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Sunday, January 22, 2012

We Choose Virtues Review


We Choose Virtues is a company created by Heather McMillan out of her desire to help children reach their potential. She created a list of 12 character defining virtues and catchphrases to go with them. Each one also has an adorable character to go with it, such as Hat Matt or Cake Jake whose short stories help reinforce the virtue. Each virtue has an affirmative statement (i.e. I am Helpful) and the defining catchphrase (I find things that need to be done and I do them!). There is also a negative example provided (I am NOT...selfish, lazy, or unwilling to serve, and I don't have to be asked!). All this information is available in a variety of tools that help to reinforce the lessons. The system works like this: You introduce a virtue and demonstrate it, they memorize the catchphrase, they learn the antonyms, and you catch them demonstrating the virtue...or not. We Choose Virtues offers many, many tools to accomplish these goals. Below are some of the tools I received.
 Photobucket These cards are packaged in a small plastic pocket making them portable for use anywhere and anytime. Each card focuses on one virtue and contains the character, virtue, catchphrase and antonym on one side, and a challenge (For the "Helpful" card it is: Choose to find extra things that need to be done, and do them without needing to be asked!) on the other. They are currently on sale for 5.99, which is 25% off.
 Photobucket To me, this handbook is essential. Without it, I have cute little cards in a pocket. With it, I have ideas about HOW to use the cards to train my children up using the virtues I think are important to make them into people other people want to be around. But more importantly, I can use this virtue training to shape them into people whose behavior honors God. It is $4.99 for a downloadable version or $19.99 for a hardcopy.
 Photobucket The coloring book is downloadable and features one page for each virtue's character, as well as a few pages of activities. It is $3.00.
 Photobucket The assessment is free and can be used by each child to self-assess how they are doing with each virtue before training begins and then after using the system.

Because We Choose Virtues's products are not just geared toward homeschoolers, kits are available for schools, churches, families, parents, and homeschoolers.  Most products are also available in two versions-one faith based containing scripture and one not.

The pros:  These products are simple yet effective.  As I said before, the Teacher's Manual is essential in my opinion.  The catchphrases work, as do the negative examples.  The illustrations of the characters are just darling.

The cons:  I would not encourage you to take the cheap way out and order only the products I wrote about unless you are innately creative in coming up with the teaching process and application on your own.  I think the parent or teacher cards have a more complete plan for implementation that, combined with the teacher's manual, would give you more "bang for the buck". 

The bottom line:  I don't think any one will argue the importance of things like helpfulness, kindness, diligence, persistence, gentleness, contentedness, etc.  But knowing they are important and knowing how to train children to BE them are two different things.  I think We Choose Virtues has a wonderful way to do just that.

To see all the products available from We Choose Virtues, go HERE.  To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a hard copy of the virtue cards, as well as downloads of the coloring book, teacher's manual, and assessment for free.  Those products were necessary to write this review, and are the only compensation I received.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Movie Review and Giveaway- A Mile in His Shoes

Woo Hoo! My first ever blog giveaway! And boy, what a treat you are in for!

A Mile in His Shoes is an inspiring movie from gmc based on the book "The Legend of Mickey Tussler". It is brought to you by the director of "Angels in the Outfield" and is the story of an 18 year old boy Mickey with Aspergers Syndrome who has spent his whole life on his family's farm where he has had plenty of time to hone his apple throwing skills. But Mickey's life is about to change when minor league baseball manager Arthur Murphy's map reading mishap lands him in a ditch in front of the Tussler family farm. While "Murph" borrows the phone, he spies Mickey hurling apples with some serious "heat" and suddenly Mickey's future is looking very promising. An overbearing father, jealous teammate, autism related quirks, and an old rival add enough drama to this "feel good" movie to make it believable (my kids were convinced it must be based on a true story), and faith is a real, but definitely subtle, component. All in all, A Mile in His Shoes is a good, clean family movie that everyone will enjoy. And since everyone who knows me knows sports aren't really my thing, you know the movie must be good if I'm recommending it even though the story revolves around baseball! And if you watch it, I know you'll find yourself root, root, rooting for the home team too.

 A Mile in His Shoes stars Dean Cain and Luke Schroder (son of Rick Schroder) and is available on DVD HERE. You can read a review by the Dove Foundation HERE. Or check out the Youtube click below:

Want to win a copy of A Mile in His Shoes?  Just enter via the rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one of more of the products of services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Welcome to our four ring circus!

This week, my fellow Crew members and I are inviting you along on a blog cruise and welcoming all of you into a day in our lives....

You know those homeschoolers who start their day before the sun rises, grinding wheat and making homemade bread while simultaneously doing 5 loads of laundry and walking 3 miles and spending an hour with the Lord...all before their precious children crack open an eyelid?  Well, that's NOT me :-).

A typical day in our "academy" begins at different times for different kids.  Sari, who is almost 7, wakes uncannily around the same time I do, no matter how quiet I am or what hour I wake.  Most days, that's around 7ish.  She cons her daddy into making breakfast spends some quality time with her father over waffles while I spend some quality time with God.  Usually sometime during that process TJ wakes up and joins the craziness.  Scott and Mimi would, given the chance, sleep the morning away, but I usually wake them before Sari and I head downstairs to our basement-turned-schoolroom and begin her day.  We go down first because most of her work requires the two of us working together.  We start with Leading Little Ones to God and then she does Reading Made Easy for reading and Right Start Level B for math.  She is the slowest, most distractable student known to man and this can sometimes take us ALL MORNING.  Sometime during all this, the older 3 join us. 

We use workboxes, which have single-handedly changed our homeschooling.  Because each year my kids get older, and the mantle of responsibility for their education gets heaver, I've found myself in a place this year where I feel like I spend my entire week-end planning for the school week coming up.   See, I'm keeping it real.  I'd love to tell you after 9 years of doing this I have it all figured out, but I just don't.  I'm getting better at it all the time, but this year has really bogged me down planning wise!  Anyway, I spend each week-end creating a schedule for each of them for the whole week and prepping their work into folders (organized by day/child) so that each morning when Sari and I go downstairs, I just fill their boxes with the paperwork or materials they need for each subject.  Then they can begin work when they come down.

Once Sari and I are at some sort of stopping point and all 3 older kids are downstairs, we break to our Sentence of the Day challenge.  It is the single BEST thing I have done this year!  I'm using this book.  I write one grammatically incorrect sentence on the white board and the older three (10, 12, and 14) commence with figuring out what is wrong with it.  They have taken this to a highly competitive level.  The prize?  I do their "daily" chore.  See they have daily upkeep chores every day in the room that is their responsibility, but each day has an extra chore too-and that's the one I do for the winner.  After someone finds all the mistakes in the sentence, I teach the grammar behind it to all of them, and after that we pray for our day.   Then, it's back to work.

Scott, who is 14 and on the Autism Spectrum and a little delayed, is doing Sonlight Core 100, Teaching Textbooks 7,  Apologia General Science and lapbook, vocabulary from an SAT prep, Precept Discover 4 Yourself-2 Timothy, visual Latin, and a cursive writing drill book.

Mimi is 12 and is also doing Sonlight Core 100 and Apologia General Science and lapbook.  She does Math Mammoth for math, Precept (the new study starts Tuesday, so I don't know what book yet), Visual Latin, cursive from Handwriting Without Tears, All About Spelling, First Language Lessons Level 3, and Read Live, which has single-handedly upped her reading pace by about 40 words per minute in just 3 months. 

TJ is 10 and does Math Mammoth, cursive from HWOT, All About Spelling, First Language Lessons 3, Sonlight Core D+E, and Apologia Land Animals of the 6th day and lapbook.  Oh, and Precept.  He's finishing 2 Timothy also.

Each of them does what they can do independently while I am busy with whatever sibling is at a place where they need me.  Just before lunch, I do FLL or AAS (we alternate days) with Mimi and TJ.  Every other day, I read science aloud to TJ and Sari together.  The day after that, TJ has lapbook work to do that goes with what we read.  Mimi needs me to do parts of Read Live with her, so usually that's an after lunch activity.    Beyond that, I check their work as they complete it, and have them correct it right away.  We don't do "grades"-I want them to actually get the right answer!  And between Core 100 and D+E, we always have some read-aloud going on that gets pigeon holed into the day.  Oh, and of course any product we are using for the Crew has to squeeze in there somewhere!

And what is Sari doing during all this, since she's done with most of her work?  Her current love is Reading Eggs-an online program that works on reading skills.  She also has handwriting to do (HWOT printing), and usually some sort of worksheet type activities I can pull out for her when she clamors for more.

I'd love to say our school day ends at 2:30ish, but I'd be fibbing.  We take a decent lunch "break" for chores and a little quiet time, but the trade off means our afternoons go long-usually 4:30ish.  Sari's excused from the after lunch work, but she prefers to hang with us anyway.  Our new schoolroom pet, a hamster named Rascal, may have something to do with that. 

Of course, all of the above assumes that any day is "typical", which all homeschoolers know it not very likely!  But it's what I aim for at least.  Like any multi-ring circus, it's a juggling act, and there's never a dull moment.  But I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks for joining me for the cruise. Go HERE to see what a day is like for some of my other Crewmates.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Z-Guides to the Movies- Johnny Tremain


Zeezok Publishing was established in 2003 and they strive to " to provide quality literature and educational books for use in training the next generation" because they "believe it is better to build children than to repair men".   To that end, they have a series called Z-Guides which are meant to be used to incorporate media (specifically movies) into any curriculum.  Currently, there are dozens of Z-Guides available for movies across the spectrum of topics and age ranges.  Twenty five more Z-Guides are set to be released this spring.

Each Z Guide starts with a topic overview which gives historical insight and a movie summary that you read before watching the movie. The first time you watch the movie, there are questions to answer as you watch. After the movie, there are 9 other activities to complete. They are interdisciplinary, and vary according to each specific guide, but each one has some sort of hands on activity, a worldview activity that inspires critical thinking, a film maker's art activity that talks about how the techniques used in making the movie impact the viewer, and a family discussion section for everyone to have the chance to weigh in. Some guides ask the student to do some outside research, or feature memory work, or even public performance activities, and many of the activities cannot be answered by watching the movie, so the student is forced to research the topic for themselves and not just accept what they have seen as truth.

The guide we received was for Johnny Tremain, and is geared toward Middle School.  It deals with topics like the events leading up to the American Revolution, dealing with false accusations, handling disappointment, and self-sacrificing for the greater good.  There were lots of historically focused activities regarding some of the main characters in the movie, a memorization option, questions regarding where the events took place, and even some coloring sheets for artistic students (or for younger siblings).  There are 10 main activities, and they are meant to be done 2 a day over the course of a week, but of course, that is entirely up to you. 

The pros:  We live in a day and age where media is part of our children's lives, and the Z-Guides allow you to incorporate many of the wonderful movies that are available in the way you always wanted to...if you only had the time to preview every movie and come up with all the activities yourself.  But since you don't, the Z-Guides do it for you!  These guides really bring out all the educational aspects of the movies.  My kids especially enjoyed learning more about James Otis and some of the more thought provoking questions like discussing whether Johnny "deserved" his injury because of breaking the Sabbath. 

The cons:  There isn't one for every movie!  Really.  That would be my "con".

The bottom line:  I really am thankful for Z-Guides.  They are well written and researched so that they bring out the best educational opportunities in movies that supplement almost any course of study.  They are $12.99 each, so I will have to add to my collection on an as-needed basis, but it's definitely worth it to me to have someone else do the work I wish I could do to make the most of these movie resources. 

To check out all the different Z-Guides that are available, or to see other offerings from Zeezok Publishing, go HERE.  To see what other members of the Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free download of the Z-Guide for Johnny Tremain so that I could provide my honest review.  That e-product was the only compensation I received.
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Legoland...and the last "catch up" post of 2011

We had the chance to go with our homeschool group to the recently opened Legoland here in FL.  It's not particularly close to us, but worth the drive to get in on a $5 a person school group rate!  And best of all, the Hubs got to come with us.

Legoland is built on the old Cypress Gardens, and they left part of the gardens intact.  This is an amazing Banyan tree that would really be worth the visit for that alone!

I promise Scott was there for more than the first picture and the last, but he was having "a day" and didn't prove to be very photogenic ;-).  In all fairness, the park is really geared toward a slightly younger crowd, and it was the week between Christmas and New Year, which is the busiest week of the year for theme parks.  The wait on many rides was 90 minutes or more, so there were some things we just chose not to do, but we were able to do enough to make it worth the drive.

Oh, since this is the last 2011 post, I should end with the fact that Mimi went to spend the weekend with RM the day after Legoland (for RM's b-day)...and she's still there!  I pick her up today after lunch.  Boy, do I miss that girl when she's not here!
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Catching Up With Friends

Before 2011 ended, we had the chance to get together with some friends who live out of state but were here for the holidays.  We met them and Marie's family at what seems to be our favorite park :-).

Since we hadn't seen them in 2 years, and not all the kids are really "plugged in" to keep in touch electronically, it was good for the kids to catch up, and for the moms too!
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The rest of Christmas 2011

After church, we all gathered at my mom's house.  By "we all", I mean, we ALL.  This is a joint affair that includes my siblings and their families, my husband's parents, his sister and her family, my ex-step-father, and sometimes even my brother-in-law's dad, although not this year.  Oh, and Plum-a friend of my brother's who is from Thailand.  He comes to Christmas with us and is like a member of the family.  Our traditional brunch was replaced this year with a real lunch since the Hubs's parents got a great deal on a beef tenderloin that would feed 20 :-).

After lunch, we do our gifts for the neices and nephews, and then a "Chinese" gift exchange (you know, where you draw numbers and can steal from others, etc.) for the adults, which greatly decreases the madness of trying to buy just the right thing for all those people!

I knew my kids were getting quite the blessing this year with their gifts, and it was a very HAPPY Christmas for them.
TJ got the Ninjago set he really wanted

And a 5 pound gummy bear!

Mimi got a Cake Pop maker

Scott got a Wave 360-his old Ripstick was stolen

And Sari got Kanani-the 2011 American Girl doll (who had already gone through a clothing change by the time I got this picture).

Sari's best gift though was time with Plum

And Aunt Sheila....

And Uncle Craig...

My mom got these cool sunglasses

My sister and her husband (and mom in the background)

Sari's gorgeous dress, princess hair, and a tree surrounded by promises and potential ;-)
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Christmas Morning 2011

Christmas morning is always just our family at our house.  The kids get three gifts from us, and their stockings (which my little one believes comes from Santa despite us never having mentioned Santa to her intentionally).  The kids also buy gifts for each other with the girls combining to buy for the boys this year, and vice versa.  Oh, and Daddy always gets each child a little something just from him :-).  After we opened our gifts (the rule was DO NOT come into my room before 7 AM.  Ha!  As if!), we had Skier's French Toast for breakfast and headed to church for a family worship service.
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The OTHER thing I was doing Christmas Eve

Was finishing these (adding the stick and ribbon to hang them by)...
We decided kind of last minute to make a gift for each family unit in our family.  Mimi had made a batik banner in the fall at Kiwi's house, and I had everything on hand to do it, so I figured we would do the same thing on a smaller scale for everyone.  The problem?  I loved them all SO much, it was hard to give them away...and only making 6 meant not having even one left for us :-(.  I think we'll be making more of these for each holiday...for us to keep!  Below you can see what each of our creations looked like.




Sari and I together


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Christmas Eve 2011

Christmas Eve day was our day to spend with Aunt Sheila and Uncle Craig.  In a remarkable turn of events, I had actually gotten all the gifts wrapped ahead of time, and so the day was free of last minute wrapping pressures.  I'll have to make an earnest effort to have that happen every year!  But back to Craig and Sheila.  We spent the day playing games-or at least they did.  I still had some cooking to do for Christmas.  They played on the Mario Party on the game cube, and Star Wars Monotony , I mean Monopoly, in real life.  Then we went to a local park in the afternoon, and the Hubs parents for dinner (they always host a Christmas Eve stew event).

Mimi decided to practice some Lyra skills

And once Mimi started...

Aunt Sheila joined in

The "royal" wave

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