Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quick Announcement!!

I am super excited to say that we will be having another girl!! Why am I so excited that it's a girl when I already have two boys and two girls? Simple. Adding another girl will give Caroline a little sister (perfect!) and Maxwell won't have to deal with the competition of another little boy (perfect again!).  
We are expecting her sometime in September. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Curiosity Quest DVD Combo Packs {A Crew Review}

My children have always enjoyed the educational shows that teach how things work or where they come from. So when I was given the opportunity to review Curiosity Quest, I jumped at it! We received a DVD Combo Pack- Produce and DVD Combo Pack - Swimmers. The DVD Combo Packs retail for $24.95 and each contain three fun-filled episodes. Each episode runs about 30 minutes. The program is geared toward children 7-14 years old but I will tell you that my two and three year olds love the Swimmers DVD. Each DVD follows Joel Greene as he visits, learns about and takes part in the process of satisfying curiosity. At the beginning of each show Joel shares who sent in a letter wondering about that film’s content. Wouldn’t it be neat to see your children’s names up there on the screen?
As a family we first watched the Produce DVD, it covered mushrooms, cranberries and oranges. I was surprised by how intently my 15 year old son was watching the show. To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting him to be interested but he was! We learned all kinds of stuff! Like what, you ask? We learned that cranberries aren’t actually grown in water. Those “cranberry juice” commercials always show the growers standing in water filled with cranberries so naturally we all assumed that was how they were grown. Wrong! Turns out they are only in water just before the harvest. Because cranberries are so buoyant, the water makes it easier for the grower’s machines to collect the berries. I for one also learned that the only basic difference between your regular white mushroom and a portabella is the growing time. Portabellas are given more room and more time to grow than the regular white mushroom. Of course, I’d still prefer a big honkin’ portabella on my burger bun than a bunch of little ones. My 12 year old was surprised by the fragility of oranges. It turns out that if you break the cells of the orange skin, releasing oils, then it can get infected like our skin. Of course, by infected I mean moldy. She kept saying, “I didn’t know that!”

We also watched the Swimmers DVD together. This one was definitely more fun than the Produce but animals will always trump vegetables in the fun department. This DVD covers penguins, sea turtles and salmon. One of the first things Joel does with the penguins is feed them. Max, my three year old, turns to me and says, “Penguins eat fish??!” He was genuinely surprised. We were also surprised to learn that the fish these penguins are being fed is the same quality as we would get in a sea food restaurant. We all knew that penguins don’t fly but what we didn’t know was why they don’t fly. It turns out they are too heavy. A fun fact about sea turtles we learned is that when the hatchlings come out of the eggs, they follow the moon to the water. It’s not that they just know where the water is, they are following the direction of the moon! Cool, huh? Another cool fact is that the mother turtles return to the beach they were hatched on to lay their own eggs. I cannot believe how much we learned and how much that knowledge really sunk in. I have witnessed my kids teaching others what they have learned on these DVDs.

Each of the episodes would cut away from the program to give “Fun Facts” about each of the subjects. The Fun Facts are given by children. They will also cut away from the episode to Joel asking questions to kids on the streets. For example, during the penguin episode the bird biologist kept saying “husbandry”. They cut away from Joel at the penguin exhibit to him on the streets asking kids what they think husbandry is. Their answers are always entertaining.

I absolutely enjoyed these DVDs and so did the kids. Every couple of days they are requested to watch again. The only problem I had with the DVDs is that one of the fun facts given about mushrooms referenced prehistoric times. Being a young earth believing family, that is not something I want my children hearing. Thankfully, my big ones already know better and my little ones are too little to notice. Overall, I would highly recommend these DVDs, they are educational and entertaining.
Find Curiosity Quest on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Supercharged Science ~ An Online Science Curriculum {Review}

Supercharged eScience Review
Science is a tricky subject, especially for homeschoolers. I think we as parents can really doubt ourselves when it comes to teaching our children certain subjects, science being one of the more intimidating ones. I was given a six month e-science Premium Membership to Supercharged Science.
Pricing & Ages
On the Supercharged Science website you will find complete curriculum including lessons, videos, experiments and exercises for kindergarten through high school. I received the K-12 plan that retails for $57/month. They also have a K-8 plan available for $37/month. If you aren’t sure which topic to start with or what is covered in public school in your child’s grade, the website does offer a Science Standards page that breaks down the performance expectations for each grade. I found this very helpful!
The lessons are broken down two ways- by grade and by topic. Some topics take only a couple of weeks to complete while other more advanced topics can take more than a month. I had access to units Zero though 20, along with the Scientific Method beginning lesson.
Some of the topics include:
  • Mechanics
  • Motion
  • Matter
  • Energy 1 and 2
  • Sound
  • Astrophysics
  • Chemistry
  • Light
  • Electricity
  • Magnetism
  • and many more!
What did we do?
I used this program with my fifth grader and she loved it! This e-science Learning Program makes science fun and teaches it in a way that children understand and can relate to. We worked our way through the Motion Unit. She learned all about velocity, inertia, Newton’s three laws of motion, acceleration and deceleration. With each of the lessons there are downloadable reading and exercise worksheets. This worked great for us when we needed to do school-on-the-road. She could watch the video of the experiment and then we would do it together. There are so many experiments! We had a chicken vs. clam race. What on earth is that, right? Well, we had a can of chicken broth and a can of clam chowder, made them roll down a ramp and discovered which one has higher inertia! Every experiment we did used materials we already had on hand.
Doing the experiments was my daughter’s favorite aspect of this program. I think it’s great that she not only did the experiments but fully understood what was happening and what we were testing. There have been several instances of her explaining to others why things happen they way they do. For example: she took it upon herself to explain to her 15 year old brother (who hates wearing seat belts) why it is so important to wear seat belts. She fully explained with convincing detail why we should wear them and what happens when we don’t!
My bottom line?
I think this is a great program for parents with multiple children in multiple grades. It really takes the pain out of science for the parent and adds a whole lot of fun for the student. That being said, it is a bit too pricey for our homeschool. We have a very modest budget and $37 to $57 per month for science just doesn’t have a place in it. I love the diversity of the curriculum and the awesome experiments. I think it’s awesome that Aurora (the lady in all the videos) is ALWAYS available to answer ANY question. She has a real love for science and teaching it to children.
Aurora is currently offering my readers a full access trial to Supercharged Science. For only $1 you get full access to the entire site for a month. I highly suggest you take advantage of this special offer. You won’t be disappointed!
Find Supercharged Science on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ !
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Victus Study Skills System {Review}

Victus Study Skills Review

Every once in a great while something so great comes along that it makes you wonder how on earth you got along without it. My fifteen year old son has struggled with reading comprehension, goal setting (and sticking with those goals) and basic outlining. The Victus Study Skills System has addressed all of these issues and more!
The Victus System comes with a teacher guide and a student workbook. The teacher guide includes each of the 10 lessons, miniature versions of the student pages, along with conversation and verbage ideas. It is divided into three sections. Section one includes suggestions and procedures that will help you as the teacher. It is recommended over and over again that as the teacher you fully understand each of the concepts. Section two contains the lessons. Each lesson inlcludes the purpose, preparation and at least one procedure with the student pages shown. Section three is the appendix that contains supplemental materials that can be used throughout the course, as well as follow up ideas. There are literally only 10 lessons in the entire program that can be taught over the course of a week for high school students and two weeks for fifth through eighth graders. The teacher guide retails for $40.00 and the student workbook is $20.00. Both are available on the Victus Study Skills System website.
Victus Study Skills Review

I used this program with my freshman, Oscar, and will definitely be using it with my fifth grader once I get another copy of the student workbook. I was surprised at his willingness to do the program. It turns out he realized that he didn't know how to really study or to take proper notes. He welcomed the idea of learning how to study.

 One of the first things you do in the program is establish the student's learning style. For as long as I can remember I believed my son was a kinesthetic learner. I was wrong!!! All this time, I was wrong!!! He took a test and turns out he is a visual learner. Once we got that established and was able to wipe the dumbfounded look off my face, we moved onto the helps offered for each type of learner. The book offers 12 suggested aids for this learning strength. Two of them he had already been doing. I suppose that should have given me a clue that his learning style wasn't what I thought it was. Can you tell I'm still blown away by that?

Moving through the book together, we made a mission statement, set some academic and personal goals for the spring, and then got to my personal favorite, time management!! I am a procrastinator by day and a putter-offer by night. Time management is something he and I both desperately needed help with. We each created weekly and monthly schedules and learned how to properly prioritize things in our lives.

Oscar benefited greatly from and spent a lot of time on the PQRST section. PQRST stands for Preview (material to be read) , Question (material previewed), Read (do action reading), State (say aloud what you just read), and Test (daily review of information). The idea of not just reading material but questioning it and actively reading it was completely foreign to him. We also covered active listening and note taking skills.

Oscar has always suffered from test anxiety. He can know material like the back of his hand but then sit down to take a test and fail miserably. I am so thankful the Victus Study Skills Stystem also covers test taking strategies. For each of the lessons or sections there are opportunities for further learning and application. I love that.

My bottom line? I highly recommend this curriculum for any student fifth grade and up. I'm in my thirties and I benefited from it. Seriously, this is good stuff.
Find Victus Study Skills System on Facebook and on Twitter @VictusStudy.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Captivated DVD by Media Talk 101 {Review}

Captivated Movie Review
I was recently given the opportunity to review a copy of the Captivated DVD presented by Media Talk 101. While this movie is intended for adults, it is approved for all ages. I watched it with both my eleven and fourteen year olds. For years I have been what my children call “over the top” when It comes to the media I allow in their lives. We don’t have cable or satellite. We do have Netflix but only the movies/shows I have put on there are available for viewing. The kids are not allowed to go to the movie theatre without me or my consent to see the film. They are not allowed to see R rated movies- even at home.  Xbox 360 is the only game system we have in the house. There are three TV’s in the house but only two get used on a semi-regular basis. And as far as music… if it isn’t Christ honoring, it isn’t allowed in our home. Yes, I may be a bit restrictive but I’ve always believed it to be for their best. This film reinforced that belief. In fact, its research, interviews and statistics have convinced me that although we use media far less than the average American family, we are still too dependent upon it.
Captivated is a documentary produced by and featuring Christian authors, journalists, scientists, psychiatrists, professors, therapists, speakers, doctors, pastors, parents and teens. The DVD is narrated by Phillip Telfer, who is a BMX biker and musician turned pastor.
The film moves through three main topics: Consumption, Content and Captivity.
Did you realize the average child/teen logs 53 hours of screen time per week and 3,339 text messages per month? That’s crazy!!! Something that really got me was some information offered by a doctor at the Seattle Children’s Research Hospital: a newborn’s brain triples in size in the first two years of life. That critical developmental stage can literally be stagnated by high levels of media. Several doctors in the film strongly recommend that children under the age of two should NEVER watch TV. It has been proven that those babies who see lots of TV have short attention spans later in childhood. Oops. My youngest is two and her favorite show is Pingu. Pingu is a ridiculous Claymation cartoon about a penguin family who speak gibberish. Having typed that I have a strong urge to backspace until that evidence of imperfect parenting is gone.
One topic that really hit home was Facebook. We I used to spend entirely too much time on Facebook. It’s on my phone, laptop, iPad and desktop. I once took a month off the social media site just to get my priorities back in line and it was hard! At first it was like being an addict with withdrawals. It took a lot of prayer and God-given strength to stay off of it.  After a few days it got easier and once the month was up and I got back on, I couldn’t figure out what the enchantment had been before. Someone once said that if we read our Bibles as much as we get on Facebook, we as Christians would be much stronger and closer to God.
It is no secret that what is being mass produced in Hollywood, the video game world and on television is junk. I know you know the song, "oh be careful little eyes what you see...". Believe it or not, I repeat that song on a semi-regular basis in a sing-songy voice to my kids. Sometimes they think that just because a movie isn't "that bad" that it's okay to watch. I tell them all the time, "what goes in will come out". It's a truth driven home quite well by Captivated. Research has proven that there is now more sex than violence in cartoons- the cartoons that are readily available to our children. I don't know about you but that astounds me, not because I don't believe it but because I do.
The film is full of quotes, here is my favorite:
"Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your house." -David Frost
According to studies, 10% of children are addicted to video games. How did they determine that? I don't know but what I do know is that if you ask someone to give something up and they become irate and take the suggestion as a personal attack, they are probably addicted to whatever is it you asked them to give up. Moral and time issues as well as a false sense of accomplishment are concerns that are addressed by the film. Psalm 11:5 speaks of God hating violence. What is in the video games your children are playing? Halo? Black Ops? If you or your child spend hours a day killing people in video games, can you call that God honoring? That got me. My son plays Halo. We had a talk after we watched this movie. It's kind of funny, after the segment about video game violence, he just looked at me what an, " I know, I know Mom." I was amazed at his readiness to get rid of the things that we both decided were a problem.
Thankfully, if you find that being captivated by media is something that applies to your family, the film does offer help. It gives ideas on how to get things right in your home and how to speak to your children about their TV/video game time.
I would definitely recommend this film to any and everyone out there who has media in their life, especially those with children. The Captivated DVD retails for $16.95 (with free shipping!) and is available on the Captivated website. Purchase more than one DVD at a time for discounts.
Find Captivated on Facebook and Twitter.
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