Timberdoodle: Rapelli Game

Educational game- read the reviews

Mom2Mom: Simplifying Your Holidays

Organizing your holidays with all kinds of free resources

Mom2Mom: One on One

Doing one-on-one with each of our children

Work At Home Mom- Part 3

Making work at home work

Shine Your Light

Cyrus International and Trafficking Hope

Guys Are Waffles, Girls Are Spaghetti

Read reviews on a great book for teens

Saturday, January 9, 2010

We've Moved!

We have switched to Wordpress, so you can now find us at http://www.mamabzz.com.  See you there!

* December 9, 2009, Giveaway Link-up *

Monday, January 4, 2010

* The One Year Devotional for Toddlers 2 *

Title: The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers 2 
by Carla Barnhill; illustrated by Elena Kucharik
Age range: 3-6 years old
Publisher: Tyndale
Price: $14.99 (hardcover)

Mel's Thoughts:
My boys had gotten the first Little Blessings Devotionals book a couple of years ago for Christmas.  So I got excited when we had the chance to review the second book from Tyndale Kids.  It's The One Year Devotionals for Preschoolers 2.  It's full of devotionals that are designed and written for the younger children in your house. 

This book takes your child through the Bible, chronologically, just filling their minds with bits and pieces of inspiration from several Bible stories.  Starting in Genesis in January and ending in Revelation in December, it has a one page devotional for each day.  Of course, not every story or topic from the Bible can be covered, but it can help your child to learn more about God and His promises and the life He wants us to lead.  Here are a few topics from the book:
  • God's Favorite Creation
  • Little Lambs
  • Shine the Light
  • A Gentle Answer
  • Fly Like an Eagle
  • Nap Time
  • Doing What's Right
  • The Shepherds' Surprise
  • Bumps and Bruises
  • Growing Good Fruit
  • Jesus Understands
  • A New Family
Each devotional has a verse to go with it, and at the end of each one is an inspirational tidbit to end the lesson.  There are cute and colorful illustrations to go with each one, as well.

I would highly recommend this book, as it's something that you and your child can sit down and read together every day.  Even if you don't have a lot of time, you could sit down for maybe 5-10 minutes before school or before bedtime and read and discuss what you read.  You can pick this book up for $14.99 from Tyndale Kids.  For a year's worth of reading and discussion with your child, in my opinion, it's definitely worth it.

Melissa J's Thoughts:
     I am unable to give my thoughts, because this book never made it into my mailbox. :-(  So bummed! Sounds great!


Knowledge Quest: Upper Level Homeschool

Mel's Thoughts:
From the creators of the Homeschooling ABCs course, comes Upper Level Homeschooling, a course for homeschooling parents to take, in order to help them learn how to give their older children/teens the best education possible.  All together there are thirteen lessons, scheduled to be delivered to your inbox once every week over the course of thirteen weeks.  That way the information can be given in smaller, more manageable chunks, and you, as a parent, can process the information over time.  Sometimes your course, or lesson, even comes with free homeschooling resources, which can be quite helpful, such as worksheets, hyperlinks, or samples of curriculum.  There is an assignment for you at the end of each lesson, so that you can apply what you have learned to your style and form of homeschooling. 

Lesson 1: Mapping a 4 Year Course of Study- This lesson focuses on helping you to find your state's requirements for earning a diploma.  What courses will your child have to take in order to graduate?  Terri Johnson shows you how to map out your teen's plan of education for all four years.  With a simple chart, figuring in your child's interests and needs, you can tentatively plan out the courses your child will take in simple form.  The key is to be flexible with the chart, as your child may not feel comfortable with certain courses until a later time, or one subject may not be available.  Terri also lists some courses that make great electives.  This is a simple process, yet one that is so vital to not only your child's education, but your peace of mind.

Lesson 2: Designing a Course for High School Credit- This lesson teaches you how to award credit to your child, based on three different ways: the time method, the book method, and the mastery method.  Each method is described in detail with examples and links for extra help.  The lesson goes on to teach you how to design your child's course of study, so that you can know which method/s you are using to grant your child due credit for the courses he is taking.  Umbrella school links are listed, so that if you don't feel comfortable keeping track of the credits by yourself, you can check them out to see what they offer.  One thing I didn't agree with was the statement that we don't have to keep track of hours or keep a log of time spent on each subject.  In Missouri, we do have to keep a time log; it is mandatory by law.  Otherwise, this lesson is so very informative and helpful to understanding how those credits on your child's transcript work.

Lesson 3: Outsourcing Difficult Subjects- This lesson helps you to see what outsourcing is and how you can go about finding out more information for your student.  Maybe there are a couple of subjects you don't exactly feel comfortable teaching, or maybe you feel your child might benefit from taking a class with others.  Either way, online or local classes might be a way to go for these specific subjects.  Terri gives several links and much advice on determining which classes you will teach and which you might give over to someone else to teach. 

Lesson 4: Starting and Maintaining a Transcript- This lesson covers record-keeping and transcripts, with the advice of Janice Campbell from Everyday Education.  Janice gives 5 steps toward simpler ways to keep your records and transcripts organized, filled in, and prepared, even giving advice on how to figure up the grades and grade point averages.  She even includes A Four-Year Plan for High School.  There's also a blank transcript form included that you can try out for yourself.

Lesson 5:  Developing Good Study Habits- This lesson is just jam packed with useful information; meant to help the parent teach their teens how to study and manage time, I feel I learned a lot myself.  Terri covers three basic topics: Ordered Use of Space, Efficient Use of Time, and Deliberate Use of Brain.  I plan to read the two books that she mentioned as resources myself, in order to help me balance out my time better, as a work at home mom.  I also plan to start using some of the nutritional and organizing tidbits with Jacob now; that way when he gets to his teen years, maybe he'll have just a bit of a headstart.  I can't say enough good things about this lesson.

Lesson 6: Preparing for Aptitude Tests- SAT/ACT- This lesson focuses on preparing for the aptitude tests your child might need, in order to get into college.  Terri takes you through details of the PSAT, the SAT I Reasoning Test, the SAT II Subject Tests, and the ACT Exam.  She explains what is included on each test, how each test is scored, and lists resources you might get to help your child study for the tests.  There are even suggestions on when to schedule and take the tests.  This is a very helpful section for parents of juniors/seniors, especially.

Lesson 7: Tackling the Timed Essay- This lesson is written by a guest writer, Kim Kautzer, of WriteShop.  If you are nervous about the timed essay writing on the SAT, or you are just nervous about teaching your child writing, in general, I definitely recommend this lesson.  Kim takes you through the ins and outs of writing an essay and discusses how a student should go about this important task.  With pointers and examples, you can feel a bit more confident in teaching your child how to write and preparing him for college writing.

Lesson 8: Taking Courses for Dual Credit- This lesson focuses on the advantages, disadvantages, and options that may come with your student taking courses, for dual credit, at a local junior or community college.  It gives you more of an idea of how this might work and where to get more information, so that you and your child can be more prepared.

Lesson 9: CLEP Testing for College Credit- This lesson focuses on CLEP tests and AP Tests, the differences between them, the advantages of both, and the disadvantages of both.  It helps you to gain a better understanding of how your teen can get ahead before he ever enters the college realm.  This was a very interesting chapter to me, since it provided many links and resources for extra research and help.  I'm very interested in this for my children when they eventually get to the age when they're considering colleges.

Lesson 10: Planning and Preparing for College- This lesson is written by JoJo Tabares, and she gives all kinds of hints, tips, and ways to get your child ready for college.  She even suggests that you begin the process back in 7th or 8th grade.  This is a lesson not to be missed by any homeschooler/homeschooling parent, as it could help you to prepare your child for future college success.

Lesson 11: Applying for Financial Aid- This lesson is jam packed full of great information on all the types of financial aid.  It covers the differences between scholarships, grants, and student loans.  I did find that it concentrated mostly on scholarships, though.  It gives resources that your student can use to find scholarships, and Terri has also provided forms that can be used to make the hunt more efficient, such as the Scholarship Worksheet, the Scholarship Resume, and the Scholarship Tracking Tool.  This is something I wish I had access to back when I was entering college, but something I look forward to using some day with my own boys.

Lesson 12: Financial Literacy for Teens- Wow, this lesson by far has been my favorite lesson!  I learned so much from reading Terri's insight on teaching your teens how to be financially responsible.  She shares 5 steps in teaching your kids how to "play it smart" with their money: 1) Avoid Debt Like the Plague; 2) Determine a Budget and Live Within It; 3) Invest Wisely; 4) Reduce Your Taxes Legally; and 5) Give Generously.  She expounds on each point and really offers wisdom in this particular subject.  I am going to try putting some of her tips to the test in my own family's life.  Not only that, but she provides links to websites and resources, even giving you the downlow on a discount for Dave Ramsey's resources.  You will enjoy this lesson; I know I did.

Lesson 13: Launching for Success- This last lesson focuses on helping you to discern ways in which you can launch your children successfully into the world.  Terri touches on five points: 1) Dedicated follower of Christ; 2) Successful in relationships/people skills; 3) Successful in their business/employment; 4) Successful money management skills; 5) Successful parents/leaving a legacy.  With Scripture and examples from her own life, she weaves a plan to hopefully encourage you in your parenting life with teens.  She also gives a few resources/websites at the end of the lesson to give you more information.

Personally, I will never regret having the opportunity to take this course.  It has been phenomenal and has opened my eyes to so many things, as well as encouraged my heart as a homeschooling parent of young children.  If you are interested in pursuing this course, you can take a FREE 5-day mini course to help acquaint you with the material: "5 Keys to Successfully Homeschooling Your Teen Through High School."  I especially recommend this Upper Level Homeschool course for those looking to homeschool through high school.  The full course itself is $45.00 and is spread out over 13 weeks with weekly assignments.   

Melissa J's Thoughts
I honestly, was not expecting such a comprehensive series when I first began reviewing it. I thought it would contain common sense information with maybe, a few things I didn't know, but overall, didn't think it would teach me all that much.

Wow, was I wrong! I learned alot through this series and will be taking that information with me into the high school homeschooling years as a mom! From the first lesson on, I knew this was a series that any homeschooling parent needs to get their hands on - - even if they are homeschooling veterans. There are just so many helpful links and resources, that alone would make it worth the price!

I really like how the series is spread out over a 13 week period. It would be way too much information at one time if it came all at once in one e-book. But over a 13 week spread, the parent reading it can follow up on what they read and not be overwhelmed.

A brief overview of the entire series is as follows:

Lesson 1: Mapping a 4 year course of study. This helps parents lay out a general plan for what their high school student needs, as well as gives them a checklist to go through as they lay out this plan.

There are also several worksheets made available in this particular lesson, such as a Reading List, Activity List, 1st and 2nd Semester Schedule chart, Assignments with due date, Transcriptions, grades, credits, and test scores, and a College Prep Check list. An "extra" is a PDF file entitled "Helping Teens Find Godly Gifts that Last a Lifetime".

Lesson 2: Designing a Course for High School Credit. This lesson defines what a high school credit is and lists the requirements for what is needed to obtain one. Because high school carries so much weight for college admittance, this is a crucial concept for parents and students to grasp and follow through on.

Lesson 3: Outsourcing Difficult Subjects. This discusses the fact that some subjects are just difficult for some families to finish on their own, as well as provides great links and resources for this subject.

Lesson 4: Starting and maintaining a manuscript. Five clear cut steps are given for parents to follow through on, regarding manuscript record keeping. Also, this particular lessons spends some time discussing just what records to keep as well as a link for a great resource for transcripts.

Lesson 5: Although the entire series is amazing, I think this is the fulcrum that the entire series centers around. No amount of parental preparation is going to bring any benefit if the student can't pass high school! Developing Good Study Habits brings out such topics as the ordered use of space, efficient use of time, and deliberately using one's brain. This will help the parent, help the student, be the best they can be.

Lesson 6: Remember your ACT's or SAT's? I do! They stressed me out. In Preparing for Aptitude Tests, PSA's, SAT I, SAT II, and ACT's are all discussed and distinguished between, so as to eliminate some of the confusion surrounding them.

Lesson 7: Timed Essay Prep for SAT and ACT, written by Kim Kautor or Write Shop. There is so much information in this lesson, that it'd probably make great lesson for a week or two, for your high schooler! It talks about what an essay really is and the art of essay writing. From teaching how to plan content and organization to mechanics to timing, this is a comprehensive plan for teaching your high schooler how to conquer the dreaded timed essay section of their aptitude tests.

Lesson 8: Taking Courses for Dual Credit opened up a whole new world to me. I sure wish I ahd known about this option when I was in high school. :( It explains what dual credit is and how to join up with a local college in order to get them. It also draws out the pros and cons of doing this by taking college classes.

Lesson 9: For those, who make a decision based on the cons of pursuing dual credits from a college campus, this lesson focuses on a second alternative to obtaining those dual credits by addressing CLEP tests. These are tests a student can take to challenge out of early level college classes and earn credit at the same time.

Lesson 10: College Application Process. Parents are going to be grateful for the simplified, explanatory process this lesson brings to them and their student.

Lesson 11: Financial Aid. This lesson to, helps make sense of what often confuses and frustrates students and their parents. With a delineation of the difference between loans, scholarships, work study programs, and grants, this lesson also gives a comprehensive plan of action to follow for obtaining financial aid.

Lesson 12: Financial Literacy for Teens. What a refreshing lesson to see! This addresses budgeting, debt, investing, taxes, and even giving, all in order to help students learn the art of financial responsibility before leaving home.

Lesson 13: Launching for Success. As much as we hate it sometimes, our job is to push our little ones out the door at some point. This lesson prepares us for that by talking about launching our children, as well as defining what success is from a Christian perspective.

(Disclosure: We were provided this course, free of charge, by Terri Johnson of Knowledge Quest.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Link Up Your Giveaways!

Link up your giveaways!:)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean

Believe it or not, I had never heard of a Jesse Tree before this year.  I have a fellow homeschooling friend, Jenn, who has made an online Advent Idea Box, and that's how I heard of the Jesse Tree.  That's also how I found this book, The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean.

The Jesse Tree is a fantastic book that you can read to your children during the season of Advent.  It's definitely something I plan to use with my boys next year.  The author weaves the stories of the Bible in such a way that children of all ages, including "older" children, can enjoy them together.  In the beginning and at the end of the book is a huge 2-page spread of an actual Jesse tree, illustrated, of course, with all of the symbols that you would put on your Jesse tree.  The Introduction explains what a Jesse Tree is, in simple terms, using the example of a family tree.  A Jesse Tree is simply a tree that depicts stories of the Bible that led up to Jesus' birth.  As the book puts it, "Jesse trees were the Bible-storybooks of unlettered people" (page 8).  As you add the daily symbols to your tree, you can read the corresponding chapter from this book.  At the top of each chapter is the picture of the symbol that should be placed on the tree that day.  Here's a picture of our Jesse Tree this year....since I had never really done one before, we didn't get too creative, and we still have a couple of ornaments left to put on....although now that I know the true meaning behind this tradition, I'm anxious to get more creative on next year's tree.  The kids still had a lot of fun with it, maybe a little too much fun, as I see Jaden took the green marker to our tree. 

Anyway, the book starts out with the story of a carpenter, who is working away when a little boy wanders into the church where he's working.  As time goes on, the carpenter begins to tell the little boy the stories behind each symbol of the Jesse Tree.  Stories such as the story of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, David, etc., are told in chronological order, leading up to the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of the Baby Jesus.  As the stories weave on, told in such an imaginative and wonderful way, it seems the carpenter rather enjoys his time with the little boy, even though he might not admit it.  The story ends in a surprising way. 

The book is just full of beautiful illustrations, and I really do recommend this for any family celebrating the season of Advent.  You could get a headstart on it by getting it early and reading it for yourself....as it will probably lead to many discussions with your children.  I am very much excited to have this on my bookshelf; it's a resource we will use over and over, I am sure.  You can purchase The Jesse Tree from Lion Hudson for £4.99, or from Eerdmans for $20 in the U.S.  I definitely recommend this book for all families.  It's a resource that will help you teach your children the true meaning of the Christmas season....and may lead to an even deeper meaning for yourself.

To read more reviews by Mel, visit her at Real Heart Prints.

(Disclosure: I was provided this book, free of charge, by Lion Hudson.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

M2M: Simplifying Your Holidays: Merry Christmas!

Well, it's finally the week of Christmas.  I hope you're not scrambling around, but that you are taking just a few moments this week to truly enjoy the feeling of this season.  Merry Christmas, Everyone!  I hope that you have a wonderful, blessed holiday this Christmas, and just enjoy being with your family. 

Who could have Christmas without Charlie Brown?

This just happens to be my Christmas wish, and probably every child in the country's wish for this Christmas.:) 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

* Saturday Giveaway *

Giveaway Link ups

Friday, December 18, 2009

TOS Crew: Maestro Classics: The Tortoise and the Hare

(Mel participated in this review with the TOS Homeschool Crew.)

Reviewing with the TOS Crew has been such a blessing, as we've been able to review a variety of items.  This time, it was no different. 

We were able to review Maestro Classics: The Tortoise and the Hare. This review brought back many memories from my childhood.  I remember having a record similar to this story that I used to listen to (I think it was Peter and the Wolf), and I loved it. 

This product came in CD form, which came in a nice, sturdy, fold-out case with a little program book.  Your child can not only listen to the story and the music, but he can learn about music right along with the CD.  The music on the CD is conducted by Stephen Simon.  Music, throughout the story, is from the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  The story adaptation is by Bonnie Ward Simon, and the CD is narrated by Yadu.  As the child listens to the CD, he'll learn how to listen to music, how music goes up and down, fast or slow, etc.  He'll also learn about the composer and the story at hand.  As the child looks through the booklet, he'll learn about the orchestra and instruments played in an orchestra, and he'll learn some basic music education, such as whole notes vs. half notes, time signatures, etc.  There's even an informational section on turtles, tortoises, hares, and rabbits.  He can follow along with the music to the song Pretzel Vendor of Paris.  There are some other small activities for him to do.  This might make for a good unit study that is smaller, yet great for a change of pace.

I like the way that the narrator and the music go hand in hand to tell the story together on the CD.  The narrator does a fantastic job dramatizing the story just a bit through different voices, accents, etc. The music helps you to feel the actions and workings of the story; it helps the child to get even more involved in the story and to feel the story.  Here is a listing of what is on the CD:
  • The Tortoise and the Hare: London Philharmonic Orchestra; Stephen Simon, conductor, Yadu, narrator (20:43)
  • About the Story: Bonnie Ward Simon (02:49)
  • Pretzel Vendor of Paris Song: Maestro Classics Dixieland Band (02:06)
  • About the Music: Stephen Simon, composer and conductor (04:49)
  • Now That You Know a Little More...: The Tortoise and the Hare (20:43)
  • Want to Have Some Fun?  Prepare to Perform: Bonnie Ward Simon (00:35)
  • Pretzel Vendor of Paris Sing-Along: Accompaniment Only (02:06)
I can tell you that this is a CD that we will, no doubt, listen to over and over again.  You can purchase this CD for $16.98 from Maestro Classics.  They also have other titles available, such as Peter and the Wolf, The Story of Swan Lake, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, etc.  You can even purchase 3 CDs for $45 by entering the coupon code MAESTRO45 at checkout.

You can read more reviews on the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

(Disclosure: I was provided this product, free of charge, by Maestro Classics, in association with the TOS Homeschool Crew.)

* Did You Know Devotions - 2 *

Put out by Tyndale Kids
Softcover $13.99
Ages 6 - 10

Why do you get thirsty?
Why is it easier to walk than stand still?
How does a sponge hold so much water with all those holes?
What's the largest living thing on earth?
Why do we blink?

Any question that a child may have, will probably be in the Did You Know Devotions 2? written by Nancy S. Hill. It's a fun book that can be read at any point, without having to rely on the the previous days reading to make sense.

Each day has a new question, with the answer. Then it goes further.  It draws in a verse, that was written under the title, and shows how the trivia presented can tie in to a child's spiritual life. As is written on the Tyndale site:

Kids ages 6-10 love trivia, and this devotional is chock-full of interesting and sometimes silly facts. Each fact is explained briefly; the theme of the fact is then used to share a biblical truth as well as a Bible verse. The Bible message and verses tie directly to the theme of the facts, providing a better opportunity for kids to remember and apply the biblical message. What car was the first car Henry Ford built? Why do we say o’clock? Which American candy was named after someone’s daughter? Find the answers to these questions and learn a biblical lesson by reading The One Year Did You Know Devotions 2.

For families that have not yet begun the family tradition of daily devotions or for those that have, but are looking for something new, this Devotional book is a great addition to any family library.

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