Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jealous of my Own House

Hee hee!  Our house is ready (mostly) and goes on the market this weekend.  I love how uncluttered the house is right now!  I told World Traveler that it is tempting to just throw away all the stuff we just put in storage.  Really the majority of stuff would not be missed but there are a few things I already miss-mostly books and a few CD's.  But even if I brought back those things missed, it would still look clean in the house.  :-)

My goal when we move is to get rid of as much stuff as in storage.  Sigh, I don't see reality living up to my dreams though.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TOS Review: New Monic Books: Vocabulary Cartoons


Have you found vocabulary curriculum to be dry?  Do your children balk at memorizing definitions to words that bore them?  Vocabulary Cartoons from New Monic Books will change that.  Using black and white funny drawings combined with a funny sentence and a helpful word or phrase that rhymes with the vocabulary word, your child is sure to remember the definitions of this week's vocabulary words. 

From the website:
Vocabulary Cartoons works on the principle of mnemonics. A mnemonic is a device that helps you remember something by associating what you are trying to remember with something you already know. 
Following the mnemonic principle of association, Vocabulary Cartoons link together an auditory (rhyming) word association and a visual association in the form of a humorous cartoon. These powerful mnemonics help students retain the meanings of words longer and with less effort than trying to memorize definitions straight out of a dictionary.

(I won't tell you how long it was before I realized the company name New Monic Books was from the word mnemonics.)

Here is an example from the Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power book.  The format of the page is the same as the elementary Vocabulary Cartoons.

Click here for a few more samples of vocabulary cartoons.

After every 10 vocabulary words there is a worksheet the kids can do to review the words.  The worksheet is pretty basic.  The first part of the worksheet is matching the vocabulary words with their definitions.  The second part is writing in the correct vocabulary word for each sentence.  You can have your child write directly in the book, or just have them write the answers on a separate sheet of paper.  Then you can use the book over again more easily.

Since this book uses rhyming words and pictures to assist the child in learning the vocabulary word, it would work well for both auditory and visual learners.

Precise Prince had the whole book read the first day I showed it to the kids.  He asked me to randomly quiz him on the words in the book. He did a pretty good job with the definitions of many of the words and when he wasn't sure of a word, I would tell him what the word sounds like and that helped.  He said he would see the picture in his mind when I said the "sounds like" word and that helped him remember what the word meant.  (Yes, he got a few wrong, but remember, he had only read through the 210 vocabulary words once and he wasn't necessarily trying to memorize the whole book at the time.)
(This is Precises Prince reading the Vocabulary Cartoons book--he's sitting on the stairs.  I can't tell you how many times I have had to ask him to move because he was reading on the stairs-I'm not sure I can count that high.)

Precise Prince also asked me if there were any more Vocabulary Cartoons books I could get for him.  Unfortunately, at this time there is only one elementary book available.  Since my friend, Denise reviewed a New Monic book for older students, I asked her if she thought it would be appropriate for Precise Prince.  She assured me that although some of the words may be difficult, I wouldn't object to Precise Prince learning any of the words.  So now, I have a new product on my list to order: Vocabulary Cartoons: SAT Word Power.  (Actually, there are two SAT Word Power books so we'll get one now and one later.)

Here is one of Precise Prince's favorite words from the book:

ENDORSE (en DORSE) v. to give approval or support.  Sounds like: HORSE  "A Kentucky Derby winning HORSE ENDORSES his ointment."  There is a picture of a horse saying "Friends! You'll love Kentucky Derby ointment for what ails you!"  The horse is standing at a table with a banner that says New Miracle Ointment and people are standing around listening to him.

Creative Princess had fun looking through the book as well.  She found the pictures funny and of course, she loved that so many of the pictures use animals in them. 

I found that when we went to look up the definition of a word this week, I grabbed the Vocabulary Cartoon book first to see if the word was there.  The end of the book contains an index with all the words alphabetized so it was easy to see if the word was in the book.  (I can't remember what word we were looking up but it wasn't one of the 210 words in the Vocabulary Cartoons book.)

I would love to see a kids dictionary in this format.  The pictures and sentences really do help cement the meaning of a word. 

Go here and order your Vocabulary Cartoons for only $12.95.  See what other TOS crewmates had to say about this product here.

(I received one copy of Vocabulary Cartoons for free in exchange for my honest opinion.  No other compensation was received.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


...that Precise Prince can be kind to his sister.  Creative Princess insisted she wasn't feeling well and asked for "screen time".  I said "no" (of course, it was obvious she would be fine soon.)  I caught Precise prince reading to Creative Princess.  She was so happy big brother was reading to her!  (even if she has read this particular book a hundred times to herself.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

TOS review: Schleich

Scene:  Mom is in the kitchen fixing dinner.  There is still about a half an hour before it will be ready.  The two precious kids (aptly named Precise Prince and Creative Princess) are milling around restless.

Mom: Why don't you guys go play?  Dinner isn't ready for awhile.
Child One (after all it could have been either of them): There isn't anything to do.
Mom: Go play with the new Schleich animals we just got in the mail.  They are in the box on the table upstairs.

Scene: Both children run upstairs discussing who gets to play with what animal.
Time passes and amazingly the children do not argue.

Mom, through the intercom system: Dinner's ready.

Scene: The children run down the stairs talking together.
Creative Princess, laughing: The animals were eating cookies with ketchup.

End scene.

This is an actual scene that happened at my house recently. My kids have pretty vivid imaginations.  I love toys that lend themselves to creativity and these animals do just that! 

Why do I like them so much?  First, they are high quality. These are toys that can be passed down from child to child-not broken after a day or two of playing with them.  They are beautifully hand painted and detailed.

The variety of animals you can purchase is something I've not seen elsewhere.  You have your basic animals, dogs and horses and zebras and such, but did you even know that there is an animal called an Okapi?  (Of course I'm not looking it up for you but here's a picture of our Schleich Okapi.  You have google too.)

Our shipment came with a collector's booklet that lists the animals.  Based on the booklet descriptions, here is what we received in our shipment:  a gnu, a gnu calf, a baby elephant, an okapi, a Przewalski's horse, a Swabian-Hall piglet, a donkey and a Dartmoor pony.  My children are already making a wish list on what animals they want to add. 

In addition to animals, there are other collections Schleich offers.  Most of the animals fall under the "World of Nature" collection.  Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are part of the "World of History" collection which also includes the "World of Knights" and "World of the American Indians."  Then there is the Bayala collection which has elves and other fictional creatures.  The last collection in the collectors book is the Smurfs.

Creative Princess loves animals and already had two of Schleich's dogs which she named Oslo, for the city in Norway and Bones (I don't know where this name came from).

Precise Prince actually started collecting the knights from Schleich a couple of years ago.  They are among a handful of toys that we will not be getting rid of and they are some of his favorite toys.

I took out the rice bucket for my great-niece to play with recently.  (She is in preschool and loves to "play rice".  Precise Prince and Creative Princess will usually sit with her and play too.)  The kids used the animals with the rice buckets.  They were feeding them, playing hide and seek with them and even made a rice pool for them to swim in.

I highly recommend these toys so head over to their website and check them out.  Click here to find your nearest retailer for Schleich.  Prices vary based on retailers.

To see what my fellow TOS crewmates have to say about Schleich click here.

(As part of the TOS crew, I recieved some animals for free in exchange for my honest opinion.  No other compensation was made.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Catching Up

I haven't posted much lately because we have been busy.  Last week was crazy.  I spent quite a bit of time making up for being sick the previous week.  I had a homeschool meeting, Creative Princess had gymnastics, we have a new tile backsplash going into the kitchen--we're not doing, we hired a friend, (which I've been wanting for two years-now we will be moving LOL), the kids and I had two co-op classes last week-KONOS and Apologia science, plus regular chores and packing up.  A dear friend came over on Wednesday and helped pack and organize-she's coming back this afternoon.  World Traveller and I didn't get quite as much done as I thought we would this weekend, but we got a lot done and I'm feeling good with it.  With my friend coming today, we will probably have 85% of everything finished.

I love having the house in ready to show condition.  I said if we end up not moving for whatever reason, things aren't being unpacked quickly-one box at a time with lots of things going bye-bye!  We have managed to get some things in the give away pile but because we want the house ready to sell by the end of the week, I'm not taking a lot of time with giving things away-just the things that I know we don't need or want.

I'm feeling like we can start getting back into a good routine around here.  The kids and I have finished school today (we got an unusually early start).  I'm taking a short break and then I'm going to start packing and more cleaning.  I have some errands to run and some time today the hospital will call for me to pick up my mother-in-law.  She went in for a test that takes half a day.  My own mom had her gall bladder removed on Friday.  Her boyfriend took her for the surgery and has taken care of her this weekend.  I went and saw her yesterday and she is doing fine!  She looks good.  One of my other sister's was there when I was and I said we were going to pop her stitches making her laugh so much!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TOS review: I See Cards: Pyramath


One of our favorite ways of learning around here is by playing games so I was excited to see we were going to review Pyramath from I See Cards

The basic game is simple.  Your goal is to make a pyramid of cards using math equations.  If two numbers next to each other can be added, subtracted, multiplied or divided getting a result that ends in the next number you draw, then you play the card.  In the solitaire version you want to use as few cards as possible to make the pyramid so that your discard pile is small.  There are a couple of two player versions as well-both with the winner being the first to complete a pyramid.  You can get a better idea of the basic game by playing the online 5 card solitaire version here.  There is also the 7 card version here.  It only takes a few minutes to play the on-line solitaire version so go ahead and play it.


Precise Prince and I played quite a few games of two player Pyramath.  When we play, he always asks to play again.  The cards came with an instruction booklet and their website also contains some other games you can play with the cards.  One of the games suggested in the booklet was a spin on an old favorite-war.  (Who won the game of war, you ask?  I'm not telling but even though my 10 year old is good at math, I can still beat him at a simple adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing game..... Fine....I lost.) 

One thing I want to mention is that the game works well for using adding, subtracting, and multiplying.  Although you can divide in this game, there isn't as much opportunity for dividing based on the way the game is described in the instructions. You can alos play Pyramath using only addition and subtraction for younger kids so you can start using these cards around kindergarten or first grade and continue using them through all elementary school.

The cards themselves are interesting to look at.  The numbers on the cards are written out in 5 languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and French) and in Roman Numerals. Also, the numerals themselves are written large and are easy to read.

I See Cards has other card games for sale.  I'm planning to order the fraction game, Fractazmic (alhtough I'm a bit afraid I'll never win at a game with fractions).  The Pyramath cards sell for $6.95 a pack.  (They also sell multiple packs at a discount.) Go here to purchase.

You can read more reviews here.

(I was given a set of Pyramath cards for free in exchange for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

TOS Review: America's Math Teacher

Math Essential

When we received our one month subscription for America's Math Teacher from Math Essentials for review, I pulled up the website to peruse it and found this. This is all the video lessons you get access to when you sign up for the one year subscription.  There are over 300 math videos on this site for grades 4 through Algebra I.  They are working to add Algebra II to the website as well. 
The videos are categorized by Basic Math, Advanced math, Pre-Algebra and Algebra I.  This website is meant to be a complete math curriculum but it could also be used to supplement a current math curriculum.

The Videos
I started out by having Precise Prince watch a video of my choosing.  (Precise Prince loves math!  He does not get this from me!) I was informed afterward that he already knew the info on the video I chose so I let him watch whatever videos he wanted.  He went ahead and watched several videos--more than I asked him to watch.  When I asked him what he thought of the videos he said he liked most of them but didn't want to watch the ones in which he already knew the concept.  

I also sat down and watched a few videos. The videos are to the point and easy to understand. The video shows the instructor writing the problems-black ink on a white background so no pretty, bright colors. The instructor's voice is calm and his pace is just right-not too fast and not too slow. I think he does a good job of teaching the concepts. I made sure to watch a video on mixed fractions (not my area of expertise) and once the video was finished I understood how to work out the problem. More importantly, Precise Prince liked the videos and how things were explained and he understood what was being taught.  You can check out a few of their videos for free here.

The Evaluations

There is an on-line evaluation section that could be used in a couple of ways.  You could have your child start with it to help you determine where to start with watching the videos. You could also have him do an evaluation at the end of watching the videos and use the evaluation like a test.  I had Precise Prince do an on-line evaluation to see what they were like. They are a series of math questions that you answer and you receive an evaluation of how you did right after finishing it. It's like an on-line test. This is where he became frustrated. After spending some time answering about 60 questions, he did not receive the evaluation results. It appeared the website froze up. I then did an evaluation myself and I did get the results. However, the test did not score everything correctly. There were answers that I did answer correctly that were scored as incorrect and there was one answer that they had incorrect.

This is a new website and Rick, the owner said they are still working on a few glitches. He really wants glitches reported so they can fix them quickly. I reported the problems I had and quickly received an email that they were fixed. However, I took the same test again and it had some different questions on it. When I received the evaluation, a couple of the correct answers were missing. My answers showed up but I did not get credit for them. There is still some work needed to be done to make the on-line evaluations truly helpful.

The Written Exercises
There are also written exercises you can print out and have your child do.  There are answer sheets to the written exercises so you can correct them yourself.  You would not even need the on-line evaluations to use this program. 

The written exercises have review problems and speed drills on most of the worksheets.  You can print out only the pages you need so no wasted paper.  I had Precise Prince do a couple of worksheets related to the videos he watched.  He did well and since I had him work on some fraction problems we haven't done before, I felt the exercises showed the video taught him the concept well.
You can check out a few of the written exercises for free here.

Written worksheets

On-line Speed Drills

Another on-line option offered by America's Math Teacher are speed drills.  The speed drills are for adding, subtracting, or multiplying single digits.  I had Precise Prince try it out.  As quick as he usually is to understand math concepts, he has not mastered the memorization of the times tables. The speed drills weren't his favorite part of the website, but as the mom, I liked them and would definitely have him use the speed drills to improve his speed.
online speed drills

I see this website has potential.  My son and I both really liked the videos however, I would not be using the on-line evaluation forms at this time. The written exercises and on-line speed drills are great.  Personally, I think this website could be a whole curriculum even without using the evaluations.

The cost for a one year subscription is $195 for the family.  You can use it for all your children, but can only be signed in on one computer at a time. 

You can purchase a subscription to American's Math teacher here. 

To see what my fellow crewmates had to say go here.

(Disclaimer: I received a subscription at no charge for my honest opinion on this product. No other compensation was received.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I currently mentioned that we would be going through some changes around here that I wasn't ready to mention.  Now that we have met with our real estate agent, I will share what we are looking at.

The next two weeks will be filled with getting our house ready to put on the market.  We will be looking for a house (in the area) with a mother-in-law apartment.  World Traveler's mom will  be renting the m-i-l apartment. 

I feel very blessed that this is something we can do.  We are also going in knowing that there is a possibility that things could change, especially with the housing market.  But I know that it is all in God's hand and whatever happens will be fine.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I love moving.  Let me clarify that-I enjoy looking for a new place, unpacking and decorating and starting with a clean slate.  I love getting rid of all the unnecessary crap stuff.  Moving is the best type of spring cleaning.  On the other hand, we have friends in the neighborhood-friends for my kids that I really like, I don't like the end of packing and the actual part where we have to physically move everything.  (I actually enjoy the beginning parts of packing-that's the easy stuff.  At the end it's all the weird shaped and hard to pack items.)  I don't mind the cleaning too much.  That may be strange, but cleaning isn't too bad when all the stuff is out of the way.

We do have quite a bit to do to get ready to sell the house.  There are some minor things that need fixing and of course, lots of clearing out to do.  I'm not looking forward to some of this.  I have to pack away most of my scrapbook stuff so it will be awhile before I will be scrapping and card making. 

So the next few weeks will be busy but it will all work out in the end.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

School Days

I would consider today our official start of the school year.  (We were going to start Monday but the past three days have been filled with important family things to attend to.)  We are easing into the school year today and tomorrow but it felt good to be productive in this way.  I thought I would share what I hope our school days will look like this year.  Maybe posting our schedule will help me stay accountable.  (HA)

First, I am not a scheduler.  I'm more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of gal.  But I do like a routine and when we stay in a routine, life around here is better-the kids behave better, I'm less grumpy, the house usually doesn't get out of control, etc.

My goal is to be out of bed by 8:15.  After a quick (actually it should look like this: QUICK) email check, it's downstairs for breakfast.  The kids get their own breakfast.  I want to focus on better clean up however.  They tend to "forget" to put things away.  After breakfast chores: kids wipe down their bathroom and do their extra chore (they each have one).  I finish breakfast clean up and start a load of laundry.

After a shower for me, school is in session.  We always start with prayer and Bible reading.  Usually at this point, I then have the kids work on math and any subject they need extra help on.  This year, we will include cursive writing continuing to use the Peterson-Directed Method.  Next is KONOS.  Usually this means a discussion of what we are studying, reading out loud and then doing some hands-on stuff for learning.  Some days, we will read science before KONOS.  I am coordinating an Apologia coop for the third year.  This year is Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day

Depending on how much we need to do for the day with KONOS, we may need to break for lunch and finish up afterwards.  Otherwise, after lunch is free time after working on chores.  This year, my goal is to spend some of this time playing games, working on extra projects with the kids and teaching them some cooking and baking. 

Afternoons will also be a good time to work on review products and writing the reviews.  Of course, good weather will hopefully mean the kids will be outside getting some exercise too.

Late afternoons and evenings will be pretty full most of the time with sports, community group and other out of the house activities.