty after reading for about 10 minutes, frequently rub their eyes, change body position to move closer or father from the page, read slowly, or have difficulty absorbing information.

I wasn't sure that those symptoms fit Brennan, but he read the description online and uh-huh'd about some of them. I figured it couldn't hurt to try the visual overlays to see if they made reading easier or more enjoyable for him.

We received a package of ten Eye Level Reading Rulers. I was surprised at how quickly Brennan found a few favorite colors and how quickly he handed some to Lauren to use because they just didn't look good at all for him. The rulers are small enough to handle easily, but large enough to cover an entire section of text. Brennan didn't mind using them, but I don't think that they made a noticeable enough difference that he has continued to use them.

Lauren, on the other hand, uses them often. I'm not sure if the colors make any difference for her or if she just likes having the line on the ruler to help keep her place while she's reading. Many younger readers do better when they use something to help them keep track of their place on the page.

The ten pack of Reading Rulers costs $16.95. If you find that your child does well with a particular color, you can order packages of that specific color to continue using. Crossbow Education also offers full page colored overlays, programs for colored overlays while working on a computer, and a wide variety of educational activities.

Disclaimer: I received a set of Reading Rulers as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

G is for Goals

I sometimes share goals on this blog, often as a part of the weekly Goal Planning Monday meme on Real Life Unscripted.

Yesterday afternoon, I was walking home from the pool, trying to mentally compose this week's goals, and I started thinking about why I make goals and what difference they make for my life.

I thought about how I set a goal back in January of 2011 to become a runner. I had already started running and could comfortably run about 3 miles at a time. Several of my online friends and I challenged each other to run a mile a day for the entire year. I ran. I kept track of my miles. When I hurt my knee in October, I had already run 365 miles.

I don't have a running goal anymore. I have a "runner girl" magnet on the back of my van, but that magnet doesn't make me a runner. Putting on my tennis shoes and running makes me a runner. I need a goal to shoot for if I'm going to ever get back into a running routine.

Goal #1 for this week: Find time to go run one time between now and Sunday evening.

This year I have a goal to finish reading the Bible in a year. I likely would have given up a few months ago when I got behind in the daily readings, except I didn't want to admit that I was a quitter. Perhaps that's why making goals is good for me -- I'd rather buckle down and work harder than to admit that I gave up.

Goal #2 for this week: Catch up and stay caught up with my daily Bible reading assignments. (I think I'm a day or two behind right now.)

The rest of my goals for this week involve unpacking and putting away things around the house. This morning I set a short-term goal of unpacking ten book boxes. Maybe my goal for the rest of the week will be to put away the things I took out of those boxes.

Goal #3: Unpack, purge, organize, and put away the rest of the things in the moving boxes (and especially everything that got tossed around the house without getting put away in a permanent home).

Goal #4 for this week: Take care of the pomegranates in the refrigerator before they start to spoil. The one I cut up yesterday was delicious, and I need to fix some to eat right away and some to freeze for later.

I might only have four goals this week, but I think it will be a busy week. Hopefully I set my goals low enough that I can achieve them but challenging enough that I can look back at what I accomplished this week.

I'm linking this post up with other Goal Planning Monday posts at Real Life Unscripted and also with the Blogging Through the Alphabet challenge at Ben and Me. Be sure to stop by either place (or both) to read other inspiring blogs or to join in the fun!

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Monday, October 15, 2012

WealthQuest for Teens (Schoolhouse Crew Review)


I've sometimes thought that I needed to be more intentional about teaching Addison money management skills. WealthQuest for Teens stepped in to fill that gap and to show me how I can better prepare Addison for her future.

PhotobucketThe WealthQuest for Teens package includes an online video seminar, a QuickStart Guide for teens to complete, and a parent's guide.

I watched the video seminar with Addison over the course of a couple of evenings. The QuickStart guide was primarily for her to work on independently and provided many opportunity to apply the money management concepts to her own life in a step-by-step fashion. At some points, we did think that the program assumed that the teen either had no money knowledge at all or had already fallen into poor ways of managing their money. Overall, the program handled many issues in a way that would appeal to teens and teach good habits.

I was impressed with the way this program defines wealth and success. According to the promotional materials I received, "Wealth and being rich, in WealthQuest for Teens terms, means 'the amount of money you need to have the life you want and to make a difference in ways that matter to you.'" This idea is repeated throughout the videos.

Like many money management programs, WealthQuest for Teens teaches budgeting by dividing a teen's income into six different categories. At their suggestion, Addison set up free accounts at to manage her new allowance income. She has virtual accounts set up for her church offering (what WealthQuest calls "heal the world"), long-term savings (for retirement), savings for a big-ticket item, necessities, and fun money. Although the program does not handle money, it allows us to track the allowance that I owe her and then to deduct the money that I give her as cash or spend on her behalf.

Addison and I both learned a lot from the WealthQuest for Teens program. The parent's guide reminded me of how important it is to teach my children money skills and then gave me the ideas I needed to implement a meaningful allowance system for my children. Addison now has the tools and the knowledge in place to start managing her money wisely.

The WealthQuest for Teens program costs $39.95 and is intended to be used by teens ages 14-19. Addison says it would be more helpful to use if she was already old enough to have a job (and therefore a bigger source of income).

Disclaimer: I received WealthQuest for Teens as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

F is also for Formula and God's Faithfulness

When I've talked about food allergies in the past, I've mentioned Brennan's life-threatening reaction to peanuts and my own milk and gluten intolerances. I've also talked briefly about Lauren's food restrictions. To be honest, we're not very certain at all what the relationship is between Lauren's GI issues and foods. Following a lengthy trip to Cincinnati Children's Hospital last Spring, we discovered that Lauren's body does best when she has formula in addition to food. It's not purely a calorie issue. For whatever reason, she loses weight unless she has at least one to two servings on formula per day.

I'm not talking about just regular baby formula from the grocery store. She needs elemental formula -- a formula made solely of amino acids, one that has no intact food proteins in it. When she was younger, we used a powder formula that mixed with water, but now we use prepared formula that comes in 8 ounce juice box containers.

Unfortunately, specialized formulas such as Lauren's are rather expensive. The cheapest place I've ever seen hers is $127 for 27 servings. At her current routine of two boxes per day, that's nearly $300 per month.

We've been very lucky that our insurance company has always paid for the formula that Lauren's doctors prescribed. A few weeks ago, however, I received a phone call from our medical equipment provider stating that Tricare has denied the latest order for formula. Thankfully, our GI doctor was able to successfully appeal the decision. I found out late Friday afternoon that Lauren's formula is now fully covered by insurance.
And my God will supple all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (HCSB) 
In the six and a half years since Lauren's birth, we've never had a need -- medically, monetarily, or otherwise that God has not been faithful to provide. We are richly blessed.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

I know that I've already shared one "F is for ______" story for this week. When I received such good news Friday afternoon, I couldn't resist sharing one more. Thankfully, Marcy doesn't mind me being a linky hog on this week's Blogging through the Alphabet post.

Friday, October 12, 2012

F is for Food Allergies

Since my kitchen currently looks like this:

And since the rest of the house only looks slightly better, I'm going to take a bit of a shortcut writing this week's Blogging Through the Alphabet post and revisit a past topic that is still dear to me.

For me and my family, F is for Food Allergies. Last May, during Food Allergy Awareness week, I posted a five day series about food allergies and how they affected my family.

Throughout that week, I talked about our family's diet restrictions (A Tale of Three Diets), a typical week's worth of meals for us (What's Left to Eat?), and eating when we're on the go (Food Allergies Don't Slow Us Down).

I also shared about my all time favoritest place to get Food Allergy information and support -- Kids with Food Allergies. If you need a good reason to check out KFA, I listed several -- Five Reasons I Love Kids with Food Allergies.

Even though food allergies have an impact on every meal (and snack) of every day of our lives, we don't let food allergies define us.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

I'm excited about what comes to mind to share as I blog through the Alphabet with my friend Marcy at Ben and Me. Please stop back each week to see what I'm sharing, and click the banner above if you'd like to see what other bloggers have on their minds this week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Pilgrim Story online course (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I've often thought that the best part of doing homeschool product reviews is that I get to learn about myself and my children. Brennan has been working through an online program from Dayspring Christian Academy for the past six weeks, and I may have finally figured out a good way for him to learn.

PhotobucketThe Pilgrim Story online course contains 17 lessons appropriate for third through sixth graders. Each lesson takes Brennan about 30-45 minutes to complete. He listens to a power point presentation and completes the notes sheet as it goes along. Each lesson also includes vocabulary words, quotes from original sources, and an assessment quiz.

Some of the lessons included extra activities to be completed either as part of the lecture or afterwards. For instance, the lesson about the Principle of Conscience talked about external property as contrasted with internal property. The assignment for that lesson was to make a list of all of the property that belongs to you -- external property on the right hand side and internal property on the left hand side. Ideas, personality traits, and conscience are all internal possessions.

Other activities did not require quite as much thoughtful analysis and discussion. One of Brennan's favorites was the one where he was able to pack a virtual trunk to take on a voyage to America. Because of limited space in the truck (only 50 cubic feet), he had to decide how much to pack. He knew he needed a weapon and cooking tools, but it was harder to decide if an extra set of clothes was more useful than a first aid kit.

From a parent perspective, I thought this program was fascinating. I've heard of the Principle Approach to teaching history, but this is the first time I've gotten to see those ideas at work. The Pilgrim Story focuses on Biblical principles, such as hard work, Christian character, perseverance, Christian liberty, diligence, industry, self-governance, liberty of conscience, and more. These concepts are introduced one at a time, using examples from the Pilgrims to illustrate the ideas. I was impressed with the way that Brennan was able to understand these abstract concepts after seeing them applied to the historical events discussed in class.

Throughout this course, I was also impressed with the amount of information that Brennan is learning. He has done well with the each of the lesson quizzes and also did well on the first two unit tests. I suspect that he does well with the way the material is presented. The lesson material is presented as a series of slides with spoken narration, much the way a classroom teacher would lecture a class. Brennan completes the note sheet for each point, and then moves on to the next slide. Since he must click to move to the next slide, there's no danger of the teacher moving on to the third lecture point before Brennan finishes filling in the blanks for the first point.

Not only does Brennan retain the information for the quiz, he was able to discuss it later in the day. We had a picturesque homeschool moment one day at lunchtime when he was comparing what he learned in his lesson with what Addison had learned in her own history studies about the Pilgrims.

The Pilgrim Story is available from Dayspring Christian Academy for $99. That price includes online access to all of the course content for six months. The course materials included lots of pages that needed to be printed. Even though they look gorgeous in full-color, we found that they worked equally well in black and white. Dayspring Christian Academy offers two other online courses at this time, but they are both aimed at a high school audience (AP Statistics and AP Psychology). They also offer a 30 minute class for parents and teachers on How to Teach Literature Using the Principle Approach. I really wish they would expand their offerings for elementary students.

I suspect that in several years I will look back at this class and think of it as a turning point in Brennan's homeschool. For most of this fall, I wasn't sure what we were going to do for his schoolwork. If he read the materials by himself, he didn't always retain as much information as I thought he should. If I read the materials to him, his attention often wandered and he didn't catch all that I was trying to tell him. I now know that he learns things well when he hears the information and also writes in down in an organized format. I need to create some organized note-taking pages for him to complete while we work through other school materials. Perhaps this is the answer I've been looking for.

Disclaimer: I received access to The Pilgrim Story online class as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Goal Planning Monday -- October 8th

I had quite a productive week last week, and I'm hoping to build on those successes as I head into a busy week of moving and unpacking. All of our household goods were packed up about three months ago, and the moving truck will finally be delivering them to our new house on Wednesday. We're all excited to be moving out of our a-little-bit-too-cozy two bedroom apartment and to unpack the stuff that's been in storage for so long.

Last week's goals:

1. Bible reading: I'm all caught up!!! I'm so glad I didn't give up a few weeks ago when I was so far behind. My year-long Bible365 goal is within reach again.

2. Reviews: Some done, all are at least partially drafted.

3. Packing: We probably only have one load left to take from our apartment to our new house. The movers deliver our household goods on Wednesday.

4. Hem Addison's chorus dress: It was finished in plenty of time, and the parent checking the dress said it looked "perfect." (Insert happy dance here.)

5. Share the First Day pictures that I took today. Done; you can see them here.

This week's goals:

1. Not let my Bible reading slip by the wayside when my week gets busy.

2. Remember that I want to be intentional with our unpacking. I've been reading a lot about adopting a more simple lifestyle -- a life that allows our family to flourish instead of fret, a life that is defined by living and not by trying to manage stuff.

I'm linking my Goal Planning Monday post with others at Real Life Unscripted. Feel free to click the button above to join us!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

E is for Elephant Poop and Electronics

Earlier this past week, I planned out my E is for _____ post. I decided that since I has posted two rather serious posts in a row (C is for a God bigger than a cup of Coffee and D is for Diabetes), I would head off on a humorous path this week.

During our trip to Ohio last spring, we took Lauren to the Cincinnati Zoo. Her favorite part was seeing the elephants, in particular seeing an elephant poop.

A few weeks ago, we went to the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. What did Lauren want to see? Yep. An elephant pooping. We saw a baby elephant following its mother, and another young elephant playing in the water. Lauren still wanted to see an elephant poop.

This morning, I was thinking once again about my E post. In particular, I was thinking about how I needed to make sure to finish it up so that I could add it to the Blogging through the Alphabet link before it closes tonight. At the same time, I was thinking that I wasn't sure that I wanted to devote a whole blog post to Elephant poop.

I was struck with the realization that Electronics also starts with E. This morning, there was the rather typical electronics struggles going on in our house.

I woke up at 6:01 when Lauren turned on the TV. At 6:02, I heard a familiar sound coming from the laptop in the living room -- she was already logging on to one of her favorite websites. As the morning continued on, I noticed how much of my time was devoted to electronics. I told Lauren to turn off the TV because she had already watched for two hours. I asked for a turn on the laptop computer so that I could show Tim something online. I helped Lauren get to another level on a computer game. I hunted until I could find Lauren's iPod and the set of earbuds that go with it. I tried to get another turn on the computer so that I could check something before we left for church. And so on.

I have a love-hate relationship with our electronics. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there's something great about Lauren turning on the TV at 6:00 on a Sunday morning instead of waking me up. On the other hand, I hate how her attitude for the rest of the day often goes downhill after starting the day with a television show (or two or three). I appreciate the educational practice she gets when playing a lot of online games, but I get frustrated with trying to coordinate who gets a turn on the computer and when. I love blogging, but I also realize that I often neglect to do things around the house because I'm wasting time online.

I don't know any answers to my electronic frustrations. I know that I'm not in favor of a complete electronics ban, but I also know that I'm not in favor of giving my children free reign to watch TV, play video games, and surf the internet as much as they want. I don't exactly know what I think about my own electronics usage. I do know that I was bothered about all of the electronics commotion today.

There you have it. E is for Elephant Poop and Electronics. I'm not sure if there's a correlation. Then again, I'm not 100% certain that there isn't.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

I'm excited about what comes to mind to share as I blog through the Alphabet with my friend Marcy at Ben and Me. Please stop back each week to see what I'm sharing, and click the banner above if you'd like to see what other bloggers have on their minds this week.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Box of IDEAs (Schoolhouse Crew Review)

I have a confession to make. We're not a unit-study type of homeschool family. As much as I'd love to focus on one particular interesting topic, my kids and I never have really gotten invested in a study like that. When I saw the information about Box of IDEAs activities, I wondered if we would change our mind about unit studies.

What is Box of IDEAs:
Each Box of IDEAs includes ten (or more) exciting activities based around a single topic. These activities can be used as a supplement to your current curriculum, summertime learning, or for group activities. The box comes with each activity individually packaged so that your 9 to 16 year olds could grab a packet and start working, either at home or on-the-go. Each box also includes portfolio pages to complete and collections of website links for further exploration.

The Salt Box of IDEAs is "a comprehensive look at salt and how it has helped to shape history, nourish our bodies and even build and destroy empires." The activities cover history, geography, science, language, and more.

How it worked at our house:
The Salt Box of IDEAs is available as either an actual box that comes in the mail or as a pdf download. Because we've been in a bit of transition this summer, I opted for the pdf version so that I wouldn't have to worry about it getting lost between mailing addresses. Unfortunately, I underestimated the work that it would take to print the activities myself. Many of the activities needed to be printed on cardstock with colored ink. It became a bit tedious trying to make sure that I printed each page correctly, especially when it came to the double sided pieces for many of the game activities.

Several of the modules in the involved matching facts on cards or putting them in order. Brennan thought the History of Salt timeline game was a bit unfair because I have a better working knowledge of history than he does. We reached a compromise, and I tried to get 15 historical facts in order before he arranged 10.

One of our favorite activities was dealing with the science of salt and involved a simple experiment. Brennan froze three containers of water and then tested to see how much water melted over a period of time. He compared the control solution (plain water), one with 1/4 cup of salt added, and one with 1/4 cup of kosher salt added. I'm sure the experiment would be better if we could've used Ice Melt, but I couldn't find any Ice Melt in Arizona in the summertime.

My recommendation:
I think these activities would work well with kids that enjoy exploring new topics. It wasn't ever able to convince Brennan that these were fun activities; he just saw it as more schoolwork. Perhaps he would've done better if I had chosen a topic that he was already interested in and built on that enthusiasm instead of trying to create interest in a new topic.

I would recommend getting the physical box instead of the pdf. I think we would've been more successful with the activities if I wasn't slowed down by trying to get everything printed correctly and all of the supplies gathered before we started working. (Of course, organized homeschoolers would prepare everything ahead of time. That's not me.)

The details:
Box of IDEAs has project boxes for Salt, Pearl Harbor, Pigs, Eleven, Quilting, and Laundry. Physical boxes for each topic cost $79 each, and a pdf version can be downloaded for $49.

Disclaimer: I received a pdf version of Salt Box of I.D.E.As. as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.



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