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Writer's Easy Reference Guide Review

Bonnie Terry Learning's Writer's Easy Reference Guide is a writing guide that is designed to take "the pain out of learning to write."
The Writer's Guide is 12 pages with "tips, hints and short lessons to guide your child or your students through the sentence, paragraph, essay and letter writing maze. Its hints and insights will improve the clarity, complexity, and quality of writing for students ages 7 to adult." Includes:
  • Paragraph Writing Hints
  • Essay Writing Hints for the Four Basic Essays
  • Steps of the Writing Process
  • Words to Make Your Writing More Interesting
  • Common Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words
  • Grammatical & Literary Terms
  • How to Write a Bibliography with examples, and more.
Price: $17
This is not a "how to" publication, but rather a handy guide with basic writing information and helpful hints and tips. However, it is very brief in many of the sections. For example, the preposition list is incomplete and leaves out 7 known prepositions, and in the list of Common Root Words only 11 root words are listed (including spelling variations), but with a quick search online I was able to find many "common root word" lists that contain much more information. Considering this, I was really surprised to find out how much it cost. I am happy to have it for my students to use, but I'm not sure I personally would spend the money to buy this. That said, it has come in handy over the last few weeks. My boys have been working on another writing program that gives several topics to choose from. To help them figure out which type of writing they wanted to do, I quickly grabbed the Reference Guide and read to them the section on the Four Basic Essays. I think it will especially help my younger writers to have a handy guide like this. Bonny Terry has many other products available on her website and you read more about them here.
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The Special Wish Book Review

As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I received The Special Wish to review. This book is a part of Passkeys Foundation's Good News Express Series, which includes 4 hardback books and CD's. The collection is $20 or $7.50 each. Books in this series include: The Birthday Gift, The Special Wish, Thanks, But No Thanks, and The Cheerful Grump. They carry other products as well and you can see them here. The Good News Express Series is a series designed to build individual character traits. The Special Wish is a 32 page hardback book that focuses on friendship. It has colorful illustrations and a lovable cast of characters that discover the true meaning of friendship. It teaches that people are more important than things.
The story centers around a bear's special birthday wish. It is Finney's birthday and all of his friends are trying out figure out what his "special wish" is. They all think they have it figured out and think that their gift is Finney's special wish. They are a surprised when they find out that their gift is not Finney's special wish. They are even more surprised to find out that Finney's wish came true after all - but it didn't come wrapped with a bow. The Special Wish is a cute little story teaching that friendship is the best present of all. The book also comes with a CD that narrates the story with sound effects and charming character voices and includes original songs.
Russell Williams, President of Passkeys Foundation, also has a blog called Kids of Character 'One Minute Mentoring Messages' and posts a weekly inspirational and educational post to "guide, influence and inspire parents, grandparents, coaches and community leaders in their role as character advocates with the children and youth they love."
I liked that the book/CD set is reasonably priced, is colorful and engaging and is focused on the character trait of friendship; however, this book is not for our family. We don't celebrate birthdays in the "traditional" sense so we do not do birthday cakes, candles, birthday presents or birthday "wishes." Besides that, it was a cute story with a endearing lesson on friendship.
To see other crew member reviews, click here or on the banner below!

College Prep Genius Review

I have been spending some time with my oldest son and College Prep Genius over the last 6 weeks and while I hadn't given college prep much thought before, it is fresh on my brain now (I can't say the same for my son, though).

First, some information about the products I received: "The No Brainer Way To SAT Success" and "Master the SAT Class" to review are products by College Prep Genius that are designed to prepare your student for the SAT, improve their test scores, build confidence and lessen test anxiety. “Master the SAT Class” encompasses all facets of the SAT and PSAT and covers all three sections of the tests. It also teaches unique techniques designed to help students improve their test‐taking abilities.
From the website:
"The textbook contains over 170 pages jammed full of helpful advice, including: revealed secrets . . . In total there are over 350 tips, shortcuts, strategies and pertinent college prep material in the text. The workbook contains a full set of practice problems that complements the DVD and textbook and covers every SAT question type."
Techniques discussed: Critical Reading:
  • How to cut your Critical Reading time in half
  • The three main question types in all the passages
  • The most common mistake people make on the Dual Reading Passage
  • How not to be fooled by certain questions
  • How to eliminate wrong answer choices
  • Which words in the answer choice are paramount to circle
  • The four recurring tricks hidden in the answer choices
  • The vocabulary trick most people fall for
  • The secret to answering the Short Reading Passage
  • The place to look for the main idea in the Short Passage—it’s always the same
  • How to take advantage of the semi‐colon or colon clues in the Sentence Completion section
  • How to answer the double blank questions quickly
  • When to ignore the first blank
Math Section:
  • How to rarely use your calculator
  • How to answer the problems the short way
  • What to do with unknown variables
  • The hidden math pattern that screams “this is the answer”
  • How wrong answers point you to right answer
  • How to eliminate 2‐3 answers right off the bat
  • Why the order of the answers is so important
  • Three easy geometry rhymes to help your remember formulas
  • The fastest way to answer a fraction question
  • How to dismantle a scary problem
Writing Section:
  • How to write a great essay in 15 minutes
  • What are the essay judges looking for
  • The four C’s and four S’s of a great essay
  • Types of essay topics that might appear
  • The biggest key to an amazing essay
  • The timing mistake to avoid
  • How to make the best use of all the lines provided
  • Recurring patterns and mistakes on the Sentence Error section
  • The key to finding the Improving Sentence answer quickly
  • Answering Improving Paragraph questions in shorter time
Price: “Master the SAT Class” DVD: $59.95 College Prep Genius textbook: $39.95 Class workbook: $15.95 Total value: $115.85 Introductory Price: $79 (30% OFF) This also has a "100% Money Back Guarantee."
Readers can receive free shipping and handling by using this special code: HSBlog09 (Expires November 15, 2009).

Our experience:

To be honest, it was hard to get my son into this program. There is a reason why I had not given college prep one teeny tiny little thought (even though my oldest is beginning 8th grade this year): He has never expressed an interest in going to college (and still doesn't). (Just so you know, my son has a very hands-on mechanical bent and would like to learn a trade by apprenticing. I did suggest the possibility of going to a trade school, though).

I very much appreciated having the DVDs in the Master the SAT Class because while he is a kinesthetic learner, he is also a visual learner. He didn't mind watching them with me. A workbook accompanies the set of 4 DVDs. We watched the introductory DVD together and worked through some of the workbook.

The Starter Quiz at the beginning of the book was our first experience with the workbook. It is a quiz designed to motivate students, but I thought it was a"no brainer" type quiz designed to get the student to buy into the materials and in our case did not motivate much. For instance, one question states "When it comes to college money, I want to A) Make minimum wage B) earn $10 an hour C) rob a bank D) earn $500 an hour." First of all, it is obvious which option one would choose and silly that robbing a bank was an option.

Knowing that my son does not want to go to college, I had him choose the answers he would pick if he did want to go. By the way, the $500 an hour is based off of spending 150 hours on this program and receiving a $75,000 scholarship. In theory, that is good money.

The DVD presents logic strategies and helps students by teaching them simple techniques and a lot of acronyms. One technique in particular caught my attention: the Positive-Negative Test. When you see a vocabulary word, you note what your first thoughts of the word are and whether it has a positive or negative sound to it. For example, licentious sounds like lie and sin, so it just sounds negative (and is). We really enjoyed that section.

We learned several other "tricks" to solving problems on the SAT as well as how to write acronyms, underline words, circle sentences, draw arrows and mark out wrong answers - all designed to keep the student's pencil moving and their brain thinking during the test.

The No Brainer Way To SAT Success book is a 178 page book filled with information designed to get your student to think logically. In fact, they suggest you complete a logic curriculum as well in your preparation for the test.

 My thoughts: I have never been fond of a scope and sequence that "teaches to the test." But, then I thought this might be a good thing to do (whether or not my son changes his mind about college) because it would "look good" (or make me look good if he gets a good score); however, since the SAT is not a reflection of what I have taught him or of what he knows, but rather a test of how well he can think logically, I'm not so sure. I would rather just add a logic curriculum to our eclectic blend of materials and call it good. Maybe. Thankfully, I have a couple years to think about this. But, I will for sure keep College Prep Genius around for when/if we need it because I can't imagine sending him in to take a test like this without some preparation for it.

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Roots and Fruits and Write With The Best Review

EDUDPS, Educational Diagnostic Presciptive Services, is a company that provides "homeschool curriculum and guidance that works." As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I had the opportunity to review 2 items from EDUDPS and I will share if they "work" for us. Roots and Fruits I love the study of Greek and Latin roots and prefixes, so I was very excited to be able to review Roots and Fruits. Roots and Fruits is a vocabulary curriculum that uses English forms of Greek and Latin roots and prefixes and is designed to help increase the vocabulary, reading, and spelling skills of your students in just 15 minutes a day. About Roots and Fruits:
  • Includes 673 roots and prefixes, 1716 vocabulary words, 15 minutes a day. (Comprehensive, complete, and only 15 minutes a day ~ like that)
  • Weekly schedule, detailed lesson plans and daily activities included. (Most of the work is done for you)
  • Activities approach rather than workbook approach. (Love this)
  • Meets the needs of all learners - visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. (Love this, too)
  • One program can be used for all your learners. (Definitely a bonus with multileveled students)
Additional supplies needed include a set of index cards. A few of the activities and games require additional supplies, but they may just be ones you already keep on hand (such as a Scrabble game and jello).
$14.98 e-book*
$17.48 pages only
$19.98 pages comb bound
*See note below.
Our experience:
I took the lesson plan ideas and wrote out a schedule based on the suggestions and posted it on the board next to the set of cards we are working on.
Posting the roots and words where they can be seen daily is an important part of this program and encourages long term retention.
Here is what we did:
On day 1, we began with the prefixes a (not) and a (on). Each student wrote these on an index card and chose 1-2 words with that prefix and looked up the definition of the word(s) and wrote this on the back of the card. They then looked up the part of speech and wrote that in the corner. Next step is to look up the origin of the word (Greek or Latin) and write that down (neither of our 3 dictionaries included that info, but the program does recommend options that do). In subsequent days, they are to find synomyms, write the words in a sentence and complete other activities and games that reinforce their understanding.
One of the suggested games is bingo, so I used an online bingo card generator to make one with our first set of prefixes. We used this to learn and to review the prefixes we learned this week.
Roots and Fruits works for us. I am really liking this program and plan to continue using it while working through the list alphabetically. Write With The Best Volume 1
A few things about this program:
  • No teacher prep or training required
  • Average of 15-30 minute daily lessons
  • Lessons are short and utilize various learning styles
  • Everything needed is included with the curriculum
The idea behind Write With The Best is to use quality literature and known writers as an example of what good writing looks like.
$19.95 for the e-book*
$22.45 for the pages only
$24.95 for the pages in a 3-ring binder
Contents include:
  • Describing an Object from Jules Verne - a Place from Charles Dickens - a Character from Daniel Defoe
  • Dialogue from Kenneth Grahame
  • The Short Story from O. Henry
  • Fables from Aesop
  • Friendly Letters from Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Poetry - Rhyming Verse from William Wordsworth
  • The Ballad or Narrative Poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Our experience:
We chose to work in Unit 7: "Writing a Friendly Letter". On Day 1, we read an excerpt from Treasure Island, determined the purpose of the letter and where in the letter we find this and talked about what makes the letter interesting. On Day 2, we read the letter again, underlined all the descriptive language, circled all specific nouns, put brackets around the sentence where the purpose of the letter is stated (an answer key is available). Then we talked about what makes a letter "the best." On Day 3, we studied the friendly letter form in the "How To Write Guide" in the back of the book, decided who we wanted to write a letter to and the purpose of the letter. Day 4 involved evaluating letters that we find in books or that we find ourselves (we had a hard time with finding examples). Days 5-9 focused on writing the actual letter, evaluating it and making a final copy. I like that Write With The Best has a natural learning approach and that it is literature based and modeled after classic works; however, some of the writing selections simply do not work for our family. I also thought some of the exercises were tedious.
What works for one family may not work for every family. And while this did not work for us, you can view the first two units of Write With the Best here to see if it will work for your family. *Note: EDUDPS products are available as an e-book or printed version. I received the printed versions (pages only) of both materials I reviewed, so I do not have experience with the ebooks but do know that they are not compatible with a Mac. I also know that the e-books have restrictions, so please read the special notes for all e-books if you consider this route. E-books are currently on sale now for 25% off. And you can see what other "fluff-free" standard products they have to offer here.
I suggest you see what other Crew members think of EDUDPS by clicking on the banner below.

Autumn Lapbook, Activities and Review {A Journey Through Learning}


As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I received some lapbooks to review for A Journey Through Learning. The Autumn Lapbook caught my eye right away and we have had a lot of fun with it. Here are a few of the activities we did during the first week of Autumn. Following the activities, I share the finished lapbook and my review.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

We hunted and found several of the items on the list as well as a few cool finds not on the list. The long green bean looking pod was new to us. We talked about our neat finds and also which berries were poisonous and which were safe to eat.

Changing Leaves

During our hunt, I had the kids look for signs of fall and collect the various colors of changing leaves that we talked about in the study ~ green, yellow, orange, red and brown.
We looked for other signs of fall.


We all agreed that pumpkins was a sure sign of fall. We bought a sugar pie pumpkin, baked it and toasted the seeds. We plan to make a few pumpkin recipes to include in a section of the lapbook.

To toast the seeds, we washed and dried them (using a hair dryer) and added them to a mixture of 4 T melted butter, 2 t worshestershirce sauce and 1 t garlic salt. Then we spread them on a baking sheet and toasted them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes while the pumpkin baked.

Building a Bird Nest

During our scavenger hunt, we also collected items from a list to make a birds nest. We collected willow twigs, strands of hay and grass, cotton balls, string, drier lint and I threw in some raw wool. We used the items to construct a bird nest and then placed it in the willow tree out front so we could watch it through the window.

The Lapbook

Working together.


Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

The Autumn Lapbook comes complete with a Study Guide and encourages fun hands on activities (as seen above).

Sections of the lapbook include:
  • Lapbook Instructions
  • What is Autumn?
  • Why do Leaves Change Color?
  • Foods of Autumn
  • My Fall Recipes
  • The First Thanksgiving
  • Autumn Joke!
  • Fall Vocabulary Words
  • Symbols of Autumn
  • My Favorite Nature Items
  • Building A Bird Nest
  • A Day Outside in Autumn
  • Migrating South
  • Helping the Birds
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Labor Day
  • Grandparent’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Interesting Things About Fall
  • Migrating Birds (swallow, hawk, goose,
  • martin)
  • Back to School
  • Fall Maze
  • Describing Autumn
  • Nature Scavenger Hunt
  • Trees in Autumn
  • Leaf Rubbings
  • Answer Key
The study guide was very easy to follow and the lapbook was full of color and graphics. I did not find an "Answer Key," but I did find some additional resources at the end of the lapbook guide, such as suggested readings, notebooking and note taking pages for younger and older students.
The Autumn Lapbook is available and priced as:
  • Instant download: $13
  • CD: $14
  • Printed: $21
I received the Instant Download to review. Because this is a full color lapbook, it does require a lot of ink to print. I can never tell how much it costs me ink-wise, though, because I print a lot of things. So, I can't say whether the instant download, cd or printed version would be better economically - it really depends on your printer and the cost of your ink.

The website says it is for grades PreK-7th and the cover says 2nd - 7th. I found it was very easy to include my 4 year old in with the activities and a few mini books.

My favorite thing about this lapbook was all of the hands on activities. If there was one thing that I would change about it (and will for our family) is to include the Fall Feasts of God, the Biblical Holidays, including the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. These holidays are more important to us than any of the holidays mentioned in the study. I assembled the lapbook as instructed, but will simply turn that book around and write in the holidays that are important to us. We also received The Parables of a King, Desert, Reptiles, and Amphibians lapbooks to review. I chose to complete the Autumn lapbook because this is the perfect time of year for it, but I think the other lapbooks are a great addition to our collection of homeschool resources. Viewing the samples and a complete list of products is a great way to see more of what A Journey Through Learning has to offer.
To see other crew member reviews, click here or on the banner below!

From Freezer to Table: Meals in Minutes

I am often asked how I accomplish so much, and truth be known, when we do, something always has to give. We prioritize. I am a strong believer that we make time for that which is important to us. However, I can get so wrapped up in what we are doing during the day that I don't make meal planning a priority. But, you can bet that when we get hungry it quickly moves to the top of our list of priorities and I need to fix something fast!  This is not easy to do when you avoid processed foods and do not eat out. We can't make a fast food run or order take out. So what do we do?

We get by. But it doesn't have to be that way because Sue Gregg has a better plan. As a member of the Homeschool Crew, I had the opportunity to review the book, From Freezer to Table, Meals in Minutes, one of a set of whole food cookbooks by Sue Gregg. In this book you will find several topics, including but not limited to:
  • Recipe List
  • Cook's Prayer
  • How to Use This Book
  • Basic Stock List
  • Freezing Main Dishes
  • Extra Time saving Tips
  • Shopping Guide to Quality Ingredients
  • Buying Chicken
  • Coping With Cost
  • 5 Timesaver Meals
  • 5 Convenience Meals
  • 5 Quick Meals
  • 5 Make-Ahead Meals
  • 5 Ready-to-Serve Meals
  • Nutrition Goals
  • Recipe Nutrient Data Explained
  • A caution About Microwave Ovens
  • Vegetarian Alternatives
  • Other Freezer Recipes
The Meals in Minutes is set up in 5 sets of 5 recipes, with a shopping list and assembly plan. When I read that the simplest plan is to double or triple a recipe each time you prepare a dish, I knew this is something that I could do (and needed to do). I often cook for a crowd and serve the leftovers (for the next several days) so that I don't have to cook as often. Well, I'm sure I know that my family gets tired of eating the same thing day after day (even though they rarely complain - my husband never complains) so I am motivated to give this book a try. I am sure that they will be blessed by it.

 The first thing I did was to read over the Basic Stock List and purchase anything that I normally do not keep in stock. This included some spices I have never used, nuts and some canned goods. Then I read a quick overview of the different ways you can freeze, thaw and cook main dishes as well as the 4 step general method that Sue Gregg prefers to use for convenience and for preserving the flavor and nutrition. I then read about how seasonings can be affected by freezing and how to choose, prepare and combine ingredients.

The book then goes into more detail about:
  • Freezing Methods
  • Containers to Use
  • Temperature
  • Foil or Freezer Ziploc Method
  • Direct Dish Method
  • Containers and Container Sizes
  • How to Prepare in Quantity, Freeze Quickly, Freezer Space and Length of Time in Freezer
  • Thawing Methods - Refrigerator Method and Quick Thaw, Microwave, and Conventional Oven
  • Reheating Methods - Range Top, Microwave, Coventional or Convection Oven
There is also a section of Extra Time Saving Tips. The very first one is one of my favorites - A Sinkful Of Soapy Water. This is a huge time saver for me - I always have this ready to receive dirty dishes and I was happy to see it listed. There are two complete pages of practical tips that are sure to save lots of time - many that I know about and use, many I know about but am not in the habit doing, and many that are new to me. Then, there is a 5 page Shopping Guide to Quality Ingredients, Buying Chicken and Coping with Food Costs. The Shopping Guide has many ideas on how to choose the best foods for your family. I know that many people do not buy organic/all natural because of the cost, but the book teaches you how to cope with the extra cost of buying grass fed meats and quality foods. Next is how to cook chicken and turkey:
  • Preparing Chicken for Cooking
  • To Stew
  • To Crock-Pot
  • To Quick-Fry Simmer
  • To Stir-Fry
  • To Steam
  • To Freeze
I have been cooking whole chickens and making my own broth for over 13 years and I have aways loved my recipe . . . until I tried Sue Gregg's. I couldn't get over how good it smelled while cooking and how great it tasted. I'm hooked. I really enjoyed pouring over this book, and found lots of recipes I wanted to try, but I decided to begin at the beginning and try the 5 Timesaver Meals. I was only going to do a couple recipes, but once I got started it was easy enough to prepare for all 5. The 5 recipes I began with are:
  • Chicken Curry
  • Sausage Strata
  • Best Burrito Beans
  • Favorite Tamale Pie
  • Tuna Fettucine
I used the Time Saver Shopping List and made sure I had what I needed. Then, I followed the Timesaver Assembling directions.

The "Day Before" items included:
  • Presoaking beans
  • Soaking cornmeal
  • Cooking the chicken
  • Setting out canned/dry ingredients
  • Getting out freezer containers and cooking pans
  • Soaking the almonds*
*Note: Soaking is a part of the Two-Stage Process that enhances nutrition and digestion and is explained more in the book.
All my canned/dry goods set out and ready for Cooking Day.
Almonds, cornmeal and pinto beans soaking.

On the "Cooking Day," instructions are given for cooking, chopping, slicing, grating and sautéing and how to complete each recipe in step by step detailed instructions. It even tells you which recipe to prepare when to maximize time, ease and efficiency. And I really enjoyed getting my kids in the kitchen with me for this.

Cooking the beans and preparing the Sausage Strata.

Assembling the Sausage Strata and Favorite Tamale Pie.

The recipes are easy to follow and my children jumped right in to help.

We were in an out of the kitchen the whole day while we cooked, but I often spend this much time preparing for our Friday evening and Sabbath meals every Friday, so I was very happy to end up with that many meals for the same effort. I also appreciated having the menu suggestions that accompany each meal. Nutrition analysis is also available.

Making zucchini curls.

I made these while my husband was out of town and was so pleased to be able to offer him several menu options when he returned. Of course, he told me whichever is easiest for me, but I was able to say that they are all easy! I can tell you now that we have already eaten all five freezer meals that I made. We have had so much going on with building a house, schooling, reviewing and life, but it was so nice to simply pull a meal out of the freezer and put dinner on the table in minutes! I was also very happy to have a variety of dishes with texture and taste. I loved the use of almonds and water chestnuts to give flavor and crunch. I also learned how to make homemade turkey sausage with a seasoning mix that will make many more batches to come. I was also impressed with the many healthy food choices and options. There was not a single recipe that includes pork or shellfish, a bonus for our family who does not eat these things. If I had to pick one thing that I did not like about it, it would be that there were several recipes with mushrooms in them and we do not eat mushrooms either. But, I just plan to substitute homemade cream of chicken soup for the mushroom soup and omit the mushrooms when called for. If you are visual like me, you can head over to my blog, Steadfast at Home, and see a few more recipes we tried out and posted here. Meals In Minutes is 94 pages long and sells for $9 plus $4 shipping - a great price in my opinion for all that you get in this book.

You can read more about Meals In Minutes here, view a 39 page preview of the book, and even try a few recipes yourself. Sue Gregg also has a whole line of cookbooks that you can read about here. I will be reviewing two more cookbooks over the fall and winter and look forward to sharing those with you as well. To see other Crew member reviews, click here or on the banner below.

Educaching Review

Most people have heard of Geocaching - a recreational treasure hunt using GPS. Imagine building on that by bringing the GPS in the classroom and you have a new and innovative way to look at educating - Educaching! First of all, what is GPS (Global Positioning System) and how does it work? I watched this quick video by "How Stuff Works" to find out:
And if you don't know about Geocaching, I will tell you more! Geo= earth cache = something that is hidden It is basically high tech hide and seek! Different types of caches include:
  • virtual caches - historical markers
  • earth caches geologically interesting spots
  • puzzle caches - crack the code
  • multi-caches problem solving involved
You can learn more about geocaching at www.geocaching.com. Educaching uses GPS in the classroom to incorporate technology and provide engaging curricula that is not only motivating, but "takes students beyond the the walls of traditional classroom." GPS has several applications that can be utilized in this curriculum:
  • pinpoint exact location on planet
  • maps/routes
  • calculator
  • stopwatch
  • distance
  • speed
  • interface (connect with pc or mac)
Benefits of Educaching with GPS:
  • Vital skills in a unique learning environment that is challenging integrative and exploratory
  • captures the thrill of the hunt for learning
  • teamwork, problem-solving, decision making, critical thinking easily addressed
  • promotes spatial awareness and learning
  • provides visualizations which are a powerful way to understand problems,identify solutions and discover the unexpected
  • innovative way to place technology in students' hands
  • augments student communication locally and globally
Educaching targets 4th through 8th grade, is written for a general education teacher and can be adapted in any learning situation - homeschool, scouting troupes, youth groups, etc. The manual contains 5 sections:
  1. Teacher training - equipment needed how to hide caches, manga activities, starter activities
  2. Lesson plans - 20 useful lessons beg to advance aligns with national teaching standard - math and science but also integrates other core areas
  3. Field sheets - CD to print and customize field sheets
  4. Acquiring GPS- sharing, writing grants
  5. Beyond the basics - pod caching...
I admit, despite all the information I read on how a GPS works, I was still a little intimidated by this curriculum. However, the manual does a great job of walking you through the program step by step:
1. Preliminary mapping:
  • determine a good hiding area
  • draw a sketched map of the area of use google eath/google maps
  • save waypoints of each cache
  • mark general hiding spot on your map
2. Setting up the hunt
  • begin with any lesson plan or use one from the book - math problesn, science experimetn, story elements for creative wiritng, historical site
  • create some clues
  • acquire containers for your clues and hide them
3. Prepare the students:
  • explain the concept
  • GPS tutorial
  • 3 R's of GPS etiquette - respect, responsibility replace (anything in nature)
  • group students into cooperative teams
  • distribute tools, receivers, clipboards, field sheets, cameras
  • set boundaries for the hunt
4. The hunt is on:
  • release students for the hunt
  • return to the classroom for debriefing
  • communicate any challenges and discuss solutions
  • research findings
  • prepare presentations
In order to wrap my brain around this curriculum and to be able to utilize it more effectively, I opted to print the 128 page manual. For security reasons, you do have to enter a password each and every time you open the PDF document, so printing was my user-friendly option all around (I did keep a Stickie Note on my desktop for easy access to the password, but you would for sure need a safe place to keep it if you opted not to print it). The first section is a training section and includes lessons on familiarizing you and your students with the GPS and starter activities. The first one looks like this: Day 1: You explain GPS to your students. You could really tie this nicely in with your geography lessons by incorporating longitude and latitude, maps and globes, etc. Really a lot of potential here! Day 2: You obtain a small container (such as a 35 mm film containter) and write a note on it saying "Congratulations! You found your first Educache" or something similar. Then you hide the container, mark the waypoints (a set of coordinates). You give these coordinates to your student and then they go edu-hunting. Day 3 and beyond: Activities are included to reinforce or expand on the concept of Educaching. Fun activities are given, such as: The School Yard Stash, Tennis Ball Madness, Grab It and Go, etc. In The School Yard Stash, you are teaching your students that not all Educache containters look alike and you hide math problems or fun trivia problems in the containers for them to find. Then in Section 2, 20 lesson plans are given in the subjects of math and science: Beginner Lessons:
  1. On Average
  2. Show Me the Money!
  3. Seek the Problem, Find the Solution
  4. Grand Slam
  5. What Should I Wear to the Mall?
  6. Finding Perimeter
  7. Cause and Effect
  8. Which Tree is Which?
  9. Chemical or Physical Change?
  10. Design a Solution
  11. Dino Discovery!
  12. Send in the Probes
Intermediate Lessons:
  1. Rain Birds
  2. Seek the Problem, Find the Solution Multi-Educache
  3. The Estimation Olympics
  4. Light and Sound Race
  5. Sweet Swymbiosis
  6. Scientific Career Hunt
Advanced Lessons:
  1. Search and Rescue
  2. Discovering the Ancient Pyramids
"On Average" is a lesson that has students find objects that they must measure and record and find the average length, height, and diameter of the objects. Suggested items are given (such as a pencil and you hide pencils of varying lengths). You can also do GPS geometry and create a virtual geometric playground! View a sample of the Rain Birds Lesson here! What I like about it: You can be very creative with the lessons. There seem to be an endless possibilities of what you can do! I think it is truly an innovative way to bring technology into the classroom. What I did not like about it: The preparation and training involved - if you already have experience with a GPS unit, then this won't be an issue! But there is a lot of teacher set up/preparation involved. I think this curriculum would be very ideal in a homeschool co-op setting. Price: The Print and Electronic version are both $32, with an additional $6.95 shipping for the print version. I think this is worth it if you already own a GPS. The initial investment of purchasing a GPS can be costly, so we opted to borrow one for this review. However, you can buy refurbished GPS receivers here. If you are looking to bring technology into the classroom, this just may be the way to go!
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Feast of Trumpets

"YHVH spoke to Moshe (Moses), saying, Speak to the children of Yisra'el (Israel), saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest to you, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no servile work; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD." Leviticus 23:23-25
"In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing of trumpets to you." Numbers 29:1
On the first day of the 7th month on the Hebrew calender, we celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, also known as Yom Teruah or day of the awakening blast. We observe this feast day by resting, studying YHVH's Word and blowing memorial trumpets.

This is the only Biblical Feast/Holy Day that occurs on a new moon. So we reviewed the phases of the moon and looked forward, with anticipation, to the new moon sighting in Israel. Based on the sighting of the first sliver of the new moon, the Feast of Trumpets began on Sunday evening at sunset and ended on Monday evening at sunset. We looked for the new moon in our sky and did not see a moon at all Saturday night and Sunday night it was too cloudy, but several witnesses saw it in Israel!

The Feast of Trumpets is a time when we look forward to when we will hear the trumpets announcing the return of Yeshua (Jesus)!
"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Matthew 24:30-31
We see the feasts of Yahveh(God) as a dress rehearsal for the real thing ~ we cannot really keep the Feasts as they were intended, but we can practice for the day when we will be celebrating them with Yeshua. We talked about how exciting it will be to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb when Yeshua returns for His bride!

We continued working in our Grapevine Biblical Feasts and Holy Days notebook.

Jordan's pages.

A few things we learned about the use of trumpets in the Bible:

A trumpet was sounded at Yahveh's presence.
"And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice." Exodus 19:19
"Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off." Exodus 20:18

"I [John] was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," Revelation 9:9-11.
Silver trumpets were sounded to gather the congregation of Israel.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps.When they blow both of them, all the congregation shall gather before you at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. But if they blow only one, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall gather to you." Numbers 10:1-4
Trumpets were also used by Israel during war and over sacrifices and offerings made during holy days.
"When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God." Numbers 10:9-10
Luke also read a study to the boys called Yom Teruah,The Historical Roots of Our Faith, Present Relevance for Believers & Prophetic End-Time Implications and His Majesty Requests - An Invitation to the Royal Wedding of the Lamb posted by Sheep Fold Gleanings ~ both are worth reading!

The Feast of Trumpets is very prophetic and as believers we look forward to the fulfillment of this Feast as well as the Fall Feasts coming up ~ Day of Atonement (in 10 days) and Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) (October 5th-12th).

Nature Explorers Club: Horse Chestnut Tree

This week's theme for Nature Explorers  is Oak trees. We could not find an oak tree near us, so we did our study on an Aesculus hippocastanum, commonly known as the Horse Chestnut Tree.

Bark Rubbings

A Palmate Leaf

I explained to Mali and Elli that the horse chestnut tree has a palmate leaf and we counted the number of leaflets (7). Then Mali added a leaf to his leaf press for his collection.

First Sketches ~ Leaf

I had Mali and Elli each draw one of the leaves from the tree.


The seed of the horse chestnut tree, also called a conker is a hard brown nut found in a prickly casing. The green outer casing will turn brown and crack open revealing the conker inside. They fall from the tree when they are ripe in the autumn months. We found lots of empty casings in the grass beneath the tree, so we figure the squirrels like to eat them. We picked a few that had not fallen yet and opened them up to find the conkers inside. Some had many conkers inside, others only had one. We also opened up a conker to see what was inside. It looks like a little plant embryo.

Conkers is also a children's game in which each child has a conker on the end of a string and takes turns trying to break another's with it.

A hole is drilled in a large, hard conker (we used a yarn needle and poked it through). A piece of string is threaded through it about 10 inches long. A large knot is tied at one or both ends of the string to secure the conker.

The game is played between two people, each with a conker.

They take turns hitting each other's conker using their own. One player lets the conker dangle on the full length of the string while the other player swings their conker and hits.

I wonder if this is where the expression "conked" comes from!

Leaf Rubbings

Number Seven

Since there are 7 leaflets in a horse chestnut leaf, Mali made a number 7 with the leaflets.

V is for Velcro

~Malachi is 4 1/2 years~
Bible: (Sing the Word From A-Z)
Vengeance is mine, I will repay,
Saith the LORD, saith the LORD.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourself,
But overcome evil with good.
Romans 12, 19 and 21.

Color: Violet

Go for the Code Activities:

Vocabulary words this lesson include vase, vegetables, vest, vine and violin. Mali plugged away nicely in this lesson and is working much quicker than he did when we started. He is also retaining what he is learning.

About Get Ready, Get Set, Go For the Code:
Following are some answers to questions that I have been asked regarding the Explode the Code Primers and the alphabet fun we have during our preschool time. 

These books are a primer designed to prepare your child for phonics. Books A, B, and C (Grades K–1) include instruction on letter formation, consonant sounds and concepts of print through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities.

This series is geared towards grades K-1, but I have used it with 2 of my boys now - each when they were 4. Each child has responded differently with the books. My first one did not like to do any of the writing and I didn't make him. His fine motor skills were still developing and it was more important for him to be able to express himself verbally at this age. Malachi likes to write, so he does all of the writing.

The books focus on lower case writing, but also teaches upper case letter recognition. This makes sense to me since most of the writing we do is in lower case letters. I do not focus on correct letter formation at this stage - just that he is exposed to how to write them. Right now I want him to have fun, recognize letters and learn their sounds. When he is 5, we will begin handwriting and learn correct formation of the letters (upon which we will use Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting).

The activities we do are for reinforcement. This is where learning through play comes in. I try to include activities that are visual, kinesthetic and auditory to promote all the learning styles. I also talk to him throughout our day to reinforce what he is learning. My results of using this method worked for my now 9 year old when we began homeschooling him 5 years ago. We did so many pre-reading activities that he naturally taught himself to read at the age of 5, using a 1st grade reader*. And he is my best reader so far!

*We used Sonlight's I Can Read It series which correspond very closely with the Explode the Code books 1-3 and offer controlled-vocabulary stories that are engaging and fun!

Does Malachi retain all that he is learning? When we first began, he did great because he knew what I expected from him, but after a few letters he did get confused. He was fine with the letter we were working on, but he would guess during the review time. He was only 3 when we started (2 months shy of 4) so we had to take it very slow when we first started. I took 2-3 weeks per letter when we began. Now that we are towards the end of the primer series and 8 months later, Malachi is retaining all that he learns and is able to work through the lesson much quicker. Doing a letter a week is reasonable at this age (4 1/2).

Each child develops differently and I think it is important to not push them too much. We want to cultivate an attitude that learning is a joy. We do plan to move on and continue with the Explode the Code series. I plan to wait until Malachi is at least 5 or ready for K5, though.

One of my favorite sources for inspiration is Growing Up Reading: Learning to Read through Creative Play.

I love that this book will literally grow up with my little ones. It is a wonderful resource of pre-reading and pre-writing activities for early readers and also for your emerging readers (ages early months to 7 years).

Now, on to the rest of what we did this week!

Violet Velcro V
I gave Malachi a set of velcro strips and let him apply them to make a violet colored velcro V!

V Collage

For the V page in his scrapbook, Malachi made a collage with things that begin with the letter V. He used a die-cut letter V, V stickers, velcro dots and some lapbook printables from Homeschool Share.

Science: Vinegar and Baking Soda "Volcano"

Nathan initiated this activity with Malachi and demonstrated the classic reaction between vinegar and baking soda!

Vertical Nathan explained to Malachi what vertical means and how to draw vertical lines (which he already knew, but didn't know the name for it). We also explained the difference between vertical and horizontal. We used a football pass to help us remember horizontal. Then we know vertical is the other one!

We only have 3 letter left! Z, Q and X. (We may sneak another vowel in before we finish though!) To see what everyone else is doing in their preschool corner, please visit Homeschool Creations!

Nutrition 101: Choose Life! Review

Nutrition 101: Choose Life, by Growing Healthy Homes, is a unit study in that it encompasses all ages from toddlers to adults, covers a wide variety of subjects like science, anatomy, biology, nutrition and health. It answers the questions:
  • How does food affect the human body?
  • How does food impact my health as I age?
  • How can I help my family make good choices?
This six-unit program explores these questions and more by engaging students of all ages with hands-on experiments, projects, reading and writing assignments, and easy recipes.

The purpose of this "curriculum-for-all-ages" is to help families understand that they are "fearfully and wonderfully made and that food -- good and bad -- does effect the body."

The program reinforces (or introduces) biology by discussing the major body systems in six units:
  • The Brain and Nervous System
  • Digestion and Elimination
  • Respiration and Olfactory
  • Muscular and Skeletal Systems
  • Cardiovascular and Immune Systems
  • Endocrine System and Emotions.
Each unit contains four chapters focused on the function and dysfunction of the system and the nourishment needed for optimal health. There are also unit study guides and an extensive appendix with lots of information and resources.

This e-book is 448 full-color pages! But, it is also available on CD and in print.

While it was easy enough to read on screen, with colorful illustrations and a pleasing layout, I opted to print the WHOLE book after perusing through the book and reading the first chapter! I liked it that much and could see us getting a lot of use out of this one!


$79.95 CD Rom
$99.95 book
$129.95 book and CD Rom

For how complete and informative this curriculum is, I thought this was a reasonable price. I like having the e-book version so that I can print additional pages as needed. 

The following is a video testimony about the curriculum,

Additional information and customer testimonials are available on the product page and you can view sample pages to see more.

Our experience:

The first unit we covered, the Brain and Nervous System, proved to be informational and interesting. We loved learning more about the brain and especially loved all the good brain foods we learned about.

Chapter 1 included a section on "What is the Brain?" along with discussion questions, activities, resources and a "Power Recipe"~


The intention behind the Power Recipes is to apply the knowledge of how our bodies work and how food affects it by getting into the kitchen.

We began with avocados, and even did an experiment on ripening them. We placed an avocado in a paper bag with an apple, and left the other on the counter next to it. We were surprised to see the avocado in the bag ripen much quicker.

My kids had fun preparing and assembling the ingredients. They all helped and Nathan learned to use the garlic press for the first time. While we made it, we talked about how avocados are good for your brain and that is why we call them "brain food."

It was the best guacamole we have ever had! I have made it several times since then ~ it is brain food after all and full of good fats!

In Chapter 2, we learned about Brain Health and Nutrition. We learned about brain health issues, fats, omega fatty acids, good sources of Omega-3's and 6's and how to choose the right supplements for your brain. We also covered some discussion questions, did some activities and made another "Power" Recipe ~

Greek Salad

This recipe included olive oil which is a good "Brain Power" fat that our brain needs. Yummy!

For Fun ~ Brain Teasers

One suggested activitiy in Chapter 2 is to challenge your brain with a brain teaser ~ I found a wooden one and let the boys give it a try. We also did a test to see how quickly our brain reacts - a reflex activity for chapter 3.

In Chapter 3, we learned all about the nervous system. We learned what nerves are, the parts of the nervous system and what they do and what reflexes are.

We are on Chapter 4, Nervous System Health and Nutrition and plan to continue with this!

What I like about it:
  • The illustrations - lots of vivid and colorful illustrations and labeled diagrams.
  • How the material is presented. Each chapter includes information, fun facts, and "Word Power" definitions.
  • The discussion questions - lots of great questions to stimulate conversation about living a healthy lifestyle. Scripture references are included and tie nicely into this curriculum.
  • All of the hands on activities suggested!
  • That is is multi-age. Activities are suggested for elementary and secondary students giving you a variety of options to choose from for a wide variety of ages. The information does seem geared towards older children, but I was able to scale it down to teach my little ones the basics.
Overall, I really like this curriculum and looking through the rest of the book, I think this will be a great addition to our studies this year!

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