Friday, December 17, 2010

TOS review: Tiny Planets


Tiny Planets is "an animated television series and companion website" (description taken from their website.)  Your hosts are Bing and Bong, two adorable aliens.  The purpose of Tiny Planets is to educate children in space exploration while inspiring creativity and critical thinking through entertainment. 

There are a lot of free things to do on the Tiny Planets website however, there are some things that need to be unlocked with "keys" you purchase.  The prices are as follows:

10 keys    $1.95   (about 20 cents per key)
25 keys    $3.95   (about 16 cents per key)
85 keys    $9.95   (about 12 cents per key)
250 keys  $25.95  (about 10 cents per key)
600 keys  $49.95  (about 8 cents per key)

You need to have a parent account to purchase the keys and then you can transfer the keys to your children's accounts so they can use them. 

Starting at the home page, there are six main areas you can visit:

My Tiny Planet-Your child can build their own planet, adding trees, atmosphere and other items.  There are mini games to play that earn you stars.  You use the stars to purchase items for your planet. You can also use keys to purchase extra items for your planet.  This was the area Precise Prince, age 11, enjoyed the most.  It did take him a bit to get hang of the controls for moving the ship around, but once he got it, he really enjoyed it.  I think this area is geared toward elementary age and younger children (preschool/kindergarten) would find the controls frustrating.  Also, your child needs to be able to read to enjoy this area.

Tiny Planets TV-Here you can watch videos featuring Bing and Bong.  The first episode is free.  The rest require the keys to unlock them.  One episode was 5 keys, the rest are 10. The episodes are about 4-7 minutes long.  Once you purchase an episode you can go back and watch it as many times as you like.  I think the videos are geared more toward Preschool and Kindergarten age.  Creative Princess enjoyed the shows though and she is 9.  However, she still occasionally chooses some of the preschool TV shows to watch when she has screen time.  Precise Prince thought the episodes were cute but they wouldn't be his first choice to watch as they are geared to younger kids. 

Tiny Planets Lab-This area has mini-games to play.  The games are quick to play.  I would say this area is geared toward elementary age.  Most of the games we tried would be too difficult for preschoolers and kindergarteners. As they are free you can try them out yourself.  Precise Prince played a few of the games but quickly moved onto the My Tiny Planets section.


Tiny Planets Books-Here you can read online books about Bing and Bong.  The first one is free and the rest require keys to unlock.  These books are geared toward preschool age. 

Tiny Planets Fun-When I clicked on this, it brought me to the TV episodes.  Then I realized that the arrows at the top of the page were different.  Click on the Bong's Corner arrow for comics, coloring pages and puzzles to print out.  The Bing's Corner arrow takes you to the mini-games in Tiny Planets Lab.

Tiny Planets Learning-This area is geared toward Preschool/Kindergarten/Early Elementary age with colored worksheets you can print out so your child can work on their letters and numbers.  Clicking on the lesson plans arrow at the top of this page brings you to a list of lessons.  The lessons coordinate to the Tiny Planet episodes although you do not need to watch the TV episodes to use the lessons.  I looked through the lessons and I think that many would be fun to use with preschoolers and kindergartners.  I think this was my favorite part of the site and I would use it in our household if I had any preschoolers or kindergarteners.  The What's New arrow leads to the blog with parenting tips, science experiments and information for elementary age kids and other things.  I enjoyed reading through some of the blog posts.  You can check the blog out here.

In summary:

When I first started letting the kids play around in the website, well...honestly, I was thinking "I'm not getting the educational value here."  The games are pretty basic games you can find all over the internet in similar forms.  The free TV episode was cute and funny, but I didn't see anything educational about it.  Then I sat down and spent more time looking over the different areas and clicking around.  I think the Lesson Plan section under Tiny Planets Learning has some great ideas that are educational for the preschool/kindergarten age.  The kids and I watched a few of the episodes that you have to pay for and they seemed to be more educational for the preschool/kindergarten age.  The blog has some educational and fun ideas that would work well with older kids.  This website does have something for all ages preschool through late elementary.
The website is pretty big and navigation can be a challenge, but once I figured out where to find things, it wasn't so difficult to navigate.

The kids will continue to be allowed to play on the Tiny Planets website, but it will be during their allowed screen time (the term we use for when the kids can watch TV, play video games or play on the computer doing what they want rather than what I want them to do.) 

It's a good website to check out yourself.  There are plenty of free things to try.  Prices for the extras vary.

See what my fellow crewmates had to say about Tiny Planets here.

(To review Tiny Planets my children received some of the keys for free.  No other compensation was received.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I have actually been getting some baking done this year.  I enjoy baking when I'm in the mood and have time.  This has been the first week in awhile in which we haven't had someting extra going on every day (besides the basics-school, sports, etc.) 

I have baked peanut butter blossoms, peppermint meringue snowflake cookies (which my husband said reminded him too much of toothpaste and which most of them broke when I removed them from the parchment paper but the kids loved them), lemon meringue cookies (using the same recipe for the snowflake cookies with a different shape), chocolate fudge rice cookies (the recipe is back from when Creative Princess was allergic to milk), peanut butter bon-bons and peppermint bark.  The peppermint bark is my favorite, followed by the bon-bons. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's Up

We have been busy and keeping up on the blog has just not been priority.  I'm usually too tired in the evening to feel like writing and figuring out pictures. 

Last weekend we bought a small tree and decorated it.  All of our Christmas stuff is in storage.  My mom has a few decorations, but they are in her storage shed, behind everything else we put in there.  (Repeat after me...we have TOO MUCH stuff!)  So we made the decision to just buy some decorations.  The kids picked out some decorations at the Dollar Tree and we bought lights.  We may make a few ornaments too but haven't yet. 

When Nathan was about 2, World Traveller bought a set of mice books that are put in box as an advent calendar. You take out one book (they are numbered) until Christmas Eve. After reading them, they go on the tree. The books are simple board books but even still the kids enjoy them. It's a tradition they love. I am so glad I remembered to not pack them and to bring them to mom's house.

Last year, World Traveller bought a Lego advent calendar. The kids loved it so he bought one again this year (it's different from last year's.) Each day they take turns opening a box and putting together the Lego mini-item. Some of the thins they have put together this year are a snowman, a mini-fire truck, a couple of people and a fireplace.

The other advent tradition we started two years ago is reading an advent book. This year is the third in the series--Tabitha's Travels. The other two we've read the past two Christmas's are Jotham's Journey (this is the first book in the series) and Bartholmew's Passage. The kids and I love these books! World Traveller would enjoy them as well but we have found that he ends up missing most of it because of his Christmas travelling schedule. You read one section in these books every night. The books are fiction stories set right before the birth of Christ. I highly recommend them with one work of caution-very young children may find them a bit scary. The children in these stories are separated from their parents at some point. (The endings are happy but I won't give them away.)

I noticed that Arnold Ytreeide, the author of the advent series has an Easter book out too. I am definitely planning to purchase one this coming year for Easter.

Ok, onto a new subject.  To finish off our obedience unit in KONOS, we had a medieval feast.  The kids took turns serving food and entertaining our guests.  We ended with a play.  It was fun, turned out well and the kids asked if we could do it again.  (We said not anytime soon but we can do something similar at the end of our next unit-but we will make it more simple.)  To see better pictures of the feast, head over to this post from my friend, Aleah.  (I am a bit jealous of her photography skills!)

On Sunday our church had a family Christmas program which the kids participated in.  It was fun to watch and we enjoyed it immensely.  I haven't uploaded the pictures but when I do, if they turned out ok, I may share a few here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

This and That

We've been at mom's for three weeks now.  The kids and I are finally settling into a routine.  With getting our old house ready for sell, accepting and offer (in a short time), getting 95% of our stuff into storage, cleaning the old house and attempting to not disrupt our schedule too much, it has been crazy for months.  The kids have had way too much screen time.  The past two weeks we have been reeling it in to a more acceptable amount and I love the results.  The kids are playing together nicer and being more creative-the way it should be.

Yes, reality is still here and they do still argue, but not near as much.  They still are allowed some screen time-but in more appropriate quantities and not every day.

Precise Prince has been working on a Lego semi-truck for awhile.  He and Creative Princess have been playing Legos a lot today-building houses and such.

Yesterday, they decorated pre-made gingerbread cookies.  Normally we buy a gingerbread house but there is no room to display it this year so we went with cookies.  The bonus is they get to eat them. 

Creative Princess's cookies:

Precise Prince's cookies:
Today we baked cookies for a friend who is having a craft/bake sale to raise money to adopt.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Creative Princess said

The kids are sitting at the table eating a gingerbread cookie and chatting.  This struck me as funny:

Creative Princess: When I grow up, I'm going to adopt all my kids.  That way I don't have to be in pain.
Me: How do you know it hurts to have kids?
CP: Because people scream when they have them.
CP: And I'm going to adopt them after they are potty trained so I don't have to change diapers.

Where does she get this from?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


A good friend of mine posted a picture of an apron she made to give to another friend for a craft fair she is doing to raise money for adoption.  I wrote "I love it! How about I buy the fabric, you sew it and I pay for it" or something like that.  Of course, she wouldn't let me get away with that.  She had me buy the fabric and showed me how to sew them.  Then I helped her make more for our friend's craft fair.  I can't believe how easy it was to make these and I have fun doing it.  That said, I won't be buying a sewing machine any time soon!

Thanksgiving Pictures

Thanksgiving was at my oldest sister's house this year.  I'm not sure why, but I never get many good Thanksgiving pictures.  My sister hooked up the karoke machine and the kids had a blast.  Of course, Creative Princess loved singing in the microphone!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm thankful for:

a loving, caring husband
wonderful children
a large extended family
a warm house in the cold
food in the pantry
my husband having a job he really likes
two working, nice vehicles
my fantastic church family
a relationship with Christ

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Mom took the kids outside to play in the snow yesterday.  Creative Princess really loves the snow! 

Next it was inside for marshmallow snowmen and hot cocoa.

The kids then made corn husk dolls from the Pioneer kit we bought earlier in the year and didn't finish.  It was a good fall project, even if the weather outside said winter. :-)

Monday, November 22, 2010

TOS review: A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers


Precise Prince enjoys classical music.  As a matter of fact, when we were boxing up some items in anticipation of selling our house, my husband's classical music CD's were accidentally packed.  We ended up going into storage and opening up a couple of boxes to find them and bring them back out.

So when I was given the chance to choose one item to review from Bright Ideas Press from a list of items, I decided A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers would be a good fit for us. 

This 298 page book is divided into 32 lessons.  Taking one lesson per week would get you through this book in one school year.  The majority of the lessons are about specific composers.  There are a few lessons giving a short overview of the different time periods of music as well.

The introduction gives you an outline of how to use the Composers book.  I want to mention here that I loved that this book starts off writing that music is from the Lord! Here's how we have incorporated the Composers study into our homeschool-using most of the suggestions in the introduction.

On day one, we listen to the recommended selections.  You can use the appendix in the book for websites that have the suggested music suggestions or if you have a husband like mine or if you have a collection yourself, you may find you own CD's with the suggested musical selections on them.

I love that the intro to this book recognizes that some kids will want to color, dance or move.  There are coloring pages at the back of the book you can print out for the kids to color while listening to the music.  My kids usually draw while listening.

After listening to the selection, I read the biography on the composer.  I gave the kids each their own copy of the note taking pages and we filled them out together as I read.  I may change this in the future and use the note taking pages at the end of reading to see how well they were listening.  That ends day one.

On the second day of our weekly lesson, we listen to the recommended selections again.  Then we fill out the Composer Info-Card.  These are 5x7 cards with the name of the composer, his musical period and a picture of him on the front of the card.  The back of the card has some basic info on the composer that the kids fill in including when he lived, a small map to color in the country where he was born or where he did most of his composing, 3 facts about the composer, two compositions he wrote and whether or not we know he was a Christian.

Next we color in the timeline and put the composer card into our folderbook.  A folderbook is similar to a lapbook but a bit quicker to put together.  I found the instructions for the folderbook a bit confusing.  But by looking at the pictures in the book and reading what a folderbook was, I was able to make one for each of the kids that works well for us.  You do not have to make a folderbook-this is simply one of a few ways Bright Ideas Press gave to help your children remember what you are reading.

Day three is listening to the selection and reviewing what we have learned. 

I want to mention that there are a couple of games you can print out to play with your kids-composer bingo and composer Jeopardy.  These would be good for review once you've spent a few months studying this book.  In addition the introduction has a map activity that you can use to add a geography component for studying the composers.  We chose not to use this component but I love that it is an option. 

I think this book is a great introduction to the Composers.  If you find that your child really enjoys certain composers, you can stop and study that composer for awhile before moving on to the next lesson and take more than one school year to get through this book.  There is a Resource List at the end of the book to help you delve deeper into some of the studies if you choose this option. 

This book is recommended for grades 4-8 but can easily be adapted for younger and older grades, in my opinion.  Older children could easily do this study on their own.  Actually, I could probably have both my third and fifth grader do the reading on their own and fill out the note taking pages and composer cards without me.  However, I just prefer this type of study to be done together.

The Composers study comes in CD format or as a regular bound softcover book.  I chose the book because when I'm reading to the kids, I prefer reading from a book than from the computer.  However, there are many things meant for printing out (note taking pages, coloring pages, Composer cards, map elements, etc.) so a CD format would be a great choice too.  Since our printer also copies, I just copied what we needed.  I also took the book to a local copy center and had it spiral bound.  (It is much easier to copy from a spiral bound book.)  Yes, you will use a fair amount of ink and paper if you copy (or print out from the CD) every resource available in this book.  However, you can pick and choose which resources to use and minimize the ink usage. 

Bottom line: I recommend this book as a great introduction to Composers and I plan to continue to use A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers in our homeschooling.  I will probably do one lesson every other week simply because we have so much in our regular schooling already but this book lends itself well for this. 

The cost for the Composers book is $34.95.  The CD-Rom version is only $29.95. 

See what my fellow crewmates had to say about this book and other resources from Bright Ideas Press here.

(I received A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers for free in exchange for my honest opinion.  No other compensation was received.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birthday dinner and party

For Precise Prince's birthday dinner with the family, he chose Japanese food.  That has become a tradition for him.  He loves Asian food.  We made gyoza, yakisoba and bought cucumber rolls from Costco.  He chose apple pie and ice cream for dessert.

For his party with his friends, he kept it simple.  The boys played Legos, had a hunt for candy around the house and after pizza, presents and ice cream cake, played a little bit of Wii.  I was a bit nervous having 9 boys at my mom's small house but it went wonderfully!  Everyone had fun.

 Creative Princess explained that she and Cole had first class seats on the couch.  :-) 

 Nathan loved all his gifts!