Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make the most of today!

Good morning friends! You know, while I really dislike the alarm clock, especially while it is blairing in my ear... I love the many hours I have to get things done.. when I don't ignore it!! :-) Have a wonderful productive day! Make the most of today! You don't know how many today's you will have!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Going, Going, Almost Gone........................

For many years now I have loved The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! And it is NOT because I am a part of the TOS Crew!!!  TOS has blessed my family, myself and my homeschool for many years now. Long before the crew was a glimmer in their eyes! If you have toyed with the thought of subscribing, now really is a great time! Times are tough for so many, especially families living on one income! I usually have paid $39 for 2 years. Right now their special is $7.95 for 1 year, plus free gifts. Please see the ad below to see how to redeem this offer!!!

Happy Homeschooling!!!

Going . . . going . . . almost gone!
The Old Schoolhouse®  Magazine is saying good-bye to their $7.95 subscription price (one year, U.S.) at midnight on December 31!

There is still time to treat yourself or share the gift of homeschool encouragement with your family and friends.
Receive 4 issues of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine RIGHT NOW for only $7.95! That is less than $2 per issue. Your subscription will start with their Spring 2010 issue.
This includes our one-year gift subscriptions!
Order the one-year plus current issue option and enjoy the Winter issue in January 2010 for only $12.95!
Plus, new and renewing subscribers receive bonus gifts!

Canadian and international subscriptions are also on sale—save up to 40% on a one-year print subscription.
Get all of the details here.
Hurry! December 31 is the deadline for these  sale prices.

Living Abundantly-Homemade Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softner

I have been making my own laundry soap for years. I used to make a liquid soap, however, several months ago I have found a recipe for a powdered version. I like this one A LOT!!!
Here are the ingredients:
2 cups Bar Soap (finely grated)
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
Now, you can use any bar soap that you would like. Recommended is Fels Naptha, Zote, and Ivory. However, if you have a favorite bar soap, use it! You can use chemical free soap, or traditional soaps that you find at the local grocery store. I have used all of the soaps listed above, and some others!
First I grate the soap into a bowl. Then I measure out the portions and add them to the food processor and mix until it becomes a fine powder. I store mine in an old ice cream tub. Use 2 tablespoons per load. We have been using this recipe for a couple of months and it works very well!! Here is my container and finished product!

When I found the powdered laundry soap recipe, I also found a recipe for fabric softener. We have been using this for a couple of months as well. Here is the recipe…
2 cups hair conditioner
3 cups white vinegar
6 cups warm water
Optional, few drops of essential oil of choice.

I purchased a plastic ‘cookie jar’ from the dollar store (see photos below) to keep it in. And I actually make it right inside the jar. I pour in the conditioner, then the vinegar and then the water and then whisk
it with a whisk. I have not used any essential oil. You would only do this if you want more fragrance.

I really do not smell any fragrance when the clothes come out of the dryer. They are soft and have no static clean. I purchased a bag of small sponges at the dollar store and I use two at one time. One
stays in the jar, while the other one is thrown in the dryer with each load. When putting it in the dryer squeeze the excess liquid out then put into the dryer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

ACT Explore and Plan

As a mom of kids with special needs, all the tests that high-schoolers take to prepare for their future have seemed so far away and out of reach. And in all honesty for some of my students, they simply will not be a part of their lives.

Even my son who does not have learning disabilities, I was not even thinking about college prep testing. He knows what he wants to be, he is going to be a missionary. He is headed for bible college. So we are not doing these sorts of tests to try to get him into an ivy league school. This does not mean we do not want to give him a good academic education. We do.

As a member of The Homeschool Crew we were sent a packet from ACT Advantage that included, The Explore and Plan homeschool packets which have the following items; Testing booklets titled 'Sample Test Booklet and Answer Sheet, Using your Explore/Plan results brochure- a brief overview of score results and the process.and College Readiness Standards handbook that provides ideas for progress in each subject to prepare students for college or the workforce.

Earlier this school year we received access to Discover their online career planning tool. You can read my review for that product here.

EXPLORE is designed for 8th-9th graders and it measures their skills and knowledge and can be used to prepare them for the ACT test. It covers, English, Math, Reading and Science.

I used this test with my 9th grader. It was helpful to pinpoint areas of weakness that we can spend more time.

PLAN is a measurement tool that provides a midpoint review of 10th graders progress toward college and workforce readiness when there is still time to make adjustments.  It also covers the 4 core subjects, English, Math, Reading and Science.

I used this with my 10th grader and it was equally helpful for my 10th grader as EXPLORE was for my 9th grader.

These plans are relatively inexpensive. If you are wanting, or needing to really pinpoint what your jr high/ high schooler is needing work in, this test kit can help you do that.

Each packet is available for $22.95 which includes the appropriate test booklet, The College Readiness Standards handbook and the Using your EXPLORE/PLAN results brochure.

Please visit the crew blog to see what my crew mates think about this product!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maestro Classics

As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a free copy of The Tortoise and the Hare from Maestro Classics in exchange for my honest review.

We are familiar with the classic story The Tortoise and The Hare. When I heard that audio childrens books were on the list to review I was envisioning the books of yesteryear you know the type the cassette tape with the story book and the ringing of the bell to mark when it was time to turn the page.

The story we received was nothing of the sort. This was a very intelligent version of the story. The narrator of the story is accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a delightful rendition. I enjoyed listening to it, as did my 10 year old.

Included with the story is a lesson in music theory. The children are taught about different instruments, how they work, and how you can use their sounds to invoke certain feelings. Or to create a setting for a story.

A product like this, is clearly not essential to homeschooling, however, it is a nice compliment. If you are looking for audio stories, this would be a great choice. I really like the fact that they are learning about music, while listening to an entertaining story.

Please visit Maestro Classics to see their full line of audio books. Right now they are running a special, buy 3 CDs for $45 or you can buy them individually for $16.98 each.

Please visit the Crew Blog to see what my crew mates think of Maestro Classics.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


As members of the crew we were given 45 days free membership to Mathletics for the purpose of review.

This really was not something I was looking forward to reviewing. We have reviewed several math programs and with math not being my favorite thing in the world, I was not wanting to tackle yet another math program.

However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by Mathletics. My children really have enjoyed the program.

Mathletics  is America's #1 Math Website. It is the next generation in learning. Helping students enjoy math and improve their results.  It is the essential  curriculum based resource for students at school and at home.

Benefits of Mathletics:
~ Students love it, becoming highly motivated to improve.

~Phenonmenal  improvement rates

~weekly report emailed to parents

~courriculum designed for K-8th grade

~costs less that $2 a week.

The parents section has some neat features that help to enhance the students and parents experience with Mathletics.

  Mathletics has a number of unique features to strongly support homeschooling, these include:

~ a personal mastery dial tracking a student's daily progress.

~ Access to live mental arithmetic challenges with students with students of a similar age and ability from all over the world.

~ Intelligent adaptiveness for most concepts- with questions getting harder as a student answers correctly.

~ Immediate feedback to responses with animated step by step support.

~The ability for a student to work at their own pace through the curriculum content.

~Lots of rewards and certificates for progress and the opportunity to appear on the American Hall of Fame.

~ Access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, wherever there is Internet access.

So how did that look in our house?? It looked like all 5 of my children fighting over computer time, on our one computer!   Seriously, though, I must admit on many days I have children that grunt and grimace through math. However, they have thoroughly enjoyed using Mathletics.

Here is how I had them work through it. They each had about 1/2 hour or so, depending on how much time we had that day, to devote to 'Rainforest' which is a fun area that gives them practice. Or simply in the section marked 'problem solving'.  Then I would give them an additional 1/2 hour to 45 minutes to work in the 'practice' section. I really like this section as a parent. Once in the practice section they have listed 10 topics, and then once you click on one of those topics it will break down further into a smaller subset with 10 topics. When you click on those, your student will begin to answer a series of 10 problems. After they complete a section, they are given  a score, and each problem they answered is given. I have my kids print these pages out. It shows me exactly what problems they were given and what their answers were.
After they complete all 10 topic areas there is a test. My children really enjoyed working through the program! They had lots of fun and were learning all the while!
They do refer to their program as a curriculum, however and with the instant workbooks, it is a very good resource. Though I wouldn't feel comfortable using it as my sole choice for math curriculum, however it definitely would enhance your program, especially if you had a reluctant or struggling learner!!
There regular price is $99  year, however their current price is $59 a year per child. SPECIAL:if you know The Human Calculator's favorite number, which '9' you will get the an additional discount bringing your price to $49.95.  Also, if you have more than one child you can contact them about a family discount. They also offer a 10 day money back guarantee.

Check out the crew blog to see what my crew mates think of this unique program!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The members of the TOS Homeschool Crew were given a 3 month complimentary membership to Tektoma; Game Tutorials for Kids, for purpose of review.

Tektoma offers a membership to their site, where you will find tutorials on how to create your very own video games using software available on the internet for free.. Now with 4 teenagers in my house this was very exciting!   ( for them! The Tektoma Tutorials take you step by step teaching you how to build your own video game. While the software you are using is available for free on the internet, if you are not familiar with creating video games, the software I believe, would be too complicated to take on, on your own. And that is what makes the tutorials at the Tektoma website such a help.

On the website they state that their tutorials are appropriate for ages 7-17. However, I will tell you that my 10 year old would not be able to do this on her own. However, if you have a young child who has the propensity towards computers, then I am sure they could handle it.

 My 14 and 15 year old decided to do the tutorials together. They have been having success with the program.  They  have created several games, and if I let them, they would do nothing but create games!  Well, in all honesty, my 15 year old has really taken to it, and run with it. I think once the 14 year old has more time ( his brother is hogging the computer) he will also do very well with it.

(able to focus even with their goofy sister in the background!)

On a side note, my son has really taken to this. He has really  enjoyed creating the games. As a mother, this thrills me to no end! Over the years he has been easily discouraged. He is my perfectionist. And if he cannot do things perfectly, then why bother, has always been his motto. Well, the way that Tektoma teaches them step by step how to create the video games, he has just been able to follow along and run with it. With NO intervention or guidance from me! I think the tutorials were key for this. I think he would have experienced the usual discouragement if he had to figure out the gamemaker program on his own. With Tektoma, he had a teacher, by his side every step of the way, which was great. Because his dear old mom, would not have been able to help him!

Now, let's get down to the nuts and bolts of it all...

Tektoma offers a 14 day FREE Trial, so what do you have to lose? This is something that takes time. So don't sign up for your trial, when you will not have time to devote to the computer.. Christmas break, just might be the perfect time to give this a shot!

Pricing; $14.95 per month OR $140 for a year. But here is the good news!
You can earn free membership time by referring friends. Once you are signed up, they will provide you with a secure link to share with friends. When someone signs up, you earn 15 free membership days ... in case you are so inclined, here is my link..... Join Tektoma, or you can visit their main page to sign up by clicking HERE!

Currently, the tutorials are for computers running Windows XP or Vista only. Macintosh versions coming in the future.  Broadband internet connection ~ Any browser should work, but make sure it is a current version For GameMaker tutorials, you need a copy of GameMaker installed and the GameMaker resources folder.  Instructions for downloading these files can be found on the GameMaker Tutorials page.  GameMaker requires 128mb of RAM, DirectX 8 with at least 32mb of video memory, and a screen resolution of at least 800×600.

Please visit the Crew Blog to see what my Crew Mates have to say about Tektoma!


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Maxwell Family Coming to Southern California

Will you be traveling through the Southern California area early next year? Are you a Southern California resident? Then I have good news for you! The Steve and Terri Maxwell Family are coming to Southern California! If you are not in Southern California, keep reading.. at the bottom there is something for you too!

If you have been in the homeschooling circles for any length of time, then you have probably heard of Steve and Terri Maxwell. They are a Veteran Christian Homeschool family. They speak at conferences, write books as well as publish homeschool helps. They have free email newsletters geared for both mom's and dad's to encourage you on your homeschool journey.  

One of their most popular books is 'Managers of Their Homes" A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Families".  many Homeschool Families have been able to navigate through their homeschool journey a little easier by using MOTH.

Terri Maxwell wrote one of my favorite books, 'Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit'. It was a real blessing to me, as she is a Christian, with a large family who homeschools. And has homeschooled for a long time. So you can listen to what she says,  as she speaks with experience.

 If you are in the L.A. Area they will be in Burbank on January 21st. Click here for info on that conference.

They will also be in Fallbrook for a weekend conference February 12-14th. You can click here for info on that conference.

Now if you are not in either one of those areas, have no fear!! Visit Once there, you can sign up for their free email newsletter, under 'Dad's/Mom's Corner'.  You also can look into booking them to come speak in your area. If you click here   you can find a listing of where they are currently booked, as well as request info on having them come speak at your event.

If you are in the L.A.  area, our family plans on attending. We look forward to seeing you all there.

Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Little Something New

Is your family like ours? We struggle with the monotony of family life. As homeschoolers we spend all of our time, (okay, not ALL of our time) at home. So the drudgery of chores and school work can get the best of you. Several of my children and I suffer from ADD. Yes, even I struggle with dealing with it as an adult. I easily lose focus. I have the greatest of intentions though I do not always see them through to fruition.

My children, suffer from this as well. A few are  probably from my lack of discipline and a couple actually suffer from ADD as well.

Well, while watching my daughter struggle with it, I came up with an idea of how we could combat this problem for them, and for me!

My idea was born from PECS  that is used in the Autism circles as a form of communication. When my oldest was small we used this method for schedules. I would velcro these pictures onto a velcro strip in the order he was to do his tasks.

So, this concept is simple. Make picture cards for chores and school work. What I did was using Microsoft Word, I made a template of textboxes, and then I inserted clip art and typed in the function I wished to be completed.
I made each box the approximate size of an id card.

I printed them out on cardstock, and then cut them out, laminated them and then punched a whole in the corner.

 Like this:

I chose this format, as I am using this system with both readers and non readers. That way I did not have to make two separate batches.

Each child has a set of their own which is on a 1 inch silver book ring.

It looks something like this:

So each day I will add onto the ring the school assignments they are expected to finish. As well as their automatic daily chore, in our house that is "general pick up" and "clean bedroom".  Then we will all come together and the kids will pick from the chore cards. Whatever chores they pick, get added to their ring.

When they complete the card, they take it off the ring and hand it to me.
This serves two purposes. Their ring, helps them to remember what is on their plate for their day. And when they hand me their card, it reminds me to go check their work right away. Accountability for the both of us!

I must admit we have just started this, but it has been great so far. They have even taken to trading the chore cards. Which initially, I wasn't too sure about. However, the only rule I've come up with, is that both members have to want to trade. No arm twisting allowed!

The kids liked that they are not tied to the same chore day after day. And it has brought a since of fun to our day. It has also helped them remember what we have planned educationally to get done, without the verbal cues from me!

So how does your family combat the monotony of the daily grind? I would love to hear about it!  Leave a comment about it below!

Happy Homeschooling!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I know there are people who love it and people who hate. I have to tell you a little over a year ago when a friend told me about facebook, I thought, really, do I need something else to 'do'? I have enough on my plate as it is.

Well, I have thouroughly enjoyed Facebook! Not only has it been a great way for our family to stay connected. We have members all over the country. It even helps with members of our church and our homeschool group. You know the people you talk to at church, but you may not list everything that you did all week. It has proven to be a fun way to connect, and keep connect with people face to face!

In addition, it has given me the ability to connect with friends from yester year!! Just in the last two days I have found friends from grammar school!  We went to a TINY school. Less than 100 kids went to this school, and it was in the heart of Los Angeles. So can you say needle in a hay stack???

It has been awesome! And we are planning a get together after the first of the year! I am so looking forward to catching up with them!

If you are leary of Facebook, or if you just don't think it is worth it, give it try, I really think you would enjoy it.

Side note: there are some quirks... worst of them being they periodically change the format and all the user get in a tizzy for a few days, but it then dies down and we get used to the new format. And they also offer privacy features, so you can keep yourself very private!