Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reformation Day

October 31st has biblical significance that many people are unaware of. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 arguments on a church door. This would begin the era known as the Protestant Reformation. Here is a link to a brief overview of why what Martin Luther did was so very significant. And this is a link to all 95 theses. In a nutshell, the list of 95 statements were written out of Luther's frustration concerning the corruption within the Catholic Church. 

"One of the major issues that concerned Luther pertained to the matter of church officials selling “indulgences” to the people as a means of releasing them from having to exact penitence for their misdeeds. Indulgences were also claimed by the Church to limit the amount of time the purchaser’s loved one would have to spend in Purgatory. “As soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].” Luther felt that these church officials were teaching people that they could literally buy their way into the kingdom of God or buy God’s favor. His belief was that the papacy had deteriorated to the point that the people were being led to believe in man-made doctrines. The Pope had the power to limit or do away with penances imposed by the clergy, but he did not have the power to bring about the interior contrition that leads to salvation. Only God could do that. Indulgences are positively harmful, according to the Theses, since they induce a false assurance of peace, and cause the recipients to neglect true repentance."
To read the rest of this article click here.

Here is a great movie on Martin Luther. 

Happy Reformation Day 2015!!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Standard Deviants Accelerate

I had the opportunity to review Homeschool Courses by, Standard Deviants Accelerate. Standard Deviants Accelerate or SDA for short is an online, homeschool supplemental curriculum. SDA is affordable and allows your student to work at their own pace. This curriculum is a secular, non-religious curriculum supplement. There are courses for grades 3-12. 

Standard Deviants Accelerate has courses in the following subjects:
  • Arithmetic (grades 3+)
  • Fundamental Math (grades 4+)
  • Earth Science (grades 6+)
  • Nutrition (grades 6+)
  • Biology (grades 7+)
  • Algebra (grades 7+)
  • Chemistry (grades 9+)
  • English Comp (grades 9+)
  • U. S. History (grades 9+)
  • AP Biology (grades 11+)
  • AP Chemistry (grades 11+)
  • AP U. S. Gov. & Politics (grades 11+)
  • AP Eng. Composition (grades 11+)

The Cast
Unlike many online curriculums, SDA uses a cast of hilariously, funny individuals. There is no boring, monotone professor teaching. This crew of corny, a bit nerdy individuals help make learning subjects a bit more fun. If you have to learn you might as well have fun!! 

Each subject has videos, full transcript printable option, vocabulary, diagrams, quizzes, written answer questions, act it out, post-test, and more. The instructional videos are fairly short in length, many being between an average of 2-12 minutes in length. The site is very user friendly and easy to navigate. The layout and user options are clear and easy to follow. The drop down, My Desk, keeps track of your classes and progress. The Administrator Toolbox is available for grading and progress reports. SDA did a fabulous job of creating a user friendly, academically fun program. 

Who used the curriculum
I used SDA with my 4th, 7th, and 9th graders. 

My 9th grader loves history so I had him work through US History (grades 9+). Along with watching the videos my son printed out the full transcripts so that he could highlight, make notes, and keep the transcripts for future reference. This was a great supplement to our primarily, literature based history curriculum. It provided a great overview of history and reinforced what my son is currently reading for history. 

My 7th grader worked through Nutrition (grades 6+). Food is actually my daughter's foe due to severe allergy and GI issues. I thought that she would enjoy studying nutrition to help her better understand the role of nutrition and the body. She really found the lessons fascination and informative. This is one subject that I tend to neglect in our homeschooling studies. I was very excited to see that this was included in the list of subjects. This will definitely be a subject that I will have all of my older children complete. 

In one particular chapter review the student is asked to "act it out". My daughter thought this was great. My daughter had to develop a lesson plan. She was given topics to choose from and audience groups to choose from. My daughter chose this scenario: 

TOPIC 3: "Why is the tradition of gathering around the table at mealtimes important?"

"Cavemen learn best via primitive cave drawings. Use drawings, symbols, or charts to teach the topic. Speech can be used, but the visual aid should be the main teaching device. Don't worry if you can't draw well - there's always stick figures!"

My daughter had everyone rolling in laughter as she presented this. 

My 4th grader worked through selected section of the Arithmetic (grades 3+). My daughter struggles with math and I am always looking for curriculums that will help. She needs a great deal of repetition, more than most of my older children needed. SDA videos explained the concepts in a manner that my daughter was able to understand and follow. She loved the crazy crew. 

Final Thoughts
I really, really liked this program. I would highly recommend it to other homeschoolers. I greatly appreciated the disclaimer that SDA taught science based on evolution and the Big Bang Theory. Our family believes in Creation, so do not hold to the science views taught by Standard Deviants Accelerate. The fact that they acknowledged other views was very considerate. This in no way deterred us from using the program. I will most definitely continue to use the program with my children. 

To read more reviews click HERE

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review: Say & Pray Bible, by Diane Stortz, and illustrated by, Sarah Ward

I had the opportunity to review the, Say & Pray Bible ~ First Words, Stories, and Prayers, by Diane Stortz and illustrated by, Sarah Ward. This chunky board book is perfect for little hands. The pictures are colorful and the illustrations are well done. The book covers very basic Bible Stories from Genesis through Luke. 

Each story consists of one to two simple sentences with the scripture reference notated. Every story also has a Say and Pray which consists of a shortened Bible verse and simple prayer. First words are included next to the pictures in the stories. What better way for your little one to learn their first words than in a Bible themed book. 

This would be the perfect gift for any young child or to add to your child's library of books. Hiding God's Word in little hearts can never start too early. 

Take a look at the book on Amazon

I recieved this book for free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Maestro Classics

I had the privilege of reviewing Peter and the Wolf, by Maestro Classics. For this review I received a physical CD along with a study guide. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Simon, and narrated by Yadu, brings a truly unique classical experience to the story of Peter and the Wolf.  

What happens when you combine classical music and great stories? You will find out when you experience Maestro Classics. Each CD/MP3 set includes:
  • classical music by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • an enchanting story
  • descriptions of the music, composer, story, and more
  • an activity booklet
  • downloadable curriculum
 What better way to introduce classical music to children than to share the stories behind the compositions. 

The story of Peter and the Wolf is about a young boy named Peter who lives with his grandfather. One day Peter leaves the garden gate open and the duck escapes. The duck decides to take a swim in the nearby pond. The duck starts squabbling with the bird. Meanwhile, the cat is quietly eyeing the duck and the bird. Peter is found by his grandfather and is scolded for leaving the safety of his grandfathers gate. His grandfather has warned Peter about sly and hungry wolves lurking in the meadow. Suddenly, a wolf comes creeping along. The cat sees the wolf and runs up a tree. The bird is already safe in a tree, but the duck, who is now in the middle of the pond, is not so safe. The wolf begins chasing after the duck and eventually is captured and eaten by the wolf. Peter devises a clever plan to captures the wolf with the help of the bird. Oh, and we cannot forget the hunters who have been busy hunting the wolf. Thus the tale continues.....

The Introduction section of the CD gives a brief synopsis of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and introduces the characters and the instruments that represent them. Track 2 on the CD tell the story of Peter and the Wolf through narration and music. Track 3 gives a fascinating background of the composer, Prokofiev. Track 4 contains the upbeat version of the Russian Peter. Track 5 begins with the conductor, Stephen Simon explaining the music of Peter and the Wolf while actually giving a great lesson in music theory. Track 6 is the instrumental only version of Peter and the Wolf. Track 7 is an invitation to grandfather's party. Finally, Track 8 is instrument only, Kalinda. In all the CD is 68:16 minutes in length. 

Peter is represented by the violin.

The bird is represented by the flute.

The duck is represented by the oboe.

The cat is represented by the clarinet.

Grandfather is represented by the bassoon.

The huntsmen are represented by the french horn.

Guns are represented by the drums.

My 12, 9, and 7 year old daughters and I listened to this CD. Classical music is not the typical genre of music that my children listen to. I was not sure what my children would think of Maestro Classics. Well, my children LOVED it!!! They sat captivated throughout the whole recording. I often stopped the CD to answer questions that my children had. My children were not familiar with what all of the instruments looked like. We spent time looking the instruments up and talking about why each individual instrument fit the character it represented. 

The 24 page activity booklet the accompanies the CD has activities, music, information on instruments, and information on the composer. Maestro Classics also offers a free downloadable PFD curriculum guide with amazing lesson plans that integrate music into your students academic subjects. The curriculum guide has links to other sites on the internet to guide you and your student in the activities. My children and I really enjoyed these extra activities that tied into their core academic subjects. The experience was enriching. 

Final Thoughts
I absolutely loved  Maestro Classics, Peter and the Wolf. I would highly recommend this CD to homeschoolers, educators, and friends. My children greatly enjoyed the experience and are eager to have me purchase more CD's from Maestro Classics collection. 

To read more reviews click HERE.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Apologia Ultimate Homeschool Planner

I had the opportunity to review The Ultimate Homeschool Planner ~ Blue Cover, a planning system designed by Debra Bell, and published by Apologia Educational Ministries. This 48 week planner is just one of three planner choices available from Apologia for homeschool (moms).  

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner has everything a busy homeschooling mom needs to organize the family. Included in the planner:
  • How To Use The Ultimate Homeschool Planning System Guide
  • Yearly Planning Grid
  • Monthly Planning
  • Weekly Planning
  • 2015-2023 Calendars
  • Scriptures and Quotes
  • Notes Pages
  • Year-End Review
  • Field Trip/Activity Grid
  • Reading List
  • Bible/Scripture Study
  • Memorable Moments/Achievements
  • Evidences of Grace
  • Wide Margins for Notes/Supplies/Appointments
  • planning for up to 6 children 

This spiral bound planner has a flexible, vinyl cover that is durable to withstand daily wear and tear. The inside front and back cover have built in pockets. The planner pages are colorful and provide plenty of space to work with. The planner can be purchased in three different colors: yellow, blue, or orange. 

As a mother juggling six kiddos, our schedule is crazy! Not only do we have the normal schooling, co-op classes, extracurricular activities and church activity schedules, but we have LOTS of medical related appointments. It is imperative for me to have a schedule system that works. While many people keep all of their schedules on their phones or electronic devices, I prefer to have it written out in a physical calendar/planner. This planner is easy to customize for your family's needs. 

One of the favorite parts of this planner are The Lord's Day and Week's Memorable Moments and Evidences of Grace pages. These pages provide the perfect opportunity to journal, meditate of God's Word, and count your blessings amidst the business of life. It was very uplifting to look at all of the amazing moments, achievement, and evidence of God's grace each and every day. These pages also serve as somewhat of an accountability for me to remain faithful to pray and stay meditating on God's Word and promises. 

 I really liked the long term priority pages. At the beginning of the school year it is helpful for me to set goals that I would like for my children to attain throughout the year. While some of the goals are academic some are not. These written goals are not only good to have written out but are a great visual resource to have as I pray for my children throughout the year. 

Because of our complicated life with children facing chronic medical conditions I chose to not use the planner to schedule out daily academic plans. I unfortunately do not have the luxury of much stability when it comes to routine and schedule as my children's health conditions somewhat dictate how the day or week will go. Years ago I realized that planning ahead too much only caused unnecessary stress for both me and my kiddos. 

I also used the planner for meal planning. In the craziness of life I often come to the end of the day and wonder, "What am I going to make for dinner tonight?" This is an area of my life that I have been wanting to try and simplify. I used the planner to list meal options and ingredients needed. I often find myself ready to cook only to realize that I don't have everything I need to prepare the meal. I utilized the weekly pages to accomplish this task. 

Overall Thoughts
I would recommend this planner to other homeschool parents. This planner is full of great scheduling helps that are easy to customize to your family's specific needs. If you are looking for a system for everyone in the family, The Ulitmate Homeschool Planning System, has planners for students in 4th-8th grade and 7th-12th grade.  

To read more reviews click HERE

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Friday, October 23, 2015

IEW ~ Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A

I had the opportunity to review Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A ~ Starter Set by, Institute for Excellence in Writing. The goal of Institute for Excellence in Writing is to equip educators and train students to become strong and confident in their ability to think, communicate, and write. Level A of the Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program is geared for grades 3-5. 

The Starter Set includes:
  • 5 audio CD's or MP3 downloads
  • Lesson Cards (contains all three levels)
  • Personal Spelling Cards
  • Zoo Cards
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes in PDF
  • Spelling and the Brain (link to streaming video)
The Institute for Excellence in Writing, Phonetic Zoo utilizes an auditory approach for teaching spelling. Is your child not learning to spell well? Are you frustrated with standard, look and reproduce spelling programs? Is your child bored with their current spelling curriculum? Well, this may just be the spelling program you have been searching for. 

Phonetic Zoo works by helping the child to self correct against what they hear, as well as by having the student learn spelling through sequential storage of information. 

To get the most out of the program and gain a thorough understanding of exactly how the program works it is important to watch, Spelling and the Brain. This 57:49 minute video is very informative and worth the time. Do not skip over this step, you will regret it. Andrew Pudewa does an amazing job presenting vital information for the teacher as well as the student. 

Before beginning the program it is highly recommended that you have your student take the Placement Test. This test takes the guess work out of where your child should start. After completing the test your child will be placed in the appropriate level based on how many words your child correctly spells. I really like that as an educator I did not have to try and decided where my child needed to start. There are three levels in the Phonetic Zoo A program. The lesson cards contain all three levels: A, B, and C. The core phonetic idea is the same in all three levels. The level of difficulty is in the vocabulary used in each level. If your child doesn't pass the placement test it is suggested that the student go back to All About Spelling which is the spelling program that precedes Phonetic Zoo. 

So how does the program actually work? 
In a nutshell these are the guidelines:
  1. Present the lesson rule(s) found on the flash card
  2. The student listens to the corresponding lesson track on CD
  3. The student listens to the next lesson track which give the correct spellings
  4. The student continues to test until they make 100% twice in a row
  5. Once two 100%'s are achieved the student moves to the next lesson
To learn more about how and why Phonetic Zoo works, IEW has an amazing page entitled, Getting Started with The Phonetic Zoo that thoroughly explains how the program works. 

The Lesson Cards are printed on card stock and are hole punched in order to add a ring to keep them all together. Animals drawings accompany each lesson that correspond to the rule, jingle, or hint being taught for that lesson. Again, all three levels of words are included on each card. What is unique about this program is that you do not have to use the cards in sequential order. If you have two students in the same grade or different grades that are utilizing the same level you can assign each student a different lesson. The lessons do not build upon one another so order does not matter. 

The Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes via downloadable pdf is absolutely incredible. The extensive amount of information contained in the notes is truly like a teacher's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! I would highly recommend printing out this 76 page pdf as you will find yourself referencing it a lot. In the appendix you will find a spelling text template, a fun zoo that your student can create with the zoo cards, reference charts, and so much more. Here is a sample from the IES Teacher's Notes that is found on IEW's site.  

How we used the curriculum
I used this curriculum with my 4th grader. My daughter is an avid reader and a good speller. Going into Phonetic Zoo I was curious to see what results we would get. First, when being introduced to most new curriculums there is the groan and sigh that comes along with it. Well, after explaining how this curriculum was different and exactly how it worked my daughter suddenly decided it sounded pretty great. Up until now we have use the classic spelling programs that incorporate various activities to learn the weekly spelling words. 

First off I gave my daughter the Placement Test to see exactly where to place her in the program. She ended up starting in level B of Phonetic Zoo A. 

My daughter loved that she only had to listen to words being spoken alone and then in sentences and that it only took minutes to accomplish the task. She caught on easily as to how to use the Audio CD's

On her very first lesson she misspelled two words and on the second try got a 100%. In subsequent lessons she usually misspelled one to three words and would spell them correctly the second or third go around. She was able to move through the lessons at a pretty steady pace. 

There is another element that makes Excellence In Spelling unique, and that is what they call Personal Spelling. Every fifth lesson your child will use words in their other studies or suggested words in Appendix 3 or 4 to master words that the student is struggling with. 
My daughter loves reading and so it was very easy to compile an ongoing list of unfamiliar or challenging words that she could use for her Personal Spelling weeks. Not only would I have her learn to spell the unfamiliar words but I also made sure that she looked the words up so that she knew the proper meaning of the word and was able to understand the word in context. IEW has Personal Spelling Cards added into the curriculum.

One more reason that my daughter loved this curriculum was because it had animals incorporated into the curriculum. My daughter is an ANIMAL LOVER and so once she saw that there were animals she was hooked. Score!! She loved the Zoo Cards. The cards are about the size of a card deck and are fun for kiddos to use much like trading cards. My daughter loved having her own "spelling trading cards" as she called them to use and reference. 

You may be wondering exactly how Phonetic Zoo got it name. Well, I wondered the same thing and the explanation is pretty fitting. We all know the saying, "It's a zoo in there!". How many times do you find yourself saying to your child/student, the English language is crazy, unpredictable, and sometimes just don't logically make sense. Well, IEW likens the English language to wild animals - crazy, illogical, and challenging. Kiddos love animals so IEW decided to pair animals whose names match the spelling rule, jingle, or hint being taught. That is how Phonetic Zoo got its name. I would definitely have to say that it is a very fitting curriculum title. 

Overall Thoughts
I really liked IEW~Phonetic Zoo A. I would definitely recommend this spelling curriculum to other educators and homeschoolers. I have used other curriculum produced by IEW and have been impressed with all of it. If you are looking for a great writing program to accompany IEW's Spelling Program you can check out my review of the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A, for grades 3-5. 

To read more reviews click HERE.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Koru Naturals

I had the opportunity to use and review products from Koru Naturals. I received the following products to use: Skin Clear CreamManuka Honey Propolis Soap, and Emu Oil and Blue Tansy Oil Cream. Koru Naturals has a wide variety of wonderful products. All of the products are made from all natural substances such as manuka honey, lanolin, tea tree, manuka oil, and Rotorua mud. The products have also never been tested on animals. Koru Naturals has been bringing the beauty of New Zealand to the United States since 2002. 

Emu Oil And Blue Tansy Oil Cream

Emu Oil And Blue Tansy Oil Cream
This cream is an odorless, non-greasy, fast acting cream for minor body aches/pain. The cream contains: 8% Emu Oil, Blue Tansy, Aloe, Arnica Extract, and MSM.

Who hasn't had aches or pains and wished that they had something all natural to soothe the discomfort instead of using NSAID's or stinky OTC creams. Well, look no further. This cream is not only all natural, but has a very pleasant smell and really works. I tend to store all of my stress in my neck and shoulders which leaves me with chronic pain and headaches. I have tried many medications, creams, and remedies. I really haven't found anything that I feel comfortable using on a regular basis that works. I was pleased with how well this product worked on my discomfort and pain. 

My daughter, who is a dancer, often comes home sore from dancing. I had her try this cream and she loved it. Knowing that this cream is all natural was a huge plus for her. 

My husband had surgery on his shoulder about 6 months ago and often complains of stiffness in his shoulder and back. He reluctantly tried this cream and was pleasantly surprised with how much it helped. 

Manuka Honey & Propolis Soap

Manuka Honey & Propolis Soap
This soap contains a blend of Manuka Honey and Propolis to provide intense moisturizing and skin protection. 

I love fragrant and exotic soaps but my skin does not!! Like most people that have sensitive skin I use boring, unscented soap when I shower. I was really excited to try this soap and see if my skin would rebel. When I first opened the shrink wrap that covered the soap a mild, pleasing, faint honey smell was immediately evident. Like most speciality soaps, I wondered if this soap would produce a good lather. Recently, a friend who makes all natural soaps gave me a bar of soap and though it smelled good, it produced no lather. Well, this soap produced a really good, silky lather. My skin was left feeling clean and soft. Often times after a shower my skin is itchy and dry from soap. After using this soap my skin was not itchy or dry. I used the soap on my face and body.

Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Skin Clear Crème

Manuka Honey and Manuka Oil Skin Clear Crème
This product contains two basic ingredients: raw, unpasteurized Manuka Honey and pure steam-distilled East Cape Manuka Oil. For a full list of ingredients you can go to the site. The creme is formulated to provide natural moisturization, promote skin elasticity, and improve acne-prone skin. 

I really wanted to like this creme, but unfortunately, I did not like it. The creme was not thick as you would assume a cream to be. It was rather runny, more of a thickened liquid consistency. When applied I do not feel like it soaked into my skin but rather stayed more on the surface. My skin did not feel moisturized at all after applying. The cream comes with a paddle to mix up the contents in the container but even mixing it did not thicken the contents. The creme did have a pleasant smell. The creme is said to help aid acne prone skin but I did not feel like it helped my skin. I did not see improvement with my current mild acne nor did it help prevent further acne from erupting. I had to further moisturize my skin with another moisturizer because my face was still dry after applying this creme. 

Final Thoughts
I really like most of Koru Naturals product line. I would highly recommend Koru Naturals products to friends seeking natural products for their skin. I have been very impressed with many of their products in the past that I continue to use on a daily basis. Knowing that the products are free of chemicals is a huge draw for me. I would encourage you to check out Koru Naturals products for yourself. As with any skin care products some of the products are not recommended for younger children or pregnant women. 

To read more reviews click HERE

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Confetti Eggs