Reviews

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

TOS Review: Abraham's Journey

We, at the Cain house, love to read.  Really love to read.  If you've ever been to our house, you've more than likely noticed that books are our main inspiration for decor!  So we just LOVE when we get a review for a book!

 We read the book Abraham's Journey from Inspiring the American Dream.


Inspiring the American Dream is a movement by Dr. Kathleen Basmadjian and her husband, Robert K. Basmadjian, Jr. who believe

        "The American dream is in jeopardy. Unless we, as parents, grandparents and educators, teach our children about this unique American ideal, the American dream will be lost forever." (website)

The Basmadjians set about writing and publishing Abraham's Journey ($14.99)in an effort to encourage children in their version of "the American Dream".

I received the book and eagerly sat down with my 8 and 11 year old to begin reading.  The book opens with a family meeting.  Abraham's mother and father have lost their jobs during the Great Recession.  Though there will still be a Christmas tree, decorations, and singing- there will be no Christmas gifts.  Abraham decides to take on "saving" Christmas.  He then retreats to his room with his smart phone to text his friends about jobs, when out pops Abraham Lincoln!  Honest Abe takes young Abe on some kind of a journey (magical? dream?) where he meets Martin Luther King, Jr., Norman Rockwell, Amelia Earhart, Mark Zuckerburg, and Bill and Melinda Gates who are supposed to idealize the American Dream.  Young Abraham is discovered as an artist when Rockwell sees him paint a background for a play and Bill and Melinda Gates buy it for their Foundation's wall. Young Abe has presents for everyone when they come downstairs Christmas morning and then they run off to the shelter where they give out blankets and such.

Wow......so that's what the "American Dream" is all about?!

My kids were glassy eyed. Here's what followed in a barrage :

"Momma, who is that Mark guy and why is he with Amelia Earhart?  Was he her friend that was the co-pilot when she went down and didn't achieve the American Dream?"- Ben
"Wait, why was Abraham Lincoln in the story?  He never really said much."- Abby
"Didn't Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart and her friend, Mark, die before Martin Luther King, Jr.?"- Ben
"Momma, why doesn't the American Dream involve God?  It said that only WE can achieve the American Dream on our own."-Abby
"And if they had a Christmas tree and decorations and singing....why did Christmas need saved?"- Ben
"Why did he have a cell phone if his parents didn't have any money?  They're expensive!"- Abby
"I've never heard of Mr and Mrs Gates before."- Ben

Hmmm......

I've read some of the other reviews on this book because I wondered if I was the only one not getting it.  I understand that technology is part of this day and age.  I understand that a new standard of "success" is being raised.  I even understand that people classify success in different terms than I do.

My version of the American Dream looks far different than Mr and Mrs Basmadjian's.  How about Billy Graham?  How about Laura Ingalls Wilder?  George Washington Carver? I think you get my point.  Why are the rich and famous the ones portrayed as those who have "arrived"?  And I know not everyone believes that God has a hand in who is successful or not, but I sure do!  I believe that no amount of success will fill the void left in our hearts when we don't allow Christ His rightful place there. 

This book left too many unanswered questions and too many missed opportunities.  I will say that there was a glossary of terms and mini-biographies of each of the characters in the back of the book.  Also, it did pave the way for some great discussions with my kiddos.

As always, please take a look at what the rest of the crew thought....
 Click to read Crew Reviews

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TOS Review: A+ Tutorsoft



On deck for your reviewing pleasure today is a math program by A+ Tutorsoft, Inc. called A+ Interactive Math.  This program comes in two formats, CD and online.  We were awarded the online version.

A+ Interactive Math is a multi-sensory (visual, audio, and text) math program that seems to cover all the bases.  For parents, there are lesson plans provided, a grading system in place online, progress reports, and a placement test.  For students, thereare tons of printable worksheets, templates for worksheets, certificates for completed assignments, the ability to choose the topic they are learning, interactive reviews, and exam templates.  So yes, the program offers tons to subscribers!  In fact, this could be a full curriculum, though we used it more as a supplement.

Interested in a free demo? Sign up for a free one month subscription!

So let me give you the play-by-play of our experience with A+......
We were up at bat and this coach was instantly overwhelmed. The home page seems a bit cluttered and a little user un-friendly.  It took me a while to get everything set up for my lead off batter- who struck out at nearly every at-bat.  Between the graphics, sometimes incomplete questions, and monotone voice-over......my boy was totally sunk.  (Coach wasn't that great of a help because she found the site very overwhelming!)



  The lesson starts out with a video presentation.  When finished, the student can then practice with the "Interactive Q & A" segment.  Some of the questions were very hard to answer for a third grader, while others seemed a bit too easy.  One question didn't seem to make a lick of sense....I think it was a curveball!  I also didn't have the option of printing worksheets as our printer has gone to the great recycling tub in the sky- though buying them through the website is an option.

Please understand that I am not very great with online math programs.  Computers intimidate me.  Math intimidates me.  Both together get me ejected from the ballpark! :o)  If you're the type that scales math in a single bound and loves computer programs- this may be right up your alley! If you have children who are used to navigating complicated sites, this may be just your speed.  I never want to insinuate that just because something didn't work for us, it absolutely won't work for you so, please, check out the free month subscription if you're looking for a fairly in-depth math program for your little ones.  A+ has programs for 1-7th(pre-algebra) grades and Algeba I.  The CD software runs $79.99 and the online subs run $19.95 a month or $124.95 for the year.  As a gift to my readers, A+ Tutorsoft is offering a 50% discount through the end of March.  Just enter SPOFFER50 at checkout!

Please, please, please go take a look at the other Crew-mates reviews!  Lots and lots of them just loved this product!
Click to read Crew Reviews

Monday, February 18, 2013

Old Habits Die HARD!

This impending trip to Africa has changed my thinking on many issues.  Some relevant and worth sharing, some worth only the few bytes of memory consumed in my brain.  One big change is coming at me hard and fast.....

Food.

Lots of my friends know that I have been trying to lose weight prior to leaving for Uganda.  So far I've lost about 10 pounds, and that's cool, but I still want to get rid of 20 more.  At first I just started counting calories and drinking water.  Counting calories inevitably leads one to healthier food choices because let's be honest- even if you don't like vegetables....they're free in the world of calories!  Let me confess right here, from the get go, that no one in my family (including myself) are HUGE veggie lovers.  We live by the staples: green beans, corn, salad- not too exotic with the greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and the occasional broccoli and cauliflower.  No sweet potatoes. No squash.  No greens.

And CERTAINLY no...in any form....
 
In an effort to encourage some vegetable eating, we've tried growing a garden just about every year.  We've had great green beans.  Great tomatoes.  Great pink eyes.  But let me just say- we still have some gardening skills to hone.
 
Plan B......this past Friday I took the kids on a field trip to Jones Valley Urban Farm.
 
Set in the middle of downtown Birmingham, this is one awesome community resource.  Not only do they offer urbanites space to garden, but they also provide valuable education opportunities to those of us who are new to this whole "slow food" grown locally thing.
 
As we began our time with Ms Stephanie, she taught the children about ecosystems and gardening..
 
then she let them try some of the amazing produce growing at the farm.
(BEST broccoli I've ever tasted!!)
 
The children then began harvesting some yummy goodness.....
 
then the kiddos got to make a yummy snack of vinegar slaw with their spoils!
 
 
Would you believe my corn dog/pizza/chicken nugget eating boy bent over, picked a leaf, and began EATING it???!!
"Ben, did you know you're eating raw spinach?" I said in absolute astonishment.
"Wow Momma, it's delicious!"
Momma beams.
 
You see, I'm learning that I grew up an organic eater on the side of our mountain in West Virginia.  I''d go out with my cousin and we would eat whatever Mother Nature provided straight from her hand....blackberries, crab apples, pears.  We had homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers with just about every meal.  My grandparents had a fabulous garden and what they didn't grow the neighbor did and there was morning produce swaps over coffee and friendly visits.
 
I'm thinking that it's time to get back to my roots.  To educate myself and the kids on eating well, to glean from the Earth.  To take the time to learn about the food we're eating and where it came from.  To cook and not just supply meals.
 
But old habits die hard, and we've got quite a few to break.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time to sell the Tapestry....

Ugh.

I feel like I'm hocking the family jewels- but it's time and I've just got to do it.

FYI....to all of my homeschooling friends......

I am selling my Tapestry of Grace Years 1&2 curriculum.  They are in new/like new condition and come with many extras such as binders, page protectors, pop quizzes, the Loom, and others.  I'm only selling to raise money for my Uganda trip- not because I dislike the curriculum in any way.  It is awesome and I love it!  You can't go wrong with TOG!

Please let me know if you have any questions!  Thanks!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

TOS Review: Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day

Holy hippopotomas, Batman!  Could it possibly get any better than Apologia's Exploring Creation series?  This is our fifth book in this series and we love each one more than the previous!  My kids seriously EAT. THIS. STUFF. UP!!!!!



On the knowledge buffet we have for you Exploring Creation with Zoology 3: Land Animals of the Sixth Day by the amazing Apologia Educational Ministries.  When I told my children we would be reviewing this they literally jumped up and down!  Folks, that's always a good sign to a homeschooling Momma!

If you're not familiar with this particular series of science curriculum, let me first assure you that it is absolutely painless to plan and implement.  Each book begins with a few pages to get you started.  The first page is litterally entitled "Need Help?" and lists contact info for mail, email, website, fax, and phone!  This is followed by an introduction that walks you thru lesson increments, narrations, notebooking, projects and experiments, a course website with lots of fabulous free resources, and then a comprehensive list of materials needed for each lesson's experiment.  If that wasn't enough, Apologia makes notebooking journals (an upper elementary and a lower elementary version signified by "Jr") and lab kits for each book in the Exploring Creation series.  We received the regular notebooking journal and the book to review.

Now- let's talk about our experience with this curriculum.....WE LOVED IT! (Ok, I think you got that already! How 'bout some nuts and bolts?)  We completed a lesson a week.  I would read half of the lesson on Monday and half on Wednesday.  As I was reading, the kids were drawing and making notes in that section of their notebooking journal.  When I was finished reading, we would answer the first half of the review questions and crosswords together- finishing them up on Wednesdays.  Fridays are a great day for experiments for us and the first experiment has you bringing out the M&Ms!  There's a reproducible scientific speculation sheet in the front of the book, but my kids used the one in the notebooking journal.  Experiments are generally pretty easily executed and require materials often found around the house.

Now, I'm going to take a minute to say that I don't think I would consider doing this curriculum without the notebooking journals.  My kids absolutely love learning with their hands and these puzzles/games/handwriting/lapbooking sheets are essential in their retaining what I'm reading to them.

What??? Oh, I'm sorry......did I forget to mention the LAPBOOKING SHEETS in the back of the notebooking journals for each lesson??!!!!!! *swoon*

With the intro, carniverous, and caniforms lessons under our belts, Abby and Ben are dying to continue the book- but alas, we must finish Zoology 2 which we've already been working on all year! (Swimming animals!)  But please let me encourage you to give this science curriculum some serious thought.  It is all we have used for elementary school (Zoology 1 {Flying Animals}, Astronomy, Human Anatomy, Zoology 3) and I haven't one single regret!  My children know more about animal life, anatomy, and space than I ever did at their age- and they've retained it!  The textbook sales for $39 and the notebooking journal is $24 on the Apologia website.

Please let me hear your thoughts if you give it a go or have any questions- and please see what my friends on the Crew had to say!

Click to read Crew Reviews

Monday, February 11, 2013

Daily Essential: Refreshment

From Feb of 2006.....Need a drink?
 
 
Do you ever feel really tired? And I mean tired, like totally exhausted. Like maybe you just spent the last 2 months staying up all night to fix up a beautiful home for your family? Like you just pushed for 4 hours to get a 10 pound 4 ounce baby out and then had to have major surgery? Or maybe you're just tired from chasing 2 little people around all day, everyday, for the last 4 years? Even just tired from getting up to go to work, to rush home, to rush right back out every day- with no end in sight?
So what do you do? Does a good 8 hours of sleep make you feel totally refreshed and revitalized? How about a nice dinner out and some down time with a movie? What is the one thing you can do that will make you feel like you can keep going? How 'bout a drink?
John 4:14
"but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
How refreshing and exhilarating that sounds! Won't you turn to Jesus for your revival? For your rest, your strength, and your eternity?
John 7:37-38
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Where'd I go?

Lately I've wanted to blog so I settle into my favorite chair, turn on my cozy electric throw, and plop my computer into my lap....

Then I stare...........and stare.......and stare at the blank screen.

Lots of thoughts come to my mind as I prepare a post....is this relevant?  Will it matter to someone?  Will it at least entertain?  Could I actually inform or encourage someone through this silly blog?

Then I close the computer and go find something else to do.

Does this ever happen to you in life?  Maybe not necessarily in the blogging realm.... I guess what I'm asking is..... do you ever lose inspiration? Creativity?

I find these times come when I am in a busy season with the kids.  There are appointments for preparing for braces...appointments for getting braces.....appointments for child 2 to prep for braces....co-op.....volunteering at the food bank......tennis.......scouts.......doctor appointments....eye appointments..... the list goes on and on. And quietly.....unnoticeably.......my inspiration takes to the wing and I am left sitting in a vacuum. Mostly my life immediately following this departure is a series of events on the calendar that I check off and evenings spents wondering where my day went and why I did not accomplish more.  I haven't read, haven't crafted, and sadly, haven't blogged in a month of Sundays.

So how do I shake this funk?  How do you shake YOUR funk?  Sometimes a friend snaps me out- suggesting we get together for some lunch and crafting time.  Sometimes my sister, with her life mantra of "We could make that!", gently encourages me with something she's seen or come across on the internet.  Sometimes this old girl, Cainberly, my home and sanctuary- calls out to me and I must answer her with some creative decorating.

Can I just encourage you with this......find it.  Find what makes your heart sing.  Find that person or thing or website.(......yes, I speak of Pinterest!)  That something that speaks to you and reminds you that before you were a wife or a mother- you were a person!  A person with hobbies, likes, interests, talents that still need to be explored, honed, and used. 

Be you.

I'll be me.  I'm off to make something!