Wednesday, March 31, 2010

family mint

Hooray for financial literacy! I know so many adults who are living out of envelopes as they struggle to gain control of spending. While that is admirable, I think they would all say it would be easier if they had been given an appreciation of the value of a dollar as kids.

Family Mint can be a big step in that direction. The site is free! You, the parent, become the banker. (Presumably, you will be a benevolent banker like George Bailey. Don’t be Mr. Potter. He’s mean.) You run your own family bank, treating deposits and withdrawals as real money. You can use Family Mint’s system for allowance, chore money, etc., or simply as a teaching tool. Accounts can be set up for each child with an automatic allowance system. Children can save for specific goals and easily track and monitor their money with a very child-friendly interface.

The beauty of this is that you set the rules for your bank (just like the real world – Ha! I’m kidding, kind of). If your children earn money or allowance from you, you can use Family Mint to track that and allow them to keep up with their “deposits.” They cash out when a goal is met (or according to whatever parameters you set). Children can also use this to keep up with a real piggy bank. I can also see using this just as a homeschool unit on money and the banking system, without real money entering into the equation.

I think Family Mint is a tremendous resource for parents, whether they homeschool or not. The work is done for you – I recommend you give it a try and use it as a teachable moment in your family. It’s much easier to learn money lessons when you are a child than when you are an adult with a mortgage, taxes and a credit rating to protect.

Can I get an amen on that? :)


Sound too good to be true? Read Family Mint’s FAQs for more info:

FREE: Why is FamilyMint free? How do you plan to make money?

We are committed to providing a version that is free to ensure that all families have access to the tools necessary to bring up financially savvy children and make parent’s lives easier.

We will be introducing a Pro version in the near future that will carry a monthly or annual fee.  Our goal is to keep the base product free and charge for value added features.

SIMPLE: How long will it take me to set up my family?

Most families can get started in as little as 10 minutes. This includes setting up the children’s profiles and creating a starting set of goal accounts.

SECURE:  Is my data safe?  Are my children protected?

FamilyMint takes security seriously and our number one desire is to keep your kids and their information private and safe.  All of your family’s information is accessible only by you.  You will never have outsiders sending unsolicited messages to your children.


I was asked to review Family Mint as part of the TOS Crew. The site is free for anyone. My opinions are my own.

Monday, March 29, 2010

the art of conversation

People who haven’t known my family for very long might assume that my son is quiet around strangers because he is an isolated, unsocialized homeschooler.

You know that isn’t the case.

I have found that homeschooling has actually taught my boy the art of conversation in some very unexpected ways.

(Read more at Heart of the Matter Online…)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

seventh generation giveaway

Good, eco-friendly stuff. Get yours here… seventh generation giveaway

Monday, March 22, 2010

sure signs




Sunday, March 21, 2010

google on main sky shot

google on main sky shot
Originally uploaded by amywoodtv

Our city is pretty cool, yes?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

sweet mail call

Rachel has a new hobby and I was the beneficiary. Through a friend, she sent me two bars of luscious vegan soap. Below is Sweet Addiction. Salted Caramel and Chocolate went straight to the shower, so no photo. The soaps are as incredible as they sound, but they are not for sale (yet).


And how about this incredible Vintage Swap package from Mindy? (Thanks again to Heather for her hard work in setting up the swap. Have you seen Heather’s blog? Run, don’t walk – she is terrific.) Mindy sent my favorites:

::Gorgeous old sheet music


:: A sweet zippered pouch she made just for me (with goodies, including homemade lip balm which ended up in the clutches of my teenager)


::Lovely fabrics


::And a vintage linen tablecloth that will soon (hopefully) be pillows.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

history channel dvd

Homeschoolers, if you receive the History Channel’s Educator’s Guide, then you probably saw the story about the upcoming Story of Us series, which begins April 25. I haven’t seen it yet (unfortunately, no media sneak peek) but it looks good. Run, don’t walk, to the History Channel’s web site to request a free DVD of the series for your homeschool. Hooray for the History Channel who explicitly states that the offer is available to homeschools!

Many thanks to Sheri for letting me know about this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

artistic pursuits

Let’s be clear up front. I can’t draw stick people. However, I do have a child who loves to draw and who would prefer to submit all his writing assignments as graphic novels. For him, Artistic Pursuits is a terrific program. As part of the TOS Crew, we were sent Artistic Pursuits Junior High, Book Two. (The boy has art as a co-op class and had already covered the lessons in book one.) We purchased a variety of supplies used in the program: pastels, special pastel paper, kneaded erasers and more. But oh, it was worth it. The boy is learning from this, for sure. The only problem we have in implementing it is his desire to do everything perfectly the first time. (This is not limited to art and is an ongoing issue for us.) The lessons challenge him and he can’t execute each piece as it is shown in the book. He is too quick to see that as a failure rather than part of the learning process. Ugh. We are working on that.

Artistic Pursuits is written to the student, so it’s OK that it isn’t my strongest subject. Each lesson (in our book, at least) incorporates lessons in art history and art appreciation, as well as the craft itself.

View sample pages and included lessons online. (Book Two includes: Unit 1 Hue and Intensity, Unit 2 Primary and Secondary, Unit 3 Monochrome, Unit 4 Complementary Pairs, Unit 5 Neutrals, Unit 6 Warm, Analogous Colors, Unit 7 Cool, Analogous Colors, Unit 8 Color Applications, Composition, Unit 9 Balance in Color, Unit 10 Parallel Rhythm, Unit 11 Converging Rhythm, Unit 12 Space with Little Depth, Unit 13 Depth, Unit 14 Viewpoint, High, Unit 15 Viewpoint, Low, Unit 16 Emphasis, Evaluation Sheet, Bibliography.)

Junior High books are $42.95 each, plus supplies.


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

seasons of faith books

I know I sound like a broken record, but once again, I was not familiar with Children’s Bible Hour radio shows. However, several of the programs have been adapted to a beautifully illustrated series called Seasons of Faith. The “seasons” range from the baby steps of newly discovered faith to finding strength through great trials. Each book also includes a story CD – perfect for car trips.

Race with Midnight

The books present real world scenarios that most elementary-aged children could understand. Discussion questions are available to further explore the topics. I encourage you to look at the questions since the books might cause children to have questions of their own. The “winter” book in the series, Braving the Storm, may be too much for kids who worry or empathize easily. The book deals with economic and family stresses. For children who are in a difficult situation, however, it could be a terrific resource.

Braving the Storm

All in all, I think the series is very well done and has broad appeal for boys and girls. Do check them out and watch a video of the production process – it gives a preview of how the books were created as well as the beautiful art work that was chosen. The books (including a CD!) are $10 each.


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

history odyssey

ancients3_sm.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

I love products that keep me from reinventing the homeschool wheel. History Odyssey from Pandia Press does just that. As part of the TOS Crew, we received History Odyssey Ancients, Level Two for review. This is a schedule/course outline/lesson plan/study guide all in one. The course is a step-by-step method for using a variety of resources (Kingfisher, historical fiction, Evan-Moor History Pockets, etc.) throughout the school year. (While maps and lessons are included in the product, keep in mind that it is a study guide that utilizes a list of required books. It is not a history spine.)

Ancients, Level Two includes 87 lessons and each is a complete breakdown of what is required – teacher prep is minimal. The study guide includes map and timeline work, writing assignments, research, outlining and more. A self-directed student could implement much of this with little supervision. The guide is designed for the logic stage, approximately grades five through eight.

As a history geek, I can tell you that I found this to be appropriately thorough for this grade level. The course is also secular, which differentiates it from many on the homeschool market. It is truly a complete course study guide that can save countless hours of planning time.

History Odyssey is available in three levels for first grade through high school, with ancients through modern times for levels one and two and ancients and middle ages for level three.

Links are available on the Pandia Press site for ordering print editions of the study guides. E-book versions are also available for download. Extensive samples are also available for download.

E-books are $28.99 - $33.99, depending upon the level chosen.


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

beehive reader, all about reading level 2

WhatAmICover.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

This is another early reader hit from All About Reading. This book, What Am I?, correlates with All About Spelling, Level 2. It features sweet, simple stories – age appropriate for emerging readers. As with the first Beehive Reader, the illustrations are the biggest selling point for me. Once again, the illustrations make me want to crawl inside the book.

Have a look:

SamplePages1.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

SamplePages2.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

SamplePages3.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

SamplePages4.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

You do not have to use All About Spelling to appreciate this book. It can fit in nicely with your homeschool curriculum of choice or as a fun-to-read book even if you are not homeschooling. We were provided a review copy as part of the TOS Crew. Alas, the book is not available for order until April 1, but check the All About Reading site then for more information.


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

homeschool in the woods – maps

I kind of geeked out over the Olde World Style Maps from Homeschool in the Woods. I am still geeking out a little whenever I look at them, actually. As part of the TOS Crew, we we sent a download of world and U.S. maps. They are gorgeous. The maps are beautifully drawn and just a terrific homeschool resource for all ages and grades.

I printed several of the maps on white paper, but I am seriously considering printing the rest on ivory linen. (I really do love maps.) The design is definitely old world, but with really neat detailing. The packs include labeled and blank designs – perfect for quizzes!

The world map set includes more than 130 maps plus notebooking pages. The United States map set includes more than 180 maps and even more notebooking pages. Have a look at free samples online and while you’re there, look at the other downloads including a free Jamestown settlement replica.

Downloads are $18.95 each ($19.95 each for CDs) or $28.95 for a combo pak which includes both sets ($29.95 on CD). Both – download or CD – are pdf documents.


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

tales from terrestria

Once again, a review has introduced me to a book series with which I was unfamiliar. As part of the TOS Crew, we were asked to review two books from the Tales from Terrestria series by evangelist Ed Dunlop. This is a stand-alone series that is a companion to the Terrestria Chronicles. We were sent books one and four, The Quest for Thunder Mountain and The Isle of Dragons.

After reviewing the books, I would gauge them at late elementary – middle school level. They are well written with classically crafted stories. I was put off a bit by the layout style, as there are virtually no margins on the pages. It made it difficult for me to read. I don’t know why this layout type was chosen, but it is nonstandard and I found it distracting.

On to the books…I do hope my son will be willing to read these at some point. The genre doesn’t particularly appeal to him, but again, that is personal preference. Know up front that the stories are allegories and while I love allegories and these stories are well written, the message is too thinly veiled for my taste. With King Emmanuel, the Mountains of Difficulty and such in the first book, I found myself wanting to have to think about the allegory aspect a little more – when it is so plainly stated, it does lose some effect. I found it more effectively presented in book four. (This aspect may increase the books’ appeal for children however.)

Having said that, I do believe the books can be used as evangelical tools, especially for young people who will pick up an adventure story but have not been introduced to the Bible. In writing this review, I just realized why this style seemed familiar. When I was elementary/early middle school age, I remember a series of comic books from our school library (I went to a Christian school) that were written almost as the graphic novel version of Gospel tracts. The stories were designed to be relevant but the allegories were thin (or not hidden at all) by design. That may be the case here. In any event, do consider these for the adventure story lover in your household or neighborhood. The stories can certainly open the door for a deeper conversation and on their own, supply a solid explanation of Biblical principles.

Tales from Terrestria, as well as Ed Dunlop’s other books, are available online at  Free e-books and coloring pages are also available. Books are $7.99 each.


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

Friday, March 12, 2010

danger, will robinson

Warning, warning. I am in the beginning stages of moving this blog to a different platform. It will remain at, so if you reach the site that way, you are A-OK. If you get this through Google reader of some other format, I will let you know in advance of the change. Consider this is pre-warning warning. This will probably take me eight years to do, so hang tight.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Dear Lady in High Heels,

I saw you hurrying to your car. I immediately had two thoughts about you. First, what a cute skirt. Second, I could never move that quickly in those shoes. Then I saw you and your lunch jump into your SUV parked in a handicap spot. I thought something else about you then.

sharing the past

The most awesome Heather once again hosted a vintage swap. Here’s a peek at what I sent:



Everything in the box, except the yellow cabbage rose appliqué fabric, came from Mrs. M’s stash. If I live to be 100 (and here’s hoping), I will not reach the end of Mrs. M’s stash. I suspect she would be very happy to know that I have used and enjoyed it so much and bits and pieces of it have traveled all over the world to be enjoyed by others. (That’s a reminder that I need to restock my Etsy shop.) I wonder if Mr. M. ever questioned her zeal for beautiful, timeless fabrics. I hope he was as understanding as my husband when she added to the stash.

You did well, Mrs. M. Very well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

seek and snap (and more)

This is for my Upstate, South Carolina friends – Just a heads-up that Let There Be Mom is holding a digital scavenger hunt April 10 in downtown Greenville. The event (in addition to being a lot of fun) raises money for LTBM and awareness of their services for families that might need their help.

AND THIS WEEKEND – March 13, is the Peacock Strides for Babies in honor of Emily “Peacock” Ware, who died of SIDS last year. The event raises money for SIDS research.

Sign up. Give money. Make the world a better place.

schoolhouse expo


Hey Homeschoolers, The Old Schoolhouse is hosting an online conference in May. If you register before March 31, the cost is $19.99 (that’s a $5 discount). Click over and check out the freebies that come with registration.


The speakers are going to be very interesting:

From TOS:

  • Susan Wise Bauer shows you a simple, eight-step, systematic process for producing good writers.
  • Todd Wilson explains how being REAL can be life changing with his usual wit and humor.
  • Amanda Bennett, unit study author extraordinaire, will help you better understand unit studies.
  • Diana Waring reveals how discovering your child's learning styles, learning modalities, and learning intellect will help you adapt your teaching strategies and choose curriculum wisely.
  • Andrew Pudewa, one of our readers' favorite homeschool speakers, discusses the four core language arts and how to teach each in the proper way!
  • Sue Patrick provides insight on implementing the Workbox System.
  • Mark Hamby will help you deal with sibling rivalry, marital conflict, and holding on to the wrong things.
  • Heather Laurie discusses special needs homeschooling.
  • Lee Binz of HomeScholar explains how to organize a high school transcript.
  • Davis Carman explains how the family is the best way to defend the Christian faith.
  • Karen “Spunky Homeschool” Braun tackles how to use the Internet and electronics responsibly in an era when many want to chat and twitter their time away.


    As part of the TOS Crew, I get to “attend” (virtually) this conference at no charge, but my opinions are my own.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    what’s that spell…


    Apologies for the harsh light in the photo – it was dark out, so this was the best I could do. And do I have one picture without a dog nose in it? Probably not.

    If you are the mom of a Boy Scout, you probably know about the historical merit badges offered this year for the BSA centennial. Semaphore is one of the choices –and you will need flags for that. My husband (who taught my son’s troop how to do semaphore) cut dowels for the handles. Do not stress about the flags! Hobby Lobby sells solid color bandannas that are the perfect size and are already hemmed. Cut each on the diagonal and sew right sides together. Press the seam to the red side and trim to square. (I found that the different colors were not exactly the same, less than a quarter inch off.) Attach ties to the red side (see photo). I used white ribbon for two flags and natural-colored cording for the other two (because I ran out of ribbon). I triple-stitched the ties because the flags were designed to be used by boys and thus will endure great tribulation.

    In the event of an emergency, we can signal the neighbors for help.

    graphics toolbox

    greattools.jpg image by homeschoolcrew

    Please head over to the TOS Crew blog for reviews from other crew members on Graphics Toolbox. We were unable to review this product from Great Software Tools because of a computer compatibility issue, but I hear wonderful things about it.

    Graphics Toolbox is a graphics software program that fellow homeschoolers are using for a wide variety of interests, including school and home businesses. For homeschoolers, think mini-offices, notebooking, lapbooking, timelines and more. Students of all ages can learn to use the program (at their own level) to create projects, art for PowerPoint presentations and more. I know my kinesthetic boy would love to use this.

    Bloggers: Several folks are using this for blog headers and buttons as well. It is worth checking out, especially since you can try it free for 30 days. If you have any questions about compatibility with your operating system, contact Graphics Toolbox and they will be able to answer your questions.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    visitors from outer space


    We waited in the cold for our visitors to arrive. Right on cue, at 6:51 p.m., the International Space Station was visible in the twilight sky. Safe travels, gentlemen. You are welcome here anytime.


    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    i write words

    More of my hard work is online for your reading pleasure. If it indeed is not pleasurable, please don’t tell me.

    More links are coming…

    Fellow South Carolinians, please check out the Spring issue of Sandlapper magazine. It is in bookstores and in your mailbox if you are a subscriber. I have a story running about the BMW Charity Pro-Am. I have written extensively about the tournament in the past (and I don’t know a birdie from a mulligan – OK, I know what a mulligan is) but this is my first time profiling a sampling of the diverse charities that benefit from the event. Guess who’s playing this year? Cheech, Puddy and John Locke – good souls all. (Note to those in attendance: I dare you to walk up to Terry O’Quinn and say, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” I’m sure he never hears that...)

    On a completely different note, it is snowing here again and I have deadlines. What happens when seasonal affective disorder meets stress? Why, cooking, of course! Here’s how my stress manifests itself (enlarge to see what’s cooking):

    kitchen stress

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    homeschool library builder

    Are you familiar with this site? I have explored it pretty thoroughly and I became a member (it’s free), though I haven’t ordered yet. We were asked to review Homeschool Library Builder for the TOS Crew. It is essentially an online used books store for homeschooling families. Books are available for preschoolers through adult, with search categories by age, genre, curriculum and more. The prices are reasonable. The site is Christian-run, so the inclusion of a number of more difficult to locate books -- biographies of missionaries, for instance – make this a unique resource.

    The site also includes links to a wide variety of homeschooling resources. This is a great stop for families who are just beginning their homeschooling journey. By the way, membership in the site helps you earn book points with each purchase.

    And really, you can’t have too many books.



    I wasn’t provided anything for this review – just the same access to the web site that is available to anyone. My opinions are my own.