Wednesday, May 4, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Yesterday's Classics

Being all Charlotte Masony like in our style,  I have tried my best to add many of the books she recommended into our humble library collection (OK, maybe not so humble-perhaps "our ever growing" collection would describe it better). Unfortunately, especially when I first started reading up on her methods and choices for literature,  I often found myself engulfed in the disparaging situation of just trying to find, let alone purchase those books. Why you ask? Well, because she lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and many of those beauties have long since become (the dreaded 3 words to any book collecting enthusiast) "OUT OF PRINT." Yes, the horror.  Nothing more frustrating than trying to find what sounds so awesome and perfect for your current studies, than to face the "ever present, non-existent/not available book of choice" hunt.  

Thankfully, this is where the eVersion books have become so very helpful-because many of those out of print (of course in print books too) are now available for the download.  I couldn't possibly spend the time it would take to locate these, nor could I afford the expense of purchasing the multitude of books (since many are way over priced) that I would want. 


I cannot deny that I love, love, love the smell/feel/nostalgic comfort of books, the "turning of the pages" sound and so forth-but I do not love the bulkiness, the storage issue and most importantly-the pain of trying to lug several of them (literally the pain folks as many of my books are quite heavy) when I travel.  I must face the facts here that the eVersion craze is not so crazy.  I admit (wholeheartedly) that I love to be able to have several hundred books just a click away (and if you are wondering-no I do not have an eReader just yet-but I do have the free app for it on my PC and I do take my 'puter just about everywhere). So yes, I have conquered my anti-eVersionite phobia, to now actually being able to promote them. So where am I going here?  Well, you have probably noted two things so far: I use mostly Charlotte Mason methods for homeschooling (ie: living books); and I am reviewing eVersion books.  Well, I hope you got that anyway.

So, there is this company called Yesterday's Classics, of which I have the privilege of  telling you about.  They have compiled a collection (225 books so far) of several wonderful books that were written during the 1880s to 1920s-where charming and good character go hand in hand.  Better yet is that Y.C.'s have dedicated a section noting which books are used for each year through Ambleside Online. They also have done this for those who follow Living Books Curriculum, and Pageant of History.  I also see many, many of these titles can be used for those using the Classical education format too.  They offer 22 different genres to fit your schooling needs, with clear text, beautiful illustrations [black and white and some color spattered throughout], all in an easy to use format.  And it doesn't require dashing out to the local library to hunt for them, nor the continual outlay of cash to have them all in one's collection.  


I zeroed in on the nature study books (some I am familiar with, others were new to me) and the Shakespeare titles.  I have read through them, and found them so refreshing, understandable (not an easy thing when it comes to Mr. Shakespeare's material) and lovely in deed.  The nature books [not surprisingly] hearken one back to a more gentle time, where charming and delightful mingled together like old friends meandering through the gardens of life. I am so pleased to be able to share these with my children (thanks to Yesterday's Classics).  What's more, there are plenty of other selections, that will come into play as we traverse through our studies this coming term, and beyond.  With 225 books to choose from, I know I have a wealth of options to use for several years to come. I even find the old science texts to be a neat challenge for my students-as I have them compare the knowledge of the time (the antiquated scientific knowledge noted within it) to today's technological advancements, so they can see just how far we have come to understand our world around us. 

But like LeVar Burton (from Reading Rainbow) often stated, "You don't have to take my word for it.",  spend some time reading through the site, it is the only way for you to truly grasp the wealth of materials here. Stroll through their collection to compare it to what you use for your curriculum, it may be just what you were looking for. Oh, and I wanted to note that yes, initially one may feel that the price is absorbent, but when you break down the cost of purchasing these individually, it adds up fast-and the final amount is much higher than the Yesterday's Classics package price. This is a wonderful way to build a library, especially if you are a CM, Classical, or living book educator.  


Why not just use the free versions of these?

That is a valid question~and one that you alone will have to decide on.  Through the bit of research I conducted, I found that some are available to be purchased or for free through the bigger online stores; and many can be found for free through online sources.  But-here is the thing-many were missing the delightful artwork/illustrations, and had rather fuzzy/non-crisp text, or "citation notes" and such spattered throughout.  You always have the risk of having missing pages and of course, unreliable sources to download them from in the first place . You will spend a lot of time tracking them down~ of which you will not have the results you were hoping for. Trust. Me.  

For example:  I decided to download someone else's [free] The Blue Fairy Book and then compare it to the Yesterday's Classics version. Right away I noticed that the free version was messy, with paragraphs running right on into the next (no breaks), and it had no illustrations.  As for the Y.C.-I found that it contained the adorable images, was nicely organized [I could click the particular story I wanted, which took me directly to that page] with highlighted titles, along with a layout/font that was easy to read. Best yet, I was able to distinguish one story from the next, with a quick glance.  Not so with the other.  It is pretty clear that if you want quality-then the Yesterday's Classics version is right fine product. 

What device is this for?

Amazon Kindle 3.JPGNOOKcolor screen
Yesterday's Classics is designed to be used with the Kindle, or Nook
eReaders (other EPUB readers too) and the iPad or smartphone devices.
you don't need an eReader to enjoy this-
you can download FREE apps
 which are especially designed for your PC!

 (Amazon has the Kindle app [you can only use the Kindle file for this]
and you can also download free EPUB reader apps such the Sony reader) 

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Yesterday's Classics homepage
Kindle Dwnload:  $99.95 (all 225 books)
EPUB Dwnload:  $99.95 (all 225 books)
all ages

*Don't forget to read what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, over on our TOS Review Crew homepage.

***Yesterday's Classics provided me with both download files for the Kindle/EPUB of the 225 books, so that I could use and enjoy with my family, in order to write this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for my honest opinion of this product.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Well I can see the shore line up ahead-did someone shout out "Land Ho!" ?

After 3 years of being on the TOS crew, I am just about to wrap it up and disembark.  Yes, it is true.  I decided to not re-enlist.  It is starting to hit me that I won't be on a TOS review schedule or crew anymore...but that is OK.  Seasons begin and end, and the best thing to do is know when to make the change.  I believe I will be entering a brand new season of exciting changes and opportunities and I pray you'll come along for the ride.  I am thinking that after I am done with the TOS products I will start reviewing my own stuff.  The title of the blog will be wrong maybe I will let this puppy rest and just add reviews to my main blog.  I will decide later.  I definitely will need to switch the header tho cuz I won't be on the crew after May 31st.

Now before you think you have seen the last review from me-you haven't.  I have 6 in the hopper and they are good ones (products, not necessarily my reviews).  Let's see...up next is Yesterday's Classics, then I will have a juicy one on IEW, there will be one on a brand new product from BIP, one on Mad Dog Math, then  Considering God's Creation and lastly-Read for the Heart from Apologia Press.  Plus, as an added bonus of goodness-I will post the top 10 products we enjoyed using this year (and just for giggles, here are my posts on the previous top ten products from 2009 and 10-now this is what the whole crew voted as the top ten-apparently I forgot to come back and do one for us..oh well, I am sure I will have some in the over all top notch list I mention below).

Whew.  I may even do the top notch products of the three years combined.  I like that idea, so I believe I will.  That is going to be hard because I have had so many good ones!  Anyhoo-keep visiting and I have so enjoyed being a part of this crew, and hopefully, helping you choose great homeschool products for your family.

Friday, April 22, 2011

TOS Crew Review: See the Light Art Series-Vol. I

Art Class DVD Volume 1
Art is something we are very familiar with in our homeschool, when the option came up to review this product, we jumped at the chance.

The See The Light Art Series provides 4 lessons with Pat Knepley [master artist] as the instructor, a bit of art history and a Bible verse/tie in, along with just enough "how to" steps, so one can  learn how to draw.  Best yet, each lesson is about 15 or so minutes, keeping the student's mind focused at the task at hand..

We were able to view the first of the nine part series.  It begins with very basic instruction on beginning drawing/art skills. Each DVD advances the student through a series of steps to help build their technique repertoire, and of course so they can create their own masterpieces there after. I particularly liked the fourth lesson focusing on the issue of how the student should draw what they see, not what they know.  I find that to be one of the more challenging hurdles for the children (mine and the ones I teach in our co-op) to get over.  I  was pleased when the lesson brought to focus the reasoning behind such a statement, then quickly showed them how to do just that. Because my kids have had a lot of basic instruction regarding drawing, the first few lessons only served as refreshers for them, but we all walked away with some snippets of useful info, and that deserves to be noted.  I found this to be a fun, gentle approach for elementary-aged students which, for a limited time, you can get the first DVD for free as well.

[I also was able to view the clips DVD, showing snippets from many of the other lessons-and from the look of things, it appears they follow the same layout and general instruction plan as the first DVD.  Because I was only able to see one ninth of the program, I can only make an educated guess about the over all program itself-so please keep that in mind here.]
I really like the short lessons.  Kids usually are mentally checked out (OK, adults too) after about 10-20 minutes, so this fits that attention span issue nicely.

The instruction only touches on the focused technique for that lesson.

Bible verse or subject matter from Bible brought into each lesson.

Instruction actually teaches something useful (this is important, since I have come across way too many programs that leave you scratching your head, and your art skills no better than when you started it).

Cheerful and engaging art instructor-way to go Mrs. Pat.

Supplies are readily available in most folks' homes, or are inexpensive to purchase.


Was only able to view one part of it-so I cannot give a complete review on the entire program, only the first DVD.

Cannot purchase the DVDs individually (now yes, it is an entire program that is sequential but due to my older child having had lots of experience in art, there were only a couple she would like to view-so being able to purchase those, would have been nice).  [**I noticed that I can search for individual ones and add them to the cart, but we were told that they will no longer offer the ability to buy as such. So if you see a  DVD that you'd really like, I suggest you purchase now, while you still can.  I truly hope the option to purchase individually will remain-if you cannot search and find it-then assume it is no longer available.]

Overall cost would prohibit me from buying the entire program-as I honestly do not budget that much for the art in our home [that sounds like I don't think art is important-au contraire! Actually it is very important-we simply must find our materials and supplies for a lot less due to our meager curriculum budget].
[**Now if you consider that it is an entire year's worth of art instruction, the price doesn't seem quite so bad. And you have the option of doing the monthly online classes, so it is doable. I prefer the DVD version myself, so this is something you will have to consider for your own family and your curriculum budget.]

I feel that this could be a great program for those who have little or no art ability in them, or are timid when it comes to teaching it to their children (since Mrs. Pat does the work for you and you just learn along with your children); and for those who are looking for a program to enhance and further their children's current art skills and techniques.  Being Bible based is always a good thing, as the Lord is the ultimate artist in the universe with a lot to say about it in his Word-thankfully, See the Light continually brings that into focus as well.  So if art is "not your thing"  or you want sequential lessons that teach (for real) then this program could be a blessing indeed.

You will need to collect a few goodies to do these lessons-therefore, the lady on the run is noted.

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See the Light Homepage
($14.99 value for the DVD I reviewed)
$99.99 for the one year set
Monthly online instruction for $10 per month

Ages:  First thru about 6th but those with no previous art lessons could also benefit

You can request a  free DVD of the Vol. I  for a limited time-check it out for yourself! 

*Don't forget to read up on what my TOS mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschool products, over on our TOS Review Crew homepage.

***Legacy for God Publishing/See the Light provided me with a free copy of the See the Light Art Series-Vol. I, so that I could view and use it with my children. I did not receive any financial compensation for this or for my honest opinion of this product.

Friday, April 8, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Science Weekly

In today's cyber world technology it is still nice to receive a fun packet in the mail (obviously not bills) and this product is no exception.  Science Weekly is a bit like those magazines we used to get as kids, but focused on all things relating to earth/life/physical science, technology or mathematical in nature.  Two issues arrive in one's post box during the school year (Sept-April), to be used to further their child(ren)'s knowledge and add some fun back into their studies.  Originally geared toward the typical classroom environment, this series is another way to add some sparkle to one's homeschool curricula as well.  

We received the Fractions issue [Vol. 27, no. 5] to explore [they included one handout per level] along with the teaching notes [with answers to student's worksheet questions and additional ideas].  Each "packet" is approximately 4 pages worth of info-which includes a description of the topic at hand, then a practical demonstration highlighting it (so for the fractions one-the level B has the student looking at an apple and grapes which have been divided into equal parts), a vocabulary section, a weekly lab (fun idea for highlighting the concept), a math section, a small writing opportunity, a challenge that asks for the child to practice what the concept they have been learning about, and finally a "Bringing it Home" section to wrap up the study. Some of the higher levels dropped a couple of the last ones, added a puzzle challenge and/or even a "Further Your Interests" and "Meet the Scientist" section; whilst the lower levels kept it more simple by not offering more than a typical child that age would want to cover. 

My son and I worked through the C-E levels and found the "Weekly Lab" to be our favorite part of the series.  Most of what they ask the student to do is easily obtainable through every day items found in your home. So it isn't difficult to carry out the experiments at all.  It is charming and a fun way to incorporate a few subjects which usually produce moans and groans from frustrated students and teachers alike.  For about $1.33 per issue/per student, it really isn't that bad of a deal actually.   What's more, they now have an interactive program online [this is a great test to see if you like the product], along with printable coloring pages to explore.

This as a supplementary item to one's regular studies, and for those with children who love to do paperwork and science experiments-then this is a wonderful way to go about reinforcing their interests.  It is definitely a traditional approach to learning. So depending on your teaching method, it may or may not be a good choice.   Oh, and for those who use the workbox method, this would be a good item to tuck into a box for an occasional "fun" activity.  As for us, it was interesting to try but not something we would normally seek to acquire for our homeschool. Now I am not implying that the Science Weekly publication is terrible or not worthy of further investigation/subscribing to.  Actually it is a nice complementary tool for some to use in their studies, and could certainly bless many homeschoolers.  For us,  it just is not our regular "cup of tea".   

the younger set will need your assistance and some experiments will also need supervision

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$19.95 for 15 issues (per child) [2 issues per month September through April]
works out to about $1.33 per issue/teacher guide
ages K-5/6 grade
Classroom rate:  $4.95 per student/ 20 student min.

*Don't forget to read what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschooling products on our TOS Review Crew homepage.

**Science Weekly provided me with one free packet on Fractions for ages K-5/6, so that I could use it with my family and write this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for my penning of this review, nor for my honest opinion of this product.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ultimate Blog Party 2011

Ultimate Blog Party 2011 The Ultimate blog party has begun! If you haven't joined yet-do so!  You will meet many new bloggers, and you can enter to win some awesome prizes!

If you are linking here from my main blog-Homeschooling on a Wing and a Prayer-then I thought I would briefly describe the purpose of this blog.

I have been honored to be a part of a unique viral marketing program called, The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) Review Crew.  I have served faithfully for 3 years now, and have received oodles of wonderful homeschool (and some just for fun) products.  The project required my using and then blogging about (reviewing) those items so that you, the reader, could learn how real life folks use (or don't) and enjoy (or don't) a wide variety of products that you yourself may have been pondering.  I have a huge amount of reviews that are there for the reading, along with the link (noted above) to our Crew homepage, so that you can read many, many more reviews (and even some I didn't receive) to help you make an informed purchase for your family.

I will be disembarking from the crew once this cruise is over-but that doesn't mean I will stop penning my take on curricula (just will be on what I already own and perhaps I will see if some vendors would allow for me to review independently) or that I will take down this blog-no ma'am!  The 1 of 100 (Plus 25) TOS Crew Review blog is here to stay!

Enjoy reading up on some great products and look for some new ones down the road!

TOS Crew Review: Z-Guide to the Movies by ZeeZok Publishing-The Hiding Place

The power of the pen is mighty indeed, but the ability to watch the story unfold before one's eyes is a far better tool for grasping the very essence of the emotions, and life of the characters one is studying. While not all stories are worth having a movie made about it, there are those that are excellent enough to deserve some screen time. Using this medium will help stretch your student, and cause them to truly analyse the material at hand.  Including visual resources in your studies offers the unique ability to put the situation "in their face" so that they can (as a bystander removed by time, and at the mercy of Hollywood's take on things) experience the reality of the material,  have the plight or victories of the characters highlighted in a more personal way, and also be drawn into the lesson where print on paper can often times come up flat, or lifeless. 

Being a passive observer is not something I would encourage, especially when the story is deserving of critical thinking and debate.  It is truly a valuable tool to instruct our children to consider the content of the movie, instead of always being fixated on how hot the main character is, how good the animation is, or how exciting the action scenes are.  Another reason to incorporate a "picture film" [getting all old timey in my description of the motion picture genre] into one's curriculum,  is that it can bring to "life" the characters and story our students have been covering in their studies-making them almost real to the viewer. Finding movies that closely resemble the written story (just try locating a Robinson Crusoe movie that is actually in sync with the DeFoe one, it simply is not possible), or are "on spot" with the main plot can be daunting and difficult.  Being able to come up with the study material to present to the student can also engulf the teacher's time and what is one to do?  Where can one go for a thought provoking study of such things? 

Thankfully, ZeeZok has created a nice eBook [CDs are also available] series called the Z-Guide to the Movies, to address the need.  This series allows for discussion and instruction in Q and A form, along with map work, internet research, thought provoking pondering concerning the story of the events, and more.  The program allows for the teacher and student to pick and choose those activities which best suit their needs, which is always appreciated.

Hiding Place DVD
you can purchase the movie through ZeeZok too

We chose to study the Hiding Place, which depicts the final weeks prior to Corrie ten Boom's internment in prison, the subsequent nightmare of the Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbruck; to her release and life afterward.  The guide contains not only a listing of the topics [for this study it highlights WWII, life in a German concentration camp, forgiveness and civil disobedience] covered in the movie (which is great when you need to tie in certain elements to your curriculum), but also 10 student activity sections, a Family Discussion section, answers to the material (plus you can score this as well-great for figuring out grades), and a listing of additional resources for further study.

Although we are not worksheet lovers or usually promote the use of such things, we did find this to be most useful in gaining knowledge of the story.  I chose to revamp it a bit by having my daughter narrate the story to me (Charlotte Mason style) after watching the movie, but for the most part did require her to work through the pages of questions. I am glad they chose to tie in some map work, as it is very important that my daughter understand where exactly in the world this occurred.  This study can be completed in one week's time-but due to illnesses in our home, we stretched it to two.  The only change I would suggest is that the student watch the movie first, without trying to find answers to the questions as it unfolds.  I found this to be a bit disruptive, and wondered if my daughter was missing the overall experience by doing so.  I am thinking that watching it first just for the sake of capturing the overall message of the story-then viewing it again a few days later to glean the answers to the questions-will increase the retention and enjoyment of the movie.  All in all, the guide was a very nice way to add to my daughter's understanding of this grave period in our history.

The Z-Guide to the Movies collection offers plenty of titles to match your current studies.  I have no problem recommending this product to those who enjoy a more in depth view to behind the scenes of the movie and the story itself.  I will say, that the Hiding Place guide was benign in that it addressed the material and what it would be like to have been in that position-there was not an overly Christian tone contained within the questions, that I could find.  Although Corrie was indeed a Christian, and the movie highlights this: the actual guide itself remains neutral.  Therefore, it has received the world icon.

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ZeeZok Publishing homepage

$12.99 eBook download or CD (great for those with slow internet)
High School
Movie is also available to purchase for $15.98 (check your local library, Netflex, or other movie rental places as this is a fairly easy movie to acquire)

*Don't forget to find out what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, over on our TOS Review Crew homepage.

**ZeeZok Publishing provided me with a free download of The Hiding Place Z-Guide to Movies eBook, so that I could use and enjoy it with my family.  I did not receive any financial compensation for writing this, nor for my honest opinion of the product.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Song School Latin by Classical Academic Press

Song School Latin - Click Image to Close
Slave Discipuli!

Oh yes, Latin.  That dead language is like a Zombie that keeps coming back for more...or is it?  Well, Latin really isn't so dead after all~and thank goodness for that.   Pondering the necessity of it is really not such a stretch, especially since our English language is based on quite of bit of Latin root words. So why not revive the very core of our language and teach our youngsters to understand, speak and read it?  I suppose the naysayers would state it is just too hard or difficult to even attempt.  But alas-that is where Song School Latin comes in.  Geared for the students in 1-2/3 grade (now that is really dependent on your student-so special needs kids, and those with reading difficulties could easily slip into this category.  My 3rd grade dyslexic son is enjoying it and learning from it quite nicely), this program is a gentle approach to learning the mostly ignored and/or categorized under the "dead as a door nail" language option.  

Song School Latin Bundle - Click Image to Close

The program bundle contains all you need to jump start your student's Latin career.  The lovely and nicely illustrated (with a cute monkey dude as the mascot) student worktext engages the student and offers just enough pencil to paper work for children this age.  Accompanying the study is a CD containing the songs (noted in the wktxt) for the students to learn and sing along with (which is teaching them the Latin lesson/vocabulary) as they do their work. These little ditties are quite catchy, as we were finding ourselves (yes even me) singing them long afterward.  The teacher's guide contains images of the student workbook pages with the answers, along with extra pages of practice for each lesson.  The Latin Monkey Match Flash Card Game is yet another way to reinforce all the vocabulary the children will be exposed to. What's more, the website has coloring pages to print, and an online Flash Dash game for vocab reinforcement to ramp up the Latin experience.

I found little or no teacher prep was needed, which is always a huge plus for me.  The lessons were short and not overstuffed with too much information, which can lead to confusion or frustration for the student.  What I liked best about this program [the CD has both options on it] is that I could choose to teach the Classical version of Latin, or the Ecclesiastical one (we chose the latter) as our mode of instruction.   Due to my son's reading issues, I have been very leery of introducing him to other languages, but I found this program to be gentle enough, so as not overwhelm him with things that will further delay his reading/English instruction progress. Moreover, he is enjoying it and that is ultimately the goal for me.  For us, the Song School Latin program is a hit, so much so that he has asked if he can do their Greek program too!  Now that speaks volumes to me.

They offer a Bible product as well, but I gave this the world icon due to the fact the
Song School Latin is not necessarily Christian in nature 
[even though you have the op to choose Ecclesiastical version]
Again-the material has to be dripping with God's Word to get a cross icon.  

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Classical Academic Press homepage
Song School info page
Set: $64.00 (includes TG, Student text, Song CD, and Monkey Match Flashcard game)
K-2/3 grade (good fit for struggling dyslexics 10 and under)

*Don't forget to find out what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschooling products over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

**Classical Academic Press provided me with a free Song School Latin kit (TG, Student Text, sampling of the Monkey Match Flash cards) so that I could use this with my child, in order to write this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for providing my honest opinion of this product.