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.

Crew Disclaimer
Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

Sunday, October 25, 2015

When Food Labels Rule Your Life

Seriously folks, yesterday I went to two different stores for groceries and not only spent a whopping 300.00 , but also 4 hours trying to decipher what was good for me to yet. Yes, I had already done a bit of research through some websites and books from the library. The problem is with a heart healthy diet you are not only looking at fat, calories, and such, but also sodium. It makes it very difficult to get all those things to line up, especially with any pre-made or processed products.
I've gotten to that point in my life where I really don't enjoy cooking very much so pre-made food or fast food has been my close friend over the past couple of years. I am usually still able to control my weight through exercise and through a couple of rounds on Trim Healthy Mama. That is another problem - my mind thinks like Trim Healthy Mama for purchasing and cooking food, but a heart healthy diet goes against nearly everything they suggest. Puts me in kind of a quandary as to who to listen to.

This is very much a learning process. The high blood pressure meds keep all my numbers good but thinking of the future makes me want to clean up my eating habits and diet. Both my parents have cardiovascular disease and my dad has had multiple strokes. Getting used to the fact that I have cardiovascular disease (yes, high blood pressure is that) was very hard. I have passed all my tests with flying colors and the heart is healthy. So why do I have high blood pressure? Genetics? Carrying 10 - 15 too many pounds, eating the wrong things? Not sure. Maybe a collection of everything. While visiting my doctor for a recheck on Friday he said that many people with high blood pressure are idiopathic. This means no real reason as to why.
All I know is I want to be around for a long time. Not because I'm afraid to go to Heaven and meet my maker, but I have a lot of living left to do. I want to watch my kids have families of their own. I want to be a grandparent and see what it feels like to go through empty nest syndrome. In other words its time to pull myself up by the boot straps and get it together.

Monday, October 19, 2015

TOS Review - Brookdale House - Writing Through Early Modern History Level 1 Cursive

 Brookdale House Review
About a year ago I was quite surprised to learn that the public school system was no longer teaching cursive handwriting to the students. I can understand this on some levels due to high schools and colleges almost exclusively using technology to hand in any assignments. On the other hand, not teaching cursive to our children will hinder them in other areas; such as reading old letters and historical documents, signatures in cursive, and reading books written in cursive. Not to mention it is truly an art form that will eventually die out.
One great advantage of working with the TOS Review Crew is being introduced to educational products and curriculum you didn't even know existed. That is the case here with reviewing Writing Through Early Modern History Level 1 Cursive from Brookdale House. We were sent a digital download of the product to review. It is recommended for grades 1 - 3 (although I  am using it with 6th graders which I will explain later in this post) and it retails at $22.95 (ebook) or $30.95 (printed book). This book is so huge with 351 pages of short stories, historical narratives, narration pages, cursive copy work, grammar guide, and so much more.
 Brookdale House Review
Brookdale House has put together a truly unique product. Using Charlotte Mason principles of copy work, narration, and dictation - they have created a multifaceted product to teach elementary students writing, cursive, and history. The Writing Through History Series has been set up to accommodate a four year history cycle which also brings in a little classical teaching as well. The four year cycle includes 2 levels of manuscript and two levels of cursive for Ancient History, Medieval History, Early Modern History, and Modern History. Brookdale House also sells products in grammar, geography, and Spanish.
The Early Modern History Writing program contains narratives, poetry, folk and cultural tales found in the years of 1600 AD - 1850 AD with a focus on American History. In history this year my tutoring students are working their way through this time period, so I was very pleased to be chosen to review this particular product. I choose level 1 for my 5-6th graders due to the fact that one student (from a public school background) had never learned cursive and another was left handed and found it harder than manuscript. Basically I was starting from ground zero.
Each week I printed a packet to give to each student. Day one they would read the story then narrate it in their own words on the provided narration page. Day two they would focus on copying the copy work/cursive pages. Most weeks we were able to get through two packets. One packet at my home and another sent home to be completed.
The first section of the downloaded book contains historical narratives. The second section is Grimm Fairy Tales while the third section is poetry. The last section is folk tales. Included in the beginning of the book are many pages of detailed instruction on how to use the materials and different options for scheduling.
We have thoroughly enjoyed this product. The kids definitely need the cursive practice and all the historical narratives fit in wonderfully with our current history studies. I love Charlotte Mason methods and think that the way these methods are woven throughout the material is genius. Some of my favorite aspects of the product are:
Copies for multiple students with digital download purchase
Historical video links on the Brookdale website to help enhance your studies
Easy to understand directions, different scheduling options, and easy to implement
Economical price for all you get
More than one subject area covered
Go to Brookdale House and see what may work for your home. Also visit the TOS Crew site and read reviews on this and other products from Brookdale House.
Crew Disclaimer
 Brookdale House Review

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Living in a Small Town - Gold Rush Days

The Northeast Georgia Mountains area is made up of many small towns. All with interesting stories, festivals, activities, and people. Living in a smaller town is such a joy - everyone knows each other and it just feels different. Sometimes I do miss all the restaurant and shopping choices as well as cultural experiences that the big city holds, but I wouldn't trade our little spot for anything.
Yesterday we set off to Dahlonega, about 45 minutes from our home and town, to attend Gold Rush Days. You see Dahlonega was a gold rush town and is a big tourist attraction for Georgians. Not to mention the area is stunning, especially this time of the year with fall foliage.

This festival is a big one. I'm quite sure there were easily 20,000 people in attendance yesterday. Also the dogs. We counted at least 130.

One of the main reasons we attend each year is Grace's boyfriend is in the marching band and they were marching in the parade. This parade requires grabbing a good spot early and staying put. I'm talking 1 1/2 - 2 hours early.

I did bring a book along to read during the wait and actually finished it.

Vendors of all kinds were present for the festival. My favorites were vendors of homemade food, candy, spice mixes, etc.

Most of the day was spent with these two nerds (I express that in the mostly loving way). Last Gold Rush Days was their first date (supervised by me of course), so this was kind of an anniversary for them.

We topped the evening off with a fabulous dinner at a local Italian restaurant that we will definitely be revisiting. Great local charm and the food was to die for. After dinner we headed over to the local high school to watch the drama kids perform The Glass Menagerie. Great acting - but sad play. All in all very great fall day to be outside - a 13 hour day that sent me to bed as soon as we arrived home.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Raising Teenagers

Raising teenagers is a tricky business. Raising teenage girls is harder still. I have raised a son with very little stress, but all my gray hair has come from the daughter. There is a checklist I keep rolling around in my mind. Constantly thinking about all the "life" conversations I need to have with her to prepare for the adult life that is fast approaching.

Our family has dealt with some teenage hurdles that are stressful and that many families, thankfully, never have to navigate. This has bonded us together and made us much closer in the long run. It may take me a few more years to actually be grateful for those hurdles, but I feel that God did have us all travel through those bad times for a purpose. What that purpose turns out to a question not yet answered. We are stronger than before, more compassionate toward those with similar issues, and without sounding too prideful, a little less judgmental when other families are dealt situations that seem shameful, humiliating, or disappointing. Let's face it, everyone is doing the best they can in this life. Show mercy, grace, and compassion to others just as Christ did for us. When you hear or see teenagers going down a wrong path, try not to judge to harshly. Instead be their friend or mentor. Listen to them when they feel no one else will. These kids are our future generation and need us to guide them and love them.

If you are raising a teenager, give them a hug and tell them you love them no matter what. Then go get a Starbuck's frappe and vanilla bean scone. That's what works for us. Share a little joy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fall Is Here

Fall is hands down my most favorite season of the year. Nature is just breath taking. Temperatures start to fall. High School football games are in swing. Fall Festivals, Halloween, costumes, and so much more.

I wish fall would stay year round with maybe just a few weeks of spring and a couple of weeks of hot temps for swimming, but otherwise all fall all the time.

Beautiful mushrooms at the end of our driveway.

And of course something I don't like at all about falling temps......driving the spiders indoors. This wolf spider was in the school room a couple of days ago and gave us all a heart attack.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Come Join the TOS Review Crew

Schoolhouse Review Crew 2016 Applications
The past 3-4 years I have reviewed educational products for The Old School House Review Crew. It has truly been such a blessing to my family and to me personally. You would not believe the amount of products that are available to homeschooling families. Many times over the past few years I have reviewed a product and then it has stayed in our curriculum, or I have been introduced to a product that would work great for someone I knew.
If you have a blog and are maybe a bit of a curriculum junkie this may be something you want to check into. Currently the TOS Review Crew is accepting applications for the 2016 year. There are requirements that you will need to meet and even though it is fun, you also need to take this seriously just like you would with a part time job. So go check it out and see if this might be something for you.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up - The Week of Canceling

This week was kind of different. As a Cooperative director sometimes crazy items pop up that you have to handle. This week that crazy items was lice. The joy of working with kids - right. Luckily so far me and Grace have escaped the diagnosis of lice, but at least 7 kids in the Cooperative did not. This meant shutting down the Cooperative for a week, treating the area we hold classes, and asking all the students to be treated as well. Even though we got a clean bill of health, we still treated to be on the safe side. This meant my tutoring students stayed home this week as well because they are also Cooperative students. I sent home all of their work so that we didn't miss any days.
With all the extra time on my hands I caught up on a lot of Cooperative work and planning lessons for the next few weeks. Today I have a meeting with my Co - Director to plan the next session of Cooperative that will begin in January. Lots of new classes like God Rods from Salt and Light Ministry, Tone Chimes, and the big Spring Musical.

I also worked a ton on all the review products making sure I have them all set to use Monday - Wednesday of next week since we missed so much time this week.
Grace went to her hybrid classes and came home with a bit of homework to accomplish by Tuesday. She also started her voice lessons and is super excited about it. Grace plans on fine tuning her audition songs during these scheduled visits and learning more about stretching her voice to new levels. Scott and Grace played tennis two nights this week for exercise and enjoyment. She was considering going vegetarian for animal cruelty reasons, but after much consideration doesn't think she could follow through with it. I think instead we are looking more at the purchase choices we make in the meat department.
I talked to the private school Grace wishes to attend next year for her Senior year trying to work out in my head how it will work, not only financially, but also finishing up the credits she needs to graduate.
Tonight is a high school football game and tomorrow is the Big Red Apple Festival (although rain is in the forecast ).
And of course the picture that represents much of the week for us. Worry over lice infestation. Finding the right products to use. Looking forward to the next two weeks being over with and back to normal.
I almost forgot. I did get good news this week. When I had my echo done about 5 weeks ago for the high blood pressure diagnosis they inadvertently found a spot on my liver that needed to be checked with an abdominal ultrasound. My doctor told me originally he didn't feel I needed to worry and it didn't need to be done right away. Last week I had the ultrasound and they found two benign cysts on my liver. Believe it or not you can have cysts on any of your internal organs. No worries all is good. That was a load off of my mind.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Friday, October 2, 2015

Reminiscing - What Was Supposed to Be a Weekly Wrap Up

I was all set to post a weekly wrap up then got caught up with pictures of Grace through the years and just had to post about that instead. I am so proud of this girl. She has gone through so much. She is truly my best friend. I love her to pieces and don't know what I will do when she grows up and gets on with her life outside of our home. So, indulge me while I share so memories.

Of course Grace's first dog. This is the baby of the family.

Grace in her uniform while attending Trinity's Fine Art days.

A valentine party a few years ago. She hates this picture, but I quite like it.

One from just a couple of years ago on Easter.

Before all the hair went away. I loved the long hair, but she petitioned for short hair for a long time before I relented.

Grace in her element. She loves dressing up and hopes to work as a makeup artist one day.

Another of her loves - animals - volunteering at the shelter.

Christmas a few years ago when she was crazy about Loki.

A birthday party without a birthday cake. Doughnut cake instead.

Just last spring with the short hairdo and all dressed up for the Spring Formal.