Monday, February 29, 2016

TOS Review ~ Faith Builders Bible

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}
Our family has been enjoying the Faith Builders Bible by Zonderkidz recently. This is a kid-friendly Bible that is written in the familiar style of the New International Reader's Version. It is geared toward a third grade reading level, which makes it easier to read for children. The book is hardcover and the pages are thin but durable. I also found that the book stays open, lying flat, no matter to what page we open it. That is very handy when you are building. From the moment you open the Bible, you realize you are in for something fun and different. This Bible has two Tables of Contents. The first contents page has the books of the Bible stacked up on building bricks, and the second is the traditional Table of Contents with numbered pages. Thus, it is eye catching and very easy to understand the line up of the various books of the Bible. 
As you move deeper into the book, you will find the Can You Build page, which encourages the reader to build what they read. It is clever and excites your young architect to want to see and build more. 
Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

The actual content of the New International Reader's Version is written in the typical small print commonly found in Bibles. The font size is 9 and the spacing is nice on the pages, making it easy to keep your place while you are reading. We are using this Bible for our current family Bible study. My children have no trouble reading the print and finding assigned verses. Furthermore, throughout the book are lovely illustrated pages where the stories of the Bible are depicted with brick building creations. Each one of these pages has a builder block picture, a recap of the story and a building block verse. My children find it fairly easy to copy some of the pictures with their own blocks. They then build their own stories from the Bible. I appreciate all of the encouragement to build the many stories of the Bible. Building what they have read is great reinforcement for my children, both of whom learn kinesthetically. I love educational products that provide multiple ways of learning so am pleased that this Bible provides both visual and kinesthetic learning. There is also a small dictionary in the back of this Bible which helps your children be more independent in their Scripture learning. Overall, my children found this Bible very easy to use.
The Faith Builders Bible would also make a wonderful gift. It has a presentation page on the inside cover. I love the Scripture on the page, "Let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build up one another." Romans 14:19.
My children are really enjoying this Bible. My daughter said, "I like the block pictures. I can build some of them. My favorite is the Fruit of the Spirit page." My son takes it to bed with him to read at night. He actually has set aside his usual bedtime book in order to investigate this Bible further. That is a win/win in my book. This Bible is $24.99, which is a great buy for such a high quality book.
Blessings, Dawn

Faith Builders Bible {Zonderkidz Review}

Sunday, February 28, 2016

R Is for Reflections and Radiance

All of the pictures and video clips are from Anne and Dean's most recent dance showcase. I could only post short clips because Blogger only allows 100 megabyte films.

This is going to be mainly a reflections post with a bit of radiance thrown in for good measure. My kids are growing up by leaps and bounds. I am so blessed and thankful to be able to be at home with them, watching them grow to become these incredible people. Not only am I happy to be so blessed, but the older they get, the more I realize that my role as a parent is even more complicated than when they were babes. Babies are easy. They eat, sleep, and are adorable. But as they grow and go out into the world, they experience many dangers. Of course, I cannot protect them from every possible danger, but I can decrease the bad influences by keeping very close tabs on the people and activities that are influencing them. I am fully aware that every activity they do must be considered carefully to determine if it is useful, safe, and providing them necessary skills to become the people they want to be. Every moment is precious and I want to make sure that nothing is wasted. However, even more importantly, I want to make sure they are doing things that are truly giving them wings to fly into their futures as radiant people. 
Anne did a five minute solo that she choreographed herself. 
I wish I could show the entire dance. She nailed it!

Dance has certainly proven to be one of the activities that is having a profoundly positive influence on my kids' lives. It makes them radiantly happy. 
Most of these girls have only been dancing with pointe shoes for a few months.


I sometimes hear other mothers complain about the time and money it takes to raise kids. I just don't get it. I don't mind investing in them for a moment. What more important mission could I spend my days on than guiding my kids on the path to adulthood? 

So as they keep growing and stretching, I am watching carefully from the wings, ready to step in when guidance is needed. However, from my current view, they are flying high towards a radiant future.

Dean is the boy in the red shirt with gold tie. He's come a long way with physical therapy!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 26, 2016

Q Is for Quest

We have grandparents in town this week. Our little city has had its fair share of rain, snow, wind, and cold this week so we have been on a Quest to find fun, mostly indoor, activities. Our city is nestled in the mountains and boasts a huge amount of outdoor activities. However, if you want to be indoors and don't want to shop or visit little art galleries, the list of activities gets much shorter. Mind you, I was raised in a large city, the capital of our country, in fact, so I am a bit spoiled when it comes to expectations.

We did find a fair amount of fun this week ~

Quest 1 ~ We went to a ceramics place to paint. We had taken my Mom there a few weeks ago and thought this set of grandparents would enjoy it. We all either painted ceramics or did glass fusion. Our creations will be fired and returned to us in about a week. It was a fun morning.
Grandpa made a mug with his signature cat face on it.
Anne made a tea set for her American Girl Dolls.
Grandma tried glass fusion. This flat piece will turn into a bowl.
My son has a myriad of facial expressions! He made a soda bottle.

I made a heart bowl. I can't wait to see them all shiny and finished.

Quest 2 ~ We ate out at three different restaurants. We had pizza, crepes, and chicken and waffles during their stay. That is a ton of eating out for our family in a week.


Quest 3 ~ We went to the aSHEmuseum. This is a relatively new museum in our city that is focused on women and how they live all around the world. I enjoyed the display that told about a day in the life of women in many different countries. Anne liked the puzzles and Dean liked the famous women's quote section. Tim liked the documentaries throughout the museum.


We can do it even if our clothes are way too big ~ Ha!
Quest 4 ~ We walked around downtown and visited a few art galleries. We also stopped in at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial historical site. 
See grandpa in the background? Photography runs deep in our family!

Will Dean be as tall as Thomas Wolfe when fully grown?
What a blessed week!

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TOS Review ~ The Climbing Knights

SimplyFun Review


I'm reviewing The Climbing Knights,  one of four SimplyFun new releases. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to review this game. What a great board game it is! We were immediately impressed with the materials used to make the game. The box itself is strong enough to last for years to come. The game is extremely sturdy and well built, being manufactured out of a thick, high-quality cardboard. The pieces are durable, so I have no doubt they can be assembled over and over again without wear. I was also impressed with how easy assembly is. My daughter had it all put together in just a few minutes. The game is 29 inches tall when it is fully assembled. It is also a breeze to disassemble and fit neatly back into the box. I found the directions to be uncomplicated, so we were off and playing in no time.


SimplyFun Review


This game is all about strategy and spacial reasoning. Spacial reasoning is the ability to think about objects in a three-dimensional way. People who work at developing this skill will eventually be able to imagine how an object would look if it were rotated. They will be able to manipulate 2-D and 3-D objects in their heads. This skill helps people in many careers, such as engineers, urban planners, computer scientists, industrial designers, cartographers, sculptors, tailors, carpenters, graphic designers, mechanical designers, navigators, physicists, and architects -- to name just a few.

Each player is a knight who is trying to scale the wall of the castle and avoid the guards. It sounds easy, right? Not so -- there are ledges to hide under and windows to move around! But watch out -- with each roll of the die, the guards are able to move and may be able to see you. So you have to keep thinking about what is the safest move with each turn and what future moves the guards may be able to make. If the guards see you, down the wall you fall. Are you wondering how the knights stay attached to the wall? The knight figures are magnetic. Isn't that cool? They stick very well to the wall. My son, who has a tremble in his hands due to cerebral palsy, was easily able to place the knights and make them stick. This drastically increased his enjoyment of the game. I really appreciated the way the designers of the game did such a good job making the game work smoothly. My son Dean (13) said, "This game has really nice mechanics and rules." He especially likes that one of the die choices put the guards to sleep. Anne (12) said, "I like the concept of hiding from the guards and figuring out how to avoid them." Anne must really like the game, because she has asked to play it every day for six days in a row.



In addition to the game being straightforward in setting it up and in breaking it down, it is a relatively quick game. The directions say that the game takes about 30 minutes. We found that it only took about 20 minutes with two people playing. However, when four people played, it took closer to an hour. The extra length of time is probably due to some of my more strategy-driven children thinking through their moves longer than most would.

We are a family that plays games almost every night, especially during the fall and winter months. I would highly recommend this game as an addition to a family's collection. It is fun, easy to set up, and challenging enough to keep kids and adults engaged.



SimplyFun Review
Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review ~ HelpTeaching.com

HelpTeaching Review
I had the opportunity to  review the website HelpTeaching.com recently. I was given full access to the site with the membership to Pro Plan. This website is a platform for teachers and homeschoolers to access many lessons and tests. It has material for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. There are tests, worksheets, full lessons and a game generator. 

One of my favorite areas on this site was the Test Maker. You can make a test for your children using three different options. One option is to create an original test using your own questions. The second option is to use the website's library of questions to create a test. The third option is to key in the subject you want to test and allow the website to make it for you. I preferred using the test maker to create my own tests with my own questions. As you create your own questions, you are given the option of how to present the question (i.e., multiple choice or fill in the blank). You can change the order of the questions. I found this Test Maker to be especially easy to use. You can store all of your tests under the My Content section. I also like option two. I created a test all about dance using some of the questions from their library of questions. With more than 500,000 questions, there is something for every subject.

There is also a section for tests and worksheets that are already made. I explored this section by having my children do all of the worksheets associated with chapter books that they had read in the last year. My kids took about ten of the literature tests. They found the tests pleasantly easy (their words) and enjoyed the format. I did find a few typos in the tests plus one answer that was wrong in the answer key. Other than that, the tests were a good review for my children and were easy to print out and take with us when we knew we were going to be sitting in a doctor's office for several hours.
We also did several of the grammar lessons. I told them to start at the 5th grade lessons and work their way up to 8th grade lessons. They were able to do the lessons independently. I appreciated that they were able to work through the lessons and learn the material without any intervention from me. This is not our usual format of learning, but sometimes I must address other issues. It was nice that they did not miss out on their schooling because I was busy elsewhere. Many of the lessons use Khan Academy videos, which my kids really enjoyed. Below is an example of a language arts lesson.
HelpTeaching Review
Lastly, we enjoyed the game generator. We made several games to print out and enjoy. The kids liked having their spelling/vocabulary words put into word searches and Bingo. I also made up some dance Bingo cards for my daughter to use with a dance friend when she has her visit for an overnight. With the Bingo game, you put in the words you want and it mixes the words up on multiple cards. You can determine how many cards you want. Overall, I found the games to be fun and add to the kids' educational experience. There is a host of resources on this site. Go check it out!
HelpTeaching Review

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, February 20, 2016

P Is for Performances, Painting and Passions


Our last week or two could be characterized by P words. We have gone to performances, followed our passions, and done tons of painting.

Performances ~ We were fortunate to be able to attend two school matinee performances at our city's largest theater. We saw the Yamato Drummers of Japan and Mummenshanz. Both shows were great and a unique experience for my kids.





Painting ~ We finished painting (all but the ceiling) of the guest room/office. Our daughter Goldilocks had this room when she lived at home. Changing the color of this room's walls helped solidify in our minds that Goldilocks probably will not be coming home. She is not healing significantly in her mental health placement and is not likely to ever be ready to live in a typical family setting during the rest of her childhood. She is 15 now and we are considering group home settings that may be able to help her work toward living independently in the future. It eventually may be determined that she needs to stay in long-term care even in adulthood. Out of the blue this past week, she informed me that her favorite place to live during the past two years since she ran away had been the psychiatric hospital! As she said, she hadn't had to make any choices in that setting and there were very few people that she had to deal with. This is not an option, of course. Can you imagine preferring to live in a mental health hospital? None of this is as easy as the words I have written. There are monthly boarding fees costing almost as much as our monthly mortgage (and that is for the inexpensive places), caseworkers' and doctor's opinions to consider, and the never-ending battle with insurance (currently, our caseworker is handling this). Consequently, painting this particular room was different from painting other rooms in our home. It was a healing experience for our family. There was a finality in it and a chance to move forward.
Learning how to install new baseboards
Honey Milk is the paint color we chose. It is calm and neutral.
Passions ~ We have been very busy following our passions this week. Anne and Dean are working very hard on their dances for the showcase next weekend. Anne has a solo. They have both received compliments from the director this week. I love watching them bloom! I know people complain all the time about the tween/teen years, but for the most part I am loving them. My kids are great and it is so exciting to see what they love and want to do with their lives.

Speaking of passions, I am very passionate about education and I am enjoying my job on the TOS review crew. I love receiving new curriculum to explore and then telling you all about it. Check out my latest review here.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review ~ HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

We had the pleasure of reviewing a wonderful product from Home School in the Woods recently. We received HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections. What a wonderful product. We  were offered the digital Lap-Pak. It was very easy to download and worked smoothly on our computer. This product has several parts to print out. There are 21 lap booking projects, excellent instructions, and a reading text that you can print out in binder form or booklet form. I chose to print out everything all at once and place it in a binder. However, you could choose to print the pages out as you come to the next part of the lesson. The screen was well organized so you are able to see right where you are and what is coming next.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review



My children (12 and13) and I have done many lap books over the years. It has been a part of our learning style since they were preschoolers. This is the first time I have used Home School in the Woods products and I was definitely impressed. This is hands down the coolest lap book we have ever created. Each of the 21 lap booking projects is unique and creative. There were several lap books that had additions to them to make the pop out like a pop-up book. My kids loved the national convention one that called for the addition of glitter. I also was happy that we had all of the extras (glitter, fabric, brads) that were needed to assemble the book. Most households would have everything needed already at their disposal. As we made each lap book, we placed them in a plastic bag for storage until it was time to assemble them together.
One of the things that is really nice about this curriculum is all of the choices. You could read the text in binder form or booklet form or you could listen to the text on an audio file on your computer. My children are visual learners so we only listened to a few of the files. We chose to read the text in booklet form. I also really appreciated how the instructions were set up. I was pleased that they had a picture of of each of the 21 lap book projects so that I was able to see the finished product. I often do better when I can see the project completed with the step-by-step assembly instructions. The pictures made it very easy for our family to put together each book.
The finished example lap book
Our finished lap book
When it came time to assemble all of the books together, the instructions were excellent. However, my kids took off assembling the book on their own and did not follow the instructions to the letter so ours does not look exactly like the company's example. That is fine with me. I was pleased to see them show the initiative to start it on their own. The kids were excited and worked independently to complete the project.


I am sure this lap book will be read many times over the coming months leading up to the elections. There is so much information to absorb. I really like that we created a hands-on project that will be used over and over again for years to come. 

We loved this product and can't wait to try more Home School in the Woods Lap-Paks.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review
Blessings, Dawn