Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pet Proofing Christmas

I think everyone knows that having pets can sometimes disrupt what takes place in your home. For us, Christmas has always been one of those times in one way or another. In years past it was mostly due to multiple cats in the household that liked to climb up trees. Those years we persevered and continued to decorate traditionally - lost many ornaments in the process. 

The past five years have found us owning 4 dogs, 2 cats, and 1 ferret. The ferret and cats alone cause trouble with trees and ornaments. I collect old fashioned glass ornaments and at one time we decorated 3-4 trees at a time in different rooms of the house. Each tree was themed. Think snowmen, Santa, blue and silver, and handmade. I really loved the Christopher Radko ornaments. After loosing one too many ornaments we changed the decorating plan. 

Over the years we have tried many things to combat the cats and ferret. Real trees instead of fake, because they like to eat the greenery - Didn't work. Securing the tree to the wall with wire - Didn't work. I think you get the picture. 

The past 3-4 years we got smart. At least little smart. My husband built this tree that hangs on the wall year round. We had high hopes of decorating it for each season, but mostly it just get used for Christmas. The star at the top was created out of salvaged wood from a dresser that belonged to my grandmother because I no longer had room for the furniture in our small cabin and it was pretty outdated. The same wood from the dresser was also used to create an advent wreath that sits on our kitchen table. Each year we would put the presents under the hanging wall tree. Well, this past January we purchased two small dogs that eat everything in sight. So the presents now need to be off of the floor. 

In walks the present table that currently holds presents purchased over Black Friday week. One of the biggest changes we decided upon this year was putting up the big fake tree again - only not in the house. I had seen a few houses in our community that were lighting trees and putting them on their porch. I thought this was a wonderful idea and followed suit. So the very first picture you see in this post is our fake tree that has been with us for years with a new life on the front porch. I decorated the tree with ornaments, ribbons, lights, etc. that I knew could handle the weather that may come into play over the next month. So far it is holding up wonderfully.

Monday, November 30, 2015

When Goodwill Moves to Town

Goodwill moved into our neck of the woods, a really small town, in September. It has become myaplace of choice to shop. My hubby kids that if they opened a Starbucks inside of Goodwill, you might never see me again.
My go to items tend to be books, DVDs, board games, linens, formal wear, occasional clothing, and odds and ends for the house.

My most recent finds include a pet carrier (4.00), pitcher (2.00), and chest (6.00) to store blankets in my bedroom. Two weeks ago an upright piano showed  up for 85.00 dollars. That baby would have been mine if we could have figured out how to get a 500 pound piano up the stairs into our cabin.

I go to take a look at least twice a week. I never spend too much. Just a little here and there. The funny thing is over the past two days we cleared out boxes and boxes of items and some furniture to de - clutter the house. So any new purchase is thought over and pondered about the new look I want my house to present. Our house has pretty much looked the same for the past 10 years and I haven't had much interest in changing it. In walks Small Spaces Big Style from HGTV and all that changes. I'm looking to create more storage, have clean table and counter tops, and less stuff lying around.

Can't wait for the next visit.

Friday, November 20, 2015

When You Find the Perfect Shoe

I have raved about these bad boys twice already on Instagram. I love them that much. When you suffer with feet problems like myself, going on for about 6 years, you really want to find something to help that doesn't cost a fortune. The podiatrist usually recommends shoes from her office, but I have always been reluctant to make that purchase. I suffer from planter fasciitis initially brought on by too much jumping, probably in the wrong shoe, with Jazzercise and Zumba. It had gotten to the point that the pain in my heals would come and go depending on what type of exercise I was participating, other types of shoes I was wearing, and how much time I was up on my feet.
This past summer was the nail in my feet coffin. I wore flat sandals and flip flops too much and viola the pain came back in a major way. I went on a mission to Belks to find something that was comfortable and a bit stylish to wear on a daily basis.

In walks Sketchers Go Walks. Love, love, love them. I can stay in them all day and not have a bit of trouble. No painful heals. I loved them from the beginning so much that I purchased two pair to get me started. A couple of weeks ago I added the beige pair for the fall. My next purchase will be the navy blue and maybe the black until the spring and summer colors come back out. So anybody wondering what I want for Christmas and this would be it. The Go Walks run anywhere from 39.00 - 79.00 depending on a sale, which style, and what store you are shopping. I bought each and every pair - no one paid me to do this post.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

TOS Review - Grapevine Studies - Old Testament 1: Level 3 Creation to Jacob

Grapevine Studies Review
There are many ways and avenues that a parent can use to help teach the Bible to their children. Lots of choices out there and sometimes it can be quite time consuming and confusing to wade through all the available curriculum and decide what is best for your family. Some families choose to simply read from the Bible and discuss, while others will buy specific types of Bibles studies and curriculum to help flesh the Bible out and to understand scriptures and Bible doctrine better. All of these are wonderful avenues to delve more into the Bible and really as long as you are picking up your Bible to read and study you are doing well. Sometimes though a product comes out that is very unique and appeals to children in particular. We were asked to review such a product. Through the TOS Review Crew we used and are now posting a review for Old Testament 1: Level 3 Creation to Jacob from Grapevine Studies. 
Grapevine Studies Review
We were given a digital version of this level to review and I used it with my 4 tutoring students, three 11 year olds and one 13 year old. This level is recommended for ages 10 - 12 with pricing ranging from $10.00 - $37.50 for different books, teacher guides, and licenses for copying and using with multiple children.
I have seen this product multiple times at different homeschool conventions and always thought what a unique way it was to teach children about the Bible. At the time I had seen this product I felt my daughter was too old to benefit from it even though she is very artistically inclined and would have loved something like this when she was younger. I was blessed to still be able to use it with my tutoring students which were more in the age recommendations. I really enjoyed using this product with them and felt on many levels it would help children learn and retain information about the Bible. We used this for our devotion time each day. As the title says the material in this level and product was Creation to Jacob. The lessons are structured to either be completed on a weekly basis or daily. Either way you will be looking at once a week for 12 weeks or daily for 45 days.
Each lesson involves reading scripture to the children or on their own. Once the scripture is read a large box is provided for the children to draw the stick figure representations that are provided for that particular scripture. The Teacher's Manual has all the stick figures and colors provided as well as discussion between the teacher and student/s. Certain stick figures and symbols are used repeatedly to remind children of particular events and people from the Bible. Also included in each lesson is a timeline review where the figures and symbols are drawn over and over each week/lesson for review. There are review questions and memory verses as well for each lesson. It is imperative that you purchase the Teacher's Manual and not just the student books. The Teacher's Manual has all the information you need for drawings, discussion, etc.
Grapevine Studies Review
There are multiple levels and topics available. This curriculum would be perfect for children that are artistic, but the simplicity of the drawings will work for anyone. In other words no artistic ability is required to be able to use this product. It could be used for home education, private schools, and even in church for children's Sunday school classes.
Grapevine Studies Review
The website is very helpful with many pages of information about where to start and how to use the curriculum.
This is truly a very unique and economical way to teach your children the wonderful stories and doctrine from the Bible. I would recommend this to just about everyone. It works in all kinds of settings and I feel it would be something children would really look forward to using each day as well as all the review that will help the children retain the information studied. Be sure to visit their website and check out all the topics and levels that are available. Also see what other reviewers from TOS Review Crew had to say about their books.
Grapevine Studies Review
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

TOS Review - The Critical Thinking Co. - Surfing the Net: Science

Have you ever wondered how children learn to research topics, especially on the Internet? For some children this comes very naturally, and for others it might be a bit of a struggle. Which websites, articles, and answers are legit? This new product from The Critical Thinking Co.  may not have all those answers, but it does give the student lots of practice in researching on the Internet. We were asked to use and review Surfing the Net: Science through the TOS Review Crew. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I like this product. The  Critical Thinking Co. puts out award winning products all the time, so really I shouldn't be surprised at all.
Surfing The Net: Science is 250 pages chockfull of learning. We received a physical softcover edition to review. This product is recommended for grades 3-6 and retails for $24.99. For what you get this is a very economical find. The book has 7 sections of science topics. The beginning of the workbook contains information related to how to use the book and the answers to all the questions can be found at the end of the book. Each section has smaller sub-sections that are sub-topics related to the main theme of the section. So far we have finished all of the Space section and about half of the Animal section. Topics included in the book are: Animals, Atmosphere, Ecosystems, and Habitats, Energy, Geology, Plants, and Space. I choose the first topic, Space, but soon learned the kids had other plans. I wrote all the other science topics on the board and let them vote on the next section we would use. Surprise, Surprise - it was Animals. What kid doesn't enjoy learning about animals. Then we obviously had a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. So in other words we have the remainder of the year planned out as to which section of the book will be next. This should clue you in to the fact that I do really like this product and plan on continuing with it until the end of the school year.
Each science topic has specific links to articles, games, videos, etc. that have been researched to be valid and child friendly sites to find the information needed to answer all the questions. The worksheet pages are in color, and leave plenty of room for writing. In other words, very pleasing to the eye. I used this product with four tutoring students 3-5 days a week. This meant we were usually able to finish one sub-section a week and sometimes start on a second. I would say that three out of the four enjoy using this product. Surfing the Net: Science is the perfect product to teach students how to find information on the Internet. I really love that I can copy the worksheets and use them with multiple students.
Yesterday the kids where researching images of an animal cell which they needed to draw and label for a question in the packet.

My students used smart phones, pads, kindles, and computers for this workbook.
We were blessed to review another product from The Critical Thinking Co. last year and we have never been disappointed with the quality of their materials. Literally you can find over 150 books and other educational materials on the website to purchase. I would recommend this company to any type of homeschooler. The materials they produce can be worked in to any type of educating method. This product could be used as a complete science curriculum. All you would need to do is use all the topics as jumping off points, kind of like Unit Studies, then add and build as much as you wanted from other areas. Please go to The Critical Thinking Co. and check out all the wonderful products they have to offer. Also take time to read some of the other reviews from the TOS Review Crew.
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The Critical Thinking Company Review

Friday, November 6, 2015

TOS Review - Ann McCallum Books - Eat Your U.S. History Homework

It is always a fun school day when you can find a way to work in a hands on activity or experience. I truly believe these type of activities help children remember concepts better. Also it doesn't hurt when those experiences involve food. My tutoring kids range in age from 11 - 13, all with large appetites, especially for sweets. We were offered the opportunity to use and review, Eat Your U.S. History Homework from Ann McCallum Books, which definitely came under the category of yummy eating in the form of education.
The author of Eat Your U.S. History Homework, Ann McCallum, has a Masters Degree in Education and has lived in very interesting places around the world. She has written other books as well, including; Beanstalk: The Measure of a Giant, Rabbits, Rabbits Everywhere: A Fibonacci Tale, Eat Your Math Homework, and Eat Your Science Homework.
Eat Your U.S. History Homework is 47 pages long and retails for $15.95. We received a hard cover book to review. The book is filled with adorable, colorful illustrations. Eat Your U.S. History includes and Introduction, Kitchen Tips, six recipes with accompanying historical information, History Review, Glossary, and Index. The six recipes include:
Thanksgiving Succotash
Colonial Cherry-Berry Grunt
Lost Bread
Southern Plantation Hoe Cakes
Revolutionary Honey-Jumble Cookies
Independence Ice Cream
Each recipe comes with a historical page of information for that time in history that the dish was served. The recipe is on a two-page spread including ingredients and instructions (both in written and picture form). The two pages following the recipe contain more information about history and a "side dish", which highlights a person or event from the specified time period.
I have included information about the three recipes the kids enjoyed the most. First up is Revolutionary Honey-Jumble Cookies. Basically what we now know as a Snickerdoodle. It was incredibly interesting to read in this section about how Americans are more fond of Coffee than the English of their Tea. I won't spoil it so that you can go out and get the book. The cookies were gone in a blink of an eye.

Independence Ice Cream was a hoot to create. Very creamy and delicious. The kids absolutely loved this activity. Very few ingredients but lots of elbow grease to make it work.

The Colonial Cherry - Berry Grunt was also delicious. I originally made this for my kids to try, but some of them are a bit picky. I took most of it over to a family dinner instead and saved just a small portion for the kids the next day. My family devoured their portion and as I thought only one of the students really liked it. I had never heard of creating a cobbler like dish in a skillet, so this was very interesting to create.
This book could be used in a few different way. In our case many of the history time periods matched up to what we are currently studying, especially Squanto, the first Thanksgiving, and the Pilgrims and Puritans coming over to America from England. My daughter Grace helped me cook the Cherry-Berry dish and I am counting it as part of her Home Ec. credit. With the tutoring students we read all the historical information, discussed the differences in cooking then and now, and of course tasted all the great food. I would really like to check out the Eat Your Math Homework because all my kids hate math and would actually like to eat their math homework sometimes.
Cute books! Great recipes! Easy ingredients! Be sure to go check out what all the other reviewers from the Crew thought about their books.
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Ann McCallum Books Review

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fall Happenings 2015

Friday night started off the fun weekend activities. We attended a Fall Festival at the private school Grace attends two days a week for math and science. Her plans were to dress up both the dogs the following night and take them into town. Friday night was a trial run for Zeus. He went as Grace's "date" due to her significant other marching in a football game a few counties away. They went as Batman (Zeus is wearing bat wings) and cat woman. He was a very good boy but was scared most of the time, so we nixed taking them the next night were the crowds would have been huge and overwhelming.

Grace painted another pumpkin this year for a contest at the school. If you remember last year she also painted a pumpkin with a scene from Nightmare Before Christmas. She won first place.

Saturday night we attended a long running tradition in Clarkesville of trick or treating up in the town square. Each business hands out candy. Think huge crowds and lots of candy. We stayed only a short while. The kids, and I use that term lightly because we are talking about teenagers, were disappointed that hardly anyone got the pun of their costume. "When life hands you lemons".
We headed straight over to my sister's house for a costume party. Great food, bonfire, costume contest, family, and friends. My sister is always great at the decorating thing and making sure her guest have a good time.

It was a good Halloween. With Grace being a junior this year I maybe have one more before she really starts doing her own thing. That's kind of said, but I'll take the year and hopefully in the future (very distant future) I might have grandchildren to walk around with on Halloween. My parents have always been involved in the Halloweens with my kids which makes it even more special.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

TOS Review - Maestro Classics - The Nutcracker

Maestro Classics Review
I am always struggling to find ways to work composer study or music appreciation into our schedule. Classical music was not a favorite of mine until we started homeschooling 10 years ago. Our second year of homeschooling found us using Charlotte Mason Methods which include composer study. Each and every year we have come to appreciate classical music more and more, especially my teenage daughter. She works much more independently these days being a junior in high school, so when I was chosen to review The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics, I knew right away I would use it with my tutoring students.
Maestro Classics Review
The Nutcracker CD is part of a 12 CD library that includes: Peter and the Wolf, The Story of Swan Lake, Carnival of the Animals, My Name is Handel, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, The Tortoise and the Hare, Merry Pranks of Master Till, Casey at the Bat, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Soldier's Tale, and Juanita la langosta Espanola. The entire 12 CD collection retails for $150.00 with free shipping. The Nutcracker CD can be purchased for $16.98 which also includes free shipping, while the MP3 version retails for $9.98. The MP3 is an instant download to any computer or device. We received the physical CD to review which includes a small 21 page booklet insert that includes information about the Ballet, The Harp, and Tchaikovsky.
The Nutcracker along with the other CD were created by Stephen and Bonnie Simon. Both with many years of experience in conducting and music education. The music is performed by The London Philharmonic and narration of the story by the wonderful storyteller, Jim Weiss. You will hear 16 scenes of The Nutcracker story through 21 tracks with a running time of a hour. Each CD in the series including The Nutcracker, has an accompanying curriculum guide found on the Maestro website.
I wanted to come up with a fun way to incorporate the CD into our day. We decided to devote an entire day to The Nutcracker CD and make it a fine arts/unit study kind of day. I utilized the curriculum guide from the Maestro Classics website which highlighted activities involving Ballet, History and Geography, Science, Language Arts, Art, Music and Math. I also did a little investigating around the Internet for other activities as well. One day last week we devoted the day to The Nutcracker and followed little rabbit trails from the music, composer, and history of the time frame the story and music was written.

For language art I printed off some mad libs worksheets with The Nutcracker story, writing prompts for the kids to write their own fairy tale, and a word search that had them find words from the story.

In art the students drew a nutcracker then used water colors to finish him off. I provided two different version ( an easier and more difficult version). They actually worked on this through some of the time we were listening to the CD.

I also printed off a note booking page to fill out information about Tchaikovsky with material to read about the famous composer. We watched videos about how Nutcrackers are made, playing the celesta, and playing a music rhythm game with cups to the Nutcracker music.

I feel quite certain the best part of the day for all of us was listening to the beautiful music and story provided on The Nutcracker CD. It put us all in the Christmas spirit. It made me that more interested in attending The Nutcracker Ballet performed every December in Atlanta at the Fox Theatre. Listening to the CD also inspired me to pick back up adding to my collection of Nutcrackers. I will definitely continue to use these types of CDs with my tutoring students to teach them more about famous composers and classical music. What I am even more excited about is being inspired to create a class for our Cooperative around these CDs for 6 and 7 years in music appreciation that will begin in January. Maestro Classics has put out something every family can treasure. Please go to Maestro Classics and see which CD would work best for your home. Also see what the other Crew Members thought of their CDs.


Crew Disclaimer
Maestro Classics Review

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TOS Review - Apologia Educational Ministries - The Ultimate Homeschool Planner

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner
Hello, my name is Diane and I'm addicted to planners, calendars, and homeschool planning. Not just any type of planner, but to be specific - paper planners. Give me something I can write on any day over online stuff. Very old school in that arena. Everyone in my family kids me about the fact that my spiritual gift is organizing and planning. I was pleased as punch to be chosen to review The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia Educational Ministries.
Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner
Apologia is very well known for their science and Bible curriculum. We currently use both in our home, but not many people are aware of their product, The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell. This planner is for the homeschool moms, although similar versions are also available for the teen students in the household. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner is 279 pages and retails for $29.00. There are three versions available in blue, orange, and yellow (I got yellow) - all constructed well, durable, and very pleasing to the eye.
This planner has all the options for planning in the modes of daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or all of the above. Quite frankly a planner's paradise at your fingertips. It accommodates up to six students (perfect for me with Grace and 5 tutoring students). Forty - eight weeks are available for all the weekly planning needed to make a home and homeschool run smoothly.
The first two pages equals eight years of calendars at a glance. This is has been very helpful in the recent days as I have used it numerous times to help plan our spring Cooperative schedule.


The planner begins with a letter from the author and then immediately goes into the user's guide which includes: how to use the product, yearly planning retreat, monthly planning sessions, weekly planning breaks, Monday morning tutorials and Friday afternoon reviews. The morning tutorials and Friday reviews are actually found in the student planners, but the Ultimate Planner shows the moms how to incorporate it into your their routines.

Between the users information and the monthly calendars you will find two page layouts for one year planning grids, student character and academic goals for the year, list areas for family priorities, and resource/curriculum lists for each student.


The next section includes all the monthly calendars. They are blank templates where you can write in any month and dates. Following this is all the weekly planning sheets. They include areas to write down all your information for the weekly Bible and Battle Plan, who to pray for, and who you might need to help in the areas of hospitality and outreach as well as the accomplishments the family has made during the week and all the academic plans. This is actually the bulk of the planner.

The end of the planner has a small section devoted to recording student's grades, multiples pages for reading and field trip lists, information about motivating learners of different learning styles, thinking skills, planning for the high school years, and year end review pages.

The parts I have used the most is the monthly calendars, gleaning information about motivating learners, pages related to setting academic and behavior goals for the year, recording scores, and adding to reading lists. It has been hard for me to remember to utilize the weekly planning sheets as often as I would like and figure out a way to make them best work for me. For my unbelievably crazy schedule I do need more space in the squares of the monthly calendars than what is provided. I do love the two sturdy pocket areas in the front and back of the book. They come in very handy for holding school calendars, appointment pages from doctor's offices, and other miscellaneous items that are needed to plan all our lives. Unlike a lot of moms I carry a really big purse. When I go to buy a new purse I always make sure it is large enough to accommodate my planner. Luckily my current purse is big enough for this planner and it stays with me at all times. My days and weeks are so busy I would be lost without a planner. The Ultimate Homeschool Planner has fit right in with my planning and scheduling. All in all I believe it is a beautifully put together planner that I hope to use throughout this school year and find more ways to make it have a balance of working for my home and tutoring students.


Remember to visit this link to the TOS Review Crew and check out how other families used this product in their home.

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Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review