Sunday, September 27, 2015

TOS Review - USAopoly

 USAopoly Review
Up until the last year or so we haven't been a big game playing family. Mostly because, 1) my two children are nine years apart and were never interested in the same games and 2) it was like raising only children which left only 2-3 people to play any desired game. I guess an extra reason might be the fact that myself and Grace were just not big board game fans. About 1-2 years ago something changed and now we all love playing games. We are constantly researching and purchasing interesting games to add to our collection. Through the TOS Review Crew we were blessed to be able to review Wonky: The Crazy Cubes Card Game and Tapple: Fast Word Fun for Everyone from USAopoly.
If you are passionate about playing games USAopoly is the website for you. They have been producing games since 1994 with some of the biggest names in the business. USAopoly is continuously adding new original games to their website with promises of more new games to come in 2016. These folks are passionate about what they do, which makes it fun for the rest of us too!
 USAopoly Review
Tapple was the first game we tried out. I used three different scenarios. First I had Grace and her best friend play the game. They loved it and went through each play card in one sitting. Next it was played after dinner one night and again we played for a long time. Lastly I gave my tutoring students a turn. They too loved Tapple! It is a very easy game to learn. Not much prep time and within minutes you are up and running. Tapple retails for $19.95 and is recommended for ages 8 and up. Tapple is a fast paced, quick thinking kind of game. A card is chosen that will give the players the theme of each round. For example, "boy names". Each player has 10 seconds to come up with a boy's name that corresponds with the letter tiles that surround the playing board. If they are able to accomplish that task the game moves to the next player. The game ends when all the letter tiles have been used or players drop out due to running out of time and one player is left standing.


USAopoly Review
The second game we were asked to play and review is Wonky. Wonky retails for $19.95 and is also recommended for ages 8 and up. Again I tried this one out first on the 16 year olds and they like it. Their main recommendation was for the game to have more cubes, especially if you had a lot of people wanting to play. The younger tutoring students next had their chance and they liked it way more than the teens. In this game your main components is blocks that are "wonky" shaped and the deck of playing cards. Number of players determines how many cards you start out with at the beginning of the game. All the cards have different color and shape blocks which tells you what block to chose and play to build the tower. Some cards will have other actions like reverse, pass, or play any color. The goal is to get the tower built without falling and to strategize so that your blocks stay in place while making it harder for the other players to place their blocks.
USAopoly offers many types of games to purchase. Quite a few of the old classics with new variations. Matter of fact I saw Monopoly in the versions of The Legend of Zelda, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Pok√©mon that are on my  Christmas List for the kids. USAopoly also offers puzzles with some of the popular fandoms as well.
We thoroughly enjoyed Tapple and Wonky. I plan on sharing them both with my Cooperative students in the weeks to come and any upcoming holiday parties. Visit USAopoly and see if any of the games and puzzles strike your fancy. With Christmas just around the corner I am quite sure there is something here for everyone. Also check out what other Crew Members thought of their game experiences.

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 USAopoly Review
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Friday, September 25, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up - All Sorts of Updates

First update we will start with my healthy. You may remember that about 6 -7 weeks ago I was diagnosed with high blood pressure after a couple of visits to the ER with very high numbers. After some medication changes and four weeks of adjusting to meds my numbers have been stable in the low 100s on top and the low 70s on the bottom with a resting HR in the neighborhood of 60-80. Many tests have been run and come back negative. Still waiting on a stress test and an abdominal ultrasound. The ultrasound is due to finding what appears to be a cyst on my liver that was picked up while performing the echo. Also most of the side effects from the medications have diminished or gone away completely. That was truly a very long month trying to get it all figured out.

Next some updates on my tutoring students. We finished our first literature book, Sign of the Beaver with the corresponding study guide from Progeny Press. On Monday we will watch the movie, complete some crafts, and eat some Native American food. Now they begin Island of the Blue Dolphins as the literature read which fits nicely with the semester long ocean and marine life study we are doing through Exploring Creation Swimming Creatures. We also work with Easy Grammar, Essentials in Writing, Teaching Textbooks, Review Products, Story of the World, and Abeka readers.

I haven't written about Grace much so an update is definitely due. Hybrid classes for geometry and chemistry are going fairly well. Geometry she gets much more than chemistry. Volleyball is great and she wishes the season would go year round. Yesterday was the second to last game and we lost, but man the volleying in the game was incredible. Each set was close and the main thing is the girls had so much fun. Since switching to Uncle Eric's What Ever Happened to Penny Candy Economics has gone much smoother. Grace's Cooperative classes include Girls Ensemble, Ballroom Dance, Art, and Drama. She has one main skit she will be performing at the Christmas recital and also a backup singer in two others.
Grace is very strong in her decision to attend Cosmetology school after graduation. We have two possibilities in our area. One requires a state approved accredited diploma which our currently will not be. The other school will accept our homeschool diploma and transcripts. Grace has asked to attend the private school full time next year for her senior year. This would solve the problem of the diploma and she just loves being there.

This past weekend Grace also attended her first homecoming dance and high school football game. Her best friend and significant other is in the band at this particular school. The game was great - we won - and the band preformed awesomely. The dance was a let down. They are attuned to attending Cooperative dances with modesty rules, carefully chosen music, etc. This high school dance was the exact opposite. They were miserable and stayed exactly 40 minutes before texting us and asking to be picked back up. What a disappointment! Grace was very upset about the whole experience and very disappointed. The upside was that we got some great pictures before attending.

I'm excited about three books I ordered from Amazon to read. Reading lately has been on the back burner for me. I am trying to work my way through The 5th Wave series to get ready for the movie coming out in January. Also the new Michael Vey book and the new series from Rick Riordan came out. So I ordered both and they are next on the list to read. Hoping the new Rick Riordan series about Norse mythology is better than the Last Olympian book that came out.
We also have a ton of review products that will be keeping us busy:
So as you can see we are going to be very busy!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TOS Review - YWAM Publishing - Christian Heroes: Then and Now - Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose

YWAM Publishing Review
Every year when I attend our state's homeschool convention I would stop and visit the YWAM Publishing booth. Each year I thought, "Wouldn't it be so wonderful to be able to purchase the full set of books in both the Heroes of History and Christian Heroes: Then and Now series. Taking years to slowly read through each and every book. Well, over the last couple of years I read a few with Grace, but was recently given the opportunity to read, review, and share with my tutoring students Jim Elliott: One Great Purpose and the corresponding Unit Study Curriculum Guide.
Let's start with a little background information about YWAM Publishing, much of which I didn't know until this review. YWAM (Youth With a Mission) began back in 1960 as an outreach for missions work, which now covers 140 different countries with 17,000 volunteers. In the beginning YWAM Publishing had just one small printing press. They published tracts as an outreach during the Olympic Games in 1972. Currently YWAM publishes 150 of their own books. This is a non-profit organization with profits going to their outreach and missions organization. The authors of the book I reviewed are Janet and Geoff Benge. They live in Florida and have many years of writing experience as well as expertise in the fields of history and education.
Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose retails for $7.50 and is recommended for ages 10 and up. This book is also available in the following formats: CD, MP3, Nook, Kindle, and a direct e-book from YWAM. It can also be purchased in a Spanish translation. We received a physical paperback version of the book for review that has 192 pages.
Jim Elliott, along with other men and women, was a missionary to the tribes in the jungles of Ecuador. I don't want to ruin the story for those who are not familiar with Jim Elliot's biography. Needless to say it is a great read that left my student's engaged and more than once asking for more. We used this book as our devotion time and read one chapter a day. The kids did ask if there was a movie available to watch about this story. The most famous movie I felt would be a little too intense so I purchased an animated version to watch this week after finishing the last two chapters of the book.
Along with the book we were also given the corresponding unit study guide to review. The study guide is broken down into the following topic areas:
Key Bible Verses
Display Corner
Chapter Questions
Student Explorations
Community Links
Social Studies
Related Themes to Explore
Culminating Event
In the back of the guide you will find information regarding additional books and resources and answers to chapter questions. The guide is 62 pages and retails for $7.49.
I asked my students to pick two projects from the book to complete and share. These ranged from creative writing, hands-on projects, audio-visual projects, art and crafts, and food from Ecuador.
Acrostic Poem and Pottery

Travel Brochure

Ecuadorian Food

Ecuadorian Food - Cold Fruit Soup

River Shark


We found this book and material educational, engaging, and enlightening. I love the fact that portions of the profits from all their products go to missions to help others around the world. I would not hesitate to use another book from either series for my students. The unit study guide makes it even more attractive, because creating unit studies myself never seems to work out. Using the book and study guide together easily creates a study that would last 4-6 weeks. That would include geography, vocabulary, cultural studies, scripture work, service projects, current events, math, and so much more. This way of learning has always appealed to me.
Please take a trip over the web to YWAM Publishing and check out all the wonderful titles that are available. Also go investigate what the other crew members thought of their books and guides.

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YWAM Publishing Review

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Hybrid Student - Thursday Edition

We have schooled at home for 9 years with an occasional outside of the home class thrown. Grace's beloved Ms. Christy has always been on the schedule for art or language arts classes. This year everything changed up a bit. First and foremost I knew I couldn't teach Chemistry and Geometry unless I buckled down this past summer and learned both subjects myself. You see, I didn't take either of those subjects in high school or college before getting married. Quite frankly, I didn't feel that I would be up to the challenge. Second, Grace had a desire to learn from a different teacher and go to a class with kids in her peer group. Third, I tutor five students three days a week and this gives me time to focus on them and not make me feel like I am leaving Grace high and dry without any real instruction. I tell you all this to give you some background information about why and how our days are structured this year.

First class of the day is with Ms. Christy at The Creative Canvas at 9:00 a.m. This is a literature class and they are just beginning to read Of Mice and Men. This is a small class but full of Grace's closest friends. This small group of friends have taken classes in this setting for the past four years. Class is held once a week and the teacher sends home the assignments for the following days until class meets again. I usually run errands during this hour then we head home for a very short break and lunch.

At 11:50 we travel to a local Christian private school for Grace to take her next two classes for the day, Geometry and Chemistry. This will be for two hours. She attends these classes twice a week and sometimes on Fridays when testing is going on. Again the teacher sends home assignments for Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There is a pet gecko in the math/science room that Grace loves. She plans on bringing her home during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays so she won't be so lonely at the school.

September through the beginning of October usually finds Grace staying after school for a volleyball practice or game. Today there was a game and Yay! they won. She absolutely loves this sport and would play it year round if that was an option. Today my mom and a couple of Grace's friends came to watch the game. After the game was over it was back to the homestead for dinner. Before leaving the house at lunch I placed some food in the crockpot and had chicken tacos ready for us upon our return.

The rest of the evening was everyone getting caught on their own tasks, watching a little television, and talking with friends. This is about what every Thursday looks like for us until volleyball season ends. Eventful, busy, tiring days. That's what we live for.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TOS Review - Super Teacher Worksheets - Individual Membership

Super Teacher Worksheets Review
As a homeschooling parent what would you think of a website that could offer you thousands of printable worksheets? All in one convenient location? How about a generator to create your own worksheets? What if the website was extremely economical? That is what I was offered to review through the TOS Review Crew. An Individual Membership to Super Teacher Worksheets. This membership will run you $19.95 a year and most of the worksheets are for ages K - 5th grade. A few resources can be found for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. The creators of Super Teacher Worksheets is currently working on adding even more resources for the higher grades.
Super Teacher Worksheets Review
Subjects included on this website are:
Puzzles and Brain Teasers
Social Studies
Reading and Writing
And so much more!!
I currently tutor three 6th graders, one 5th grader, and one 8th grader. All of the students were able to utilize the worksheets in one way or another. We jumped all over the place using worksheets from many different categories. Even though technically three of my students are somewhat out of the age range - they used many of the worksheets for review or reintroducing topics they had forgotten. The kids loved most working with the Puzzles and Brain Teasers section. My favorites were the math and map skill sections. All children end up with gap in their education. Topics that were touched on, but not in depth, while others on the parents part are simply forgotten to be taught or you run out of time. Super Teacher Worksheets seems to be an easy, affordable way to address some of those gaps. This was truly perfect for me to use in so many different ways. Sending home for homework worked out wonderfully as the worksheets instructions were easy for my students to follow at home on their own. Usually once all other work was completed for the day these were also easy to hand out as extra work. I found the navigation of the website to be incredibly easy and the placement of all the resources easy to find.
We were able to accomplish 1-2 worksheets Monday - Wednesday then I would send home two worksheets as homework. We worked on the following concepts:
Latitude and Longitude
Map Scales
Basic Map Skills
Graphing (Mystery Graph Pictures)
Reading and Comprehension
Synonyms and Antonyms
Editing and Proofreading
Halloween Related
What I plan on using in the future:
Multiple Choices and Fill in the Blank Generators for Tests in History and Science
Flashcards for Vocabulary Words
Many of the Other Generator Options
This website also has some other very interesting aspects:
Both for Homeschoolers and Teachers
Over 10,000 Available Resources
More Than Just Worksheets Available
A Filing Cabinet online to Store Favorites
Generators for Quizzes, Crosswords, Etc.
Very Affordable at Just $19.95 a Year
Spanish Translations Available
Very Easy to Navigate Website
This is one of those products that there are no downsides - you just can't go wrong with purchasing an Individual Membership from Super Teacher Worksheets. Check out what other Reviewers from the Crew though of this product.

Super Teacher Worksheets Review
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

When Nature is Blooming - Mushrooms

A couple of weeks ago the kids went on a nature walk in search of mushrooms. We picked this out of our book to do because quite frankly mushrooms were everywhere. Easy to find and lots of different kinds. I took pictures of about five different specimens to identify and journal.

We did most of the work in class, but I sent home the task of actually identifying the mushrooms. It was interesting to find out how many edible mushrooms we have in our area. Of course I don't think I am brave enough to try any (especially since I don't even like mushrooms).

The kids are getting more and more creative in what they add to their pages. I hope that by the end of the year they will understand and accomplish filling up as much of the journal page as possible.

We try as a group to do a nature study walk and journal page twice a month. Of course the kids love being outside and would do one every day if we had the time.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When You Have to Change Something in Your Curriculum This Early in the Year

This 12 week DVD course with study guide is working out fine. What wasn't working out was the recommended book, Basic Economics, for added reading to round out the credit for high school. Grace was very stressed out every time she read it because it was not written in laymen's language and she couldn't answer any of the questions if she didn't understand the material. This meant I needed to back track and pick something different.

For many years I have eyeballed the Uncle Eric series of books online and at every homeschool convention I have attended. It was the first thing that popped into my mind when I knew I needed to purchase something new. Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and the accompanying study guide seems to be the ticket. From day one Grace understood this material much more easily and her stress level has come down considerably. After making this purchase I decided that I would then use some of the other Uncle Eric books next semester for Government. It will be something she is accustomed to using and shouldn't take much adjustment time. As we move along in the series and I get a better handle on what all is involved I will give a more thorough review of this product. Great thing about being a homeschooling parent - if it isn't working - change it.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Cooperative Director

Not all director duties are stressful. Who am I kidding, most of my director duties are fun and not stressful (except for registration days - very chaotic). I love my Cooperative families and kids. Most of us are friends outside of the Cooperative. This past Friday was one of those fun afternoons. We recently purchased new sound equipment. More microphones were in desperate need. The above pictures is the new purchase that came with 8 headset microphones and 8 lapels. Yesterday a group of us met to test them out in the gym where we perform to hope and pray they would work in a metal building. Thanks to our guru sound advisor everything worked beautifully. We are all so excited to have so much more volume to fill the gym so that every word can be heard at each and every performance.

With the headsets they kind of looked like members of a boy band and of course since we are a performing Cooperative, Disney music was the songs of choice for testing them out. After the sound was put away the kids decided on a pick up volleyball game. If I haven't mentioned it earlier - Grace is over the moon with playing volleyball and they won their first game this past Thursday.

After volleyball we all headed out to the local Mexican restaurant and stuffed ourselves with wonderful tasting food. The company was wonderful as well. I love these kids and families to pieces. Especially my co-director who is also one of my best friends for getting me through this last month of illness.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Utilizing a Television as a Great Educational Tool

With 5 tutoring students this year I knew I wanted something that could play multiple forms of media. At first I purchased three used computers and thought that would be the fix, but soon found out that the systems on the computers were just too old to do what I needed. One of the computers did work out for Grace's room. Instead I purchased a wall mounted flat screen television and a HDMI cord. This has truly worked like a charm.

Each morning we watch CNN Student News together. Our writing program is on DVD so everyone can watch the lecture in comfort. Currently for literature we are reading Sign of the Beaver and when the book is completed we will watch the movie which is on Amazon Instant Prime to compare. Teaching Textbooks CDs can be shown when needed for their lectures. I am also discovering that when we do Nature Study any identification can be researched on Google Images and shown to the entire class as opposed to crowding around one laptop. Yesterday we finished our study of Whales and it just so happened that Fox News shared a short video of a news camera crew spotting a Blue Whale. The largest mammal on Earth that is spotted very rarely and not in decades at the spot of the camera crew. I was able to show this on the television so that everyone can see. The possibilities are endless. So worth the 200 dollars spent.