Box of I.D.E.A.S.

Box of I.D.E.A.S. is a unit study program that gives you everything you need to learn about a topic in one place! We love unit studies at our house, and for this review, we got to sample the WWII Pearl Harbor box. My hubby LOVES WWII history, so when I saw this, I knew it would be a great way to get him involved in our schooling, and I wasn’t disappointed!

Each box comes with 10 (or more) modules that focus on activity based learning. The boxes are neatly organized, with each module and everything you need to complete it organized into a baggie! I LOVED this part. It made it so much easier to complete the activities when I didn’t have to worry about gathering materials from all over the place. I am an organizationally-challenged mom, so I appreciate having everything set up for me ahead of time!

Some of the modules from this particular box included:

  • “Before becoming a base” where you learned about the history of the Hawaiian islands.
  • “Day of Infamy” where you learn about the attack itself.
  • “Weeks after the attack” which tells you about the extensive work the navy had to do to repair and return ships to service.
  • “Victory over Japan” that teaches about the end of the war.
  • and more!

I used this Box of I.D.E.A.S. with my 6th and 9th grade sons. As I mentioned before, war history is kind of a favorite topic in my house, so we have many books and movies available to complement this study. While the box itself doesn’t contain a suggested book list to use in conjunction with the activities, it would be fairly easy for you to find books at your library that you want to use. The modules do contain weblinks to go along with each topic, and we used these for further exploration.

Some of the activities involve mapping, games, reading speeches etc. My boys enjoyed the “G.I. Speak” and mapping activites the most. A lot of times the games involved the activity cards included with the module. Sometimes we played the whole game, but other times we just looked at the cards. I have to say, the QUALITY of the items in this box was very impressive!! The photos from WWII on the cards are amazing, as are the maps and other primary sources used. In one activity, there are copies of newspaper headlines from after the Pearl Harbor attack, we all found these so interesting to look at!

This box was meant to be used with ages 9-16 and my boys are 11 and 14. I felt the activities were well suited for the age ranges suggested. Extension activities are included in each module, so your older students could work on those in addition to completing the module itself, while your younger students would just focus on the activities in the module. You can get the box as a PDF download for $49.00 or get the actual physical box with everything printed for you for $79.00. You can order additional student modules for $4.00.

All in all, I think the price is very reasonable for what you get. I prefer to get the actual box, because I HATE having to print everything out! A study like this could be a great addition to your current history program, or could be used as a unit study on it’s own if you flesh it out with some books from the library. Box of I.D.E.A.S. also has boxes on other topics like salt, quilting and laundry, and they have other boxes planned. To check these out, visit their website, here:

http://www.boxofideas.us/home.php

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Our Year So Far….(maybe it’s not going to be so bad)

Well, we are officially 5 weeks into our new school year, and I have to admit, it is going MUCH smoother than I expected!! As I have mentioned before, my oldest son started high school this year, and that was a HUGE source of anxiety for me!! However, now that we have actually started, I feel much more relaxed.

We are using MFW Ancients for our main curriculum, and now that we’ve had some time to really work with it, I have to say I am REALLY impressed!! I love how it weaves together the Bible, History, and English studies. I love how it helps my son make connections between all three. I love how he is able to grab his planner and go, and confer with me as he works, but not need me there to hold his hand every step of the way!! (I think this is really important as kids start high school, they need to take more ownership for their work, in order to get ready for life after they graduate).

Math is still a bit of a struggle, but he is making progress, and his other subjects are going well too. It helps that I started making his own planner pages this year, so he knows exactly what to do each day and only needs to come to me with questions. In fact, he has even said “Mom, school is so much more organized this year!!” 🙂 (I think I’ve mentioned before…organization is NOT one of my strengths!).

My 6th grade son is doing really well with his planner too. He is very motivated to finish school as quickly as possible. Generally, he gets up, grabs his planner, and completes his individual work first, and then we do our “together” subjects (Bible, History and Science). As always, I check up on him as he is working and answer questions as they come up.

So, now that we have had time to settle into a groove, I feel so much better about school this year!! I think I was really just getting myself all worked up, with my own concerns about “doing high school right” and “balancing everything”. I’ve realized now that it is definitely not as difficult as I thought I was going to be, and that is a huge relief. I really think this is going to be one of our best years so far. I know we will still have “bumps” along the way, but that always happens. At least now I know I CAN do high school, and my sons WILL learn what they need!! I hope your school year is off to a good start as well!

A Cry From Egypt

This year, my boys and I started studying ancient history for the first time. When we began homeschooling, we started our history stories with the medeival time period because, well, I thought knights and castles would be a LOT more interesting to my two young boys. While I find the study of ancient history very exciting, I have always been worried about tackling this topic with my kids. How can I make something that happened so long ago seem entertaining?? Won’t they just be bored??? And what about the stories of all the gods people worshipped long ago? How do I handle that?

Fortunately, our study of the ancients is going much better than expected!! And, the book I got to read with my kids for this review, was both interesting and exciting. Hal and Melanie Young, the authors of Raising Real Men, have their own publishing company called Great Waters Press. Through this company, they work to publish books that “make biblical family life practical”. One of these books is A Cry From Egypt, written by Hope Auer (a homeschool graduate :)) and illustrated by Mike Slaton (another homeschool graduate!!).

The story focuses on Jarah, an Israelite slave in Egypt before the Exodus, and the struggles she and her family face. They are torn between remaining loyal to the God they know, in the face of all the Egyptian gods. Jarah witnesses firsthand the brutality the slaves faced, but she also witnesses the saving hand and the awesome power of God as the plagues come to Egypt. (below is a picture of the author, Hope Auer)

I don’t want to tell you too much about the story, because you really need to read it for yourself. I will tell you that I was very impressed with how well this book was written (and the fact that it was written by a homeschooler didn’t escape my notice 🙂 ). Hope began writing this novel when she was 13, and she has worked on it ever since. What I love most about this book is that the biblical and historical details fit in so well with the story. Sometimes, when reading historical fiction, some of the “history” can seem like it’s “forced” into the book. That is not the case with A Cry From Egypt. The story fits together seamlessly, making it very easy to read!

I used this as a read-aloud with my 6th grade son, to complement the ancient history program we are already using. He could have read it on his own, but after looking it over when I received it, I knew I wanted to read it too!! My older son is also studying the same time period, but with a different program. However, I discovered he often found a way to be nearby when we were doing our read-aloud, because he wanted to hear the story too!!

Most of the chapters were easily read in one sitting, and it was really cool when my boys would make the connection between the story, and the things we were reading in Bible and History for school that day/week. It’s like the book helped to bring the facts to life for them, which is AWESOME, in my opinion!! This book is the first in the “Promised Land” series, so I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the books!

Great Waters Press also has other books available that you might want to check out. A Cry From Egypt costs $12.50, and I think it is worth it. On top of being a great story, the illustrations and cover art are gorgeous, and the book itself has nice thick pages and is well put together (that’s important around my house, because books get carried everywhere, and we need ones that are going to stay together!!).

For more information, check out the website here:

http://www.raisingrealmen.com/ourstore/bookswepublish/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this book, and the other one we received from Raising Real Men, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Hanging With Daddy!!

Our blog cruise topic for this week is “Making time for dad”. Hmmm…that is an important consideration. I mean, one of the main reasons we homeschool is so we can have more family time, but then of course, because we are often busy with school, daddy time can fall by the wayside! While I am the one primarily responsible for schooling in our home, I do think it’s very important that my boys get quality time with their father, so, I try to make sure they get time with him whenever he is home.

First, my husband is a firefighter and he works 24 hour shifts, so when he is gone, it is for a day at a time. He also works 2-3 overtime shifts every month (because we need the money since I am not working), so there are times he is gone for 48 hours at a time. This can be difficult, especially considering he is often very tired when he gets home and then has limited time to catch up on house chores and projects he is working on. Fortunately, his job is pretty family friendly, and when he is working a 48 hour stretch I usually load the boys up in the car and we go to the station and have lunch with him if he isn’t too busy running calls.

On the days he is off, it is nice, because he is often around for us to hang out with. On those days I plan bigger meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we all get to eat together. It is also cool that during school break times, my boys can go out in the garage and hang out with dad while he is working on something (and these are frequently bonus learning opportunities too!! 🙂 ). On the days I know he is going to be home, I try to plan our bookwork for the morning, because this is usually when my hubby takes a nap after work, or goes surfing. I try to leave our afternoons a little lighter, so we have the flexibility to all head to the beach or hang out in the pool if my husband wants to.

My hubby’s schedule also allows him to accompany us on field trips with our homeschool group, and we do plan regular breaks in our school year so we have time for a camping trip, a visit to family, or just for hanging out together.I also try to schedule my heavy “chore” days for the days my hubby is at work. Those are the days I do the mopping, dusting, laundry and homeschool planning so that when he is off, I am not tied up with that stuff and have more free time to be with him.

And occasionally, about once every two months or so, my best friend does my hair and we grab lunch together. I schedule these appointments for Fridays (whichever one my hubby has off), which is our lightest school day. The boys grab their planners and get to work (I always go over everything with them the night before to make sure they know what they are doing), and my hubby is available to answer questions as needed. Usually, my boys finish up by lunchtime on these days, and the rest is a “daddy and boys” hang out day. This month, they went to lunch at McDonalds (a treat for my kids because we don’t go there often), then ran some errands, going to Lowe’s, an auto parts store etc. Then they came home and put up some new shelves!! I got home and they were all in such a good mood. Later, my husband told me how much fun he has on those days. (and it’s a nice break for mom too! 🙂 )

As I said before, one of the main reasons we homeschool is because we want to spend as much time as possible with our kids. They grow up SO fast, and before we know it, they will be off living their own lives. We believe that this time we spend with them now is precious, and it sets up a bond that will last a lifetime. I am very thankful for the privilege of being able to homeschool my boys, and I am grateful that my husband works so hard to make that happen. Because he works a lot, and his schedule is a little crazy, I have to be more flexible in our schedule to allow regular “daddy time” to happen, but it is so worth it!!

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this topic, click here:

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Family Time Fitness

We all know physical activity is important for kids. Not only does it matter for health reasons, but I also believe that regular physical activity can help kids learn. It reduces stress, allows active kids to get their “wiggles” out, and is just plain fun!! However, I have to admit, that making time for (and planning!!) P.E. (aside from when my kids go swimming in the pool) is difficult for me!! That is why I LOVE Family Time Fitness! Their program does all the difficult work for you, and you just get to have fun. 🙂

Family Time Fitness is an award-winning program, and it’s easy to see why. The Core 1 K-8 curriculum I got to review was very easy to implement, and so much fun for me and my kids. Lessons run about 45-60 minutes if you do everything. Both of my kids participated in the activities, even though my older son is a 9th grader, and I have to say, this has become one of their favorite parts of our homeschool days. They get to go outside and run, jump, play games etc. etc., all the things two active boys need to do.

We began with the fitness assessment, which included activities like a long jump, a run, balance activities etc. I recorded their results on the assessment tracking chart, to save for when we do it again. After that, we moved on to the lessons. Lessons plans are very clearly spelled out, you simply print the page, and go. If you are unsure how to do an activity, there are links to youtube videos that show examples (really!! Can they make it any easier??).

The basic lesson includes a warm-up, game play, a cool down, and then an outside activity. Obviously, if the weather prevents you from going outside, or there are other limitations, you can choose how much you do, but even doing some of the activities will get your kids moving!! As a mom, I will tell you I had a lot of fun participating in these activities with my kids. We played games like Monkey in the Middle, and I even won the jump rope contest! (Go Moms!! 🙂 ). I think that was probably the best part of Family Time Fitness for me, just taking time to actually PLAY with my boys. With one in high school, I feel like our days are so busy, and I get so caught up in getting our school stuff done, and cooking, and cleaning…I forget to have fun! Having a program like this scheduled as part of our day gives me some time to laugh and be silly too. (and I think we all need that every now and then.)

Another good thing about this program is that it uses a lot of stuff you already have around the house, and even if you don’t, you can easily make substitutions (i.e., those splash balls we throw in the pool can stand in for bean bags). I did purchase hula hoops and some jump ropes, but I got them at the dollar store, so I maybe spent $10 total buying materials for this program. I think that’s reasonable, as is the cost of Family Time Fitness. The program that we used costs $57.00. That’s it!! For that price you get all 260 lessons. This is a program I would definitely tell anyone to purchase if you are looking for a simple way to get some more physical activity into your kids lives. You can find out more about Family Time Fitness at their website:

http://familytimefitness.com/Default.html

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:
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**Disclaimer: I was given free access to this program for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Marshall Publishing

Marshall Publishing is a media company that produces DVDs, books, CDs, CD-ROMS and other programs that are meant to be both educational and fun. Their programs come in a variety of topics, from monster and fire trucks, to jets, planes, animals and everything in between! For this review, we got to watch their Lots and Lots of Penguins DVDs.

These DVDs aren’t your typical documentary of animals in the wild. There isn’t a lot of voice-over animation, just videos of penguins doing what they do. In between videos of different types of penguins (Emperors, Rock Hoppers etc.) a cute animated penguin comes on the screen giving you facts and info about that animal, it’s habitat etc. etc. Some of the videos are set to music, and some just include the natural sounds of the wild. The scenery is gorgeous, and I liked listening to the sounds of the birds and the sounds the penguins made!!

If you keep your eyes open, some other Antarctic creatures make an appearance as well! This particular set includes two DVD’s, Lots and Lots of Penguins in the Wild (which features penguins from Antarctica, Australia etc.) and Lots and Lots of Penguins and their Toe-Tapping Happy Feet. The second DVD features the penguins and their actions set to music. Both DVDs offer playful views of the penguins and what they do in the wild. There is also a bonus DVD that features animated penguins singing and dancing along to the song “Party Like a Penguin” (which my 11 year old son could not get out of his head!!).

The DVDs are fun, but my boys could only watch them in short spurts. What can I say? They still have short attention spans, and while they thought the penguins were cute, they didn’t hold their interest for an hour at a time. However, the format of the videos interspersed with information did work in teaching my younger son some facts about penguins. He remembered things about them and their habitats that he hadn’t learned before (and like I said, he loved the song 🙂 ).

If you are studying penguins in general, or are doing a study of animals from this region, these DVDs would make a great addition to your curriculum. Also, if you are a parent of a Happy Feet fan, or a child who loves penguins, then these DVDs will be a huge hit. My older son (14) thinks they are definitely intended for younger kids and he did get a little bored while watching, but he’s a boy and a teenager interested in stuff like cars and music, and LOTS of things bore him! However, I do agree that the DVD’s are more geared toward kids 12 and under. That doesn’t mean that if you have an older child they won’t enjoy them, but they will probably like them more if they have a serious interest in animals, penguins in particular!

The cost of this DVD set is $19.95, which I think is very reasonable! You can check out these DVD’s and the others Marshall Publishing has to offer at their website here:

http://www.marshallpublishinginc.com/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, and some of the others from Marshall Publishing, click here:

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**Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Math 911

Math 911 is a program created by Professor Martin Weissman, a former New York City math teacher. The program is designed to teach upper-level math using a mastery approach. Students work through each section of the program (including exams) on the computer. Math 911 does not include games or graphics, it is a straightforward tutorial math program designed to help students master upper-level math. I used the algebra program with my son for this review.

This program doesn’t include instruction in the form of lessons or videos. When the student accesses Math 911 they are given a list of topics. Once they click on a topic (i.e. “equations”), they immediately begin to work problems related to that topic. If they get a question correct, they move on to the next one, if it is wrong, it is not counted in their score. Students can click on “see solution” and then go through the problem step by step to “see” how to solve it. They then work more problems of the same kind.

Dr. Weissman believes that the mastery approach is very effective, especially for struggling learners. I tend to agree, because it eliminates the feeling of always getting the answer “wrong”, which leads to frustration. Math 911 provided a good source of extra practice for my son. Math is not one of his strong points, and while we are using another algebra program, I find that he sometimes needs extra practice on certain types of problems sometimes, and this is a good resource for this practice. I had him go through those sections that he struggled with in his daily math for review before we moved on to another topic.

Because it doesn’t provide step by step “instruction” in the form of lessons or videos, I don’t think I could use this as a complete math program for my 9th grader. However, it could easily be used along with another program for practice, or perhaps with something like Khan Academy (a free math video website).

The Math 911 Algebra I course can be downloaded for free at the website. To upgrade to the Premier Version, which includes several other courses like College Algebra, Statistics and Trig, the cost is $49.95. With this subscription, you also get free technical support! Math 911 is currently running a special where you can upgrade to the Premier version for $9.95, which is a great deal. Scroll to the bottom of the page on the website for the coupon code. For more information about this product check out the website here:

http://www.math911.com/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:
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**Disclaimer: I was given free access to this product for the purpose of writing this review. All opinions expressed are my own.