Thursday, December 31, 2009

the gifts that keep on giving

Wait for it…


It’s no fun until you pull the squeaker out.


Bud had a great Christmas after all. A new rope can cure what ails ya.


Oh, and the kids got stuff, too.



You say you want a revolution?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

for your reading pleasure

The January issue of Palmetto Parent is online and will be on the stands in the next few days.

The education-themed issue includes:

I love, love, love the online magazine viewer. What do you think? Shouldn’t every print magazine do this? It sure makes life easier for writers…

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

not a Christmas card, part tres

As always, I hope this finds you well and enjoying the amazing blessings of the season. We are in year three of homeschooling and by no small coincidence, also year three of no Christmas cards. :)

Most of you keep up with us, but just in case… Caroline is a junior this year and is driving solo. The state actually allowed her to drive on her own and we finally acceded to that certification. She is proving to be very responsible (hence the reason she is still allowed to drive) and is enjoying high school. She is very involved in the high school program at church and is also on the speech and debate team at school. We are entering the “college visit” phase. Suggestions and scholarships are welcome.

Nolan is in sixth grade and is still loving school at home. I am relearning algebra, which also explains a lot about the Christmas cards. Nolan is a first-year Boy Scout, attends enrichment classes one day per week at a homeschool co-op, is involved in the middle school group at church (he also runs the sound and lights some Sundays) and just generally keeps us on our toes.

John and I are doing well. We celebrated 20 years of marriage this year and we still like each other an awful lot. John is with a new company now and he is enjoying his new job. I am still writing and I am thankful to be able to work from home.

Despite almost losing Buddy (he’s almost 14) a few weeks ago, the dogs are also doing well. They said to tell you all hello.

I hope your 2010 is wonderful. And above all else, I hope you celebrate every day as Christmas, knowing that Emmanuel – God with us – has come.

Merry Christmas!!


John, Chris, Caroline and Nolan


Caroline with a giant cookie (don’t ask):


Nolan, with… a close encounter:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

wrapping him in love


We love this little one and he isn’t even here yet. (And no, he’s not ours. For goodness’ sake, people, that would be a scary thought. I am the Great Aunt – yikes – with a big “G.” Oh no, I am the crazy Great Aunt who quilts. At least I don’t live in somebody’s attic.) Fabric is Happy Campers by American Jane for Moda. Binding and backing are vintage. I made continuous bias binding. After the initial shock of the spatial reasoning required, it turned out OK. Mistakes are heretofore referred to as “design choices.” It was all done on the machine because that’s how I roll. It’s all cotton, including the batting, so it got a little puckery after washing – but not very puckery because the backing and binding had been washed previously. The colors make me all kinds of happy. The little camping scenes with the Airstream-type camper…lovely.

Along with the quilt, for his almost-first-Christmas, little mister got a vintage book of famous explorers. I know it will be a year or two before he can read it on his own, but it’s good to get started early. He’s handsome, too.


Friday, December 18, 2009

maestro classics

Tortoiseandthehare.jpg M.C. Tortoise and Hare image by homeschoolcrew

Ah, I love this. Admittedly, it might be a little young for my son. But it’s perfect for me. We were sent a copy of Maestro Classics’The Tortoise and the Hare” for review. The CD includes the story, as well as a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Through the more than 50 minutes of tracks, children (and um, parents) can learn about the story and the music – what does a particular sound represent? – and so much more. There is even an activity booklet included. (Hear samples here:

Maestro Classics also has Stories in Music for Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Casey at the Bat and more. The story we listened to was very well done and a thorough sensory experience. I really think it is great for wee littles through middle school and for parents of all ages.


CDs are $16.95 each or three for $45 (see site for coupon code).



We received a free DVD for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the good, the bad and the…


Very Mary sent me the sweetest note cards because she is awesome.


(This is only bad in the oh-my-arteries sort of way.) Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake. Make it right now. I had it for breakfast.



And this… Well, it defies words, doesn’t it? I ordered a slew of novelty charm squares for an I Spy quilt I am making for a special little one. Because I love her and don’t want her to be traumatized for the rest of her life, I left this square out.

Scariest. Fabric. Ever.



More than a half million kids are using Mathletics and it is the most used math program in Australia. (In Australia, they call it a “maths program,” which is so cool I am going to start saying it myself. As in, “Nolan? Have you finished your maths?”)

But I digress.

We were given a free trial of Mathletics through the TOS Crew. While it wasn’t my son’s cup of tea, I think that says more about his current interests than the program itself. I think it is a great way to supplement and drill (but in a good way) math from numbers to “the tangent to a curve and the derivative of a function.” (I am not making that up.)

The cool thing about Mathletics is the chance to compete with other students from around the world. Because the site has such a wide reach, the competition can be new every day. Students can also score points which can be exchanges for “virtual” prizes. Think funny hats…

One super useful section of the site features downloadable workbooks on, well, everything math-related I could think of and many things I could not. The site also makes it very, very easy to track your child’s progress.

While I assumed Mathletics was mostly for traditionally schooled kids, that’s not accurate. Download the company’s information for homeschoolers here.


Mathletics is $59 per year, but if you look on the subscription page, there is a way to get a discount. (You have to answer a question…)


We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Friday, December 11, 2009

geriatric vestibular syndrome, week 3

Warning: This is a long, rambling post filled with stuff you probably don’t care about unless you have a sick dog.

If you came here by searching for information about geriatric vestibular syndrome, here is the picture of hope. (Apologies for the doggie bright eyes.)



Background: Buddy is a Lab mix (emphasis on mix), about 60 pounds and almost 14 years old. He has a seizure disorder and has been on meds for nine years and has been seizure-free for several years. We maintain him on the lowest therapeutic levels of medication possible. He has arthritis and has a slightly enlarged liver, but is otherwise very healthy.

This is 16 days post-collapse for Buddy. He is still on oral antibiotics and will continue until next week. He has completed two weeks of ear drops (he had an infection), as well as initially being treated with IV fluids (two bags) and an antibiotic injection. He spent days and days on pain meds but we are now doing that as needed. As of this writing, he hasn’t need any for two days. He is on Rimadyl (generic, 120 mg per day, split into two doses). He also takes medication to prevent seizures. That is unrelated to this current illness. We supplement his diet with fish oil and glucosamine.

Initially, Buddy could not stand and was in great distress. He could not walk without assistance for several days and had approximately three days of nystagmus. (Nystagmus is scary.) The head tilt really wasn’t present until day two, but it continues. We are told he may always have that. Our consolation is that we can call him Tippi Hedren. (Think about it.) He can now go up and down the steps to the backyard on his own, but we help him down. He tends to go too fast and can lose his balance. He is happy, eating, playing with his tennis ball and giving Maggie a hard time again. Last night, he walked all the way upstairs in our house (14 steps) on his own, with my husband closely supervising just in case. Going up is easier than going down.

I wanted to point out that Bud never had the rolling or vomiting that is commonly associated with this condition and which sometimes leads owners to believe their pet has been poisoned. That’s what I would have thought had Bud exhibited those symptoms. Despite his distress (which I now believe was due to disorientation rather than pain), he did not have a seizure and he clearly knew us. (A throw back to my days in probate law – I would say he was oriented to person, but not place. Time isn’t so much a concern for him.)

We did have x-rays done of his spine and hips. Because he did not exhibit neurological symptoms initially and because he is riddled with lipomas (fatty tumors), we were concerned that he possibly had a spinal tumor. That would not have been good news. We had the option of having Bud sent to a veterinary specialist to get an MRI to see if he had a brain tumor or some kind of catastrophic brain event. We elected not to do that.

We had no idea he would gain this much recovery, if any at all. So far, so good.

Some links for you: What is the vestibular system?

An excellent informational post with the unfortunate title “Don’t Kill Old Rolling Dogs.”

are you tired of dog pictures yet?



Hey homeschoolers, it’s not just Math U See. It’s Math U Sleep On.



Here is my only complaint about Tektoma: my son wants to do it all the time. All. The. Time. We were asked to review Tektoma, which is really a set of tutorials to help kids learn to program video games, for the TOS Crew. (We received a free trial subscription.) Nolan loves it. The tutorials are for Game Maker software, which is a free download. (You don’t need Tektoma to use Game Maker – Tektoma just teaches you how to use Game Maker. You do need Game Maker to use Tektoma. Clear as mud?) Nolan quickly worked through programming a racing game, an arcade game, a platform game (platform – kind of like a Mario-type game) and is now creating a fantasy type game.

I haven’t helped him at all with this. There are several reasons why that is the case, primarily because he hasn’t needed me . But also because he gets it much better than I could. He could teach me at this point. The site is safe and seems to be well controlled.

Tektoma was born out of computer programming summer camps held by the founders. They created the site to allow year-round access for students. New features are added monthly.

The subscription price of $14.95 per month is not a bad investment at all, especially if your child has a keen interest in PLAYING video games and you want to translate that to CREATING video games. The recommended ages are 7 – 17. Nolan is 11 and has had no trouble picking this up. He highly recommends it and so do I.

Tektoma offers a 14-day free trial. Do check it out.


P.S. If you think you are interested and if (only if) you want to, you can use this link and we get a referral in the form of free use of the site for 15 days.


We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the slacker blog

I am actually going to try to take my camera out of the bag today. I have reasons – it finally stopped raining, I am making stuff and I have become the slacker blogger. I also want to do a post about vestibular syndrome, in case someone gets here via Google and they need a little shot of hope. I’ve got hope for you, lovers of old dogs. In the meantime, please do read this post. It might save some dog lives. We were this close.

Also, did you know that Christmas is TWO WEEKS FROM TOMORROW? How did this happen? I want a do-over.

Stories in print and currently online:

‘Tis the Season

Holiday Events (Sorry, this is only helpful if you live in the Columbia, SC area.)

And since I am truly seeking slacker status, I can’t even remember if I posted this here. I reviewed “The Star of Bethlehem” for Heart of the Matter and was able to interview Rick Larson, the man behind the movie.  Please drop by and give it a look. I am not an astronomer, but I can tell you the DVD is a great way to introduce the story of the birth of Jesus to someone who might not be interested in visiting a church. Bring the church to them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

he thought i was kidding

when I asked if it was OK if I declared my love for him on a billboard. (This is a mock up provided by Fairway Outdoor. I am going to try to get a photo.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

best. thing. ever.


Feeling well enough to play ball.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

where we’ve been


Here. Just here. Buddy, who is now almost 14, was smacked down with geriatric vestibular syndrome last week. Thanksgiving plans were canceled, nights were spent on the couch, IVs were administered, lots of medicines were given (and are still being given). But it all appears to be working. Bud is improving a little more each day and life is every so slowly creeping back to normal.

Maggie says it can’t happen soon enough.


Some decorating was accomplished, using our snazzy new LED Christmas lights.


And the Christmas cactus is about to join us in the festivities.


I hope your Christmas season is off to a great start.


I wish we had this when my children were wee littles. Kinderbach is absolutely adorable and seems to me to be a terrific way to introduce young children (they recommend ages 2 –7 – I would say 2 – 5) to playing a piano or keyboard. For homeschoolers, it is a terrific early childhood music program that teaches about rhythm and much more.

Creator Karri Gregor has designed a music curriculum that is energetic and approachable for young children. They truly can learn while having fun. (No boring note spellers here. I am sure I can get an amen from former piano students everywhere.)

The program is video-based and is available online or on DVD. Online membership is $19.99 per month or $95.88 for one year. DVDs are available by level (there are six levels) at $40.45 each or $202.88 for levels 1 – 6. You can start with a free trial to see if this works with your child’s learning styles.


Level 1 - Click here for Free sample Student Activity Book
- Familiarity with the black and white keyboard landscape.
- Aural discrimination of high and low sounds as well as loud and quiet.
- Music term “Piano” means quiet or soft.
- Quarter note, half note and the beat value of these symbols in common time.
- Keeping the beat with rhythm instruments and on the piano.
- Distinguishing left and right hands.
- Finger numbers for playing keyboard.
- Introduction to songs that will be used for Kodaly Solfege.
- Introduction to pre-Staff note reading by patterns.


Level 6
- Review concepts from previous Levels.
- Introduce the notes ‘C’ and ‘D’ on staff.
- Emphasize all characters to notes on keyboard as well as C & D on staff.
- Introduce the half and whole rest with their beat value in common time.
- Addition to dynamic music terminology.
- Finger exercises, playing the C major scale with correct fingering.
- Play familiar songs with all notes both pre-staff and staff reading.
- Addition of note patterns both on and off the staff.
- Progress with composition methods.
- Read music on staff by pattern and by recognition of ‘C’ and ‘D’ locations.

We reviewed this as part of the TOS Crew.


We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Friday, November 20, 2009

summer is over


But this bee and I refuse to let go.

Photo taken at the butterfly garden at Roper Mountain Science Center last Saturday. It was about 25 degrees warmer then.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


3dcover_M.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

OK, super cool. Member of the TOS Crew were asked to review Gymathics, an exercise DVD for kids from Exploramania. The math portion (patterns, etc.) is seamlessly incorporated with the exercises, making for a fun mid-day break for us. Despite some eye-rolling from the boy about the math (it is too young for him), he has fun with the exercises and we are including it in our PE credit this year.

With the ark-worthy amount of rain we have had lately, we need something for indoors. This fits the bill. The math facts are targeted for grades 2 – 5, though I see there is a new video with math for grades 4 - 7. I was pleased that a range of ages were represented in the exercisers (an older boy –hooray!) . That definitely made it easier for my son to join in. And I have joined in, too. (I am tired of Jillian Michaels yelling at me.) If you have a kinesthetic learner, this is especially appropriate.

I just hope they hurry up and do an algebra version.


Sample videos are available online here and on YouTube.  DVDs are $24.99 each through Exploramania, but they are also available through stores and online retailers.


We reviewed this as part of the TOS Crew.


We received a free DVD for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

thanksgiving turkey 101

Disclaimer: I am a vegetarian and will be eating a nice, juicy Tofurky at my house the day after Thanksgiving.(I noticed that the Tofurky roast no longer comes with Tofurky Jerky legs. How sad: legless tofu bird.)

Apparently there is widespread Internet panic about the Thanksgiving bird. Stress no more, people. Forget the dried out carcass that ends up on most holiday tables. Try this at least once – this is my husband’s method and he actually does eat turkey, so I have verification that it works. If you like this method, you may find that turkey is cooked as often at your house as it is here. Bird: It’s not just for Thanksgiving.

  • If your bird is frozen, thaw it in the fridge FOR A REALLY LONG TIME. Seriously, I read the recommendations on the package and then add a day. These things are disgusting blocks of poultry juice ice and they always take longer to thaw than any recommendation I have ever seen. YMMV. USDA recommendations are here. I heart the USDA and their food safety OCD.
  • When your turkey has thawed, remove the parts stowed inside the body cavity. (Think CSI and a drug mule.) Double check – sometimes those extra parts are sneaky. (More on the parts later.)
  • Wash the bird thoroughly and cut it like a chicken. (Google this and you will find step-by-step instructions, including videos. Learn this skill and save money! Or, if you are a veg and this is as gross to you as it is to me, convince someone else in the house to take care of the butchering. Be sure to cut the bird and not your hand.) A turkey is just a giant chicken. Not really, but use your imagination.
  • Arrange turkey pieces on a rack on a large roasting or broiler pan. Drizzle skin with extra virgin olive oil and if you’re feeling naughty, top with some tiny bits of butter. I sprinkle some sea salt and fresh ground pepper, but that’s personal choice. (At this point, you can stuff things under the turkey skin – not in the bird – like lemon slices, fresh rosemary and sage, etc. I rarely do this. I have no excuse.)
  • Bake that sucker at 325 - 350 until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast and thigh is 165 degrees. (I cook until it is 160-ish  and then remove from the oven and let it rest until the temperature has risen to 165. This is not USDA canon. Don’t listen to me. Listen to the USDA. I listen to Alton Brown.) If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you need one. Follow the USDA’s temperature recommendations because salmonella = gross.
  • I appreciate the food safety folks at Clemson Extension at least as much as the USDA. Read their turkey safety rules and commit them to memory. One little bout of food poisoning (not even meat-related) makes you wary. Wary, I tell you.
  • The baking time will be substantially less than that of a whole bird, but it varies by size. I have found that I can cook a beast of a turkey in under two hours. This means it remains moist and tender and does not become the desiccated ash pile so many of us remember from childhood holidays.

Now, about those turkey organs and such… Don’t throw them out. Those parts can be boiled to make stock and the bits can be added to gravy (or gra-by, as my daughter called it when she was little). Around here, they sometimes make it into homemade dog food. That’s a recipe for another day.

Also, stuffing should include chopped boiled eggs, onions and sage. These ingredients are not negotiable. It is also never stuffed inside a bird or even polluted with meatish things. This is because I love stuffing and it goes great with Tofurky roast.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

i actually do work, sort of

I get paid to write stuff. I would be most honored if you would click over and read (and comment, where applicable and if you are so inclined – yay for job security!) on some of the things I have online currently. Much obliged, ma’am.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

whether it needs it or not

Every hundred years or so, I update Basically Green. It’s not that I don’t care, I promise.

big toys

So while the little ones got plastic fire helmets and delighted in sitting in the driver’s seat of the fire truck, I watched the big boys (my son and his friend) eyeing the gadgets. A very astute firefighter came up to them and said, “You boys ever heard of the jaws of life?”

Christmas came early this year, boys and girls.


Monday, November 9, 2009

american heritage foundation

AHEF_Banner_update_v4.jpg image by homeschoolcrew


Free stuff, people – We homeschoolers love free stuff, right? American Heritage Foundation has a slew of free U.S. History lessons online at The organization will send you a CD of the materials (free!) that includes differentiated lessons for elementary, middle and high school levels. You can also download pdfs of any of the lessons. (My download speed is actually faster than reading a CD, so don’t be deterred by the file size if you have high speed access.)

The lessons are built on four themes: freedom, unity, progress and responsibility. The program is essentially what was called “civics” back in the day, but grew out of favor over the years. American Heritage designed this curriculum to counteract that trend. Some of this material is quite useful – I haven’t gone through all of it, so as always, we will use what works for us and disregard the rest. Though it was designed for public schools, it is very, very adaptable for homeschool use. And it’s free. Did I mention it’s free? (You can order the lessons in a printed form for a fee, but go check out the pdfs first.) There is a distinct focus on the primary documents the resulted in the formation of our country, as well as character education. And if you are in Texas, you get the double bonus of a version that is specific to state standards.


Monday, November 2, 2009

if you need verification of the season…


My poor, unsocialized homeschooler at our co-op’s fall festival last week. There were inflatables, games and a fire truck but we found all the kids jumping in the leaves…

mystery of history, vol. iii & a young scholar’s guide to composers

Oh my. I love, love these books. The TOS Crew was asked to review books from Bright Ideas Press and ours included these wonderful selections. I have heard time again about Mystery of History (or MOH, as homeschoolers call it) but I never knew enough about it to differentiate it from other history studies available. Allow me to gush for a moment.

First, MOH, Vol. III covers the renaissance, reformation and growth of nations, roughly 1455 – 1707. It is adaptable for a variety of ages, but I found it dead-on perfect for middle school. The textbook appeals to my tactile book sense (if you know me, you understand) because it’s meaty and beautiful – the design exudes the time period. Unlike many other homeschool texts, this one spares nothing in the eye candy department. Illustrations are detailed and colorful and incredibly appropriate. The layout is beyond organized. I suspect that author Linda Lacour Hobar and I could have a great time discussing organizational neuroses over a cup of coffee – this book is broken down in a way that makes lesson planning effortless. I heart that. So. Much.

moh3cover.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

Now, for the content: This is a Christian curriculum. It is openly, unashamedly, evangelical Christian. If that’s not your cup of tea, look elsewhere, but if you see history as His Story, this book has that covered. The book’s design gives the appearance of a scholarly treatise, but the text itself is quite conversational in style. Kids can read this and understand it. The stories are easy to digest without being condescending. Hobar speaks directly to the students in her writings. Don’t take my word for it: view a 62 page sample.

And – ack – there’s an activity guide, too. (Still gushing over this one, too… here’s a sample.) The activity guide (also available on CD) is over 500 pages long and includes adaptations for different grade levels, as well as crafts and quizzes and worksheets and maps and Hobar’s kitchen sink (probably). This truly completes the study. I would buy this series just for me, which is probably where I will end up when I am no longer homeschooling. Just me, buried under text books and papers, learning stuff I didn’t get with my undergraduate and graduate degrees.

But I digress.

composers-book-cover-web-231x300.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

We were also asked to review A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers, which covers the biggies from ancient music (Gregorian chants, anyone?) to John Williams. (Yes, that John Williams.) Awesome, right? The book includes 32 lessons that are designed to serve as a year’s worth of study for students in grades 4- 8. It’s taking us a little longer than that, because we are using this as a rotating unit. Each lesson includes wonderful biographical details about each composer, as well as student review pages. There are detailed coloring pages (can’t get the boy interested in those…), a timeline, composer cards and more. Most helpful is the section featuring listening suggestions for each composer. The links are to YouTube videos and include discussion questions for each. (I hate typing in those long strings of characters for YouTube links, but that’s a minor complaint, especially since they are free.) Here’s a sample featuring Bach.


We received free books for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

abc teach

I actually found ABC Teach a while ago, while Googling for worksheets on something or other. Sometimes you just need a worksheet, you know? :) The site is loaded with downloads, more than 5,000, and more than 35,000 available to members. When the TOS Crew was asked to review the site, I didn’t know where to start. There are so many things available, it really did take me a while to figure it all out. However, once I got the hang of it, I found plenty that fit into our school days.

ABC Teach is not a curriculum substitute, though some topics for some subjects can be taught quite well from the information on the site. We found it best for supplementing – for those little fill-ins needed here and there. For instance, my son had a co-op assignment on the Great Wall of China. Before Googling and sorting through 927,000 irrelevant things, we searched ABC Teach and found exactly the thing he needed.

The site is also great for extra practice. Writing… don’t even get me started. Sometimes my son needs extra practice on a writing topic. Again, when faced with coming up with the extra practice myself, I decided not to reinvent the wheel. I found much more than I ever could have come up with on my own.

abc_logo.gif image by homeschoolcrew

If you use workboxes, ABC Teach has many, many downloads that lend themselves to that system. The site includes materials for preschool through high school, on just about every subject imaginable. Here’s a great example of items available for a weather-themed study: (These are free and just touch the surface of what is available to members.)

Just a note, I think I probably have few classroom teachers reading this site, but if you are a classroom teacher or teach at a co-op or Sunday school, there are many classroom helps on ABC Teach. I actually did not need those here in our one-student homeschool, but you may find them helpful.

ABC Teach membership is $40 per user per year or $70 for two years. Substantial discounts are offered for groups. Do you need to join? If it’s in your budget, there is great benefit to be had, but first, you should cruise around the free areas of the site. Membership allows access to many, many more items, as well as the ability to create custom worksheets. Here’s a video tour of the site which provides more information: (Scroll down to see the video.)


We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.


avko2_01.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

If you have a child with learning difficulties, especially dyslexia, then AVKO might be of interest to you. AVKO is a nonprofit organization that produces materials related to spelling, writing, reading and keyboarding. TOS Crew members were asked to review the site and its membership benefits. Many homeschoolers use Sequential Spelling and you will find many supplemental resources for that program at AVKO as well. (View AVKO’s materials list here.)

While I didn’t find this to be a necessity for our homeschool, that isn’t a reflection on AVKO, just on our particular needs. If you have a need for any of AVKO’s printed materials, it is definitely worth the cost of membership for the discount and extras it includes. Membership provides free access to several e-books, supplemental curriculum and discounts on orders. Don McCabe’s workshops are available for members to download in mp3 format, including his talks on dyslexia, spelling, phonics and more – as well as corresponding workshop handouts. (Sample some freebies here:

Individual membership is $25 per year and includes a 25 percent discount on printed materials. The Reading Teacher’s List of Over 5,500 Basic Spelling Words can be ordered for $29.95 but is a free e-book with membership. That book alone makes AVKO membership a good deal, one which is magnified if you have a child with dyslexia. There are enough free samples on the site to give you a good feel for its content. Take a look and you might end up adding more spelling lessons to your homeschool, like someone else I know….



We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

bible timeline

bibletimelinesmall.jpg picture by homeschoolcrew

Timelines are straight lines, right? I have to admit, I am still figuring out the complexities of the Amazing Bible Timeline that TOS Crew members were asked to review. I find something new every time I look at and I suspect that won’t change in the near future. This is truly unlike any timeline I have ever seen and it takes a great deal of time just to begin to take it in. That is not a criticism, just an observation about how incredibly detailed it is.

This timeline has a unique layout that makes sense once you figure it out. (You must look at it online to understand what I am talking about. Trust me.) The coolest thing about the layout is that it correlates the Bible to what was happening elsewhere in the world, providing a grounding and historical placement for stories that can seem abstract in the study of history. The marketers of the timeline say it “gives a whole world view of God’s plan.” I can see that. :)

More information: The original chart was complied in 1931 and was updated in 1971 and 2000. This company sells both the version I received and an LDS version and it appears there may be some overlap. I am not going to dissect that issue here, but if it is an issue for you, you may want to read the authors’ take on the subject. As with everything else in our homeschool, I use what fits and I disregard what doesn’t. The timeline sells for $29.97 and on a practical note, this thing is huge, about 3’ x 4’. We have ours on the wall, but you should consider the size when purchasing. (But I imagine it’s hard to put the history of the world in a condensed format, so there you go.) The timeline includes some additional items available via download, including interactive maps of the Holy Land, a digital timeline and the genealogy of Jesus (very cool).

The best way to know if this works for your family is to go take a look. I think it’s an interesting addition to our world history study.

Monday, October 26, 2009

back from the woods

Our family served at Cub Scout camp this weekend. Spending the weekend at camp kind of gets me over the knowledge that winter follows fall. Kind of.



(Pardon the unmade bed.)






The trees were more beautiful than I have ever seen. 




I found this hot guy on the trail.



sue patrick’s workbox system

bookforwebsitejpgw300h232.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

Unless you homeschool in a cave (do you homeschool in a cave?), you have probably heard of Sue Patrick’s Workbox System – a structured method for parceling out the school day in plastic shoeboxes. Actually, that’s just a small part of it, but it is at the core of the system. It’s as hot as Cabbage Patch Kids circa 1986, but with less dolls and more math and science.

Patrick asked the TOS Crew to review her e-book which details the process. I was skeptical because I thought the system was for young and/or special needs children, but it really has helped our school day run smoother. I can only speak to how this works in my situation – one child, who can work fairly independently – but the system was developed to help Patrick’s son who is on the autism spectrum. As such, it implements several techniques used in therapies for kids with autism spectrum disorders. However, those techniques can apply quite handily to other children as well.

Patrick is fairly adamant that her system of plastic shoeboxes on a rack works best. I don’t know many homeschoolers who use anything straight out of the box (no pun intended) without tweaking it to suit their family. We’re crazy rebels that way, you know. Obviously, the system Patrick details in her book works best for her family and many others who follow it precisely. We use our own method based on Patrick’s system which works beautifully for us. I encourage you to read the book and not just rely on the information available online – but after doing so, you may find that some elements of the system are adaptable depending upon your needs. Some elements (clocking in and out of the school day, for instance) have been entirely unnecessary for us. (Our homeschool is more home-like than school-like, but it works well for us.) But dividing the day into manageable chunks? For that, Patrick has my thanks. The system has given us more organization and has given my son personal satisfaction and encouragement.

This system can be used with any curriculum choice and any grade level. Patrick sells the book alone, supplies or complete starter kits. For details about the system, this presentation says it best – in Patrick’s own words. Sample pages are available here. The books itself is a quick read, but really does explain Patrick’s methods and the reasoning behind them. Patrick’s site also includes pictures that will give you a good idea of the physical structure she recommends. A terrific interview with Patrick is online at Love to Know.

If you choose to buy Patrick’s book and give the system a try, there are many online communities that offer “workboxing” suggestions, including units adapted to the system. If you need more organization in your school day, I encourage you to give it a try. As with most everything else in our homeschool, we have implemented the parts that work best for us and chosen not to use other elements, but I am pleased with the results.

If you’re curious, here’s a look at part of our workbox corner which sits atop a bookshelf. (We use a combination of plastic drawers and boxes to accommodate materials of various sizes. And we use Star Wars box numbers courtesy of the workboxes Yahoo group. Awesomeness.) My son brings completed materials to a plastic tub near my desk. He is free to work at a desk, on the floor, on the couch, at the computer, etc. It works for us. :)