Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Brinkman Adventures Season 2 Radio Drama (TOS Review)

Brinkman Adventures Review 
We are a big fan of audio books in our house and even though audio adventure dramas aren't technically an audio book they are a lot of fun to listen to. Lately we were sent The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 from The Brinkman Adventures.
 Brinkman Adventures Review

The Brinkman Adventures Season 2 are stories based on the lives of modern missionaries and true events. These audio dramas are recommended for all ages though several programs did recommend that a parent be present for children under 10. These stories are interwoven with other elements that are dramatized. Season 2 takes the listener to Mexico, France, Africa, and China.  The episodes include:
  • The Mystery Ring
  • Blue Hat and T-shirt Bible
  • How Big is Your God - Part1
  • How Big is Your God - Part 2
  • Mexico by Bus
  • Treehouse Academy
  • Pirates of Mayan Island
  • Sapphire Slave - Part 1
  • Sapphire Slave - Part 2
  • Hadi's Choice
  • Castle of Secrets
  • On the Run
If I lived in an ideal world we would have sat down as a family and listened to these exciting stories, but since I don't and we were in the middle of moving I ended up loading my kids' mp3 players and they listened to them when they had time. So what did they think?

Caleb said he enjoyed the stories. His favorite episode was the Blue Hat and T-shirt Bible. Chantry thought they were "pretty good", but he didn't really have a favorite story. Destini liked them, but thought some of the later episodes were "kinda depressing."

I had to swipe one of the kid's mp3 players to listen to them and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the stories. I loved hearing the stories of the missionaries and all the fun and fascinating adventures that took place. Later I went to the website and read about the real stories behind each episode.

If I had any complaint it was that I came into Season 2 without any background from the previous season. There were moments in different stories that I felt I was missing something that probably had been told in Season 1. My kids also noticed that during the break in each episode that their "advertisements" (Bible verses or encouraging words) were very similar to another popular audio drama that is on the market.

One of my children naively commented that the Sapphire Slave dramas were very suspenseful, but put the story down to fiction. I had to point out to them that the drama was written to show that slavery is alive and well in our world. This has made me determined that once we get settled in I am going to have my ideal world and sit down with my kids and re-listen to these dramas together as a family so we can talk about these stories and then go and read about the real stories.

I highly recommend these audio dramas. They are fun, filled with adventure and yet they reveal the power of God as ordinary people work to spread the gospel over the world. Highly recommended!

The Brinkman Adventures Season 2: Episodes 13-24 are available at The Brinkman Adventures as a download or in CD format.
Digital download - $17.00 (suggested donation)
4 CDs - $25.00 (suggested donation) + Free shipping

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Homeschool Mother's Journal: Easter Disaster & More

April 26 Collage 

1. We received a "welcome" to homeownership Easter morning. I discovered water dripping out of the light fixture in the laundry room. We were able to narrow it down to a leak in our shower and my husband is still working on getting it fixed. I don't have a working light in my laundry room. I am thankful that it isn't big and the I can still see little bit. I am also thankful I didn't unpack my laundry room boxes yet. I did take the leak very well. I didn't freak out, but I did run to Walmart!

2. & 3. After getting everything dried up we got ready for church (I am smiling!). All the kids received a bag of Starburst jelly beans. Normally they each receive a book, but with our move that didn't happen. I did make up for it on Tuesday when we stopped at Exodus Books and the kids picked out their own book.

4. & 5. I was embarrassed that my boys had such long hair for Easter Sunday. Tuesday we headed up to Portland and the boys finally got a haircut.

6. I was making dinner and had to leave the kitchen for a minute. When I came back I found Delani had pulled up a chair and was stirring the food. She was pretty proud of herself.

7. Chantry said his poem for his presentation at co-op.

8. Even though it was cold and rainy this week, Delani found a little time to play outside and was excited to discover that she can finally pedal her bike.

9. Since we have been focusing on Student Convention, I still don't have too many boxes unpacked. I am thrilled though that Shade found time to hang up a new towel rack for the kids. Even though we have only been in the new house for 3 weeks, the old, cheap ones were already starting to pull away from the wall, plus you can't hang four towels on one towel rack!

In our homeschool:
Again, due to ACTS Student Convention we have really focused on what the kids entries and working on keeping up with our reviews. This week is the big week when they compete. Chantry will be reciting his poem. Caleb will be reciting a famous speech, preaching, and performing a dramatic signing song. Caleb also has a colored pencil picture (which is done!).  Destini is working furiously on her cross-stitch picture and quilt. They all also entered a picture in photography, but now I still have to matte them.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Philosophy Adventure by Home School Adventure Co. (TOS Review)

Home School Adventure Co.
I have always found philosophy confusing. Honestly, I don't feel like I have tried to avoid it yet in today's world it is a topic that can't be ignored. But how to teach it?

When Home School Adventure Co. first published Philosophy Adventure I was very intrigued by this program and hemmed and hawed over it wondering if I should do it. When it came up for review I jumped at the chance to do it even though I knew life was going to be very busy for us.

Philosophy Adventure is for students in 6th-12th grades. Middle school students will need parental involvement, but high schoolers can use it on their own. This program will teach kids not only about the history of philosophy, but will also give the parents and the student an opportunity to discuss how philosopher's ideas impacted their culture. Students will also spend time learning to write skillfully, speak articulately, and think critically.

Philosophy Adventure

I received for review the Philosophy Adventure Reader, Student Workbook, and Teacher's Resources Digital Download. The Reader and the Student Workbook are the heart of the program. There are seven components that repeat in every lesson. They are:
  • The Philosopher's Story
  • The Write, Think, and Speak articles and assignments
  • Geographical information
  • The philosopher's School of Thought
  • Contrast which explores ideas presented and how they align with a biblical worldview  
A schedule is included for a 4-5 weekday, though encouragement is given to be flexible and use it the best way it works for your family. Suggestion for using Philosophy Adventure as a high school credit are included along with recommended literature (Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal, Philippians in 28 Weeks, and The Wise Woman Literary Analysis Journal) that complements the curriculum.

The Student Workbook includes the notebook pages, map work, and free write assignments along with the Write, Speak, Think journal. The writing checklists and glossary pages are also included in this workbook.

The Teacher's Resources includes a list of all the resources available and how to implement them. It also has the memory cards that are used, master maps and keys, and the quizzes and quiz keys.

I used Philosophy Adventure with Destini and Caleb. I had two reading notebooks printed off at Staples and just printed off each lessons pages as we did it. Looking back, I would have benefited from printing off the whole student workbook at the same time. In my honest opinion it is the worth your money to just invest in the printed copies that Home School Adventure Co. offers for $89.95. I struggled having to look between the different digital files trying to make sure I had everything that I needed for each lesson. Give me the print books any day!

We did all of the reading together each day and then my kids would work on the notebook pages, timeline, mapping assignment, reviewed their memory cards. We also read together the Write, Speak, Think, and then they did journal pages and assignments separately, though in the same room and many times would help each other with answering questions.

We all enjoyed the the reading about the philosophers, filling out the journaling and notebook pages, and other sheets that were included, but ran into problems when it came to the speech and writing assignments, which I am going to state up front that this is probably due to my lack of know-how rather than the program's instructions.

When it comes to instructing my kids in writing I personally need a lot of hand holding and that wasn't to be found--at least for me. Somehow both my kids and I missed writing out the whole biographical narrative assignment until we got the next week's assignment and we all  realized that they had only written a small portion.

If your children are confident writers than the writing required in Philosophy Adventure won't be an issue. If you or your children have a writing phobia I do recommend slowing way down when coming to the first draft of the biographical narrative and working through it slowly. A wonderful selection of writing checklists are included for the students (and poor helpless mothers) to help them with improve their writing.

When it came to the speech portion, which is based off of the writing, it was easy to take the advice and apply it to other things we are currently doing. My only complaint is that some of these great suggestions were given and then I was left hanging wondering exactly how to implement them. I felt like I was learning a new language and couldn't find the translation.

Overall, Philosophy Adventure was a big hit in our house. My kids loved learning about the different philosophers and their philosophies. I loved that they were learning to cultivate a biblical worldview. We have had many great conversations and it has enhanced our learning in many different areas. We will definitely continue to use this. 

Philosophy Adventure is available at Home School Adventure Co. and comes in these formats:
Print Reader & Student Book, Digital Teacher's Resources on CD - $89.95
Print Reader, Digital Student Workbook & Teacher's Resources on CD -  $69.95
Digital Reader, Student Workbook & Teacher's Resources on CD - $49.95
Digital Download of Reader, Student Workbook & Teacher's Resources - $39.95 

Home School Adventure Co.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What's on Your Nightstand - April

What's On Your Nightstand

Folks, I read two--yes, two whole books in the last month! I also squeezed in two little Kindle booklets, but their page length didn't even amount to 100 pages. Instead I've been busy moving and helping prep my kids for a competition that they will participating in next week.

For April, I am keeping my reading goals on the light side since I need to start focusing on unpacking boxes and find a home for everything.

For May:

From March's Nightstand:
  • Boundaries with Kids: How Healthy Choices Grow Healthy Children by Henry Cloud & John Townsend - An excellent read. I enjoyed this one better than Boundaries.  
  • Uncle Dynamite by P.G. Wodehouse  - I liked this book, though I can't say it will be a favorite. It felt like it took me forever to read this since I would fall into bed exhausted from cleaning and moving, read two pages, and fall asleep. At least I went to sleep with happy thoughts.
I also read:

See what others have read over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Homeschool Mother's Journal: This and That

April 18 Collage

1. & 9. While practicing french knots for Destini's cross-stitch picture we opened up my embroidery box. Delani got so excited that there was extra fabric and thread that she wanted to try her hand at sewing.

2. The microwave has been put in! Yeah, now the kids can get their own lunches. I went with a very basic model but the we are all amazed at how quiet it is from the one that was in our old house.

3. Catching up on laundry. I am going to hate to see my water bill!

4. & 7. We have had some nice weather and the kids are enjoying how private our driveway is. In fact, I haven't had to nag any of them about going outside. They are wanting to head out on their own. In picture 7 you can see that our driveway goes down quite a ways. They have been riding their bikes and scooters up and down and using the front of the driveway for basketball (that is why our vehicles are sitting so far from the house.) Their favorite thing is the privacy they are afforded and not having to worry about traffic.

5. The teens at our co-op had ice cream sundaes on Thursday and I came home with a lot of topping left over so we went and bought ice cream and whipped cream and have been enjoying our own sundaes. Usually it is just ice cream so all the extra toppings are something special.

6. I have a shoe shopping diva in the form of a 6 year old girl. Here are Delani's new shoes for Easter. They had to have a heel on them and they had to click when she walked. Nothing less would do.

8. Destini is busy working on quilting her quilt. She has a little less than two weeks to get it finished so last week and next week she will spend a lot of time sewing!

In our homeschool world:

I had the kids pull out their math and start working on that. We also have been working on the TOS Review Crew items. Since the ACTS Student Convention that the kids are competing in will be at the end of April and beginning of May we have been focusing on their projects. We will get back to all our books in May.

My big goal this week is to figure out where I am going to keep all the homeschool books. In our old house we had them in the dining room by our table, but in our new house we don't have room there. My options are the living room (I don't think I'll like how it looks since it tends to get messy) or in the playroom (that means I have to walk to a different part of the house every time I need a book). Choices, ugh!

One more random photo which I found on my phone. I have no clue what my kids (along with Hannah, who I claim) were doing but it made me smile.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Homeschool Mother's Journal - Happy 6th Birthday, Delani!

Delani B'day Collage
On Wednesday, Delani celebrated her 6th birthday. Things are still very hectic as we were still in the process of cleaning out our old house (a rental) and getting everything into our new home.
1. On Tuesday we went to Famous Dave's for her birthday dinner.
2. Enjoying her ice cream.
3. On Wednesday we celebrated her birthday in shifts. I cleaned our old house most of the day and then came home and made a quick dinner and she opened her presents.
4. Shade and I headed out again to clean some more. We finished the day off with her birthday cake--Strawberry Shortcake. (She likes her candles to be in the cake before adding the strawberries to it.)

April 12 Collage
As I mentioned in a previous post that we have bought a house. We spent the last weekend moving and all of this week getting odds and ends out of our old rental home and getting it cleaned up. The old house felt like I had a black cloud hanging over me all week. It seemed liked I kept finding one more thing to clean.

Not much has been happening in the way of school work. A lot of real life has happened though. I'm not sure what will happen this week since I don't know if I can lay hands on everything. I will not be writing any posts on how to move, since I have to be the poster child of the world's worst mover. Anyhow, here is a collection of pictures I have collected over the past week.

6. I discovered this on the white board after we had signed papers on our new home. 
7. The evening we got the keys to our house we ripped out flooring that had some water damage and the following day new carpet was laid down. 
8. Our new refrigerator.
9. Our only decent meal we have had since we moved in. Needless to say I am failing completely in the dinner department. To top it off I have had to be pretty creative for lunch time too since we are operating without a microwave. I also know I am missing at least one box of food which no one seems to know anything about. Am I the only one this happens to?
10. In the midst of all this craziness baseball started this week. Oh, and to make life even better the pollen count has been high which makes me feel miserable.
11. As you can see my living room is still a mess. I spared you the horror of the kitchen!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Victus Study Skills System (TOS Review)

Victus Study Skills Review

Learning study skills can be a real challenge. I faced it myself when I was in school and at times I have faced it in our own homeschool. I recently had an opportunity to review Teacher's Edition and Student Workbook for the Victus Study Skills System.

Victus Study Skills Review
Victus Study Skills System aim is "to equip the student for success in academics and in life." It gives parents and students the know how so they can learn and perform the important task of learning to study.

Victus Study Skills applies three foundational cornerstones with questions that a student can learn to apply to their schooling and life. These foundational cornerstones ask the student:
  • "Where are you now?'
  • "Where do you want to be?"
  • "How do you get there?"
I received the Teacher's Edition and Student Workbook for review. The Teacher's Edition lays out the aims, foundational cornerstones, and objectives in the first few pages of the book. It then shares how to use the Teacher's Edition, offers effective techniques to use while teaching the material, and gives a lays out a sample course plan.

The Student Workbook is to be used while the teacher is teaching the material. It is not a stand along book. It included checklists, fill-in-the-blank sheets, charts to fill out to practice new skills, and more. These worksheets and forms take the student through the three Foundational Cornerstones.

For maximum effectiveness they recommend using the program in 5, one-hour sessions and completing all 10 lessons in that period of time. Of course, they advise to use the program to your student's ability and the available time that you have.

Lesson covered include such topics as:
  • Study Habits
  • Learning Strengths
  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • PQRST (Preview, Question, Read, State, Test)
  • Study Environment
  • Note Taking
  • Rest Taking
  • Review and more
I was undecided which one of my kids to use this with. Since Caleb is a senior I decided to use it with him and I had Destine sit in on the lessons. We averaged one lesson per day and it took us almost two weeks to complete.

Caleb enjoyed working through this. Since he is very detailed oriented this program really "spoke" to him. He hasn't had much opportunity to apply what he has learned since we just moved and are still in the midst of getting settled. Destini listened in, but whereas Caleb loved all the detail, she found it bothersome. Both would admit that their favorite section was when they learned what their "learning strength" was and the things they could do to help them learn according to their learning style.

I understand the idea behind the Victus Study Skills System, but really struggled to apply this to our homeschool. Much of the information given is for a traditional school setting. We don't run our homeschool like a traditional school and thus my kids found it hard to apply to how we do academics.

I found the Teacher's Edition hard to use. It is written toward the classroom teacher and many lessons required preparation, which as a homeschool mom isn't the easiest the find. I would have much preferred a scripted lessons. I also found the directions confusing at times.

I also found it hard to get the Student Manual to correspond with the Teacher's Edition. The lessons are marked in the Teacher's Edition, but not marked in the Student Manual. I spent quite a bit of time trying to make sure that we had covered every page for every lesson.

I think the thing that stood out to me the most is that though it teaches about learning strengths it doesn't really address personality differences. If your child thrives on a lot of detail they will love this program, but a more relaxed child will probably find it overwhelming and too detail oriented. 

I guess I can say I really struggled with the presentation of the whole program. There was a lot of good things that were taught and since finishing the program I have though a lot on how I could apply it more effectively with my children and in our learning atmosphere. Though recommended to be used at a fast pace for our homeschool I can see it being more beneficial to apply these ideas slowly.

Spending a few weeks on making goals and priorities, or working on note-taking, or learning test-taking skills, or applying PQRST would help my daughter to not be so overwhelmed and also help my son learn how apply all these ideas and not just get caught up in a method rather than learning valuable life and academic skills.

Victus Study Skill System is suggested for 5th grade-12th grade. The Teacher's Edition is available for $40.00 and the Student Workbook is available for $20.00.

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Friday, April 4, 2014


No, not a baby...but we have bought a house!

Needless to say things are very hectic. Not a lot of schoolwork getting done around here, but a lot of real life is happening.

Some of my helpers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Captivated DVD from Media Talk 101 (TOS Review)

Captivated Movie Review
Do you find yourself concerned about how much screen time your kids have? Do you find your self concerned about how much time you are spending online? Do you find yourself or your children constantly checking your smart phone?  Recently I was sent for review a new documentary produced by Media Talk 101 called Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captivated Culture which deals with many of these questions.
  Captivated Movie Review
Captivated talks about how today's media technology is affecting our world. Our culture today is surrounded by screens. What is amazing is that our infatuation with new media technology didn't start with the advent of the TV, Internet, or smart phones. This fascination began with the first telegraph in 1844. It then led to the telephone, radio, television, and the Internet. Now today's media technology offers us an "all you can" eat media buffet.

This documentary shares many sobering statistics. Did you know the national average home has more TVs than people per household,  or that people spend more than half their day consuming media, and teens send and receive 3,339 text per month?  Also, interspersed throughout the documentary are interviews with Dr. Jeff Myers, Ray Comfort, Dr. David Murray, Kevin Swanson, and Phillip Telfer, who wrote, produced, and co-directed Captivated.

The DVD also address how screen time affects our brains. When small children are allowed to play with games and watch TV they are equipping themselves for a high pace life and then when they experience real life they find it is boring.  Children will suffer with shorter attention spans. But the harm to the brain is not limited to just babies and small children. It also affects older children, teens, and adults. When we work hard at a project it affects the pleasure part of our brain. We can get this same feeling by watching something, but the problem is we haven't done anything.  Another problem is that it keeps us from having focused attention. We think we can multi-task by watching something and helping our child do their school work when in fact it is causing us harm. The human brain wasn't made to multi-task when using the thinking part of our brain.

Captivated also talks about how media technology is affecting our health and our relationships with one another. Physically it is taking a toll on hearing loss, eye strain, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, and many other ways. One of the most sober aspects of media technology is how it is robotizing relationships. Never has the younger generation been able to screen out adults as well as they can today. Their lives are focus on themselves. They are only interested in what concerns them. They are not interested in politics, current events, great literature.

Another focus of Captivated is how Christians are willingly turning a blind eye to content. Many are addicted to violent video games and even to games that seem harmless offered at sites like Facebook.  The media is focusing on changing our worldview. Empty philosophies and false worldviews are consistently being thrust on our culture and slowly desensitizing Christians.

I know all this information may sound depressing, The DVD also provides many ways to fight being captivated by today's media technology. First off, is to make sure that our framework is based on God's word. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" - II Corinthians 10:5. This can be done in many ways--having a media fast, being selective, and having discernment. Also, they give encouraging words to parents who they have failed in this area with their children.

Captivated is produced for adults, but can by viewed by anyone of any age. We watched it several times along with our oldest son, Caleb. Many of the things that were discussed and pointed out in this documentary have always been implemented in our home, but after watching this I can say that we have room for improvement. We have always had a strong stand on content and yet we struggle with how much time is spent using media technology. It has given us a lot to think about and also encouraged us to learn to use media technology for what is it--a tool.

Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captivated Culture is truly a captivating DVD and definitely worth watching.

Captivated is available in DVD format for $16.95 (free shipping). Right now they are offering a special sale price of 2 DVDs for $21.95 (free shipping).

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spelling You See - Level D: Americana (TOS Review)

Spelling You See Review

When I heard that Math-U-See had a new sister company called Spelling You See, you can bet that I was all ears. We are huge fans of Math-U-See and since spelling is an issue in this house I knew that Spelling You See was something that I needed to check out. I was very excited to have the opportunity to review Level D: Americana.

Spelling You See Review
Spelling You See was developed by Dr. Karen Holinga, a former elementary school teacher, college professor, and reading specialist. Rather than using spelling word lists and tests the student does a daily activity that has a student integrate listening, reading, speaking, and writing. Spelling You See will guide your child through the natural stages of how we learn to spell.
Spelling You See Review
Chantry has been using Level D: Americana, which is recommended for students who are 8 years old and established readers. Americana has short, daily lessons. The readings and dictation are short non-fiction stories about American history and culture. These lessons are based around three core activities--copywork, chunking, and dictation.


Chunking is finding and marking all the designated letter patterns in the passage. In Americana students learn to chunk vowel chunks, consonant chunks, Bossy R chunks, Tricky Y Guy, endings, and silent letters.

This is how a weekly lesson is broke down:
  1. The parent reads the story followed by the student and parent reading the passage together.
  2. The student chunks the letter patterns with colored pencils or highlighters.
  3. After that for days 1-3 the student copies the passage. Set the timer for 10 minutes and when it goes off they are finished for the day.
  4. On the fourth day the parent dictates the passage for only 10 minutes. On this day the parent provides punctuation, capitalization, and helps with hard words.
  5. Day 5 finds the students writing out the dictation, again for only 10 minutes. The parent can help with punctuation and capitalization, but should encourage the student to try to spell the difficult words.
The Instructor's Handbook includes a detailed description of the philosophy of the program. Explicit directions are given for Lessons 1-14, while Lessons 15-36 along with Book 2 are review of all the letter patterns that are taught. All the dictation passages are included along with answer keys.

Chantry had been using a spelling program along with doing dictation. When we started using Spelling You See he immediately renamed it "Spictation." One thing I found out that this is a very easy program to implement, so easy in fact it is easy to let your child do Day 1-3 by himself and only worry about dictation. Don't do it!!

When we were a couple of weeks into the program I noticed that doing the dictation was like pulling hen's teeth. I went back and re-read how the program works. I immediately realized my mistake. In his desire to get his work finished he had been reading the passage by himself. The next week I made sure that I read the passage and then we both read it together. When it came time to do dictation I saw an immediate improvement. In our last lesson he was able to write out several lines of his dictation without having it read to him.

This program makes a lot of sense to me. All of my children have resisted learning phonics and have struggled with spelling. After trying a few phonics based spelling programs with no success, I finally have settled on a spelling program along with dictation. When spelling a word that trips them up I have tried to show them tips and tricks to remember how to spell them. Sometimes I was successful and many times not. Spelling You See has changed that. I now remind my son to recall how he chunked the word. When a word has been chunked with a color which stands for a certain kinds of chunked letters, it is much easier to recall.

I am a big proponent of Charlotte Mason and I think this really lines up with many of her methods by utilizing copywork, visualizing, dictation, and my favorite--short lessons.

I think I can truly say we have found a new spelling program. I asked Chantry if he wanted to go back to his spelling and dictation books and he replied, "No way, I want Spictation!" Yes, I think I heard angels sing.

Level D: Americana is available in:
Student Pack -  $30.00 (Includes 2 student workbooks and a pack of erasable colored pencils)
Instructor's Handbook - $14.00

Also check out the other levels that Spelling You See offers.
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