Monday, December 27, 2010

Congratulations! picked comment number 16 as our winner. 

Bonnie said...
I like DNG on Facebook!
December 22, 2010 9:43 PM 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gratefulness in a greedy world

I have bad days.

Really.  You know, a wonderful friend told me something that really stuck with me.  We were discussing how another mom was so gentle with her children and I wished I was always like that.  She said to me:

"We are all the same.  We all want to yell at our kids.  We all do yell at our kids sometimes."

So I know that you have bad days too.  We all do.  The other day I was so upset that I was ready to cry.  I wanted to take off for a vacation where the houses are clean, the laundry is done, and there is always food on time.  But, of course, barring a cruise or resort, that is not going to happen!

Why was I so upset?  My house is always messy.  Always.  Even when I think it is clean, it is dirty compared to someone else's.  Those "someone else's" don't have little ones under their feet all day long, but still.... with a little more work, my house should look like theirs, right?

My laundry was behind, and my husband was running out of clothes.  My dishes were in the sink instead of the dishwasher, I was out of bread, and the last thing I wanted to do in my messy kitchen was BAKE.  My kids were being lazy, disobedient, and grumpy.

I can come up with amazingly long lists of why I have bad days.  But here is one wonderful reason why I am having a GREAT day.

While I am at home in my (warm) messy house with my (healthy) lazy, disobedient, grumpy children-

-There is a mother in Haiti watching her child die on the side of a dirty road with no one to help, no one to hug, no one to even know.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do you have your subscription to TOS yet?

OK, I am a little ashamed to admit this, as a member of the TOS crew.

I still do not have my own subscription to The Old Schoolhouse.  It is not that I don't want one, I do!  I have two older copies of the magazine that got passed down to me, and I have read them over and over and over.... I love them!   I would be perfectly willing to subscribe to this magazine for the regular price, it is totally worth it.  But we have had several things that had to come first, and I have been anxiously awaiting the day when I would be able to get my own subscription.

Finally, that day has arrived!  The Old Schoolhouse is offering an exceptional deal- you can get a one-year subscription for only $7.95!  I am so happy!  This is normally a $25 subscription, so this is an opportunity you do NOT want to miss!

If that were all, it would still be a great price, but The Old Schoolhouse is throwing MORE bargains into the mix!  When you buy a one-year subscription they will give you (yes, GIVE, as in FREE) their 2010 planner!  I already have one (and love it) so I am choosing to pick one of the student planners instead.  I can't wait to see it!

They are also offering two other deals on their magazine subscriptions this month: a one-year subscription with a beautiful tote bag and the e-book Cranberry Christmas, or a two year subscription with the tote bag, Cranberry Christmas and the big planner!  You will want to go to The Old Schoolhouse to check out all of these great deals, and pick the best one for you!

I am going to be getting the one-year subscription for me, and one for my sister.  She lives far away from any of our family and is homeschooling her two little ones as well.  I know this will be a great gift for her!  She doesn't have internet, so I know she won't see this!  Shhhhh!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Download N Go Creation Camouflage GIVEAWAY!

My children have had a fascination with camouflaged animals ever since we first saw a giant moth that had the habit of seeming to sink into tree bark when it landed.   They were about 2 and 3, and they still remember it.  So I was very excited when I found out that we were going to be reviewing Creation Camouflage!  Then I saw the table of contents-

Day 1: Hiding in Plain Sight 
Day 2: Getting to Know the Rain Forest 
Day 3: What Is in the Desert? 
Day 4: Hiding in the Ocean 
Day 5: Cool Things About the Tundra

See Day 4?  Ocean animals!  I didn't tell CJ about it until the day before, because I know I would hear about nothing else if I did!  I knew that the kids would have so much fun with this that they wouldn't even mind doing it during out school break.  I don't think they even thought about it, they were too busy having fun!

One thing I enjoy about the Download N Go series is the organization.  You don't really have to do anything ahead of time with these.  I like to go through them and print out the lapbook pieces and any worksheets we will use, but I wouldn't have to.  You can download one on the day you want to start it, and be busy with it 10 minutes later. You can buy them for $7.95, or buy a bundle and save!  I really like planned-out unit studies, so I was happy to see that Creation Camouflage has one habitat per day.  I was even more excited to see that we would be learning about one of the main animal groups each day, as well!  This unit study is excellent for those learning about animal classification.

I have to say that this was probably our favorite Download N Go yet.  It was such a treat!  The kids asked everyday to do it, and they were sad when it was over.  I am planning to do a longer study using this unit in the summer, using each 'day' for a whole week.  There is just that much good stuff here!  Each day focuses on a habitat, an animal type, and an animal of the day.  This would be so fun to use for a long study!  We didn't have time to use any of the recommended books, or enjoy very many of the worksheets, and we still spent several hours each day on it.

The movies were fabulous, and there were many times we had to watch them over again, just to enjoy them!  I even saved a few to show to Isaac when he got home.  God's creatures are unbelievably amazing!  We also really enjoyed the worksheets in this unit.  They are so beautiful and colorful!  This is one unit study that I would LOVE to print out completely to enjoy.

We especially enjoyed the worksheets with the food items to circle for each animal, and the drawing pages.  These drawing pages have backgrounds or borders for the little ones to draw on, and they really enjoy them.  There were even two "how-to-draw" movies included, which was just great.  All of the Download N Go movies are embedded in their own special page, so you never have to worry about your kids seeing the comments and all the junk in the sidebars at YouTube.  The lovely people at Download N Go pick these movies very carefully, and I have never seen anything in them that I do not want my kids to see (or hear).

You can read more reviews for Creation Camouflage at the Download N Go blog, or go right to the Download N Go website to buy it!

Creation Camouflage is on sale for only $5.95 
until December 18th, so don't wait! 


The wonderful people at Download N Go have given me an extra copy of Creation Camouflage to give away to one of YOU!  This is a awesome study that you DO not want to miss!  If you want to get it at the sale price, hurry and do it today!  Otherwise, if you are willing to take your chances, ;)  read on!

1.  For your first entry, comment below and let me know what subject you would love to see Amanda Bennett and The Old Schoolhouse use for their next Download N Go.

Additional Entries:

2. "Like" Download N Go or Amanda Bennett's unit studies on Facebook. (or both, for two entries!)  Leave me an extra comment telling me you did. 

3. Follow my blog using Google Friend Connect and let me know.

4. Facebook about this giveaway and let me know.  

5. Blog about this giveaway for three extra chances to win!  Leave three comments if you do this, to be sure that you get entered three extra times.

Thank you so much for playing, and remember that this giveaway ends early!  I will keep this open until Wednesday, the 22nd of December.  (I don't want to be counting entries on Christmas Eve!)  


I received this product free of charge for review purposes. I promise to be honest and fair in my reviews, and I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. You can visit the Download-N-Go blog to read more reviews on this product.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Blog and Me

I am not a failing blogger.  :)  If you are a reader of mine (and thank you if you are!) You will have noticed that I have not done anything except reviews for several weeks.  There is a good reason, and it goes beyond neglect.

I have forgotten why I started blogging.

It's not fun anymore.

So, in light of the fact that blogging was starting to feel like another chore instead of a creative outlet, I took a long break.  When I stopped blogging, I did it suddenly and without any warning.  I did not know if I would come back to my blog, or if it would be left to reviews only.  After these weeks of head-clearing, I started wanting to write again!  

hailey B by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere

I have figured out a lot about my blogging self in these few weeks off, and I am happy to say that I will still be a blogger, at least for the time being!  I really like to blog.  I like reading other blogs, now and then.  I like taking my best pictures, knowing that (maybe) someone else in the world will be able to appreciate them.  I like sharing our days with my family and friends, and I like reviewing.  But I forgot all of that. 

Sometime during the last few months I stopped blogging for me.

I know that sounds selfish, but I really did start this blog for me.  I wanted a place to record our days.  I wanted a place to 'talk'.  I wanted a place to share pictures, not just of our kids, but all the things that are a part of my world.  I wanted a place to be creative.  But most of all, I wanted a place to build memories.  I don't want to forget these years.  

In the last few months I have been blogging as if I was writing to someone else.... you.  My readers -if there still are any- and I want to let you know that this is my blog.  It is my spot, my own little corner of the cyber world.  It is little and not very flashy, but I like it.  And from now on, I will be writing for ME.

You are all very welcome to come along for the ride, I would love it if you would stop by now and then.  But this is my creative outlet, my journal, my life.  And now that I know WHY I am doing this, I will enjoy it much more.  And so, I hope, will you.  :)

moon web by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere

Have a blessed day!

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Good Morning, God" Review

Are you looking for a sweet picture book for your little ones?  You will want to have this one!  We recently got to review a beautiful hardback book from Apologia that is filled with a even more beautiful message.  God is there.  Always.  This book is absolutely precious.

The story is a little boy's prayers throughout the week as he goes about his daily activities.  Like most small children, he stays busy doing typical things, which he tells God all about- making a sandwich, coloring, reading, and playing.  He spends a lot of time thinking about God, and his parents teach him "while he is sitting and while he is standing...."  right out of Deuteronomy.  The young boy's thoughts are never far from God, whether he is being good or naughty.  This book has both color and pencil drawings, and they are quite sweet.  The pictures really complete the story, and they let you see what the rhythmic text leaves out.

There are just so many ways you could use this book, and there are several ideas included.  Designed for ages 1-8, There is a lot more here then just a story.  There is a page with ideas for "how to use this book", and in the back are lists of activities for each day, with questions and verses.  So far we have just read and enjoyed this book, but I plan to make this into a Five in a Row- type unit study, using the daily section for a starting place.  And, you know me, I will probably have to make lapbook pieces to go along with it.  If you do not do unit studies (or you are not ready to make your own),  you can always just read this like you would any other book.  Your children will love the story.  We read it 3 times in a row when it came out of the box, and they were asking for more!


You can buy "Good Morning, God" at Apologia Educational Ministries for $14.00, and they have an adorable little coloring book that goes along with it on this page.   This coloring book would be great to use with a more intensive study of the concepts in this book!  If you want to see more of Apologia Educational Ministries' products, you can visit their main website.

for more reviews of this product.

I received this product free of charge
as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew,
for review purposes. I promise to be honest
and fair in my reviews, and I received no
other compensation in exchange for my review.
You can visit The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog
to read more reviews on this product.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: Lies the Government Told You

Not surprisingly, given the name of my blog, both my husband and I take a great interest in politics and especially the history of our country.  So of course I jumped at the chance to read this book, written by Judge Andrew Napolitano.  When I saw that the forward was by Ron Paul, I was even more excited.  This book has a chapter devoted to each lie, and there are 17 chapters in all.  It covers 'lies' such as "The Federal Reserve Shall Be Controlled by Congress" and "Everyone is Innocent Until Proven Guilty".   This is not a book written from a hypothetical point of view, as it is extensively referenced.

I thought that I might find this book hard to read, since so many political books are dry and complicated.  I was happy to find that it is a very enjoyable read, but still deep enough to explore the ideas and truths.  I really learned a lot from it, especially regarding the way that our government is currently working (or not working, as you could put it).  I feel like I am pretty well educated on the way things are SUPPOSED to be working, so it was nice to read more about what is actually happening, and more importantly, why.

This book is not shallow.  There is a lot here, so you should not expect to sit down and read it through in one evening.  I found that I needed to give this book some time to really think about what he is saying.  It is a thinking book.  :)  You may or may not agree with much of it, but if you still think that most of our government is constitutional, this book will be a great eye-opener for you.  This is also a great gift for that uncle, father, or husband who really likes controversial and political reading.

I received this book form BookSneeze, in exchange for my unbiased review.  I will receive no other compensation.

I review for BookSneeze

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Animal Family book and DVD Review


Several weeks ago we received another item to review for The Old Schoolhouse.  This time, it was a book and DVD set from My Animal Family, about a small polar bear (named Nanuq) and his family.  How fun!  With beautiful illustrations, and an engaging story, the hard-back book was just down our alley.  We read it SEVERAL times that first day, and it is a treasure.  I really love the cute but realistic pictures in this book, and I would love to see the elephant one.... I know Baby Girl would get a kick out of it.  :)

When you add to that the short-but-sweet DVD, you have a great package.  The DVD contains real footage of Polar Bears from BBC, and it is narrated by Nanuq himself, through the voice of a child.  It isn't long, but it is filled with information about Polar Bears.   There is also a music video with one song and a section where you can learn more about the animals.  Since we have no television, I really like this cute little show.

PhotobucketWhen you purchase a book and DVD set from Smart Kids Publishing, you also get an access number for the website.  You are supposed to be able to play games and explore the animal's native habitat.  We received access initially, but later on the website seemed funky and we were not able to get it to work right.  That wasn't a big disappointment, however, since my children were not too impressed with the game in the first place.  When you first sign in you are given a character to dress and personalize, and that was pretty much the only part my children enjoyed.  The habitat itself seemed pretty small, and there were a few games scattered through it that the children could play, to earn points.  After they earned 4000 points they were supposed to be able to get to more of the habitat and new games, but Bop and CJ eventually gave up.  The games were not very engaging, and you had to do the same few games many, many times to get your 4000 points.

We also had several other problems and questions about the website, including how long you are allowed access with the purchase of a book.  One place said 6 months, one said 12 months, and the reviewers received one month.  It is not uncommen for reviewers to get a shorter time with a digital product, but I did not want to say that you get more time then is actually true, so I am just saying I do not know!  Several of the Crew contacted the company with this and other questions, and our Crew leaders also tried several times. None of us ever received an answer.

To sum it up, this is an excellent physical product.  High quality, great illustrations, and a sweet story.  At only $12.99 for the book and DVD set, buying this product for the set alone is not at all unreasonable.  If you are wanting a great game for your kids, I would skip this one.   I have considered purchasing another animal set from My Animal Family, since they have several more- but with their sketchy customer service, I don't know if I will.  You can see their other book sets at the My Animal Family store.

Be dure to go to The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog to read more reviews on this product, or go to the main blog page to see what else is happening!

I received this product free of charge
as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew,
for review purposes. I promise to be honest
and fair in my reviews, and I received no
other compensation in exchange for my review.
to read more reviews on this product.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Download N Go Benjamin Franklin Review

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. "
 ~ Benjamin Franklin

This week we took a trip back through time to the beginnings of our country, to learn about the life of Benjamin Franklin, through a Download N Go unit study.  From inventor, to writer, to statesman, few men in history are so interesting.  As one of our Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin is a household name but there is a lot about him that many people don't know.  We learned so many amazing facts this week, and I found out so much I didn't know.

We started off our week by learning a little bit more about Ben's own history.  His birth, his family, and his younger years.  We also got to explore some of our own history and the children loved filling in their own family tree.  Through the next few days we pressed on to more intriguing learning.  Inventions.  Discovery.  Politics.  Great thought and great risk.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." ~ Benjamin Franklin

I especially enjoyed the Ben Franklin quotes scattered throughout the lessons, and the kids really thought about what they meant.  It brought many opportunities to discuss and reflect.  They even had some of them memorized by the time we were done with the week!  Bop knew right away what "A penny saved is a penny earned" meant.  I found it interesting that so many of the sayings that we use every day are attributed to Benjamin Franklin and his Poor Richard's Almanac.

There were some really neat videos included in this Download N Go, and I am always so relaxed clicking on the links in the study.  They go right to an embedded video on a Download N Go page, so there are no nasty sidebars.  We got distracted by some of the other links, since they had some great historical sites included.  The web is so great for rabbit trails.... :)  The links in these Download N Gos are really nice.  They always have the best information, and a lot of times there is so much there that we bookmark it to come back later.

Some of the kiddo's favorite activities included designing a sign for Franklin's first printing shop, drawing a picture of "what we want to be when we grow up", and inventing something new. I enjoyed how personal a lot of this unit was, inspiring reflection and critical thinking.  Download N Go units all have a variety of worksheets for many different learning types and abilities.  We enjoy the drawing pages and the lapbook pieces, but others get more use out of the workbook-style pages with places to record the learning that is happening.  Our kids are not really into writing much yet, so I only use a few of the worksheet and copy work pages, but they are great for older kids.  Add in a few of your own assignments or books and this unit could be stretched upward into higher grades really easily.

I mean really, I am the teacher, and I still learn a lot with each and every Download N Go!  :)

Don't forget to check out the other reviews for Ben Franklin on the Download N Go blog!  You can also see all of the other Download N Go titles on the Download N Go website. There is a huge selection, so take your time!  

Now is your chance to buy Ben Franklin on sale for only $6.25 until November 22!  Be sure to head on over the the blog to get your children learning all about this intriguing Founder!

 "A penny saved is a penny earned."
 ~ Benjamin Franklin

I received this product free of charge for review purposes.I promise to be honest and fair in my reviews, and I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. You can visit the Download-N-Go blog to read more reviews on this product.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

The American Patriots Almanac

I knew right away that I wanted to read this book when I saw that is was co-authored by William J. Bennet.  What I didn't know was that it would be hardback and nearly 2 inches thick, with cloth binding!  This is an extremely high quality book, and the content matches it in quality as well. 

Imagine a book with dates for every day of the year, and items of American history, from the monumental to the mundane, located on each and every stuffed page.  Then, add in songs, articles, and other information, and you will have some idea of what this book is all about.  

This book has one page for each day of the year.  That page has a main reading for the day, and also a list of the other events in American history that happened on that date.  At the end of each month there is an article with more in-depth historical information, and some have songs, prayers, poems and the like.  This makes the book excellent for reading daily.  Kept on a bedside stand or coffee table, it is great for daily reading and then the further contemplation throughout the day that is sure to follow.  

If the read-a-little-a-day style does not suit you, don't give up on this book just yet.  I am not one to read a snippet and then put the book down until tomorrow.  (Maybe that is why I always read devotionals more like novels- straight through. )  Even though that is not my style, I really enjoyed reading this book.  There is a lot here, and even if you just pick it up and start browsing, it is easy to read.  If you take into account the thick index in the back of this book, you have a valuable resource book as well!

I received this book from Book Sneeze in exchange for my honest review.  I am always honest in my reviews,  and I will receive no other compensation.

I review for BookSneeze

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SpellQuizzer Review

I received the chance to review a nifty little program called SpellQuizzer. This is a computer program designed to drill spelling words for kids. It is NOT a game and it is not fancy. However, sometimes the best learning tools are tools and nothing more! Kids don't need fancy games to learn to spell.

SpellQuizzer sells for $29.95 and it is an instant download- no shipping time. You can download several list of spelling words on the SpellQuizzer site, and you can make your own with a microphone. You simply name your list, enter the correct spelling, and add the audio word (or a hint if you don't want to fiddle with the audio and your kids are old enough to 'get it'). Presto! Your list. Now, instead of a parent drilling spelling words, the computer does.

How did it work for us? After playing around with SpellQuizzer for several days, and having bop try it out, I have decided that it is not right for her at this time. For several reasons. It is obviously intended for older children, and though Bop is advanced in spelling and phonics, the typing is just too tedious for her to do and actually enjoy. Also, I really prefer her to handwrite her words at this point, to get in extra practice.

However, that does not mean that SpellQuizzer is not a great program for older children, or families that prefer a more conventional spelling list approach. i can also see how SpellQuizzer would be an excellent program for children with Disgraphia or those who simply don't like writing.

I received a free copy of SpellQuizzer for my unbiased review. I will not receive any other compensation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do we really need more education reform?

One thing that you hear a lot about during the election season, and through out the rest of the year, as well, is education reform.  There is no doubt that our young people are the future of our great nation, so education should be one of our greatest concerns.

So why have decades of education reform resulted in failure?  I submit to you that public education as it stands today cannot be reformed, because
it is working exactly the way it was designed to. 

Many people live under the mistaken conclusion that public education was set into place to meet the needs of children living in poverty, who, it is supposed, received no education because their parents could not afford to send them away to what would have then been the equivalent of expensive private schools today.

However, the sad fact is that nothing could be further from the truth.  The TRUTH is, that in early America, the literacy rate hovered near 100%.  The TRUTH is, there were publicly funded schools.  They were just not FEDERALLY funded; they were not even STATE funded, they were funded locally by the families who were using them.  The TRUTH is, that the federal compulsory school system was never intended to free children from the bondage of ignorance, because there was no bondage of ignorance.

With the rise of the industrial revolution, it became evident that there was one large obstacle to corporate domination.  Free enterprise.

As long as we were a nation of freely educated, creative, ambition, frugal people, the large corporations would always be at risk of collapse.  That is the hard law of competition.  Every creative and driven young man was a threat to the towering empires of wealthy families.  Every smart and innovative child could become the next American millionaire.  These companies needed two things to thrive:  Consumers and workers.  The public school system was a way to produce both, while at the same time limiting creative thought and uniqueness.

Ringing bells.
Age segregation.
Extension of childhood long beyond historical ages.
Separation from parents.
Younger and younger students.
Lowering standards.
Removal of proven methods. (Phonics, Arithmetic, Latin...)
Creative thought discouraged.
Adding meals to the school day.
Rewarding conformity and disciplining independent thinkers.
Classical schooling completely removed.

All of these things point directly to an underlying system.  And it is working exactly like it is supposed to.  

I just want to add that I have the greatest respect and admiration for our public school teachers.  Most of them are doing the best they can in a system that has undermined them from the very beginning.  Most teachers are trying, really trying, to teach their students and most of them succeed against overwhelming odds.  But the cost to our countries greatest asset, creative thought, is devastating.  The system is failing teachers as much as it is children.  

What do you think about our failing education system?  Can it be reformed?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Download N Go Expedition Australia review

Do you want to take a trip across the Pacific ocean?  Let's go to the "sun-burnt land", down-under, the outback: Australia.  This is one of our favorite Downoad N Gos, and I just find the study of other countries and cultures so important.  I know several people are taking a 'trip around the world' with Download N Go this year, and that sounds like a lit of fun to me.  Expedition Australia will fit right in with that!

There is so much material here- links, worksheets, drawing pages, maps and more.  All of the Download N Gos are priced at only $7.95, and are intended for a one week study.  These studies are divided into days, but not really into lesson plans, so to speak. Instead, they are laid out for the child and parent to read and research together, with all the subjects neatly melding into each other in a gentle sequence. Targeted for grades K-4, I think if you had older children you could easily modify it a bit so that they could join in the fun.

I was delighted to find that we were going to study social studies, (In the form of holidays, geography, and language differences) science (Australian animals), math (temperature, time and currency) Literature (poetry) and art (drawing). The unit includes lapbook components, and then we stapled the worksheets together and added them, too.  Expedition Australia seemed to abound with Bops favorite Download N Go feature- the drawing pages.  They have so much fun drawing in pictures to go with the backgrounds and borders that are provided!

This unit features an Australian Animal of the day, which is great for animal loving families like ours.  Therea re so many amazing animals in this world, and it is one of the great privelegde of our modern world to be able to learn about them on ways never before possible.  I just love watching the Download N Go videos.  They are all embedded in a Download N Go screen, so there are no yucky comments or ads to watch for (Except for the occasional Google ad which can quickly be clicked away.)

We got to learn about temperature and went on some rabbit trails about the seasons and the way the solar system works together.  The seasons are a subject that has been coming up in all of our units this fall and I just love seeing how God uses the versatility of Unit studies to bring things together.  I had not planned in ANY 'space' type units this fall, but I had planned them for next spring because that is an area that CJ is interested in.  Little did I know that God would use all of these unplanned units to teach to CJ's interests!  Just another example of how God loves our children even more then we do.  :)

Worksheet about Kangaroos

Bop's Kangaroo

Now is the time to buy your own copy of Expedition Australia and head for the outback with your own children!  Expedition Australia is on sale for only $5.95 until November 8th, so hurry!  
They also have a contest to win a large map of Australia from National Geographic worth $19.95.

Also don't forget to go to the Download N Go Blog to read more reviews, and check back here soon for more reviews and giveaways!

I received this product free of charge for review purposes. I promise to be honest and fair in my reviews, and I received no other compensation in exchange for my review. You can visit the Download N Go blog to read more reviews on this product.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Collectorz Review

I like books.  No, I love books.  My personal passion at this time is picture books.  Maybe that's just because of my children's ages- in the past I have had similar passions for Christian novels, Non-fiction of all kinds, historical novels, end-time books, novels about Bible figures, Christian life books, and the list could go on.

Perfect for those of us who think a bookshelf is the best Christmas present, here is a nifty program called Collectorz!  There are several different versions, including Collectorz for comics, games and movies, but I got to review Book Collector.  This is a cataloging program where you can enter, sort, edit, and add all sorts of information about each book.  There are several options for entering the books, including typing in the ISBN or scanning the barcode.  (The barcode scanner is a separate purchase)  This program retails for $ and is an instant download.

There is so much you can do with this program.  I chose to organize mine into subjects.  I chose a few main subjects so I wouldn't get overwhelmed, and I fit all the books into those 'folders'.  The really fun thing about Book Collector is how the folders are set up.  They are not like the folders in Windows- where you stick a file in one folder and that is where it sits.  In Collectorz each book can be in several different subjects, folders, and categories.  For example, take the book "Charlotte's Web".  It could go into the folders for fictional animals, historical fiction, award winners, family life, and read alouds.  Then later, when you search any of those subjects of open the folders, you would find "Charlotte's Web" in each one of them.  Pretty neat!

Another really useful feature on Book Collerctor is the export tool.  You can export your book list to many different devices, including some phones.  How neat!  Imagine, never buying duplicate books at a library sale or curriculum fair again!  Just pop out your phone, pull it up and you can see right away whether you have this book or not.  Unfortunately, I am not the owner of any such newfangled phones, so I didn't get to test that particular feature out, but many of the other TOS Crew reviewers did.

So, what did I think of Book Collector?  I think it works really well.  It is a little complicated to use, at first, but they have great information on the Collectorz website, including video tutorials.  I think it is a neat idea.  It was really fun to input and organize all the books, though possible a big waste of time.  Why? I still go to my bookshelves if I need to know how many thanksgiving books I have.  I have a pretty good idea in my head of what books I have and what I want.  And I just don't USE it.

It is a great program that works really well and has tons and tons of features.  But I have my books organized by subject on the shelves, and the ones I don't need for a few years are stored on shelves upstairs.  I really just don't see myself pulling up a program to run a search on animal books when I could just walk over and pick them out.

But, I currently have 2 copies of at least 3 or 4 books, 
so maybe I am just stubbornly old-fashioned.  :)

Go to The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog to read lots more reviews of this product, and you can check out the Collectorz site itself, and get a free trial run. 

I received this product free of charge
as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew,
for review purposes. I promise to be honest
and fair in my reviews, and I received no
other compensation in exchange for my review.
to read more reviews on this product.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Christmas Printable Game Reviews

I decided to try out Printable Games and see how I liked them, when I saw this review offer. I thought they looked like a fun activity for the kids to do this December. They also have birthday party games, baby shower games, and lots of different holiday collections.

When you buy these games you will receive a link and password to sign into the website. You will get access to the games that you buy, and you can go back and print them anytime you need more. I was pretty surprised that the files are not actually downloadable, but instead, they are just files that you access on the site and print from there. This may be good or bad, depending on your needs. It could be helpful if you need to access the files form a different computer, and it is nice that you do not have a bunch of downloads to organize.

On the other hand, if you are like me (and there may not be anyone like me, I may be weird like this. ) you like to have everything downloadable, and backed up in case.... in case SOMETHING happens, and you can't get on the internet anymore, or in case someday you decide to NOT have an internet connection (Oh! The HORROR!) or in case a future government entity monopolizes cyberspace in a wicked and terrible experiment. Or something.

Anyway. These games are really cute. They are pretty much your typical party games- right-left games, trivia, bingo, word games, etc. There is a lot here that would be really useful for churches, schools, and of course, people planning showers, Christmas parties, etc. My kids really enjoyed the Tic-Tac-Toe games, and I had fun with the word searches. I do think the prices, which vary from $6.00 to $20.00 and up, may be a little steep but if you are searching for convenience and simplicity, then it may very well be worth it to you! I personally (again, I am weird) like searching out those elusive freebies and making things myself. :)

So, if you are in the market for party games, this is a great idea! You can get a set, or you can purchase them individually. Again, I think these would be especially great for someone planning Church parties and showers, family reunions, etc, since there is enough in the collection buy to last several years! If you are an individual looking for something fun for you or your kids to do, I would pass these up. These are party games, and that is what they work best as.

[Product review & giveaway disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using 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 Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."]

Word Filled Wednesday- Little Birds

Little Bird by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere

Monday, November 1, 2010

Steps4Kids to Write Their ABCs Review

I recently recieved a DVD from Steps4Kids called "Write Their ABCs". This is a totally innovative and unique approach to teaching handwriting. The author developed the idea after watching her children struggle with their own writing. After she started getting comments from others at the amazing improvements in her children's handwriting, she decided this might be a product that other kids would benefit from as well!

So what is so different about the Steps4Kids method? Well, just about everything! To begin with, there are no workbooks. The kids just learn to write by watching someone else form the letter. This is not animated, there is a real person writing the letters and talking them through it. Instead of tracing letters, the kids make each one themselves. I really like this after hearing more about all of the negative things that tracing can cause.

Another great feature is the drawing lessons. Drawing lessons in a handwriting program? Yes! They use LETTER shapes to teach the kids how to draw some easy little figures and objects, such as using the letter 't' to make a kite. These drawing breaks are not a separate part of the DVD, they are right in there with the letters, so they really keep the kids motivated. Every few letters they get to draw something cute!

99 by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere

The Steps4Kids DVD does not introduce letters in alphabetical order. This is really important to me because introducing letters by SHAPE rather then order is a lot easier for the children. I especially appreciated the separation of the lowercase letters 'b' and 'd'. The letter 'b' is introduced with the 'l' family, and the letter 'd' is taught later, in the 'c' family. That is so helpful for those kids who have trouble with reversals! And I think kids need minimal exposure to capital letters because of their frequency of use. They need to know them, but the lowercase letters are both harder to form and more important. So it is great that on this DVD the uppercase and lowercase letters are not practiced together.

So, the real test- does it work and do they like it. It really seems to help a lot. This DVD is NOT full of fluff, it is definitely focused on learning. The voice is gentle and the writing is plain and clear. Bop and CJ have both seen great improvements in their writing since using this, but especially Cj, who has had such a hard time with his writing/drawing skills. And as for them liking it, there is no doubt there. They actually ask for it- they love it!

The only thing I wish was different about the Steps4Kids method? I really wish there was more! They already have cursive, manuscript and modern versions. I just wish that they had something that went beyond learning the letters, and had them practicing words as well. I think making the transition from 'handwriting' to 'we write this way all the time' is hard for kids. However, this is no way detracts from what IS here- a great, effective and different approach to learning to write.

You can watch an informational video on the Steps4Kids website, or see more of their products here.

I received a DVD from Steps4Kids in exchange for this unbiased review. I did not receive any other compensation, and my reviews are always honest.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Terrific Tigers Winner!!

OK, so I STILL don't know how to put the widget in my blog post. But, using the little gadget on their front page I HAVE A WINNER!

Random picked number 11, so congratulations to......


Kendra, I will send you an e-mail, and I will need your address to let Marcy know who won. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Word Filled Wednesday -The King's heart

Hike to Fall Creek 006 by warmfuzzies, on Pix-O-Sphere

PG Key

We were intrigued and excited to find out that PG Key would be one of the products we got to review for The Old Schoolhouse. PG Key is a great idea. It is a parental control that is based on a USB device. That means no monthly fees, just one purchase price! This program is $49.99 and with it you get online support and the program itself, contained on a small USB device.

So what does it do? Well, I received this product thinking that it would be a content filter- it's not. If you are looking for a content filter you will probably not be happy with this. It is more like a nanny- there to watch your kids when you can't. It took me a little while to figure out that the ideas behind this program go far beyond keeping your children from seeing inappropriate
images. There is so much more to worry about online then images. Cyber bullying, predators, inappropriate chat and IM, and the list could go on.

PG Key has several features:
  • Control when your kids are allowed on the computer
  • Control ALL access to the computer by taking the USB device out
  • Stop certain phrases form being searched
  • Block access to certain sites, or to ALL sites except the ones you approve
  • Monitoring and recording of all activity on the monitored accounts
I really like the idea of this. I like the ability to record all activity. (it does not record when there is nothing happening, so you won't have hours of inactivity to search through.) You can re-play the recorded session like a movie, and you will be able to see anything that happened. You can stop, start, fast-forward, rewind and move the slider at the bottom, just like a YouTube video. It will record 60 hours of video!

I can see so many benefits to this, over a simple content filter. First of all, for some kids, if they
know that you are trying to stop them, they will just try to find more creative ways to get around it, just for the challenge. But beyond that, do we want them to simply AVOID any unwanted content, or do we want them thinking about where they SHOULD go and making conscious decisions about it? Knowing that you are always watching, even when you are not really there, will really get kids thinking about what they SHOULD do instead of trying to figure out ways to get around what they should do.

This is also exactly what you need if you are worried about online predators. You will have a recording of all unsafe behavior on your child's part, and you will also have evidence of any inappropriate behavior on someone else's part!

I also like how you will not have to worry about constantly un-blocking safe sites, because they had a flagged word in them. A lot of science, history, and other educational sites are blocked by content filters. That is so frustrating that many parents (us included) have just quit using them.

I think that this would be a wonderful resource for men who are struggling with an addiction. If they are seeking accountability, they can get a PG Key, stick it in and have someone set it up with a password. Now the person they choose to be accountable to will always 'be there', watching.

What DON'T I like about PG Key? Well, I wouldn't say it is quiet as easy to install as they claim. You still have to set up accounts, if you want different children to have different access allowances. You will also have to set up your time allowances, prohibited search phrases, and blocked or allowed websites. The main feature that starts as soon as you plug it in is the recording feature.

I was also disappointed to find that the ONLY site that was blocked was my blog! All of the 'blogger' blogs are blocked automatically, but pictures on Flickr, Google images, and Facebook were all available. I think that this is because PG Key uses Google Safe Search to determine what sites are blocked and allowed.

It is NOT a content filter that uses certain words or phrases to trigger it. Therefore, like I said, if you are wanting a content filter, this is not it. However, if you want to block sites like Flickr or Facebook, you have to block the WHOLE site, not just one account. So it is much better utilized as a monitoring tool, not a filter. It is wonderful for monitering.

You can read more reviews on the TOS Crew website, and when you are done with that head on over to the PG Key website to get a FREE trial!

I received this product free of charge
as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew,
for review purposes. I promise to be honest
and fair in my reviews, and I received no
other compensation in exchange for my review.
You can visit The Old Schoolhouse Crew blog
to read more reviews on this product.

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