Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Exploracise Gymathtics DVD

On the right side of the screen is a DVD cover for an exercise DVD that I was given the privilege of reviewing for "Old Schoolhouse Crew" team. I have mixed emotions about this. I have done this exercise routine 2-3 times with my 8 year old son. He does not like to do it as he gets totally wiped out.
I will explain why. During the exercise routine there is a lady guiding you through the exercises but the screen is also made smaller so that Math patterns, shapes, and skip counting can be included in the picture. I found my attention diverted from following the instructor and so did he so he could follow what was being shown instead.
I liked the exercises and find that he needs to be able to do them and they will enable him to participate more in the sports world, but he could not keep up with the instructor. The other children shown on the DVD seem to have some issues with that too. The concept of learning and doing exercise at the same time is a credible one, but for a child who has difficulty focusing on more than one thing at the same time it could be difficult. I told him to ignore the counting and just do the exercises instead.
In my opinion I think the instructor/s should present each exercise slowly before continuing with the group and the music so that the children are able to figure it out first before rushing in to something they do not know how to do. I definitely would advise parents being in the same room or within watching distance as if children are spaced too close together this could cause a problem.
I do notice from their website that the DVD Gymathtics has been voted as one of the 100 best toys for 2009 by Dr Toy. The Math facts are targeted towards Grade 2nd-5th. There is a second DVD being worked on right now. the cost of this fun educational workout is $24.99 with free S&H at the moment. Here is a link to their site: .
If you would like some other folks opinions on this DVD for exercise for your children please click on over to the Homeschool Crew website. ( ) I will be using this DVD when my son is older and can grasp the concepts a little more with doing exercise and Math at the same time!
I have been given this product for free to review it as part of the Homeschool Crew. I have written about my opinion of the product and am not being paid for this information.


It has been a week since doing my last review. I was away on a brief vacation with my husband in Kentucky. We had some time to unwind, some time to hike and some time to eat without worrying about little guys to feed. It was good for us.

Before I left I attended my local MOPS group and shared this unique idea with them about doing a Thanksgiving Tree with your children. There are many ways to do this but I have included a link that you can click through to that explains in more detail what to do. I think this is a cool idea.

Children or adults trace around their hands and/or feet to form the 'leaves' for the tree. You draw a trunk and branches for the tree on a big piece of poster paper or board. Then by cutting out the leaves and sticking or pinning them to the tree you have a memory of each year of what your family was thankful for during that year. The tree may be rolled up and kept safe or the leaves taken off and kept in the family picture album. Oh yes the children and you are supposed to write on those leaves what you are thankful for.

I included one of my husband's hands, two of mine, and three or four of our children. I also managed to trace a handprint from our son B, who passed away last year. I wrote things on it that he would have been thankful for if he was here. We had taken handprints of him on the night he died. It was a special way to include him in our Thanksgiving Holiday this year. Last year it did not mean much to any of us as we were not feeling very thankful.

Please link to their site and see how you can make your own tree in whatever size you want. I know of families that make an enormous one and put it on the back of a door (front door). then everyone who comes to visit over that weekend fills out a leaf or two and sticks it on. This makes an excellent memory of who was there and what they were thankful for too.

Heres the link again and a photo is posted of what ours looks like right now. We still have a few 'leaves' to fill in still. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: AVKO Educational Research Foundation

I have recently been allowed to access the following website as part of the Homeschool Crew 2009-10 and learned some things about the English language that I did not know. It is hard! I can not remember how I learned to read and what method I was taught to read by but always have known that I learned to read at a young age and have loved it ever since.

I am outlining below the Mission Statement presented on the website so that you have a clearer understanding of what the goals of this company are before you read the review.

AVKO Mission Statement

The AVKO Educational Research Foundation, founded in 1974, has as its mission the following:
To determine what makes the learning of reading and spelling so difficult for some and so easy for others.
To determine what it is about our language that good readers learn without being taught that poor readers don't.
To determine whether or not that which poor readers don't learn is ever systematically taught and if it isn't, if it can be.
To devise techniques and materials to enable teachers (or parents) to systematically teach poor readers and/or poor spellers that which schools presently are not teaching.
To widely disseminate its discoveries of techniques and materials that enable dyslexics to learn to read and to spell.

From what I have determined listening to various MP3 files that I have downloaded and read many different articles during my access time to this site that AVKO is helping those with Dyslexia and/or slow learning students to improve drastically in their spelling, reading, writing and comprehension of the English language.

The website offers two kinds of membership to their site. The Basic Membership allows you access to download hundreds of dollars worth of E-books on Spelling and Reading, How to Teach a Dyslexic, How to teach reading and spelling, 25 % discount on printed materials, MP3 recordings of workshops on this spelling method, some word games, activities nd placement tests too. This is a cost of $25.00 per year.

The Deluxe Membership costs $100.00 per year and gives you access to all of the above, as well as being able to read all of AVKO's Curriculum materials (not including Sequential Spelling which is their most well known item I believe), 25% discount off printed materials, and access to AVKO's newest E-books. This Deluxe Membership is available to co-ops and learning centers too.

I would say this website is a great wealth of information especially for those who are having difficulty teaching a certain child how to read and spell. I have listened to a lot of what I have downloaded but am content with the system I am using now as it is working for my son. I have been able to download and read some of the E-books to use at a later stage. They are very well set out although I personally prefer a book in my hands to be able to flip the pages back and forth, and not be in front of the computer all day long.

The AVKO Website does have free samples of lessons and other teaching aids for you to download and try before making the membership purchase. I would recommend this website and system if you need it. For my situation though I was confused as I am using a curriculum that is useful for my sons Audio, Visual and Kinesthetic needs.

Oh yes by the way AVKO stands for:

A - Audio V - Visual K - Kinesthetic O - Oral

These are all the techniques used in the program "Sequential Spelling." Your child is using all of these 4 ways to learn how to read and spell.

This review is my opinion. I was given free access to this membership for a limited time to be able to write this review. If you think this will work for you and your child please can you take a look at some other Crew reviews at the following link:

You may also click through to AVKO's website directly at

Break time for Mum and Dad

After a long time of being married, all of 12 years my husband and I took a very short 2 day vacation last week to Kentucky. It was a good break for us in that we only had to think of each other and not what each little person needed every moment of the day. Our children were being well taken care of and loved where they were.

We were very tired ourselves and did a lot of sleeping, some hiking and some reading. I, of course had some Homeschooling books in my lap during this time. I had no access to the Internet so was not able to cruise at all. I am tossing around some ideas on what to teach my 8 year old son, and what I am using does not seem to be going in his head much, or staying there. We are working on a Football Unit Study which we have put together ourselves with a little help from a friend in Florida. It is holding his interest more than any other subjects right now. Doing formal language and grammar just does not spark him at all but when we sit down and talk about Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts, or the Bengals or perhaps the New York Giants he is all ears. He remembers who did what to whom in which game, and sometimes has to go look it up on the Internet under our watchful eye. He loves to watch replays of games over and over. I can't for the life of me understand why but perhaps this is something I will use to get him to do some timelines on each team's history and perhaps players and owners too. History, geography, lots of writing and some research thrown in and he is all for it. I personally still don't understand the game of course!

I am spending quite a few hours these days reviewing alternative curriculums and searching my heart and the Lord's will on which direction to go. A Charlotte Mason attitude with real books and not too many sit down and write lessons are attracting me, as well as finding someone who puts this altogether for me in a package and I just follow it. Our lives are so crazy with grief counselling, toddlers running through the house and a big guy who makes noise wherever he goes I need something simple and easy to follow! Anyone have any ideas for that one - let me know.

Following this post will be a review of another Spelling program and website that I have been looking at over the past 6 weeks.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review: American Heritage Education Foundation

A month or two ago I received a CD in the mail from a friend in Florida from the American Heritage Education Foundation. I left it in the packet as it was summer and did not feel like looking at it right then. Well then as part of the Old Schoolhouse Crew Daniel and I received another packet in the mail with one more of these CD's for us to review.

I set to work as it is nearing Thanksgiving season, and as I do not totally 'feel' the vibes this time of year having not been raised in the USA, looked at some lessons in depth. The CD is broken up into about 15 or 16 sections covering subjects from the origin of the US Flag, the Star Spangled Banner, the Constitution, American Revolution, Origins of Thanksgiving, US Presidents, Statue of Liberty, Pledge of Allegiance, America the Beautiful and What is an American. There are a few I may have left out of here.

As I was reading I decided to print out some of the word searches and information for Thanksgiving Holidays, words and pictures for The Star Spangled Banner, Mini books on the United States Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. I printed and cut out the words for the Star Spangled Banner song and then Daniel had to put the words in order on the table. We listened to versions of the song online and kept playing the music over and over so we could sing the entire song with all the verses that one does not normally hear.

I am sure in later years I will probably use this CD and it's information to supplement other curriculums. It is set up to be for a public school or multi student curriculum in my opinion. My son does not like straight bookwork so needs variation other than just writing to remember things. the crosswords helped him out a little with this and that is spelling practice for him too. He does not like comprehension but if I ask the questions, he answers, and then I fill in the answers he tends to go over them later in his spare time. He reads over his old work a lot.

I did use this CD during the last 30 days to supplement what we were already doing for our Thanksgiving Notebook. As I am not a born and bred American I find things like this interesting for me. Perhaps if my son was older he would be looking on the CD for his own information.

The CD contains information at many different Education levels listed in the following order:

Elementary School Level

Elementary School Level Spanish

Middle School Level

High School Level

A version of Acrobat Reader is also available for download off the CD. The cost of the information on the CD is valued at around $150.00. The CD is made available for free and the Foundation relies on donations to enable them to mail out these CDs to educators and parents alike all over the United States.

I enclose the quote from the Foundations website below to reveal to you their mission:

Our Mission
AHEF is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation (501.c.3) dedicated to the understanding and teaching of America's factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility among our students and citizens.
AHEF accomplishes this patriotic mission by writing, producing, and distributing FREE K-12 lesson plans to teachers, students, and families in all 50 states and through additional initiatives, programs, and partnerships.
AHEF is inclusive of individuals of every race and creed and every religious or non-religious persuasion.

I think perhaps the goal of educating America's children with the rich history of their country is a good one. There are many immigrants here in the United States including myself who do not know where, when and how some of the traditions were established in this country. The information gives clear unbiased information on the government and US presidents too.

I have received the above educational material for free and have been asked to review it. The above review is therefore my personal opinion on the product. Thank you for reading it. Please go to the following website for more on this product or across to the Homeschool Crew website ( for more opinions on this jam packed informational CD). I do happen to have one or two extra copies in my homeschool basket. Email me if you are interested in one please.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Review: Bright Ideas Press

"Hands On Geography"

Easy and Fun Activities for Exploring God's World

Have you ever wanted to jump on a plane and leave your home to go explore the world for however long you wish to. I definitely do. I grew up flying to Europe, South Africa, Australia and United Kingdom on planes, learning about the countries and their people. I am not able to financially do that for my children so we are learning through our books.
I had the unique book called "Hands On Geography" sent to be by Bright Ideas Press. One of the main chapters in this book that perked my interest was the 'Passport Fair' and the 'Missionary Geography.'

In the 'Passport Fair' the author Maggie Hogan outlines how to organize a 'visit' to countries you can not physically get to yourself by having a Passport Fair. Participants need to each research a different country that interests them and then write about, draw pictures, find photographs, perhaps postcards, make foods from, and even wear costumes for that country. At the fair there are booths to display all the different information they have collected. Obviously it needs to made interesting to their peers and not just themselves. I loved this idea and am working on doing this with our Field trip coop perhaps.
The second chapter that interested me was Missionary Geography. this will teach your children and you about other countries as well as the culture and people there by studying missionaries who have been there, or perhaps contacting a missionary. The children can put on dramas, try out the different foods the missionaries have to eat, perhaps even start a prayer map for all the different missionary outreaches from your church or ministries they know of. They are learning facts and getting compassion all at the same time.
This Geography book was very basic but has solid biblical principles behind it too. We are in the middle of the 'Joseph's Journey' study too which is making us dig deeper into Joseph's life and the purpose behind it.

I have had to adjust some of the concepts for my son to a lower level of understanding but generally he gets it. We will be using this Activity book for future study and perhaps lap booking too.

Christian Kids Explore Biology

I was also privileged to review the above titled book. This is a thick book with 8 different units with 3-4 lessons in each unit. The book is for Grade 3-8 level Biology. The topics covered are Biology Basics, Plants in God's World, Birds of the Earth, Mammals in the Wild, the Human factor, Reptiles All Around, Insects High and Low, and Water Creatures.

As we were doing a lap book on Fall I decided to use the lesson on Trees in our lap book as an additional subject. We were already tracing the leaves so I added in more detail from this Biology book to teach my son a little more. I benefited from it too re-learning some things I had first read about over 30 years ago.

I had agreed to review this book even though it was not totally age applicable for my son but feel that it will be used in the future to boost our nature studies no matter what other curriculum we may be using. The lesson plans are outlined for the parent and the materials needed are not too costly and are outlined at the beginning of each unit. I fell the author Stephanie Redmond has done a great job of explaining the principles of what you are learning throughout the book. She has used most of the ideas she gives on her own children and is a homeschooling mother herself.
The curriculum does leave room for you to do more research on your own with books you may find at home or in your local library. Science is a difficult subject to teach and the author has done a fine job of presenting the facts. Of course there are lots of other reviews to look at for Bright Ideas Books on the Crew website or at
I have been given the opportunity to review these curriculum books for free and have not been paid to do so. These reviews are my opinion and you need to research the company's involved yourself before making a purchase. Please see the following page for more reviews from the Crew.

Fall and Grieving

We have recently passed the one year anniversary of our son's death from Medulloblastoma cancer. After hearing from a friend up in Northern Indiana that her daughter is still doing well and has recurrence of the same cancer, I sit in wonder. I can only ponder on all the what if this and that and then I think that Brendon is doing better than he probably would be on earth. He has a big home and a whole body too. He has lots of friends that are with him all the time and he is allowed to play with whoever he wants, whenever he wants. His life in heaven is spent praising the Lord most likely.

We visited the cemetery on the anniversary of his death even though it was bucketing down rain here in Indy. It sort of reflected the mood that we had been feeling for a few days already. The boys are trying to get along with each other but that is a challenge. My oldest is fighting school every day but does really well when he applies himself to it. I have a natural love of learning but I think some boys have a love for goofing around, and trying to get out of work in every way they can.

Our family is struggling on a daily basis still to develop new normals. Holiday season this year will still be a challenge as we remember our last Christmas with Brendon in 2007 was so much fun! I had better sign off as this is causing me to tear up again. Please continue to pray for our family when you can. We so appreciate that!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Review: ABC Teach Website


I once again received a fairly interesting product. The above highlighted title is for a HUGE website for any learning related information or documentation. I was given a complimentary subscription for 30 days to this website. ABC Teach does give access on their site to at least 5000 of these printable items. A membership to the site for the cost of $40 per year and will enable you to access at least 35 000 different kinds of documents.

The range and variety is incredible. I was away on vacation for 2 weeks of my 30 day trial so did not really have much time to check out everything I would have liked to delve into. I will list below some of the things that interested me.

- Handwriting practice sheets
- Unit Studies
- Math worksheets for a wide range of skill levels
- Holiday themed studies e.g for Lapbooking
- Different language worksheets
- Ability to create your own template spelling lists from words you use in your own studies
- Being able to create crosswords, word searches and scrambled words from your spelling words
- Cross curriculum
- Comprehension stories and questions (including themed and seasonal ones)

This is just a miniscule amount of the information compared to what is actually on there. Daniel loves word searches, crosswords and fill in the gap stuff. I printed out a bunch of things for him to work on when we travel in the car on errands. I also included some printed comprehension worksheets, crosswords and word searches in our Unit Study on Thanksgiving this month. He likes to do all kinds of different things with the same words, and not straight creative writing. We are adding in some things on the American Flag and the Star Spangled Banner to this Thanksgiving Study we are working on. This allows him to work on his own a little so I can take care of the toddler.

I have heard there are other websites online that have these kinds of worksheets available for free or to pay a minimal fee. The ease of having everything available at one site may definitely work for you and save you time looking all over the place. I do not think I personally will benefit from having access to this many printables because I do not use them on a daily basis. For someone whose child absolutely loves bookwork or copywork then this would be ideal. At this time in our lives it is not beneficial for us to purchase this membership.

I would however say that I have enjoyed digging into so many different kinds of things on ABC Teach that I had never even thought of using before. You can get a taste of this well stocked website by visiting for yourself. I am sure I will be popping back there from time to time to see the different articles that may be added to the '5000 free printables' area.

I am blessed to be a reviewer this year and not have to pay for these products, and when I use them I then write on my experience and opinion with the product, and affirm you to try them out for yourself. Drop by the Crew review site and read what my fellow crew mates say about ABC Teach!