Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Craziness Continues

The past two and a half weeks or so have been a major whirlwind of activity.  We had Thing 1's birthday, MY birthday, then Christmas.  Besides that, I have been busting my pregnant behind to try and get the house into some semblance of organization in preparation for Voom and for first grade (starting around April, we are going from our very unorganized unschooling approach to a more classical lean with organization and schedule-type things going on)

In the next couple weeks I am expecting a package from Rainbow Resource of things I had the chance to order ahead of tax-time (yay!), and then I can add the gear of planning school stuff to the rest of the gears slowly getting into motion.

And there are two days left before the new year begins!  Where did this year go?  Thing 1 turned 6, Thing 2 turned 1, and Voom is over halfway through baking!  Link and I bought a house and went through the lovely process of moving (always loads of fun there... NOT) and getting settled into actually being homeowners (can't just call maintenance when something goes wrong, have to figure it out or hire someone ourselves).

And through all of this, I am still managing to work on getting the downstairs cleaned, like I said a few weeks ago needs to happen.  I'm also working on the upstairs as well, although my original plan was one floor at a time.  I can just only handle working on the downstairs for so long before I start to go crazy from a lack of scenery change ;)  Because of this, the playroom is clean and organized (or was the other day when I walked out of there...)

Aaaaand of course, the crochet continues!  Always have to have something going for crochet :)  (I DID manage to make a hat for Link, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and a set of mittens for Thing 1 and Thing 2 all before Christmas)

Now I am off to go continue working on my house, clean my desk for the 50th time this week (where does all of this stuff COME from?!) and contemplating what my resolutions should be for 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010


And the crazy thing about this picture?  It was taken about 8 hours ago and the snow hasn't stopped!  We've got a good foot or so of snow right now and it's STILL GOING!

This is an area not prepared for this sort of thing (there's general panic when there's a dusting) so it's been pretty much a ghost town from what I can tell.  We stayed home all day so I can't be sure lol

Thing 1 and Link built this snowman around 11 (a couple hours after the first picture was taken) and the whole bottom section of him is covered now and you can't see the laurel on his head at all.  He's just a mound of snow in the back corner from what you can tell, although you can see the arms still ;) (he's like some poor hiker trapped in the snow... poor thing!)

Monday, December 20, 2010


Only 5 more sleeps until Christmas!

Good thing I'm pretty much ready except for a couple small crochet projects I need to get done ;)

Well, and waiting for a box from my parents to come in (I have gotten all of the other boxes they sent, but the one with Thing 1's birthday stuff and all of the Christmas stuff in it is taking its time to get here...)

I don't think Thing 1 has ever been this excited about anything in his life.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy because Link and I like to make Christmas all about the kids :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets


Recently Thing 1 and I were given the opportunity to play a bit on Tiny Planets, an award winning website for ages 4-12. 


When you sign up, your child has what is called a "Cadet" account, which is managed by your own parent account.  I LOVE this.  We use a number of programs around here that involve a parent account above the child's, and it just makes so much sense to me.  Especially since in the case of sites like Tiny Planets, there is a paid service.  The Parent account is able to add purchased "keys" to the Cadet accounts, rather than an adult having to log onto the Cadet account directly and purchase the keys.  And if you have more than one child playing, you are able to manage all of those Cadet accounts from your one Parent account.  So no logging into numerous accounts for you to manage the Cadet accounts.  You can purchase and distribute keys all from the comfort of your own login :)

The Keys, which while not 100% NECESSARY for the website to be used, make the Tiny PLanet site a bit more interesting and fun, are purchased at the following prices:

10 keys- $1.95
25 keys- $3.95
85 keys- $9.95
250 keys-$25.95
600 keys- $49.95  (That is a LOT of keys, but there is a LOT of content you can unlock with them!)

Once you have your accounts set up, the site is divided into six sections, Tiny Planets TV, My Tiny Planets, Tiny Planets Books, Tiny Planets Fun, Tiny Planets Lab and Tiny Planets Learning.  A few are pretty self explanatory (like the TV one).  My Tiny Planets is the section where Thing 1 and I spent most of our time.  And it was in fact both of us because the navigation was a bit much for Thing 1 to have been able to handle (honestly, it was tough for ME at times... it was similar to in video games where there are icy sections... lots of coasting involved).  In My Tiny Planets, you have your own spaceship and even your own planet which you earn stars to purchase additional upgrades for by playing various mini-games.  You can purchase some of the upgrades with the previously mentioned keys as well, further expanding the customization options for your child.  This is also the "social" area of the site, where your child can make friends with other cadets.

On Tiny Planets TV, you can use the Keys to purchase videos to watch.  There is one free one, and then after that, the videos cost at least 5 keys to unlock.  Tiny Planets Fun contains Bing and Bong's individual corners, containing games and coloring pages respectively.  Tiny Planets Books is similar to the TV section, where you have a couple free samples, and the other books are purchased using Keys.  Tiny Planets Lab has the new games to be tested out, a link to find out what else is new, and access to the blog.

Then you have Tiny Planets Learning, which is the educational section.  This area contains puzzles and lesson plans.  This is the section with educational material regarding such things as science and numeracy, and social and emotional development.  These lesson plans DO utilize videos and books from elsewhere, so you will need Keys if you want to do all of these lesson plans.  You can explore the website without using these lesson plans, but the lesson plans tie things together rather nicely.

All in all, we enjoyed this website.  We focused on free content while exploring, so I know that Thing 1 and I would've enjoyed it even more with additional content available.  Perhaps sometime in the future the Keys will give Thing 1 incentive to do his chores or something.  Who knows?

If you want to learn more about Tiny Planets, go over there and explore a little yourself!  If you'd like to know how my other Crew mates felt about this, head on over to the Crew blog and take a look.

Disclaimer: I received this opportunity in exchange for my honest review.  I received no other compensation.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Thing 1!

Today, my darling Thing 1 is 6.  SIX!  How did this happen?!

So, here is a look back at him from when he was a wee bit smaller.

This is obviously from the day he was born, waaaay back in 2004!

His first Christmas!

And here is one from today, before opening gifts.

And another one from today, he wanted to go out in the snow.  He did eventually zip up his coat, I promise.  And he came back in before the ENTIRE back yard was covered.

My dear Thing 1, who wants to be a pirate (for today at least) is getting big soooo fast!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Works in Progress

My Current project list is a bit... uhm... crazy.

You see, I have this tendency to have numerous projects going at once, so I can work on what strikes my fancy at that moment.  You'll see what I mean with this list...

Bells Ornaments for Mom
Afghan for parents (going to restart this one, I didn't like how it was coming out)
Blanket for Thing 1
Washcloths to use up my cotton yarn

Things I need to get started on at some point after at least a couple of THOSE are done include

Thing 2's blanket
Other ornaments (I don't really have much by way of describing this, sorry)
Blanket for Voom
Hats and Scarves and such for family
Other ridiculously cute baby stuff for Voom

And thanks to the internet, I am always always ALWAYS finding new stuff I want to make.  No wonder Link is always threatening to ground me from the internet!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh the Chaos!

I am not an organized person.  I never have been, and try as I might, it will never come naturally to me. 

I have accepted this.  I really didn't have much choice BUT to accept it.

This is made worse by the fact that I enjoy doing all sorts of different hobby things.  The current BIG one, which has taken over most of the others, is crochet.  I have tons of yarn, tons of ideas, notsomuch time, and even less natural ability to keep it from taking over the HOUSE as well as my free time.

Add in the school stuff, and two VERY active children and my first floor looks like a disaster zone.

Soooooooooooooo, in the next month or so, I am planning on getting things cleaned up.  Once we can afford to, the school area/my desk are getting a major overhaul, but I need to get stuff thrown away/donated/stored before that can happen.

I just hope the overhaul can come sooner rather than later.  Thing 2 has taken to climbing up on Thing 1's desk and turning the monitor on and off because it has a button.  (We've had to disable the power buttons on all of the computers because Thing 2 has a major love of buttons, and my desk chair can't be pushed in because otherwise he wreaks havoc on my entire desk)

But the current motivator is to at least get things manageable in the meantime.

When I can drag myself away from my crochet.  (I seriously have five skeins, 3 different TYPES of yarn on my desk, including one attached to a project I'm currently working on)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Really Trying!

I am really trying to get back into this whole blogging thing.  Since I had been wanting to keep our big announcement a secret for a while, and I have a HORRIBLE time keeping secrets like that when I'm excited (Link got his Christmas present the day it came in, rather than waiting a couple more weeks or so for Christmas, because I couldn't wait any longer)

I am even trying to get posts lined up to post on different days (something I've never done for non-review posts before) and that should help.

Maybe if I get into the hang of it NOW I'll be able to do a 365 sort of thing come 2011!  That'd be awesome :)

Good Morning, God


 Apologia Press is known for publishing such things as the Exploring Creation... series of science books and their Apologia Academy online.

But did you know that also publish picture books for younger children?



Good Morning, God, by Davis Carman, is one such picture book, available in hardcover for $14.00 from Apologia Press.  With a target audience of ages 1-8, this is a great way to introduce the concept of loving and thanking God every day to a young child.

Aside from the beautiful illustrations (which you can get in coloring book form for $4.00 from here), it is a short and sweet little run through a week in the life of a small child.  (There is even a picture on the page discussing the school room that makes it pretty obvious the family in the story homeschools!)  And while for the older end of the target audience, this may not seem like much, at the END of the book is a page for each day, with questions and scripture reading suggestions so you can expand on the daily worship concept with your children.  So you can use this as either a sweet little bedtime story, and leave it at that, or you can expand upon it and turn it into a mini study for your children.

This is certainly a sweet, well-written and beautifully illustrated book.  If you don't believe me, you can see a sample here :)  Or you can go and see what other Crew members thought of it.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book at no charge for the purpose of this review.  The opinions in this review are mine and only mine and I received no other compensation for providing them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

State of the Topsy Turvy Household

Thing 1, my darling almost 6 year old (already?!) is anxiously awaiting his 6th birthday, coming in December.

At the Aquarium, I love this shot!

Thing 2 is getting into EVERYTHING, and has taken a particular liking to Link's computer (oooops).

This is what happens when an almost 15 month old gets ahold of a watercolor colored pencil and tastes it.

But I think the BIGGEST news in this household is the little darling set to arrive sometime in April.

B is Body, H is Head.  This was the best shot that they could get :)

At our anatomy ultrasound this past week, we were informed that it is most likely that this youngling is a boy (I'm still trying to decide between Little Cat A and Voom for a nickname.  I'm rather fond of Voom)

And now as December is fast approaching, I am fully intending to stay more up to date on here ;)  I was having problems with wanting to spill the beans about the baby before the planned time.  I am good with secrets... if they are OTHER PEOPLE'S secrets.

Friday, November 19, 2010

KB Teachers


 Around here, I have a bit of an oddity: I have a child who LIKES to do worksheets.  This is all well and good until you're on your 50th page looking for a worksheet that will work online.


Enter KB Teachers into the arena of our home.  Currently in the process of a website upgrade (which I'm excited to see the result of), this website has a plethora of worksheets and other printables (such as graphics) that you can download.

My particular favorite part of this website is the addition sheets generator.  I can print a sheet, with answer sheet (not that I need them... no really, I don't I can add!... barely) and then generate another one in order to keep our worksheet "folder" stocked.  I also am a huge fan of the "What Time is It?" worksheet generator, which can do sheets of "to the hour" all the way down.  Since Thing 1 was in desperate need of practice on both of these, this was perfect timing for us.

A few things to note: This website does not have a "Search" function.  The creators feel that you should be able to reach any page within a few clicks.  For some, this may be a disadvantage, but I happen to like it.  For whatever reason, when I'm on a site with a search function, I tend to pick the wrong key words or something and end up never finding what I wanted.  Also, you cannot save these worksheets to print later.  You print directly from the website (using your browser print button can actually cause some issues).  I have heard that you can "print" to a PDF by using specific programs, I have no idea how these work and so have not tried it myself.  Also, there are different themed worksheets that come out for things like Halloween and Thanksgiving.  These are not linked on the main pages year-round.  We received our logins for this site before Halloween, and after November 1st, while the other Fall worksheets were still available, the holiday specific ones were not.  And that is also when the Thanksgiving ones BECAME available.  However, if you're looking for something specific and can't find it, you are encouraged to contact them and they will get back to you.

While this website (and what I focused on) has a LOT of worksheets for the early elementary level, there are also some worksheets in the science and history areas that are geared more toward older students.  So this website is one that likely will stay in use in OUR family for a while.

If you want to purchase a membership to KB Teachers, a single year is $29 (after a 10 day trial), and a two year membership is $49.  If you want to get more information, you can check out their FAQs page, their Facebook page, or you can go and check out other reviews by my fellow Crew members.

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion on the product.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Collectorz Book Database Software


 If you're like many homeschoolers, you have an almost ridiculous amount of books.  Yes, there is the library but there's just something awesome about being able to reread a book 50 times in 10 years without having to go borrow it from the library again.

Once you've got this huuuuuge collection though, how are you supposed to keep yourself from repurchasing the same book again because you don't think you own it?


Enter Collectorz and their Book Database Software.  With this product, you are able to enter in a minimal amount of information from your book (ISBN is a good thing to use) and the rest of the information will be there, without you having to go across and type every single little detail yourself.

  • ISBN, Author and Title
  • Publisher data and Publication Date
  • Format, Genres, Subjects, Nr of Pages & LoC Classification
  • Cover Images
  • Plot summaries and a lot more 
And if you don't feel like typing in every single ISBN?  They also offer nifty little scanners that you can use to scan the correct barcode on the book and it will pull the information for you.

Keep in mind, not EVERY book is in their system, so there are some ISBN's that will not bring up anything.  I ran into this problem, and all I did was add the additional information myself.  A bit frustrating for me, since the first few books I tried entering were in this category, but I think in the grand scheme of things, MOST of them are in there.

And what makes this program even more useful, because I know a LOT of people who have a TON of e-books, is that you can actually use the program to keep track of e-books and audio books as well!  You scan your computer for them, and it adds them to your batch so you can make sure the information is correct before adding it to your database.


This program is available for multiple platforms, and also there are additional programs to help you keep track of what you own for OTHER types of media as well.  Movies, comics, games, music, MP3s, photos...  If you like to have everything cataloged, and want to make the process easier, then this product is definitely geared toward you.

This database, if you keep a hardcopy printed off somewhere safe, and/or a digital copy uploaded somewhere away from your computer (such as an online storage site), there is a chance that this could even be used in the case of insurance issues to get collections replaced.  

The Book Database Program, which is what I received, is available in two editions, the Standard for $29.99 and the Pro for $49.99, although you can sign up for a free trial (I am not sure if this is equivalent to Pro or Standard though, sorry).  The Pro has a LOT of features that the Standard does not, such as a couple different Export options, the ability to use it along with the CLZ Mobile Apps (available for $9.99), and a number of customization methods for how you see your collection listed.  The optional scanners start at $19.99, although the better ones are, of course, the more expensive ones (the top one actually has built in memory as well)  While these scanners are not necessary to use the program (I don't have one) they do make life a bit easier because you don't have to wear out the number keys on your keyboard, and if you have thousands of books to enter, it would certainly streamline the process.

All in all, while I recognize that this is an AWESOME program for people who have huge collections and need to keep track of them, without a scanner to help me and a large amount of time to sit and type in ISBNs, this program just isn't feasible for me to use to its max potential at this time.  Someday I hope to have some of that "free time" I hear other people talk about ;)

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion on the product.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oh hey, I got tagged!

Debbie, over at Debbie's Digest tagged me in this meme last week and I totally didn't even notice it until today.  In my defense, I haven't been feeling well, and even when I AM feeling well I forget to check my comments.

At any rate, she asked 8 questions, which she would like all of her tagged people to answer, and then I get to tag 8 people, and pick 8 other questions.  The hard part is going to be picking 8 people ;)

1.  Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? If so, how close to being finished are you? Are you making any Christmas gifts? Have you started them? I’d like to know your Christmas shopping personality. 

No, I have not started Christmas shopping yet.  I am already getting asked what people should get for Thing 1 and Thing 2 and my brain just stops because I don't even know what WE are getting them.  I have found one thing for Thing 1, but it's a maybe and all that.  I am making a few Christmas gifts.  I have started on the largest of them, and it is kicking my tail!  I am about a tenth of the way through it (it's a crochet blanket) and it has a total of almost 35 THOUSAND crochet stitches on the pattern.  My poor hands are ready to fall off some days.  I also found patterns for a few other things I'd like to make, it's just a matter of getting the materials and getting them made and then shipped.  (considering my sister's birthday was at the beginning of this month and I still haven't sent her birthday card, it will probably be in the box going over to her... I really need to invest in some international stamps)

2.  Sweet or salty ... your favorite snack?

Right now, sweet.  And sour.  I have a thing for the sour gummy candies right now (you know, all the one that start of sour and end up sweet?)  And ice cream.

3.  Last date you were on with just your spouse?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Uhm... last time Link and I went out just the two of us for dinner was my birthday in 2008.  It's been almost 2 years now.  We prefer to go out as a whole little family unit.

4.  Do you dye your hair and if you do what is your natural color? 

I dye my hair every once in a great while when I want to pull out a different color. Naturally my hair has little bits of pretty much every natural hair color.  I have red, I have blonde, I have brown (the dominant color) and black, and since I married Link, more and more gray/white hairs have been showing up.

5.  What is one of your favorite “guilty pleasures”?

Role-playing games.  I love games like Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, the Zelda series, and the Tales series (Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Legendia, et cetera)  I am just a dork through and through ;)

6.  What makes you human (i.e. less then perfect)?

My procrastinating on EVERYTHING, my temper, my anxiety... stuff like that.

7.  Do you decorate your house for the seasons? If so, do you have a specific treasured ornament or decoration? 

We put up a Christmas tree for Christmas and that's about it.  We've only had a couple Christmases living together so we haven't acquired a ton of holiday stuff yet.

8.  When your kids all leave the nest what is one job you would like to try in all your free time?

I'd love to teach younger kids.  Like, 2nd grade tops.  It's funny, because I wanted to be a teacher for a LONG time, then wanted to be an architect, then wanted to be a psychologist, and have no come full circle back to teacher ;)  (although I still love psychology oh so much)

And now my 8 tags!

Alison @Wayzley Academy
Elizabeth @Creative Learning Fun
Jenn~ @Our Many Beautiful Blessings
Mama Duk Heather @The Duklings at Camian Academy
Sadie @It's a Boy's Life
Retro @Homeschool Madness
Kristine @Our Little Corner
Donette @The Journey

Aaaand because I'm boring and my brain is fried (stupid cold!) I'm going to ask relatively boring homeschooling questions :-P  Which I will then answer myself.  Because that seems to be "the thing to do" with this meme ;)

  1. What made you decide to homeschool?
  2. Did you have to work to convince family and close friends (spouses included here!) that it would be what was best for your children?
  3. How far ahead to you plan your curriculum (of course knowing that everything can change in a matter of days for what works and what doesn't)?  Do you have everything from Kindergarten to senior year of high school planned, or do you just take it one year at a time?
  4. What has been your biggest challenge in choosing curricula?  Subject, learning style, worldview?
  5. If you could go back to the first year and tell yourself then something you know now, what would you say and why?
  6. If you have a day where your children are driving you INSANE, how do you handle it?
  7. Have you ever homeschooled older kids with a brand new baby in the house?  How on earth did you manage?
  8. What is the most fascinating thing you have learned since you began homeschooling?

Aaaaaand now to answer them myself :)

1.  What made you decide to homeschool?

I decided to homschool because Thing 1 is ahead in some subjects and behind in others.  I was already considering it because the schools around here are bound by standardized tests, and because I was one of those kids who basically slipped through the cracks (didn't do my homework, passed, and they didn't really seem to mind too much, although my parents sure did).
2.  Did you have to work to convince family and close friends (spouses included here!) that it would be what was best for your children?

Not really.  Link was pretty onboard as soon as I mentioned it, and the only obstacle I have run into with family is the social aspect.  But then, they all know that Link and I would be hermits if we could get away with it, so I guess in our case it just might be a valid concern of our families'.

3.  How far ahead to you plan your curriculum (of course knowing that everything can change in a matter of days for what works and what doesn't)?  Do you have everything from Kindergarten to senior year of high school planned, or do you just take it one year at a time?

I have very tentatively planned at this point until 4th grade.  I had originally pretty much had all the way through high school planned, and then a certain Thing 1 decided to show he already knew how to read and that threw a massive wrench into EVERYTHING.  Plus I change my mind regularly, so I figure maybe if I just plan until 4th grade (the end of the grammar stage in the Classical model) then I have less work to redo when I change my mind again ;)

4.  What has been your biggest challenge in choosing curricula?  Subject, learning style, worldview?

My biggest challenge at first was finding science.  Link and I have different views on things, so finding something that fit was nearly impossible.  Then I found something that fit, and reading is now the thorn in my side.  It's always gotta be something ;)  At this point I've pretty much thrown in the towel and reading will be mostly for pleasure for a while.

5.  If you could go back to the first year and tell yourself then something you know now, what would you say and why?

Well, I'm still in my first year ;)  But if I could go back to the beginning of our schooling I'd tell myself to chill out and not worry so much about things.  I worry about not getting enough done, but we do each subject rather sporadically.  Which reminds me, I would also tell myself not to let Thing 1 take too long of a break in math.  He forgets a lot of stuff when there's too much of a break.

6.  If you have a day where your children are driving you INSANE, how do you handle it?

I send Thing 1 to go play and count down the minutes until Thing 2's naptime and then just spend some time by myself in the quiet.  I am trying to break my yelling habits.

7.  Have you ever homeschooled older kids with a brand new baby in the house?  How on earth did you manage?

Thing 2 was like 6 months old when I started teaching Thing 1, so not a new baby, but still juuuuuuuuuuust mobile enough that I had to pay a lot of attention to him to make sure he didn't get hurt.  That is another reason for our very relaxed homeschooling style so far.  It's more like "nap school"  ;)

8.  What is the most fascinating thing you have learned since you began homeschooling?

I had no idea there was a 13th astronomical zodiac sign!  I can't for the life of me remember the name, but there is one!  That's just the first one that comes to mind right now.  My brain kinda died when I just pulled a couple pieces of dog food out of Thing 2's mouth.  YUCK!

Monday, October 25, 2010

TOS Primary Student Planner

I am by far one of the least organized people I know, and I hope to both change that, and to help my kids become more organized than I am.

Several months ago, I purchased the The Old Schoolhouse Planner, and was overjoyed with the number of forms and lists and recipes and everything else in the planner.  The pdf file is huuuuge, has forms I never would've thought of on my own, and can be typed in so if I don't feel like handwriting something, I can type it before printing it.

When I found out that TOS has designed STUDENT planners, I was excited, but unsure if I would actually USE anything in them since I already have the big "parent" planner.

I (and other members of the Crew) were given the opportunity to review one of the student planners, and I volunteered for the Primary level one.  Yes, seeing the High School, Middle School or Secondary (for grades 4-6) planner was tempting, but I have a Kindergartner, it only makes sense that I would review the planner made for K-3 students.

This pdf file, at 203 pages long, is definitely something that I will be using for Thing 1.  I already have calendar pages from my big planner, but I can print off calendar pages for my currently calendar-obsessed 5 year old, and then he'd leave MINE alone ;)

There are also some AWESOME lists in this planner, like a list of the first 13 colonies, the periods of history, the order the States became states (does that make sense?), and a number of other awesome lists that even after the 2010-2011 school year is over we can use in our studies.

A word of caution: If you use an inkjet printer, printing off a lot of pages can use a TON of ink.  Thanks to Link, I have a laser printer now, so that is one less thing for me to worry about (my inkjet prints beautifully, but MAN it uses a ton of ink!)  However, you do have the option of typing directly onto the form and just saving it on the computer, which cuts the ink cost out of the equation entirely.

This planner is $9.95 in the TOS Store.  You can also buy it in various bundles with the big TOS planner, or other levels of student planner, or even with one of TOS's Curiosity Files.

Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review on the product.  I received no other compensation.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Brill Kids Little Reader


In today's world, both homeschooler's and public schoolers are being expected to learn skills like reading earlier and earlier.  Just how early can this be done?


According to Brill Kids, it can be begun as early as 3-6 months old!

I was given the opportunity to review Brill Kids' Little Reader BASIC program.  It has two "semesters" (one year) worth of lessons, beginning with individual words and moving on later on to simple sentences.


The program I reviewed is on the computer, and has two small lessons per day.  You watch them with your child (it's similar to flash cards on the screen), working to make it exciting and interesting for your child.  By the end of everything, your child should be able to see, for example, the word "sit" and know that it is the word sit, and what it means to sit (there is an animated image as part of the lesson showing a baby sitting).

You have the chance (and it is encouraged) to personalize the program.  For example, there is a Family section where you are encouraged to put pictures of each of your family members, add the names, and you can also record yourself saying the names.  In my case I added myself, Link, Thing 1, and our puppy, besides adding Thing 2's own picture.  It was really simple, since everything was labelled.  If you DO have trouble though, there are forums where you can go to ask additional questions of other users, and see how they did it.

Thing 2 was NOT impressed with this program at all.  He much preferred to go after my keyboard.  Other babies likely would have a less button-centric attention span, and have better luck with this program.  Another issue we had, besides the button thing, is that I am not a huge fan of starting off with teaching sight reading.  This is not a phonics program, and so even if Thing 2 HAD paid attention to it, I would not continue to use it.  I prefer to start with phonics instruction.  Not everyone feels this way though, and this program would be a better fit for those who don't mind going into sight reading first.

The BASIC program, which I reviewed, starts at $149.00 for a single semester of lessons, going up to $199.00 for a full year worth of lessons.  Add an additional $10.00 if you want a physical disc instead of just the download.  This includes nothing but the lessons on the computer, and support.

If doing everything on the computer is not for you, Brill Kids also offers a DELUXE package that includes physical flash cards and other physical activities to help you with teaching your little one.  The DELUXE is only available with a full year of lessons, and is $360.00.


At this time, the program is only available for Windows based systems.  According to this page, there are plans to do a Mac version, but it will not likely be for a while.

Looking for other opinions?  Check out what other Crew members thought of this program!

Disclaimer: I received this product free from the vendor for the purpose of this review in exchange for my honest opinion and experience on it.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Read, Write and Type


Computers are becoming more and more important these days.  There are schools around the country that are introducing computers into the classroom earlier and earlier.  Typing skills are becoming a must for the working world for more and more jobs because almost all communication is being done through email or other typed mediums.  So, just how early should someone work on teaching their child to type?

With Talking Fingers' Read, Write and Type learning system, the time can be NOW.  Recommended for K-3, this program pulls phonics practice and typing together by having teh child type letters based on the SOUND of the letter instead of the NAME of the letter.  For example, instead of "Type the letter S", your child is asked to type the letter that makes the sound "ssssssssss".  As the child progresses, they move into more reading-type exercises, and even get to create their own stories as well.

The game starts off with a basic introduction of the hand characters on the sides of the on-screen keyboard (Lefty and Rightway), before the virus named Vexor comes and crashes the party.  The child then spends the game undoing the damage that Vexor did. 

Thing 1, while he found the game fun, did not ask to play it again.  He much prefers his own method of typing practice, rather than being told what to type.  In all honesty, typing was my least favorite topic in school as well (I often still watch my fingers when I type, but I type pretty quickly).  So Thing 1 and I will not be continuing with this product.  Besides the desire to type what he wants, Thing 1 already knows how to read and is not a fan of phonics practice.

Read, Write and Type is available from Takling Fingers, starting at $35 for a single user for download.  It is also available as a CD product, (the site cautions that the CD version is NOT compatible with Windows 7 or Mac OS 10.6 at this time) for $79 which comes with a few extras like an activity book and a laminated "keyboard" for practicing away from the computer.  You can also do an online demo here, allowing you to REALLY get a look before you decide whether or not to purchase the program (on that page also, there is a form to fill out to be able to get 20% off of your next order by joining their mailing list and answering some questions!)

Keep in mind, in order for Read, Write and Type to work, your system needs to meet a few requirements.   You can find out about those and find the answers to other frequently asked questions on their FAQ page, here.

Talking Fingers offers another program as well, for older students, Wordy Qwerty.  It is for grades 2-4, so if you like the looks of Read, Write and Type but don't want the younger level for your child, you do have another option.

Other Crew members and their children have different opinions on their experience with Read, Write and Type, go check those out at the Crew blog!

Disclaimer: I received this product free from the vendor for the purpose of this review in exchange for my honest opinion and experience on it.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010



You see the subtitle under my main title?  About "Raising Two Future Geeks"?  With Link being a computer guy, we have 3 computers in the house.  Mine, Link's, and Thing 1's (which he'll eventually share with Thing 2).  Thing 1 loves using the different drawing programs on his computer, and OFTEN asks me to save the files for him.  When I'm trying to research something else or don't feel like fighting the mess on his desk to get to the entire keyboard, doing it on HIS machine just isn't feasible.

What to do?


I turn to this program that I have been given the chance to review: LanSchool Home.  LanSchool Technologies created this program, and you can purchase it for $99.  It does have some specific technical requirements, which you can find on their website here.  And while you're there, you can watch their guided tour, and see some of the technical advantages to LanSchool versus their competition.  If you like what you see, you can also check out the free trial.

In all honesty, I know that not everyone has a family full of computer geeks, and not everyone would allow a five year old to have their own computer.  This program is especially helpful in our household because we DO happen to be a bunch of geeks with a five year old computer owner ;)

My example earlier with saving the files from my own computer is just the task I have used LanSchool for most, taking control of Thing 1's computer from mine.  This is made possible because we do have all of our computers on a network, and my computer has the TEACHER console while Thing 1's computer has the STUDENT portion.  If I were to put the student version onto Link's computer as well, I'd actually be able to watch both computers at once (as well as take control of either computer... which is why Link refuses to let me put the Student one on his computer *giggle*).

If I choose, I can also just watch what Thing 1 is doing on his computer, or disable things like internet browsing, or individual programs from my console. 

This is my console.  You can't really see in this picture, but I have options like limiting USB, Control, blank screen (which also allows me to put a message up if I so choose), as well as the option to shutdown his computer.

Here is another view from my console, while I am controlling Thing 1's computer.  He happened to have an update that needed to be installed this morning :)

I can't get a screenshot of it, but if I "blank" his screen, I can add a message.  This makes it to where he cannot use his computer or even look at anything but a blank screen with my message until I turn the function off.  This does have an issue if you try to leave it going for a long period of time though.  The first time I did it (Thing 1 was having issues getting chores done that day) I put it up and walked away from my computer.  My computer is set up to go into hibernate mode after a certain period of time, at which point the message and blank screen disappeared.  Waking my computer up again fixed the issue, but Thing 1 was quick to point it out when it happened, so it was definitely noticeable.

I do love this program, but I know that it is really not the type of thing for everyone.  Many families only have one computer, or even just one or two computers but the kids share parent computers and also don't do a lot of school stuff or free time on the computer.  In a more tech-centric family like my own, this is a wonderful program though (in my geeky opinion).  It is also available for school usage, information for which you can find on their website.  Some of the functions on the home version (like the question asking and the testing things) are more classroom-friendly, since if Thing 1 has a question he can turn around and ask me (and if I happen to be in a different room, asking on the computer won't do any good anyway)  These perhaps could be used in the future if we get more computers or ever spread the computers out of all being in the same room.

Not as crazy about computers as my family?  Perhaps there is another member of the Crew who shares the same view as you, and can give you some insights as to how this program would work in your family!  Go have a look at the TOS Crew blog!

Disclaimer: I received this product free from the vendor for the purpose of this review in exchange for my honest opinion and experience on it.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Friday, September 24, 2010



After receiving a box of animals, I had no way of knowing at that time, that Thing 1 was going to develop a love for the Schleich collection that is very strong.

You have likely seen them, if you frequent places like Target, in the toy section.  Small animal figurines with a tag around their foot with a red S in a circle.  These are the Schleich figurines. 

The Schleich company was founded in 1935, and so currently celebrating their 75th anniversary.  You can find activities so you can participate in the celebration on their website.  While you are there, you can also look at the wide variety of figurines they offer, including animals from all of the continents, some plants, some historical figurines (like knights) and also some fantasy figurines, like elves.  And when you go to get more information on a particular figurine, you also get additional little tidbits of information

We received a total of 8 figurines for the purpose of our review: an Asian elephant calf, Przewalski’s horse, gnu and gnu calf, okapi, donkey, Swabian-Hall piglet, and Dartmoor pony.  Thing 1 has custody of all but the okapi, dartmoor pony and swabian-hall piglet.  I have the pony and piglet, and Thing 2 has run off with the okapi.  The amount of detail on these is AMAZING.  The Dartmoor pony even has horseshoes painted on!

You may notice that there are different colors on the tags (opposite the side of the S).  In all cases that I have come across (I totally went and looked for local retailers), these are used for determining prices

Like I said before, the younglings have run off with all but the Dartmoor pony and the Swabian-Hall piglet, who have a home now on my desk.  ♥  (minus their tags... I took all of the pictures before removing the tags because I knew once the tags were off and the animals discovered by the younglings, I would be lucky if I ever saw them again)

I love these figurines.  I love the attention to detail, the quality in craftmanship.  And while the tags all said 3+, I feel personally that the quality is enough that Thing 2 can run around with the okapi and play with it.  Thing 2 has made the displays at our local retailers a required stop so he can look at the animals (he's a bit upset that we don't have an adult elephant, for example)

Curious about how other Crew members feel about this product?  Check that out here!

Disclaimer: I received this product free from the vendor for the purpose of this review in exchange for my honest opinion and experience on it.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salem Ridge Press


In a world where it is becoming more and more difficult to tell what the ACTUAL ratings are on things like movies, and so many books that children find interesting are actually based on those questionable movies, it is a breath of fresh air when someone comes into the publishing side of things with high standards of morality.

The company prides themselves on providing books such as this, which have wholesome, moral content.  Their philosophy is
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8)
Something very difficult to find these days when we are being desensitized to so much.

Before I continue, let me say this (well, I'm going to say it whether you let me or not, afterall, it is MY blog): I am not a reader of historical fiction, typically.  So when I was given the chance to review this company, I was a bit hesitant.  Afterall, I don't get to CHOOSE what books I am sent for the review, what if they send one that I just cannot stand?

So when I received Soldier Fritz, by Emma Leslie, I was already a bit skeptical about whether or not I'd be able to do this review without sounding completely mean and awful.  No need to fear though.  The book, which takes place in Germany during the Reformation around the mid-1520s, is a very uplifting, well-written story about a young man's desire to be a soldier of the Lord.  You can read the basic summary given by Salem Ridge Press (and purchase the book) at Salem Ridge Press's website.  This book is 10.95 for a paperback version, and 20.95 for hardcover.  Given the quality of the book, how sturdy it is even as a paperback (let's face it, there's some pretty flimsy paperbacks out there), the quality of the pages and the print, it is worth every penny.  While you're there, check out the other books available, which you can also get in paperback, hardcover, and in some cases e-book!

You can read more about founder Daniel Mills and his parents, his choice of books, and find additional retailers on the website.  And you can read about my fellow Crewmates' experiences on the TOS Homeschool blog.

Disclaimer: I received this product free from the vendor for the purpose of this review in exchange for my honest opinion and experience on it.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010



What do you see when you look at these cards?


You may see numerals, as well as the words for those numbers in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic and Roman numerals.  They don't appear at first glance to be all THAT exciting.

Until you have the entire deck in your hands, and are playing a game of Pyramath.  This game is addictive and fun to play, while helping to reinforce math facts.


Produced by I See Cards, this game takes on hand-eye coordination (picking up and placing cards), learning to count in multiple languages, and math drill.  54 cards are in the deck, and these cards are able to be used starting as early as KINDERGARTEN, if not sooner.  As an adult I love to play a few rounds myself (when Thing 1 and Thing 2 are out of sight of course, or else I'd have to share!)

While you can play the game online, I feel that there is just something about having the cards in your hands that makes it soooo much more fun.  It also is more helpful to have the cards in hand when you have a child who does not know all of the math functions yet.  Thing 1 only knows addition, so the online game does not really appeal to him since it takes into account playing with subtraction, multiplication and division as well.  At $6.95 per deck (plus shipping and if applicable, tax), it's not too far out there to even purchase multiple decks.  (Something I am contemplating doing in the future, so I have a deck to hand the boys so I can still play)

Doesn't that look FUN?!

If the "regular" play of this game doesn't interest you, I See Cards' website actually links to additional game rules you can use.

One disadvantage we did come across with trying to play the traditional game with just addition facts is that we tended to end up running out of a particular number.  The one round that sticks out most in my mind is the one where everything kept ending up as 5 and 10 (which uses the 0 card).  Thing 1 thought it was hilarious though since I decided to just pull cards that had already been "played" and place them in the new spots.  I highly doubt this is an issue if you are using more than one type of function at a time though, since you aren't restricted to 5+0, 5+5, 0+0, for example, partway through your game.

I am looking forward to using this product for a long time, as well as looking into I See Cards' other games which include working with fractions and learning prime numbers.  This is something I foresee using as something to keep one child busy (while drilling math facts!) while I am working with another.

How did other Crew members feel about this (highly addictive) game?  Go take a look and find out!

Disclaimer: I received this product free from the vendor for the purpose of this review in exchange for my honest opinion and experience on it.  I received no other compensation for this review.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Such a Long Way Already

My darling Thing 2, today you are ONE YEAR OLD!  You are such a little bruiser now, and it's hard to imagine you were ever a tiny little newborn.

So I am sharing a number of pictures from during my pregnancy to your first birthday ♥

And here you are, your first birthday giving Momma a dirty look because you're playing and don't want your picture taken.