Wednesday, December 21, 2011

World's Greatest Stories - a Review

The kids have always loved audio books. Since Paul was little he has listened to all kinds of books on tape and CD. We listen in the car, before bed, at rest time, or anytime of day the kiddos need a little relaxation, or just want to listen to a story and I don't have a minute to read to them.

So, what could be better for someone who loves audio stories then the actual words of the Bible on CD--The World's Greatest Stories. This is not just anyone reading the Bible though. It's George Sarris who is an amazing storyteller. He uses different voices and adds in a few sound effects to make the story come to life. My children were amazed that it was only ONE person telling the story. The story comes directly from the Bible--you can choose either KJV or NIV. There are no words added or taken away, it is Bible, word for word! Mr. Sarris does give a short intro to each story telling about what happened just before the story he is about to tell.

You can here a short clip of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego here. I am sure you will be amazed at what a wonderful job George Sarris does.

These stories aren't just for kids to listen to either. Steve and I both enjoyed listening to the stories. It made the Bible become more real then it has ever been for me and the kids. They were begging for more. Even Molly, at 4 years old, has enjoyed these CD's and learned from them. They have spawned great discussions between Paul and I and have inspired him to learn more. So, after reviewing the 1st CD, The Prophets, I purchased all of the CD's produced. We now have the following:

The Prophets
The Life of Christ
The Beginnings
Joshua and Esther
Joseph and His Brothers
Defeating Giants

And we can't wait to see if more are produced because we will be ordering them as soon as they are released.

Each CD is about an hour in length. Making them perfect for car rides.

You can see a complete list of the stories on each CD as well as order them for only $7.95 each here. Currently, if you purchase 6 CD's, shipping is free.

Disclosure: We were given a copy of "The Prophets" CD in exchange for an honest review. All opinions given here are my own and there was no other compensation give for this review.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Pitsco - a Review

Hands on is always good when you have an active ten year old and it's dark at 5 in the afternoon. I always try to find some fun hands-on activities for the kids to do this time of year, so they don't just continuously ask to watch tv or play the Wii. When we were given the opportunity to review Pitsco's "Medieval Machines Pack" I knew it was perfect for some hands-on activities for Paul as well as some time with Daddy!

The "Medieval Machines Pack" comes with a catapult and trebuchet to build as well as a "Siege Machines" book to help with some activities to add in science, math, and history in to the building and "playing" with these machines.

Steve set aside some time to build the catapult with Paul first. Even Pappy came over from next door to watch the building. It was great for the three of them to work together on a project. Paul loved the time with his two favorite men. I tried to stay out of their way but of course I had to sneak in and get a picture.

From Steve: "It was a great experience building the catapult with Paul. I enjoyed the time spent with him and it presented a good opportunity to teach him about early siege machines. However, it was more me building and explaining and him following along. He could not have built this himself."

They waited and built the trebuchet a few nights later (it actually took two evenings to build) Pappy was not available these two nights (He claims he is retired now so he has more time, but he seems to be busier since he has retired than he has ever been :-)

From Steve: "The trebuchet was a little tougher to build, the nylon thread and the paper-clip shaping that it required added another level of complexity that Paul could not have accomplished on his own. It did offer more great opportunity for discussing siege machines"

The "Medieval Machines Pack" is geared for 5th grade and up, and with Paul being a young 5th grader it required a little more patience than he had. The gluing and waiting was just too much for him, so Dad and Pappy were there to talk to while they waited. I think he would need to be a couple years older, maybe 12 or 13, before this is something he could do independently. But, it is definitely something a 5th grader can do with a parent and it made a wonderful learning experience as well as a way to spend quality time together.

All three kids had a blast "using" the machines, and it was really a fun and educational experience for the entire family. They catapult and trebuchet actually worked quite well. We compared the two and found the catapult can go further. We learned that the trebuchet was for going high and up over castle walls while the catapult is more for battering the walls. Paul and Zach thought this was great knowledge to have and have "battered" a few walls in our home with the clay balls (the clay was included in the kit!) we made for the machines. The machines are amazingly sturdy too. Anything that can stand up to Zach playing with it is pretty amazing!

The book on siege machines was a great way to further the study. I must admit that we have yet to do many of the activities in the book. The kids have had so much fun playing with the machines I have left it at that. We did a couple of the lessons on torsion and tension as well as averages. They were very well written and easy to follow. There are more lessons in their on metric conversion, force and motion, and more! We are going to add these in to our science and Math after the holidays.

Pitsco offers many wonderful products for combining history, science, math and technology. This kit is priced at only $21.95 and would make a great Christmas gift for a medieval enthusiast or an avid builder. You can also take a look around their website for lots of other hands-on projects that are fun and educational.

Be sure and go check out what other TOS Crew Members have to say about Pitsco here.

Disclosure: I recieved the above products for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions above are my own honest opinion. There was no other compensation given for this review.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Artistic Pursuits - a review

My kiddos, like most kids, love anything art related. They love drawing, coloring, crafts, and especially painting. I have always encouraged their exploration in this area. We have an art area set up in one portion of our "library" and all their supplies are there to use as they would like. Zach and Molly will spend an hour or two at a time drawing, coloring, cutting and pasting. Zach is my most creative one. He will often come downstairs and show me some cut-and-paste creation of his that is amazing. Molly is 4 so her creations are often quite abstract. Paul, well, he's your typical first-born perfectionist, so he either stays away from the art table or works on something for hours. He is quite good and has his own art supplies the little ones aren't allowed to touch but he takes forever and he is never satisfied! So, they were very excited to review Artistic Pursuits.

Artistic Pursuits has several books available from preschool through high school. And there are several different books available at each level. We chose the K-3 level and we started with Book 1. This level worked great, even with Paul who is in 5th grade. Paul would have enjoyed the older book as well, but it worked great for me to combine them for this one. You can see more about this particular book "An Introduction to the Visual Arts"here The book has 32 lessons and is divided into three sections:

What Artists Do
What Artists See
Exploring Ancient Art

The supplies needed for the book are all given in a list at the beginning of the book. You can purchase supply packs on their website here. We chose to purchase supplies for a few lessons at a time at our local craft store. It would be great to order the complete supply pack but it just wasn't feasible, cost wise, for us.

Each lesson gives a short bit of information for the parent/teacher to read to the child as well as a famous work of art to "study". The lessons are short but very well written. My kids enjoy them and they are learning a little about how an artist works. As we move in to the "Exploring Ancient Art" section of the book we will also learn about history through art, I am very excited about that section. Later books get more in to specific artists, which will be very fun to explore after we complete this book. After the written lesson the student is given an assignment of something to "create" using a specific medium. I love the idea of combining art history, art appreciation, and art instruction all into one curriculum. Artistic Pursuits does a wonderful job of combining these three aspects.

The kids all really enjoyed it. They love the special ebony pencils that we only get out for art class. The water color crayons were also a big hit. I love the fact that they are being introduced to different mediums at a young age. We have used soft pastels, oil pastels, water color crayons, and more.

Paul adores the structure of the curriculum. He likes being given specific instructions such as "draw something you can see right now using your ebony pencil".  This is the view he chose: my kitchen sink with the window and the ceramic pig that is beside my sink.

Zach, being my creative child, is the one most in love with the idea of having an actual art curriculum. However, because he is creative he doesn't necessarily like to go with the exact lesson. To keep him from having a complete meltdown I let him choose what he wants to draw as long as he uses the medium choice for the day.

Molly is happy just doing any kind of art, and she especially loves the idea of new paints and crayons and special paper that is only for art time with Mommy.

When I have looked at various art curriculums I just never found anything that really caught my eye. Adding another subject to research and decide what was best was just not something I wanted to do. So, I am incredibly thankful and feel abundantly blessed that I was able to review Artistic Pursuits. I didn't have to do any research to find the best program, it was handed to me! Artistic Pursuits is definitely phenomenal and so easy to use. There is very little preparation needed from me, except making sure there are the correct supplies on hand. From now on we will be purchasing these books and working through them each year. They are very reasonably priced at $42.95. And since they are non-consumable I can use them again and again. You can purchase them here.

Disclosure: I was given this product for free in exchange for an honest review. There was no other compensation given for this review. All opinions stated above are my own, honest opinions.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Great Commission Language: The Easy Spanish review

In today's world I think it is becoming even more important to teach our children foreign language--several if at all possible. The problem, for our family, as always been when do we fit a foreign language in to our already busy schedule. Paul took a class through our homeschool group a couple of years ago, and we really enjoyed that. But, the teacher decided to quit teaching and stay home with her new baby--and I am not complaining about that choice! We have also used various Spanish programs to learn things like colors and numbers, but we needed something that was easy to implement and would work with all three kiddos.

Great Commission Language offers both Spanish and French and has 2 different levels of each. Since we have had some experience in Spanish and Steve and I both took Spanish in high school and remember a little, we chose Spanish. I chose the Junior Level for K-3rd since Zach and Molly have really had no experience in Spanish and it's been a while for Paul. I was hoping to start easy and encourage a love of learning a foreign language. The Junior Level focuses on the vocabulary and leaves the grammar aspects for when they are older.

The program is very easy to follow and has short lessons. The short lessons are great for us because not only do they easily fit in to our day but it keeps my two little ones attention. The lessons consist of a short story on audio CD mainly between Chichi the dog and Belicia, a little girl. Belicia speaks English while Chichi mainly speaks Spanish. I have been amazed that my kids have been able to follow the story line quite well. The book also gives you a vocabulary list to go with each lesson. We use this to introduce new words before the day's story so the kids are prepared for the story.

The 2 CD's also offer many activities and coloring pages to enhance the child's understanding and help them to enjoy it. There are coloring pages to go with each lesson for my little ones to enjoy and then more involved activities that work well for Paul. When homeschooling a wide age range finding something that works for everyone is difficult. The only other subject we have been able to combine for all three kiddos has been Science, so a combined approach for an "elective" is wonderful!

We have really enjoyed the curriculum so far. It has been great to hear all three kids telling Daddy what new Spanish words they learned that day. AND, it's not just the colors and numbers it's real conversational Spanish. The "Easy Spanish" is geared toward K-3, but really it has worked well for Paul as well, and he is in 5th grade. I would not use it with him without his younger siblings though. He could definitely benefit from the next level of Spanish that Great Commission Language offers, but for now it's working great to keep them altogether! The entire program, which includes the Curriculum Guide (with all stories, vocabulary, and activity ideas) and the 2 enhanced CD's (which includes all the audio stories, coloring pages and many printable activities) is priced at $69.95 and can be purchased here.

If you would like to see what other TOS Crew Members had to say about this program as well as the other Great Commission Language programs you can take a look at the Crew Blog

Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review of the product. All of the opinions stated here are my honest opinions. There was no other compensation given for this review.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad