TOS Review: Stopmotion Explosion

Stopmotion Explosion Review

Sometimes you just like to have a little fun, and maybe encourage your kids to explore a creative avenue that might turn into a future career. Both of my boys have at one point or another, considered film animation as a direction to follow. They used to use digital cameras to take tons of pictures of their toy cars and turn them into 30-second movies. So, we were excited to check out the Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit for this review.

Stopmotion Explosion Review

The animation kit comes with an HD video camera, a CD with software that you install on your computer, a quickstart guide, and a 290-page book all about animation. In addition, the Stopmotion Explosion website offers video tutorials to help you get started. The program is easy to install and I just put it on my laptop. My son was eager to start playing with it right away, so he set up the camera and started taking some shots.

He was so excited. He really didn’t have any trouble getting started with the software all on his own. However, after filming his first show with his army men, he realized how much footage he was going to need to create a film and decided he wanted to start a little smaller, and also read the book!

The Animate Anything and Make Movies book that comes with the program is incredible. I think it’s a fantastic book for anyone interested in animated films. It features 17 chapters on topics ranging from building sets, to lighting, to sound and editing. The parts about how to create special effects were particularly exciting. I really liked the fact that the book got into the techniques of making animated films, explaining the details of what composition is and why it is important in filmmaking, because I felt like it was really teaching my son skills while also allowing him to have a lot of fun.

There were a few things that we learned along the way, like making a full animated film takes a pretty long time and a lot of patience. My son (and now his older brother, who after watching from the sidelines for a while is also interested in this!) is still working on a plan for a Lego film. The two of them are actually sitting down together to come up with a script and then make plans for the scenery, visual effects, and everything else they need. In the meantime, they are experimenting with the camera to learn more about how to use it and what it can do with short images and series of shots.

I kind of like the fact that while my son was really excited and ready to jump right on this from the start, after using it, he now wants to take his time and really dig into it. I mean, I haven’t seen him this excited about learning something in a while. He’s really exploring this in depth on his own, and learning so many concepts. Maybe one day he will grow up to work on animated films in the future!

Check out this short video he made so far:

We really enjoyed the Animation Kit from Stopmotion Explosion! To learn more about it, connect with them on social media here:

Stopmotion Explosion on Facebook

Stopmotion Explosion on Twitter

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, and the other products we got to check out, click here:

Stopmotion Explosion ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Advertisements

TOS Review: HelpTeaching.com

HelpTeaching ReviewOnline learning websites are a great way to supplement your teaching, especially when things get busy. With an 8th grader and high school senior, I am always looking for ways to bring in some more challenging content (or in some cases extra help) for certain subjects. For this review, we got to check out the Pro Plan from HelpTeaching.com, and it turned out to be a big help for a number of reasons.

Help Teaching offers a huge bank of lessons for grades Kindergarten on through high school with videos, practice activities, games and tests designed to help kids learn all kinds of topics in Language Arts, Reading, Math, and Science. Some of the videos are made by the company, others are from Khan Academy, Educator.com, and Bozeman Science. There are lessons on a variety of topics. For my boys we focused on grammar (modifiers, verbals), reading (irony, propaganda, hyperbole), and math (probability, geometry), and my youngest wanted to check out some of the science just because he’s like that.

Now, once you set up a parent account, you go in and set up your classroom and add students. Then, you assign lessons by emailing the student the link to the lesson. This was pretty easy for us as my boys are older and familiar with email and everything. All they had to do was go into their email, click on the link and start the lesson. As the teacher, I could log on, review what I had assigned, and watch their progress. This came in very handy as I had a few last minute trips come up this year and I had to leave my youngest with my hubby. Since I’m the one in charge of school, it was simply easier for me to assign work from Help Teaching for the time that I was gone. That way, I could log on from wherever I was at the end of the day and make sure he was getting his work done or reassign or change things as needed.

Another option on the Help Teaching website is to create your own tests based on content you’re teaching. You can make any kind of test you want, from short answer to multiple choice, and they even have a bank of questions you can choose from and a library of images to use if you wish. This is a handy tool, especially when you have older students. After a unit study, you could easily put together a short test or quiz if you wanted to, or you could create practice tests to help your child prepare for a bigger test.

HelpTeaching Review

The site also offers a number of printable worksheets. I found the study skills worksheets and graphic organizers particularly interesting, but they also have a ton of stuff for math, science, language arts, and even art, music, and seasonal activities. Even after using this for a few months, I still feel like I haven’t gotten into everything it has to offer and I think it’s going to be something I come back to and keep finding new reasons to love. Honestly, for less than $25 a year, I think HelpTeaching.com is a great addition to any homeschool because it’s one of those things that will just make those hectic, crazy days easier, and also offers a lot of tools that they continuously update.

To learn more, connect with HelpTeaching on social media here:
Help Teaching on Facebook

Help Teaching on Google+

Help Teaching on Pinterest

Help Teaching on Twitter

To see what other members of the crew thought of this product, click here:
HelpTeaching Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Brinkman Adventures

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

Excitement! Adventure! And a little bit of danger. These are the kinds of stories my boys love. And I love introducing audio dramas into our lives, because then we can all get lost in the story. So far, we have loved every Brinkman Adventures series we have had the chance to listen to, so we were excited to check out Season 3 for this review.

Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

We were fortunate enough to get to review Season 2 of The Brinkman Adventures last year and my boys enjoyed it so much that they begged me to get the next season, so I was really happy to get a chance to review this one. The new season is packed with a bunch of new adventures, but in the familiar Brinkman format.

The 4-CD set contains 12 stories that will keep your family on the edge of your seats. In total, they offer over five hours of storytelling, conveniently broken up into tracks, so you can start and stop when it works for you. Typically, we would listen to these during times when my kids were working on art or writing projects, one track at a time, a couple of days a week. They also work really well for road trips! The stories are based on real stories, dramatized in incredible fashion. Honestly, the voice talent used to bring the stories to life is just superb. The way the actors portray the characters is never overdone, and the music and sound effects completely draw you into the story. From the moment we started each episode until the end, we felt like we were there.

Some of the stories are total nail biters. They take you from settings like Ecuador, to Alaska. And the people in the story face real dangers, like the threat of jail, the Taliban, and yes, even death. That is one thing about both seasons of the Brinkman Adventures that I will say. Listening to them really got my kids to think about the very real dangers that some missionaries face. We meet missionaries at our church, and my children are familiar with the work that many of them do. But, for some reason, listening to these stories like this really brought the reality of the lives they live to something tangible to my children. In the first episode, you get introduced to a young man, who gives up a very comfortable life, and the support of his family, to deliver bibles in a country where being a Christian could get you killed.

When his father disowned him, my younger son was really heartbroken. He couldn’t imagine a family turning their back on their child for answering God’s call. This is something that led to much discussion, and prayer, for us. Another story my son found really exciting was Man Up, a true story that happened to Mr. Brinkman’s brother-in-law and tells about God’s amazing provision. All of the stories in the Brinkman Adventures will point your children back to the Lord and provide plenty of talking points for you and your family, as well as offering wholesome entertainment for all ages! We love listening to these and my kids are already asking about season 4! I would definitely recommend checking them out. They are available as a CD set or an MP3 download.

To learn more, connect with the Brinkmans on social media here:
Brinkman Adventures on Facebook

To see what other members of the crew thought of this product, click here:
Brinkman Adventures Season 3 Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Apologia Educational Ministries

There is nothing like planning for a new school year. And I am a huge planner! I know a lot of people like to plan on their computers, but for me, there is just something about a good, old-fashioned paper and pencil planner. (I feel the same way about books! I am still a page turner too.). So, for this review, I was really excited to check out The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia Educational Ministries. They randomly sent out planners to crew members and I received the one with the pretty yellow cover!

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool PlannerSo, first impressions: the planner is wonderfully put together! I love the lilac color of the binding and the pockets on the inside are really convenient. The pages inside echo the same color scheme as the cover, and inspirational quotes decorate the pages. The very first page is a two-year calendar that runs through 2017, giving me a convenient monthly snapshot of the coming year. I can easily mark of holidays and school vacations in one sweep, and keep track of things like birthdays and other events.

From there, the planner offers a few pages that explain the purpose of some of the special pages in the front, such as the family priorities page and the yearly and monthly planning pages. The author suggests a yearly planning retreat, which I think sounds awesome! For me, this looks like a day spent at the library or coffee shop, books and schedule in hand. I started with the family priorities page and the goal setting page for both of my kids, because I feel like I can’t really plan subjects and schedules until I get a feel for our overall goals.

One of my biggest priorities for this year is planning for my oldest son’s high school graduation! EEEK! I can’t believe we are actually at the end of his homeschool journey! It is absolutely exciting and kind of heartbreaking at the same time!

When focusing on individual goals, I was looking at the last few credits I needed to get done for my oldest, while also looking at the specific skills I really need to address for my youngest as he prepares to enter high school. From there, I moved into the yearly planning pages, which have blank columns that allow you to number the days. From there you can write down recurring events (like Co-ops), holidays, vacations, and other non-movable events. I like the idea of sketching your whole year out at once like this because you do get a picture of exactly how much time you have for school, which does help you to be more realistic in your planning. (I don’t know if you have ever had a problem with wanting to do TOO much in a school year, but sometimes I see so many cool ideas, I just want to try them all! LOL)

After that, it’s easy to progress to the monthly and weekly planning stages. They have blank monthly calendars with plenty of space to record field trips, doctors appointments, meetings, dance classes and anything else you need. Then, the weekly planner really breaks things down with space for you to record your personal Bible reading plan, prayer requests, and outreach plans for the week, and your “battle plan” which is really a place for you to list your personal goals (mine were things like “get up by a certain time” “get to the gym at least 3 days per week” etc.) and a special “Fighter Verse” which is explained in the instructions to the planner. The other side of the sheet has space to record special moments from the week and evidences of God’s Grace. I thought this was really cool, because how many times do moments like this happen, but they go by without us really taking a moment to recognize them?

Writing down my goals each week really does help to keep me on track! Something about writing things down makes me feel like I have to be accountable.

After years of struggling, my youngest is finally, finally doing well in grammar, so I wrote that down as a success!

This planner has a ton more to offer, including pages for daily lesson plans, a gradebook, space to record field trips, reading lists, and so much more. I think it’s amazing and I think it’s going to be my go-to planner for years to come! The Ultimate Homeschool Planner costs $29.00 and you can learn more by connecting with Apologia on social media here:

Apologia on Facebook

Apologia on Twitter

Apologia on Pinterest

Apologia on Google+

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

Exploring Creation Field Trip Journal Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Koru Naturals

Koru Naturals ReviewI love the idea of using all natural skin care products, but I will be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time in the kinds of stores that sell them. And I often find them to be cost prohibitive. However, I am always open to trying them out, and I LOVED the Emu Oil and Restorative Balm I got to try from Koru Naturals last time, so I jumped at a chance to review some new products, including their Skin Clear Cream, Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, and their Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic.

 Koru Naturals Review I’ll start with the Skin Clear Cream, which my 17 year-old son used himself. It is designed to treat skin conditions like acne, which is a problem that he struggles with. We use one of those three-step programs for his face, and we have a prescription from his doctor, which helps, but his back was an area of concern, and we were looking for something to help with that. The prescription cream is quite expensive, and filling it to cover his face and back is a little out of our budget. The Skin Clear Cream from Koru contains raw Manuka Honey and steam-distilled Manuka oil as it’s main ingredients, as well as thyme, Burdock root, Canadian Aspen Bark, and Kawakawa and Harakeke. The combination of ingredients help to improve the acne, act as an astringent, and have anti-inflammatory properties.

While we were expecting the cream to be thick, it had an almost milky consistency, so we found out the hard way that you need to be careful when you open the container. It has a woodsy, earthy smell that I found very appealing. My son applied the cream each night after he took his shower, on his back and shoulders. After using it for several weeks straight, we did notice a big improvement in the overall redness and appearance of his acne (no, he would not let me take pictures. He is a teenager. 🙂 ). He told me the cream felt warm when it went on, and I noticed it left his skin feeling very soft and smooth. This one container has lasted us for a month, which I think is pretty good, and he has asked if I will order another. For $19.50, I feel it is pretty reasonable, so I think I will.

 Koru Naturals Review

The next product on the list was the Manuka Honey Propolis Soap, which I tried myself. Made of Manuka Honey and Propolis, the thick golden bar has a soft, sweet scent. The ingredients in the bar offer moisturizing and protective properties for the skin and is a nice, gentle overall cleanser. I replaced my regular body wash with the soap and was very happy with the results. First of all, my husband commented on how nice I smelled when I got out of the shower, and I liked how the soap did not dry out my skin. Most of the time when I use a bar of soap my skin is left feeling really dried out, but with the Manuka Honey soap, my skin was soft and smooth. This little bar only costs $7.90, and by the looks of things, it’s going to last for a really long time, so I think it looks like a great buy.

 Koru Naturals Review

The final product I got to try was the Argan Oil and Sandalwood Hair Tonic. The tonic is a combination hair product and aromatherapy oil. Some of the ingredients include: Argan Oil, Sandalwood, Grape Seed Oil, Citrus Bergamia Oil, and Pink Grapefruit Oil. The oil itself has a pleasant, citrusy scent. Designed to help reduce frizz and add shine, the oil is a great addition to any hair routine. I have naturally curly hair and I live in the humid climate of Florida, so fighting frizz is a regular job for me. I used the hair tonic on my in-between days when I didn’t wash my hair (washing every day dries my hair out, so I typically wash every third day). I only had to use a couple of drops, and run my fingers through my hair, focusing mainly on the ends, to get the desired result. I found that the product did a great job of controlling the frizz all day long. While it is an oil, it didn’t leave my hair feeling or looking greasy. The tonic costs $12.20 for a 4 oz. bottle.

Once again, I was very pleased with all the products we got to try from Koru Naturals. If you would like to learn more, connect with them on social media here:
Koru Naturals on Facebook

Koru Naturals on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about these products and the other stuff we got to try, click here:
Koru Naturals Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: FishFlix.com

FishFlix.com Review no 2

I love a good family movie night. So I was really, really excited to get to review the movie Little Boy from FishFlix.com. Actually, when the previews for the theatrical release of this movie came out, my youngest son (14 years old) wanted to see it in the theater, and it came out on his birthday, but none of the movie theaters nearby had it playing, so he was disappointed. When I found out I got to do this review, I kept it a surprise until the movie arrived and he was SO excited!!

FishFlix.com Review no 2

Little Boy is set during World War II in a small town and focuses on a family with a young boy (Pepper, also known as “little boy” and the main character) a mom, a dad, and an older brother. Pepper and his dad have a very special relationship. Pepper is really, really little, his mother is worried he might even be a midget, and he suffers relentless teasing at the hands of other kids in town. He and his father are very close, going to movies at the local theater, reading comics, and spending lots of time together. His father runs an auto repair shop with the help of Pepper’s older brother London and a local man, who doesn’t have a place to live and stays at the shop.

Once the war starts, London wants to join up and go fight for his country, but he is turned down because of his flat feet, so their father joins up instead, which kicks off the main story, Pepper doing everything he can to bring his father home. Now, I don’t want to give away the entire plot of the movie if you haven’t seen it, so I’m going to try and highlight what we took away as we watched it instead.

First, this is billed as a Christian movie, and it does have a Christian message, but if you are worried about it being overly heavy-handed, I would say you have nothing to be concerned about. Pepper does go to see his local priest at the beginning of the movie, and that is where he gets the idea that with the faith of a mustard seed he can “move a mountain” and bring his father home. However, the message is beautifully woven within a well-written and well-acted story. You will see some familiar faces in this move, including Kevin James (from one of our favorite shows, King of Queens) and David Henrie (from Wizards of Waverly Place) among others.

We loved watching the friendship unfold between Pepper and Mr. Hashimoto. Both of them were outcasts in their town, but for different reasons. In fact, when we studied World War II, we spent a lot of time talking about the discrimination Japanese people faced during the time they were in the internment camps and when they came back. At first, Pepper only interacts with Hashimoto to finish his list and help his father, and Hashimoto has no interest in the little boy, but eventually, they both develop a mutual love and respect for each other.

Another factor is how Pepper learns to stand up for himself and to find value in who he is and not his external size. At first, the town laughs at his efforts, but as they witness his unshakable faith, they come to believe too.

Of course, I have to warn you, this move is a tearjerker in every single sense of the word. And the end will leave you speechless. I cried, both my sons cried, even my husband’s eyes were sweating. But oh my goodness, it was absolutely heartwarming, exciting, and touching. I would absolutely recommend this as a great family movie night film, but it is emotional, so you might want to keep it for your upper elementary aged children and up. To find out more about this movie and the other movies FishFlix has to offer, connect with them on social media here:

FishFlix on Facebook
FishFlix on Twitter
FishFlix on Pinterest
FishFlix on Google+
FishFlix on YouTube

To find out what other crew members thought of this movie and the others we got to check out, click here:
FishFlix.com Review No 2

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Super Teacher Worksheets

Sometimes your kids need a little extra practice on a concept, or you just want a fun activity to celebrate the seasons, or give yourself a much needed break from the regular routine. Sure, you could spend time scouring the internet for resources, but with limited time, it would be so much more convenient to have all of that stuff located in one place. So, I was happy to get a chance to review an individual membership from Super Teacher Worksheets. This website has a ton of resources available across multiple grade levels and subjects, right at your fingertips!

To start, the teacher section has a ton of useful things like printable lesson planning pages ( a huge bonus for me since I haven’t gotten a planner yet) a printable gradebook, awards, charts, calendars, and more. All you have to do is print them out, punch holes in them, and put them in a binder. Worksheets are organized by subject, and there are a plethora of math and reading worksheets in particular. You can find everything from multiple digit addition, to fractions, word problems, geometry, and algebra. For reading, there are basic reading comprehension worksheets, some fun readers theater scripts (these are great if you’re teaching multiple kids) and even worksheets and activities designed to go along with some specific chapter books.

My son enjoyed the logic activities, and I know we will probably use some of the holiday activities this year as well. I also used a lot of the grammar for extra practice (because that is one area my son definitely needs to work on) and the cursive handwriting as well. We haven’t gotten into the 50 states practice yet, but it is something I plan to look at later. They also have some cool science worksheets you could use as part of a unit study if you wanted to.

Another part of the site that I liked a lot was the worksheet generator. It allows you to input your own information to create all kinds of worksheets like word searches, fill-in-the blanks, multiple choice, matching, and even math worksheets. This is really useful for creating review and quiz activities based on the subjects you are learning in your regular studies. We have been doing a unit study on Daniel Boone in our social studies and I created some word searches and other activities using info from that study on Super Teacher Worksheets to go along with that. I think this is a very valuable tool in and of itself.

While a lot of the worksheets on the website are intended for grades K-6, some of the math is for the upper levels, and with the worksheet generator, you can easily customize this to just about any grade level. A cost for an individual membership is $19.95 per year. For me, access to Super Teacher Worksheets is a huge benefit for our homeschool.

To find out more, connect with Super Teacher Worksheets on social media here:
Super Teacher Worksheets on Facebook

Super Teacher Worksheets on Twitter

Super Teacher Worksheets on Instagram

Super Teacher Worksheets on Pinterest

To find out what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:
Super Teacher Worksheets Review

Crew Disclaimer