Saturday, November 29, 2008

Alphabet Alley Christian Toys Review

If you are looking for good quality games and toys for your preschooler, Alphabet Alley Christian Toys is the place to check out. They are a Christian company that produces high quality products for your early childhood aged children.

I was given the opportunity to review two of their products. The first was their Two By Two Matching Game. This is a Noah's Ark version of the traditional memory game. As I opened the box, right away I was impressed with the quality of the product. Each tile is made of a very thick and sturdy cardboard with a glossy finish. This is not something your preschooler can bend and they are a nice size for a child to hold on to. My daughter was immediately attracted to the adorable Noah's Ark themed images on each tile. While she is not old enough to play the game the way it should be, we modified it and it worked perfectly until she is able to. There are 12 tiles (not 24, which can be too much for a young child). We chose four mixed up pairs and used them face up instead of the traditional face down method. I asked her to find me a certain tile and then had her find it's match. We then discussed things like what sound the animal made, or practiced counting "one, two". She loves this game and is often bringing it to me wanting to play. My 8 year old son even got into it with her and was teaching her with it.

The second product I reviewed was the Noah's Ark Go Fish. This is just like the original Go Fish but again with the Noah's Ark theme. Have you ever bought a cheap Go Fish game from the dollar store and realized why they were a dollar? I have! They are so flimsy! Well the cards in this game are easily two to three times thicker! They are very sturdy. This company has really gone the extra mile and made sure their materials will really hold up with a preschooler using them. The size of the cards are nice and big and easy for little hands to hold. Each card has a big picture of something that is Noah's Ark themed on it. There are also numbers and a word telling what the picture is at the bottom. Not only can you play a game, but you can work on sight words, numbers recognition, counting, matching, and Bible all at the same time. This was fun for my entire family!

I would highly recommend these games if you are looking for some traditional games but with a Christian twist. They are definitely made well and will withstand the little hands of your toddler!

Visit Alphabet Alley is you are interested in either of these products for Christmas. They also carry other games, magnet toys, wooden toys, and stickers.

Right now, the Two By Two Matching Game is on sale for $9.35 (reg. $10.99).
Noah's Ark Go Fish is $5.99.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Spears Art Studio Review

I am not artistic at all! Teaching art has always been a challenge for me and I don't enjoy doing it. I don't want my son to feel that way though. Spears Art Studio Curriculum is a great way to incorporate art into your school day or week. I was a little leery at first about this curriculum because there was a lot of information. However, don't let this intimidate you or make you think this is going to be a difficult curriculum to use. If you take the time to look over the material and really get a feel for how it works, you will find that it is very flexible, organized, and done by a professional. It actually made teaching art easier for me and we had lots of fun!

This is a K-8 grade curriculum you could easily get 9 years worth of use out of. While each concept is revisited every year, it is done a little differently and builds on the previous year's skills that were taught. You could also use this with several different aged children at the same time and choose the activity that is appropriate for each of their levels. This program is set up with all the lessons divided up into months. You can just go right to a month and it is divided into 4 weeks with lessons for each grade level. There is also a yearly activity that you can do. It requires you setting up a bulletin board (or if space is a problem, a tri-fold display board) and creating Noah's Ark. This activity will take your child through the timeline of the Great Flood.

Before you get into the lesson plans, there are several pages containing different art techniques, which I found quite helpful. Every lesson contains a theme to focus on, vocabulary, recommendations for art history to study, scriptural references and biblical concepts, and an art evaluation tool. There were a few lessons (like the Noah's Ark yearly one) that required the teacher and/or children to draw the animals from scratch. This is not something my family is able to do. That was a little intimidating to me and I felt a little lost. If this is the case for your family, I would recommend printing out some animal clip art and having the children color them so you can still do the activity. I think it's a worthwhile lesson and this shouldn't hold parents back from doing it. It just needed a little adjustment. Many lessons had patterns provided for them and often times, the examples for each lesson were in color. I liked having a color example to look it. Again because I am art challenged!

I loved the way art appreciation was incorporated into each theme. This is something I have wanted to do with my son but have never found a curriculum I liked or the time to really delve into. It's already included in this. The only thing that requires a little work on your part is looking up (either in books from the library or on the internet) the art work that is suggested to view. I found that if you can find two or three good sites that contain pictures of art, you can find most of the suggested titles. I do wish however that the Spears Art Studio site would have a place where all of these prints were available to view for the lessons. This would save a lot of time on the parents part.

This program was on a CD and contained several different pdf files. This makes it a little easier if you are looking for a specific month. You can open just that pdf file instead of scrolling through the entire book. If you would rather have it at your fingertips though, you could print the whole thing and put it in a binder. This would probably make it easier to refer to different lessons and finding patterns.

This was a very nice program to use and definitely teaches specific art skills children should learn and is fun at the same time. The CD is $39.95 (which includes shipping- Priority or First Class). That is a good deal for 9 years of art or something every child in the family can use at once!

They also have a high school program which can be bundled with this for $69.90 (again including shipping). If you purchase both, they include a FREE CD called Beginning Calligraphy Workbook- Grades 5-Adult (a $14.95 value).

They also sell literature guides.

If you are interested in any of these products, be sure to go to their site: Spears Art Studio.

Heidi Miller-Ford

With permission from Diane, I also got a copy of the High School curriculum and had one of my co-op members (and business partner) use it with her high school aged son. Here is her review:

Homeschooling, high school, art, non-creative teens, and a parent/teacher who lacks the drive to teach something substantial enough yet needs to get the art credit honestly can cause a lot of trouble!

Finally, there is something that is going to work for us! Let me tell you why the Spears Art Studio High School Art Survey, A Study from a Christian Worldview is going to be the answer to our credit on the transcripts this year.

To understand how good this program is, you need to understand Jacob. Tell me what to do, keep the same format, declare the purpose, motivate me, challenge me, don’t confuse me with unimportant details, give me something that translates into purposeful adult activity. This is Jacob.

Spears Art explains why this project is good for the brain, how it will help problem solving, how the Creator designed and appreciates the elements of art, it is rhythmic with the design of every lesson, has separate PDF files so you aren’t scrolling through hundreds of pages, there are tests after every unit, it lists supplies needed, and it covers art history. I can’t even name all that this program encompasses.

Visual memory exercises are given in every lesson. Jacob struggled with this at first, but he is finding that the assignments are strengthening his memory. To be able to tie in art to such a practical life skill is wonderful. Scripture references are given for every lesson. Verses are to be copied and meditated on. The vocabulary section is very good. And, all of this work is done independently, which is a plus.

My favorite section is the Art History. An artist is given to study (you must use your own references) and guidance is given so that the artist reinforces the meaning of the lesson. I have tried many, many ways to accomplish a high school art program. For those with very artistic children, this may be easy but those students will still benefit greatly from this program as more than just projects are involved. But for those parents who understand that God has designed us in His image, and that God himself is the most incredible artist, we know it is important to teach our children about this subject. We want to teach it and teach it well, yet we don’t know how or what to use.

This program comes with high approval from me. As for Jacob, this is the first school subject of the day by choice. Anyone with teen boys should try this. The 36 lessons, 75 art activities, sketchbook assignments, and the 144 visual memorization exercises are worth the $29.95 for a CD. This gives you a years worth of art. I will add in Music Appreciation to give us the whole Fine Arts credit for high school.

Kudos to Diane Spears for making a very thorough, easy to follow program that will translate over into adulthood. Everything that is taught has value and because it is grounded with a Christian worldview, it gives art meaning. This program met a need for my family, and it will certainly do well in the homeschool community.

Shannon Coe

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Time Tales and Clean 'n' Flip Charts

Trigger Memory Systems has some terrific products! Two of which I recently had the opportunity to review. The first product I reviewed was their Clean 'n' Flip Charts. These are a really neat concept. There are three different spiral bound flip charts. The first is for zone cleaning (which includes the kitchen, bathroom, and living room)the second is for the bedroom, and the third is for the laundry, .

The Zone Chart is probably the most popular because it contains the three big areas in the house where most chores occur. It is made of a nice durable card stock with a glossy finish. It comes with a black dry erase marker for the children to check off each chore as it is finished. The different areas are separated by colored pages in the book. This makes it easy to flip directly to the pages for the area they are working on. There are easy to follow pictures, as well as text for older children. Each area has a page with a specific chore assigned for each day of the week as well as a page where you can write in extra chores you want completed. There is also a "Time Zone" where you can write in the time you want each chore finished. This can be used with one child or several.

For the bedroom chart, it uses a system of walking around the perimeter of the room (starting at the door) to pick up all out of place items, which are then placed in the middle of the floor. Then the child is taught how to categorize those items and return them to their proper place. In this chart, there is also a weekly jobs page included where the parent can write in extra jobs that need done. There was even an easy tip on teaching when to empty the garbage can.

The laundry chart might have been my favorite because it was a chore we had not tried with my son. I have to say that he loved it! The directions were very well done and offered nice tips for specific things like how to tell what size the load is, which cycle to choose, and how to separate the clothes into whites, lights, and colors. This chart will take children through the entire process from dirty laundry basket to putting the clothes away. I did end up doing a few extra things like writing on the chart the name of the cycles on my machine and what color loads they matched up with. They do list this in the chart, but my machine was slightly different and I wanted my son to know exactly which one to choose and be able to do it independently. I also put two black lines around the outside of my laundry detergent cup so he could easily see how much to fill it for a small or large sized load. My son enjoyed this so much he did three loads of laundry within the first day and a half! Of course that will wear off but at least he now knows how to do laundry and I have added it to his weekly chore list.

These laundry and bedroom charts were not made to use the dry erase marker on. If you write on them and would want to change it, you need to do it in pencil. These were made with a different card stock and it doesn't have the same glossy finish. They were made this way to keep the cost down for the customer. They are still a wonderful tool!

If you are interested in purchasing these, here are the prices:
The Zone Chart: $17.95
Bedroom Char: $7.95
Laundry Chart: $7.95

Zone and Bedroom Chart: $22.95
Zone Chart, Bedroom Chart, and Laundry Chart: $29.95.

Just click here to order.

The second product was Times Tales. When they say "made easy" and "learn 'em fast", they aren't kidding! My son is dyslexic and struggles with remembering the addition and subtraction facts and I figured multiplication tables would be the same way. I have found out they don't need to be. When we started to use this program, I wondered if he was really remembering all the stories I was showing him. The next day we did a review and sure enough, he had them all. We continued through the rest of the stories in part one and we had the same results. The true test was going to be when we starting using the flash cards and if he transferred this information to them. He was able to remember all of them with the symbol flashcards. We have not moved on to the regular flash cards yet, but I don't think it will be long. I am amazed at how well and effortlessly he has been able to learn these times tables. I would definitely recommend this product to anyone. Especially those with children who struggle remembering math facts.

The system comes with a very nice spiral bound flip book that includes all the stories for the multiplication tables. A chart is given at the beginning showing the symbols that are used for each number in the facts. An example of this would be a chair is used to represent the number four because they are shaped similarly. The stories are short, simple, and easy to remember. Each story has a picture using the number symbols and includes the answer in the story. This is the part that makes it so effortless.

The child is first introduced to the story by listening to it several times and then discussing it. Then he is presented with just the picture and must retell the story in his own words, making sure it is in the correct order. Then a set of flashcards are used which have the symbols on them in place of the actual numbers. This helps to start to visualize the actual facts but still having the symbols to trigger his memory. When these facts can be recalled quickly, a regular set of flash cards are then used. Finally a practice test, test, and verbal test are all given to make sure the facts are known and have become automatic.

The teacher's manual is very easy to use and simple to follow. Be sure to follow it exactly though! There is a specific process you must follow. The manual contains all the directions for teaching the facts, pretests, and tests. In addition though, it has some helpful activities to use throughout the process. There are crossword puzzles and a Roll'Em Cube Game. You can copy the cube pages on card stock and cut out and assemble the cubes to use for a game. The cubes include the regular numbers as well as symbols on them. After they are rolled, the child multiplies the two numbers together. This is a fun way to review the facts. At the back of the manual, there is an answer key for all tests and puzzles.

The only thing I thought could have been done a little differently (but it was not a big deal) was the thickness of the paper the flashcards were on. They are perforated for you to tear apart, but are on a thinner paper that doesn't seem to me would last through several children over the years. You could just copy those pages onto sturdier paper instead of tearing out and using them from the book. That would be my advice rather than using the ones in the book. Then you would have them year after year and wouldn't have to worry if they got ripped or lost. Again, I believe the cards were made the way they were to keep the price affordable for the customer. This is something we all can appreciate and was not a big enough deal to me that I wouldn't purchase them. I just thought I'd mention it so that anyone with more than one child would be aware of it before tearing out the flashcard pages.

This seems like an excellent program and an answer to a lot of parents problems with getting their children to learn the multiplication facts. This one time buy, could be used with all of your children! The cost is only $29.95.

To order this click here.

Heidi Miller-Ford

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Subscription Sale!

The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is having an amazing sale on subscriptions during their annual Black Friday Sale November 26 – 30. For those 5 days only, they are drastically reducing their one-year subscription price to $7.95! That's the price you would usually pay for just one issue at a bookstore!

This is their lowest price ever on the magazine and they want all of you to take advantage of this offer and share the info with your friends.

Please don't miss out. Your one-year subscription will pay for itself time and time again as you receive practical tips and Biblical encouragement to keep going strong in your commitment to homeschooling and to the Lord. Since it's a quarterly magazine, they even have a monthly subscriber's only E-Newsletter called Teacher's Toolbox that will give you seasonal teaching ideas and a free E-Book download! It's like joining a unit study of the month club! The free E-Books alone are valued at almost $250/year. It's really perfect for people who are homeschooling on a shoestring or just wanting to add in some little extras to your teaching.

Plus during the Black Friday Sale, they have all kind of bonus gifts when you spend $50, $75, $100, or $150. Some are electronic downloads that you can download immediately, while other are physical products mailed from various vendors directly to your home.

AND, their Win Big contest is going on so if you just happen to be customer 67,000, you will receive a prize package valued at almost $500 which includes a $150 gift certificate to the Schoolhouse Store! Who couldn't use that? And you can qualify to win it no matter how much or how little you spend!

Mark your calendars for November 26 - 30th and do a little shopping from your seat, not your feet at the Schoolhouse Store's Black Friday Sale!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wonderful Geography Book for Learning the 50 States!

I was very lucky to get the opportunity to review a wonderful geography book by Schoolside Press called The Little Man in the Map. E. Andrew Martonyi has come up with some really creative stories to help your child remember where all the 50 states are located. This book has won two awards and been a finalist for two others. Now I know why!

The book starts out in a classroom setting where the students are asked to look at the different shapes of the states and see what they remind them of. The students soon discover that the states right down the middle of the map (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana) create the shape of a little man. The little man (called MIM in the book) comes alive and takes over from there. With a little imagination, MIM goes through the entire 50 states telling a short story that will help your child remember them by. Each story then has a corresponding picture that is drawn on the state for a visual clue. Of course the author has tried to create stories and images that reflect the shape of each state. That's what makes this book so successful.

Some things I like about the book, in addition to the stories, are how the states are split into regions which helps to group them into smaller chunks to learn. These regions are displayed two different ways. One is an enlarged version which helps to see the disctinctive shape of each state and the second is highlighted in color on a full black and white U.S. map.

We have really enjoyed this book at our house! My son loves geography so this was sure to be a hit. However, he did not know the 50 states by heart. This has really helped in the short time we have had it. He has asked to read this book together at times when we are NOT doing school. He rarely asks to do something that could be considered educational when school is not going on. He has even been showing our relatives the different states on a map and telling them the different stories that go along with them. Out of the blue tonight he said he would love to have a puzzle of the United States (guess I know one of the things I'm getting him for Christmas!). I think it says a lot about a book when children want to read it on their own and are excited about learning from it. It also speaks volumes when they can easily recall the information they have read. My son does love geography so perhaps that's why this has come easily to him. But I can only think that this would be especially helpful to the child who does not like geography or it does not come easily to him. This is a much more fun approach to learning the location of the 50 states rather than the boring methods that are usually used.

On thing I thought I would mention that wasn't a big deal to me, but might be to others, is the fact that some of the characters included in the stories or pictures were elves or magical creatures. The book in no way teaches about elves or magic. It is written in a very whimsical fashion and meant to be the children using their imagination. I thought it would be fair to make some people aware of this in case it would be offensive to them.

To find out more about how you can get this book, please go to This is a nice hardcover book with a dust jacket. It's 9.75 x 11.25 inches and costs $19.95. Definitely worth the money if your child walks away effortlessly learning where the 50 states are. They also have a wall map with the 50 states and the pictures for the stories are drawn in each of the states. It's 38 x 22 inches and costs $21.95. In addition, they have free coloring pages you can print from the site. I would love to see this company create a U.S. puzzle with the picture clues on it. Schoolside press also has in the plans a book to learn the state capitals for all 50 states. Be on the lookout for that too! It looks like it will be good!

Heidi Miller-Ford

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Time4Learning Review- Part 2

This was our first week using Time4Learning. There is a lot there! They make it easy though to figure out what lesson your child needs to be doing next. In fact, the child can sit down and very easily get started without any assistance. Once a child is logged in, he simply chooses a subject and then there will be an arrow pointing in front of the category he needs to click on. On the next page, there is another arrow pointing to the lesson he needs to be working on.

Each lesson is kept at a fairly short length. There is immediate feedback given and in the Language Arts Word Herd Quizzes, they give points for correct answers. My son loves this! He's very competitive so this is right up his alley. However, if you are not around to see how your child did taking the quiz, you can go to his portfolio and view a report of all the work he has completed. It can be viewed by day, week, or month. Regular lessons are not scored but they will still be listed there and show the date and time they were worked on and whether they were completed or not. I found these reports really nice to look over and they can even be printed if you need them for a portfolio.

There are many different ways your child can answer questions on this site. Sometimes there are a list of questions to click on. Other times there may be a drop down menu to choose from. And often in math, he will have to work the mouse a little more and drag and drop items or numbers onto a specific place on the page. This keeps a child actively involved in the lesson and not just sitting there. There is also a really nice Tool Kit that provides an online manipulative to use for just about any math a child might be doing.

So far my son is really enjoying the site. He likes the Language Arts best, which really surprises me because he hates to read. He even asked me to do extra lessons the other day after I told him his time was up. Which brings me to another nice feature. There is a timer up in the right corner of the screen. Its default setting is 15 minutes but you can go in and adjust that time in the parental controls. When the times gets to zero, your child can stop and go to the playground to play some games. Some of these are educational too. My son really liked doing a geography game about the 50 states. And don't worry if your child is in the middle of a lesson when the timer gets to zero, it will automatically remember where he was and he will be given the option to pick up in the same spot he left off or start over.

I'll let you know next week how things are going and anything new we discover about

Heidi Miller-Ford

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Can Openers

You’ve seen these can openers. You can find them in the grocery store for a buck. You grab it because you need it in a hurry. No bells. No whistles. And by that I mean no extra padding on the handle, no smoothly connecting gears, no large grip turner to make your job easier. The kind when you turn the crank, it makes a two centimeter hole, not a smooth line opening. Holes, mind you. You open the can by popping holes all around it.

I had no idea how much this tool was costing me, in time, in frustration, in wasted energy. I could tolerate the mild discomfort when it came time to open a can of corn for dinner. It was when I would be cooking a meal like chili that required lots of cans, well, that was a different story. I would promise myself I would get a new can opener the very next time I was in town. Time would kick in and do what it does, making me forget the edginess of the situation. I still knew I needed a better tool, but I wasn’t bothered enough to make it a priority or part with money for a higher priced can opener. I can handle it one more time.

It wasn’t until my precious daughter- in-law gave me an extra can opener that had been given to her. Wow! There was this shiny, thick coated black plastic covering all the parts my hands would touch. It was so soft. The gears actually turned and made sequential openings in the can! My hand wasn’t formed into this twisted pretzel shape when I was done. As a matter of fact, I had no discomfort at all. Was it a better tool? Yep. Had I suffered needlessly? Uh huh. Have I learned my lesson? Yes, I am worth a few new tools to make my job easier.

When it comes to the tools you use to help educate your child, you may not really know how much of a struggle the kids are having until you try something new. Sure, they may get the work done. At the end of the day goals are accomplished, but somewhere along the road we have picked up the idea that learning must equal suffering, or at the least, some minor discomfort. To be considered great at what we do, we must surely suffer through at least a couple hours of intense and agonizing moments.

Tools in the homeschool industry change or become accessible at an alarming speed. It use to be that choosing homeschool products was like getting a can opener at the grocery store. You didn’t get what you wanted or what you knew the kids would excel at. You got the basics. Now with ebooks and the internet, shopping for homeschool products is like going into a Williams-Sonoma outlet. Every gadget, tool, recipe, and service is available to create and individualized education for each child.

We are coming into the perfect time to try new things. The holidays offer us guilt free days from the customary lesson plans and schedules. We are expected to be a little more creative and adaptable with our teaching and learning styles. This coming season just go for it and give something new a try. See if the kids reach the same conclusions, learn the same valuable lessons, and intrigue their curiosities by giving them something just a little bit different. You may never really know how hard something was until you try something new.
And remember, the best tools will intrigue the mind and challenge the student. Frustration and boredom are good signs your can opener needs to be upgraded!

Many Blessings,

Shannon Coe
Fortunately For You Books

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Build your library for less with Homeschool Library Builder

I am constantly adding new books to my bookshelf. Sometimes they are for myself but most times they are for something we are going to be studying in school. The cost of books has gotten quite high and I find myself searching for used or new books sold on the internet at a cheaper rate. It's just not economical to go to the bookstore any more and pay full price. The Homeschool Library Builder is the perfect site to find the books you are looking for at a much better price. They sell used and new living books. The new books have remainder marks on them which usually consist of a mark on the outer edge of the book. Nothing that affects the book in any way.

I found this site easy to search with a great variety of categories to help you find what you are looking for. What's great about this site is it caters to the homeschooler. By that, I mean that they have books that go along with specific curriculum such as Ambleside, Beautiful Feet, Five in a Row, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, and Veritas Press. If you need several books for a particular curriculum, you can just do your search that way and everything they have available for it at that time will come up.

They also have a Clearance section (my favorite!) and these woman are known to have $1, $2, $3, and $5 bin sales at any given time! In fact, there is one going on right now and it is the last one of the year! Don't miss out on it!

When you make your first purchase be sure to sign up for their Membership Program. It's free and you will earn book points every time you buy something. When you get 15 points, it's equivalent to $1 towards a future purchase. You can also earn book points by referring others to their site. Every time a first time purchaser becomes a member and uses your name as a referral, you will receive another 45 points. Also, if you have a website or blog and add a link to their site, you will receive 75 book points in your account. That's $5! If you have friends who buys lots of books, be sure to tell them about this site. And if you buy books like I do, you will certainly be adding up some book points quickly. What a nice treat when you can go and order a book for free once in a while!

There are two shipping options for customers: media mail and priority. They are both based on the total of your order, with the first level up to $25. You should be able to get a decent amount of books and not have to pay a lot for shipping. This is unlike other marketplaces on the internet where every book is usually from a different person and you have to pay shipping on each individual one. That can add up quick!

Another great feature about this site that I noticed was their fundraising opportunity. You can have friends and family come purchase books from this site and your organization will earn a percentage of those sales. The amount you earn is based on the amount that is purchased.

Something extra for homeschoolers is a page with links to seasonal and holiday sites that might be useful to you. They have ideas for projects, crafts, puzzles, history, science, reading and many other topics! You can kill two birds with one stone on this site.

They have even created a marketplace where you can sell any product you've created or online service you offer for free! Yep, that's right! They will do the advertising for you and in return, they only receive 10% of the purchase price and ask that you put a link for their site on yours. That's a pretty good deal if you have priced advertising in magazines and search engines.

Specials are constantly changing on this site so be sure to check back often! Give it a try! You might just find some great books and save yourself some money in the process.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Check Out The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's New Blog

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine launched a new blog last week all about the Schoolhouse Store and they would love it if you would check it out! The blog address is:

They just did a drawing and gave away 10 of the Homeschool Planners to some of their earliest subscribers to the blog. In addition, they are giving away a $100 store gift certificate once they reach 1,000 subscribers! They are already over half way there!

The Store Spotlight blog is offering midweek markdowns (a new item 1/2 off every week), interviews with the companies whose products they carry, and random FREE products! You won't want to miss a day!

Heidi Miller-Ford

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Time4Learning Review

I am just starting to review this product and wanted to give you some information about it as I go along. Time4Learning is an online educational program for math and language arts. Science and social studies are included as a bonus. This is for pre-K through 8th grade. The registration process is quite easy even if you have multiple children. After filling in the information for one child, including a few simple questions to help with grade level placement, the system automatically takes you back to the beginning to enter information for the next child. Once you have completed the registration process, you will receive an email letting you know your account(s) have been set up. There are many helpful links within that email to get you started. There is a "Getting started guide", "Helpful hints", a direct link to the "Parent login" page, as well as other helpful information about how to change things in your account or contact customer support. They even have a forum you can join to chat with other parents.

From what I can tell so far from looking around at different things on the site, it seems pretty user friendly and easy to navigate. It's kid friendly with big buttons that are easy to find. My 8 year old son sat down and within seconds knew exactly what arrow to click on to start the lesson. I have also contacted their customer support several times with questions and was pleased to get a quick response each time. I am still trying to assess whether my son is at the appropriate age level or not in some of the subjects. If I decide I want him moved up or down, a simple email to them can have it adjusted.

As we get more involved in the actual lessons, I will let you know what we have experienced with this program. Check back each week for an update. In the mean time, if you want to go to their site and check it out for yourself, go to Feel free to leave some comments here or ask me questions about it.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Quest for Thunder Mountain Contest!

I thought I'd help spread the word about a contest going on at On the Company Porch.

Readers of the popular Terrestria Chronicles allegory series will be thrilled to learn that Ed Dunlop has just released The Quest for Thunder Mountain, the first book in his new Tales from Terrestria series. The Quest tells the story of a young minstrel whose life is shattered when his career comes to an abrupt end. The book was written to help young adult readers experience the wonder of finding and doing the will of the King. You can see the TOS review of the Terrestria Chronicles at: .

There will be 15 winners for this contest. Each of the winners will receive a copy of The Quest for Thunder Mountain.

To enter this contest you must be at least 18 years of age and live in the U.S.

Here's how to enter:
  1. If you have a blog, copy the below text and paste it on your blog. (If you don't have a blog you can share it with your yahoo group or other web forum.)
  2. Go the THIS SITE and leave a comment. The comment must include: your email address or a way to get to your blog with a link to email you, and a permalink (direct URL) to the post you put up for this contest.

That's it! Two really easy steps, copy and paste, leave a comment.

<-----------Copy Below Text--------------->

I am hoping to be 1 of 15 winners for
The Quest for Thunder Mountain
on the HSB Company Porch!
You don't want to miss out on this
great new give-away from the author of
The Terrestria Chronicles!

<-----------------End Copy----------------->

You can change the color of the text as needed to suit your blog, but please don't make any other changes.

You do not have to have a blog to enter this contest! They are just asking that you help spread the word about it, if you can.

This contest will end on November 9th.

Winners will be posted on the Porch, but all winners will be officially notified by email ONLY. So, be sure to go back there and check to see who the winners are. If your name is on the list but you didn't receive an email, check your SPAM folder. If after one week they have not received a reply from a winner, a new winner will be chosen.

Good luck!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tales of Glory Nativity Set by One2Believe

Are you looking for a great Christmas gift this year? Do your children love nativity sets but you don't really let them play with them for fear they will get broken? My son is no exception. I don't know what it is about nativity sets, but kids really seem to be drawn to them. My son owns several but most of them are "just to look at" because they are made of porcelain. One2Believe has created a nativity set with children in mind! When this package arrived, my son couldn't wait to get the box open. He immediately set it up (as you can see from the picture below) and started to play with the different pieces. The size and shape of the people reminds me of the Fisher Price Little People. They are easy to set up and stand very nicely. The animals don't fall over all the time.

The set includes a stable and 17 pieces: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, 2 shepherds, 2 sheep, a donkey, a camel, 3 wise men, 2 angels, a manger, a palm tree, and a bale of hay. There is also a mini Story of Baby Jesus included.

This is a great way for your children to act out the story of the birth of Jesus. They will spend a lot of time playing with this set and it will be something they will look forward to you bringing out each year at Christmas time.

One2Believe also has several other sets that look great such as Jesus' Galilean Boat, Noah's Ark, Bible Princess Dolls (which I think are a much better choice than today's Barbie type dolls), the 3-Piece Tales of Glory Sets, Jerusalem Wall, Messengers of Faith, and Spirit Warriors. Any one of these sets would make a really nice gift for someone. What a great way for children to use their imagination and bring Bible stories to life.

A neat thing I noticed is that the box has Bible Points on it. It's a square you can cut out and collect. When you reach 10 points, you can redeem them towards the purchase of one of their other products. There were 3 Bible Points on this box.
10 pts. = 1 Tales of Glory Play Mat
15 pts. = 1 Messenger of Faith Talking Doll (12") (choice of Peter or Paul)
20 pts. = 1 Bible Princess Doll (18") (choice of Elisabeth, Leah, or Abigail)
All you pay is shipping!

This product is not recommended for children under 3 due to small parts. There is a star attached to the stable that can come off and on. This and baby Jesus could easily be swallowed. Also, this is what their site says about safety: "All Tales of Glory toys have been tested by an independent third party testing facility and comply with ASTM standards. All toys are free from harmful chemicals and are safe."

"one2believe's passion is to help children learn important Bible lessons and to have them come to faith in Jesus. Our goal is to provide fun ways of teaching children about the greatest people who ever lived. Through the toys that we design children will learn and play out exciting stories about real people. Our toys teach children that there are real superheroes they can believe in!"

Here is the contact information:
24876 Apple Street
Santa Clarita, CA 91352
Tel: 888-557-2327

The Missing Link: Found by Media Angels

Do you find it hard to come up with reading material for your preteen to teen aged children? One walk through the teen section in the bookstore can be scary. I just recently did that and could not believe the horrible materials they are selling for our children. And why are parents buying it? If you are very conscientious about what your children read and want it to be moral, educational, and interesting, I have a series for you. The Truth Seekers Mystery Series by Media Angels was written by a homeschooled teen (You have to love that!) and her mother, Christina and Felice Gerwitz .

I have just finished reading the first book in the series called The Missing Link: FOUND. This is definitely a book for the adventure seekers in your family. There is a lot of action! One caution though, if your children are not use to reading materials with scenes like FBI shootouts, kidnappings, and high speed chases, this may not be something you would want them to read. If they are, they are going to enjoy all the action that takes place as the Murphy children become involved in two different mysteries. Along the way, your children will learn many scientific facts about creation versus evolution. The story itself is fiction, but the authors have stated that all scientific facts in the book are true. Some of your younger readers may get a little lost in the scientific jargon at times (there is a glossary of terms included in the back of the book), but they will still walk away learning something about creation by the end of the book.

One of the things I really liked about the book was the spiritual aspect of it. There were many times throughout the story where the children were in a situation that seemed hopeless and they turned to prayer. They were also trying to be good witnesses to their cousin (who coincidentally believed in evolution). I also thought it was nice how they showed these kids having real feelings and letting them out at times, only to realize it wasn't the most Christian way to handle the situation and they had to make it right.

While some of the storyline may seem a little far fetched at times, and the teens put themselves into danger on several occasions and don't get into trouble by their parents (a good teachable moment!), I still think it is a book worth adding to your home library. It is clean, safe, educational, and for the most part, displays the kind of actions and attitudes we would like to see in our own children. I would not suggest this for a read aloud because of the amount of scientific facts at times, but it would be great for your independent readers. If your children are use to reading classical literature or you are a Charlotte Mason fan, this may not meet the standards you have set for reading material. However, classical literature is often too difficult to read for struggling and preteen readers. This might better suit their needs and not be as childish as some other literature out there on their reading level.

Some other products from Media Angels you might be interested in are their Creation Science Curriculum, Literature Study Guides, Virtual Field-Trips, and even a market place ( that allows anyone to learn or teach something.

For more information on how to purchase these books or find about about any of the other products I have mentioned, please go to:
Media Angels
15720 S. Pebble Lane
Ft. Meyers, FL 33912
Tel: 239-433-2097
Fax: 239-489-1060

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day

Tomorrow will be a big day for us. The kids are just as excited about the voting process as I am. Last election the kids still came into the voting booth with me to watch and learn. I found that not only endearing but hopeful as they would see how the process worked. For school, we will be watching a historical movie, reading, a few games, and then we will be up, up, up as late as we can stand to watch the news. It is nice to know they are as excited about the day as adults are. How are you planning on spending the day? It would be nice to hear ideas from fellow homeschoolers on how to make this day special for the kids. Election day is one more reason I love homeschooling. While other children have the day off, we will be taking advantage of making and watching history. We will reiterate as much as we can to our children, explain the electoral vote a hundred times, probably yell at the computer a couple of times. Do you have any favorite web sites that explain electoral vote in simple terms? How late will you stay up? I find the whole day and how we homeschoolers view it very interesting. While we all will breathe a sigh of relief to have this behind us, I have enjoyed the process with my older children. This was a fascinating time for them, and if it had been a very boring election, I am not so sure they would be as passionate about their right to vote as they are now.