Homeschool Posts

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fit Mommy Challenge: Week 5

Welcome to week 5 of the Fit Mommy 10-Week Challenge started by Denise over at Got Chai? You can see my goals here.

Ack! Can I just say Ack!?

You'll notice I'm shamefully posting this very late Sunday night, ahem. Well, let's just say this wasn't the best week ever.

At least I ate well (meaning I got my fill and then some).

It was definitely an off week, starting with the invite to the "Chocolate and Wine" Moms (and breastfeeding babes) only party late Friday, to hubby's birthday, to the mother of all diet wreckers...Thanksgiving day.

And Thanksgiving leftovers. Actually, food intake was not tooo bad, though I did have two chocolates at the party, plenty of birthday cake on and around the birthday, and yeah, that was me having both apple and punkin pie on Thursday (hey, when your MIL brings 2 pies, you eat and appreciate---they were half-sized pieces).

The real prob was that I've been in a royal funk lately. My motivation had flown the coop. I wasn't getting my exercise in. And when you miss one day, you tend to feel bad and miss another day, and then another, until...well, we won't go there. I could blame it on a turkey induced coma...but the slump started before the turkey. Last night, Hubby gently reminded me to work out. So I did. And it felt good. Ok, it hurt, too, but it felt good, so I'm back on the wagon again.

And the other good news is that the boys tore through the rest of that turkey...I just need to keep my fingers out of the stuffing.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Raising Boys...or the origins of potty humor

Peter: "Mommy, do you know what a booterang is?"
Mama: "A boomerang?"
Peter: "No, a BOOT-ER-Rang!"
Mama: ?
Peter: "When it hits you, it boots you in the butt! That's why it's a booterang! It's a boomerang that boots you in the butt....I mean bottom."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fit Mommy Challenge: Week 4

Welcome to week 4 of the Fit Mommy 10-Week Challenge started by Denise over at Got Chai? You can see my goals here.

I re-discovered Wii Sports this week. And my shoulders really ache. Boxing, tennis and golf will do that to a gal.

But it was fun. Only the next day there was simply no way I could do those bicep curls and lateral shoulder lifts on the 30-Challenge for Wii Active. I did get in exercise each day except yesterday, though, so all is not lost.

No weight loss (or gain, either), but the muscles in my arms and legs are developing into something other than gelatinous lumps, so I'm pleased. I think my jeans are a little looser, around the waist, but that could be wishful thinking.

The kiddos have almost finished the Halloween candy, and I still haven't consumed a single piece. I did share a killer piece of chocolate cake with hubby on date night. At least it was dessert.

My water consumption has been much better this week and I've had at least 8 glasses most days.

I have been avoiding caffeine. While my body doesn't like this, I can feel my level of stress going down. Yesterday, I made the mistake of having an Iced Mocha from Micky D's (not a normal thing) and later having a coke when we ate dinner out...I could feel the jolt and it really wasn't good for me. So, much as I don't want to give up my tea or coffee, I think I'm going to continue with this experiment and see where it goes.

Does anyone know where I can find a good decaffeinated Chai?

Our Week: Re-evaluating Math

Don't you hate it when you put a lot of time, money, and energy into a good program...and it turns out it really won't work in your situation?

I feel like I'm playing musical chairs when it comes to math programs. And the approach I like at any given moment just depends upon where I'm at when the music stops...or when Emma starts dismantling the book shelves again. Right now I'm really liking the independent workbook approach. Not really, since I know that workbooks really don't teach anything, at least not on their own. It's the independence I'm craving.

So, to re-cap. In September we started Mary on Right Start Level B and David on Right Start Level C. Hubby and I did a ton of research on math programs and decided that we needed to overcome David's math deficiencies. He has to potential to do well in math, but we need to get him past his feelings of inadequacy in that department.

Now let me clarify here...David is super intelligent when it comes to math, he gets concepts pretty well. But, while 90% of math is getting the concepts and making connections, there is still that 10% that involves memorizing the facts. This is his stumbling block. Timed drills don't work for him. They cause too much stress and lock up his brain. He just freaks out (I had the same problem with timed drills when I was in school, so I can relate). I have no doubt that once he has developed automaticity, timed tests will no longer be a hurdle.

There are also some small holes in his conceptual understanding (he's forgotten stuff). So, the hope was that a very one-on-one program with the emphasis on learning and cementing the facts through games and other activities would work for him. We like the idea of using the abacus to help with his visual learning, not as a crutch but a temporary scaffold.

So, we gulped, paid the cash and took him to Level C (he started with Transitions first, which is designed as a bridge for students coming from a different math program), which we knew would have a good bit of review. Ok, a lot of review. But once you've got the basics down, you can move on.

And since we want Mary to also have a strong conceptual understanding, we put her in Level B.

And this week we decided this really isn't working for our homeschool. The first problem: in early October, 19-month-old Emma decided she no longer takes naps. Not only that, she decided that since she no longer takes naps, she will just climb out of her crib, open the bedroom door and run on downstairs to continue to wreak havoc. Makes it a little hard to get all the one-on-one time in, if you know what I mean? And we have other things besides math that require one-on-one time. Like Mary's All About Spelling. And Peter's reading. Although I have had David work with him successfully.

Second problem: too much review, for both children. Mary is bored to tears with representing addition problems with pictorial base-ten cards, the abacus (she absolutely hated using tally sticks) and the like. Some of the lessons just seem, well, overkill. How many little bitty triangles can I honestly expect a 6-year-old to cut out to construct a 6-foot high Cotter Ten Fractal, even if we did it over a few days? And what does that really accomplish? And where would I put it, anyway? We have skipped over or abbreviated some lessons for both of them. And Mary has done some workbook pages, just because she likes workbook pages. Really.

Third problem: I'm sick of the spiraling. There, I said it. I think spiraling review is necessary, particularly for topics that won't be used often (like Roman numerals, and measuring), but if you can teach a 1st grader the 1/2 and 1/4 hours, you can certainly teach them to the 5's and even the actual time. Mary can certainly count by 5's. And if I'm going to show her how to add together 4-digit numbers using base ten and place value cards in lesson 30-something, why does she have to wait until lesson 90-something to do it on paper? She wants to do it on paper.

So, after having a heart-to-heart with hubby, we've decided we need a less formal approach for David that can be fit into little chinks and chunks of time as they come available. Hubby will be working with him in the evenings on mastering his multiplication facts. We'll continue to review addition and subtraction facts. Meanwhile, I'll peruse the rest of the RS book and see if there are any concepts he is missing. I'm thinking up some activities to reinforce that work. And none of them require the expensive Right Start manipulatives. The abacuses will come in handy, though.

For Mary, I'm seriously considering go to a (shudder) workbook, but using the workbook as reinforcement and concentrating mainly on getting her to memorize her addition and subtraction facts...she has drill-o-phobia, too. But, she'll write out math facts all day long if you ask her to, just don't put a time limit on it. We'll also be doing some less formal learning. Today, we were working on counting money. Quarters are hard, but she's got the dimes and nickels down.

What I've learned from this experience that I needed to know:
  • I am totally capable of teaching any and all of these concepts in my homeschool (we'll see how I feel when we get to Algebra 2). Even without a fancy math program.
  • Mary has trouble with spatial relationships (she can't visualize, for instance, that if she flips 2 triangles around the right way and puts them together, she'll get a slanted parallelogram, she just keeps turning them the same way), not something to worry about, since she's still young (almost 7) and girls tend to have more trouble with this area than boys, but something to work on.
  • Both children have very different learning styles. Mary doesn't even like manipulatives.
  • David understands more than I realized.
  • It's not the end of the world. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, he will get this. He won't be mathematically crippled for life.
What areas do your kiddos struggle in? What ways have you found to get them through?

You learn something new every day...

...and today I learned that having a ball of yarn within reach of a 19-month-old is a big mistake. Especially if the other end is attached to her 6-year-old sister who is trying to learn how to knit.

And that when my gut tells me that this should be the last row for today, so the learner can end in triumph, rather than a mess of dropped and twisted stitches, that I really should just lay down the law and not get talked into "one more row."

And that my method of knitting isn't so weird after's Continental (yarn is held in the left-hand). I taught myself to knit years ago and never saw anyone else knit (in person) holding the yarn in the left hand, so I always thought I was just weird. Turns out it's pretty conventional, just not in English speaking countries, lol. I can't do English knitting, it just feels wrong. Maybe I'm a closet lefty.

Review: KB Teachers


Looking for a never ending supply of customized worksheets to keep the kiddos busy? KB Teachers has what you’re looking for, and they’ve thrown in some bonuses: web quests, free clipart, and plenty of pre-made worksheets on various topics from astronomy to ancient history.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a free subscription to KB teachers for this review. I received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Now you’re thinking: “Worksheets, what’s the big deal, there are tons of free worksheets available all over the internet.”

And that’s true. Given the plentitude of free resources out there, many of them made by teachers and other homeschooling mamas (and papas), any service that provides worksheets for pay has got some pretty stiff competition. It’s going to have to be really good. How does KB Teachers measure up?

The site is easy to navigate. There’s no search function, but this is intentional. The goal is to get you where you want to be within a couple of clicks and I like that. A well organized site that doesn’t require me to scan through of couple of pages for possibles saves me some valuable time.

There are numerous premade worksheets waiting to be printed off. One thing that struck me was the number of worksheets for older students (middle school and high school) for history and geography. Worksheet sites tend to be mostly for the elementary grades, so I was impressed by this.

Most of the science worksheets could be used for multiple grades. There are sheets on marine biology, human anatomy, plants, nutrition, astronomy, geology, weather & climate, and dinosaurs. A nice mix of topics, not a curriculum by itself, but nice little extras to add to whatever you are using. The answer keys are complete, so some of these could even be used independent of a curriculum (perfect for when one of the kiddos announces he wants to study octopi on a rainy day, for instance).

Graphics on the worksheets tend to be pretty low-tech, this is not necessarily a negative (really nice graphics would drink up tons of ink, after all), just an observation.

Alphabet and picture counting worksheets will keep your preschool to K kiddos busy while your elementary students work on sheets you’ve created from the handwriting and math worksheet generators. You can choose print or cursive (solid or dotted) fonts, in color or black and white.

Looking for something to do on a rainy day? Check out the calendar for this month’s web quests. For November, there were web quests for Charles Schultz’s birthday, peanut butter fudge day, Veteran’s Day, Marie Curie’s birthday, Thanksgiving and many many more special topics.

What did I like?

KB Teachers is a handy “go-to” site to quickly print off a few pages without doing a bunch of hunting around. I really liked the option for making worksheets using ASL and Morse code…unusual and cool! And having the option of printing many of the worksheets in black and white or color is perfect. Sometimes you want a little color and sometimes you want to save on ink.

What could be improved?

I found the offerings to be fairly limited. I would like to see more font options for the handwriting worksheets. There are free handwriting worksheet generators out there with more options.

The web quests need to be updated. Out of the half dozen or so that I checked the links on, all had at least some dead links, and a few had no good links. The web is a dynamic place that is constantly changing…in order for web quests to work, they need to be constantly updated.

What don’t I like?

Although I applaud the designer’s desire to remove a need for a search function, I would like the option of a search function.

Seasonal pages are only linked to the menu “in season,” so without a search function I can’t go looking for Christmas in July.

No save function---I realize this is to protect the company’s interests (why renew your subscription if you’ve saved their content to your hard-drive?). Your subscription entitles you to print from their site, not to save files from their site. However, pdf print drivers do work on this site.

I hear that KB Teachers is in the process of remodeling their site...there may be changes on the horizon.

Would I recommend it?

If you like using worksheets in your homeschool KB Teachers is worth a look. We don’t tend to use very many worksheets, though I have used them when I need to keep some people busy. In my case, it probably wouldn't make much sense to have a subscription, but for someone who uses more worksheets, the price for KB Teachers is quite reasonable.

How much?

You can actually print most of the worksheets on this site for free…if you don’t mind a very obvious, somewhat obscuring “watermark.”

kbteachers watermark

Yes, it really does print with that light blue lettering across it.

For a premium membership to KB Teachers that removes all watermarks, the price is $29 for 12 months or $49 for 2 years. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.

For more reviews on this product, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog page.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Emma climbed into my lap and instantly a gush of drool covered my hand.

"What have you got in your mouth?"

Of course, she spit it out and it went rolling under the desk. What was it?

A chewed up, used, camouflage not-Bandaid-brand cloth bandage.

Guess it had good mouth feel.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Catholic Toolbox

I just discovered this blog purely by accident, great resources including printables, lesson plans, and file folder games for Catholic homeschoolers: The Catholic Toolbox.

The Reluctant Surfer

My computer has come to rule my life and I don't like it. I don't like checking my inbox every five seconds for new email. I don't like wading through hundreds of giveaway posts and sales blurbs in my Google dashboard to find interesting content to read. I don't like jumping from one site to another, hopping through words looking for the morsel I need. I don't like staring at a blank computer screen at 1 in the morning trying to find something worth saying so my blog pops up in your reader so you don't forget about me.

The computer age has had a drastic impact on how most of us spend our spare time. Who can fault the quest for more information, more input, more meat for our little gray cells to chew on? Too bad we're too busy jumping from one link to another to actually do anything of lasting consequence with all that information. The sad truth is that our brains are simply overwhelmed by all that information coming from all different directions at the same time. To make sense of any of it, you have to wear blinders to block out some of the irrelevant stuff.

What if the "irrelevant" stuff you are blocking out is your family? Or even just yourself?

What do we gain by opening 10 different tabs at one time in a browser and clicking between this site and that site, snatching up bits of conversation, chatter, mostly inanities here there and everywhere?

There will always be tidbits worth reading, but I find it interesting that with the apparent ease of finding any information you need, we are spending more and more time searching---where does the search end?

Here's a few tidbits to chew on:
  • You may have heard once upon a time that the human brain can only hold about 7 bits of info in its working memory at any given time...while this may be true, to actually do anything with the info, it would need to be fewer bits than that.
  • That every time you come across a link in something you're reading online, you're brain has to decide whether to follow it---just making this split-second decision is enough to interrupt the average person's train of thought and reduce comprehension.
  • When you switch back and forth between one task and another, your brain has to keep switching info that is in your working memory to your long-term memory and vice versa---you need to reacquaint yourself with what you are doing. So, if you stop to check your email every 5 minutes, you probably won't get very much done.
Want to know more about what the internet is doing to your brain, check out Nicholas Carr's The Shallows from your'll open your eyes.

This is an unsolicited, uncompensated post. I'm reading this book, amid my constant interruptions in life---it's slow going since I can only keep about 3-4 bits of info in my working memory at any given time.

The Weary (Wary) Blogger

2+ years ago, there was a green homeschooling mama who had been thinking about starting a blog, a place to record her thoughts and day-by-day trials. She was also tired (already) of buying homeschool curriculum for the past couple of years only to have it sit on a shelf somewhere because, well, somehow it just didn't fit her family and what they were doing right now...maybe in a few years...or when more of the kiddos were doing school, but not now. Maybe not ever.

And then a unique opportunity came along, she found out that the Old Schoolhouse Magazine was starting a new focus group program...a group of bloggers, support leaders, people of influence to write real reviews about homeschool products...and Homeschooling Hearts & Minds was born.

Over the past 2 years this blog has changed and mutated. It's been an obsession at times and neglected at other times. It's easy to lose sight of your original plans, hopes and dreams. I really didn't have any when I started. I just wanted to write some decent content that was worth reading. And maybe find that a few regular readers thought it was worth reading.

But at some point I developed a drive to gain a bigger readership and started worrying about things like keywords, page rank, bounce rate. I started participating in more memes, even started a meme of my own (it flopped---do you know how many memes there are out there and how hard it is to get one started?), participating in carnivals, linking to linkies, doing giveaways and reviews outside of homeschooling products.

And worrying about scheduling posts for every day of the week and alternating this kind of content with that kind of content. And promoting giveaways. And commenting on other blogs. And ta-da, I suddenly realized that my heart wasn't part of the equation anymore. And I started hobbling along.

I've never been good at following someone else's drummer.

Publishing content based on everyone else's schedule simply doesn't suit me. I've already got 4 cute little tyrants (whose combined ages total less than my own)...while they may not call the shots, the reality is that my time is simply not my own while they are awake (and not while they sleep either). My blog's content and when it appears should be the one thing that I have complete control over. There really shouldn't be anything here that I don't want here. Period.

The temptation is to just put the blog on a high shelf and take it down every once in a while to dust it off and publish a homeschool review that I've already committed to writing. I don't really want to do that. I like to think I have something of true value to add to the blogosphere, but we'll just have to see how things shake out.

Fit Mommy Challenge: Week 3

OK, I'm a bit slow this weekend...don't ask, you don't really wanna know. So, I'm going to try to keep this brief. You can read my goals for the 10-week Fit Mommy Challenge here.

Sweets: No candy, no dessert that wasn't actually a dessert (although, I did have 3 cookies for one dessert, that was a bit of an extravagance, I admit). And for the commenter who said I must like cookies (*U*), when your hubby makes 3 different batches of cookies in one week, well let's just say they were staring me in the face.

Nutrition: I bought pounds of produce last weekend, and yes I did consume large amounts of spinach, tomatoes, avocados, and red bell peppers. I also worked on improving my protein intake by having an occasional handful of nuts.

Water intake: This varied a good bit from day-to-day, I seem to have lost my rhythm from the first week. This is what I figured out:
  • It's better to get in the water as early in the day as possible (and don't drink water after dinner unless you want to get up in the middle of the night).
  • It's better to drink most of the water before drinking any tea.
  • It's better to drink 8oz or even 10oz glasses than 12 or 14oz glasses.
Exercise: I did good here. I did at least 20 minutes of exercise each day (I'm taking one day off each week) either through EA Sports Active on the Wii or through brisk walking and running around with the kiddos outside (and yes I was still out of breath when I raced the boys home, uphill).
  • I learned that I get plenty of exercise on Sundays without the Wii---we walk to church and this often involves carrying a 25 pound toddler as fast as I can because we are usually running late, ahem.
  • If I do my Active workout before doing the body test on Wii Fit, I do much better on the tests and get a lower Wii Fit Age. Exercise improves my balance and reaction times.
The plan for this week: I'm trying to fix too many things at once. I need to focus more. This week I'll be focusing on improving my water intake. I'm toying with the idea of giving up caffeine.

Review: Corps of Re-Discovery


After trekking through 47 of the 50 United States, one homeschooling family was inspired to share our nation’s heritage through hands-on learning with all of us who can’t take off in a 32-foot RV to explore it all firsthand…and Corps of Re-Discovery was born. On their site, you’ll find an interesting assortment of crafty kits and and doodads to add some memorable moments to your American history studies.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a Fringe Pouch Kit to review. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

fringe-pouch-1__75814_zoomMary (age 6) was very excited when this came in the mail: something to sew! Here she is, getting ready to stitch together the pre-punched suede. october 2010 052

(Picture to the left is the stock photo, colors will vary from kit to kit.)

The Fringe Pouch Kit comes with everything you need to make one pouch (except scissors): pre-punched suede leather pieces, leather cording, waxed linen, a needle and instructions.

october 2010 043The kit was very easy to assemble, in fact, once I got it set up, Mary was able to do this almost entirely on her own.

october 2010 054

october 2010 055

october 2010 056october 2010 058

What we liked:

Quality materials and a simple project that really is doable in an afternoon for a 1st grade or older child. Mary’s sense of accomplishment was wonderful!

What could be improved:

I would like to see clearer instructions with better (and more) illustrations. At least one illustration was labeled incorrectly, or at least, the instructions referred to a label that was not on the corresponding illustration. The instructions for threading the drawstring had me scratching my head for a minute, too. In the end, I figured it out by trying it on one side while showing Mary, but I can imagine that someone without sewing or crafting know-how might have some difficulty.


This was a good experience. I’m thinking about ordering another one of their kits. While the boys would probably like the Tomahawk, I’m leaning more towards the Patchwork Quilt or Weaving Loom.

The Fringe Pouch Kit is currently available for $11.99 (on sale) from Corps of Re-Discovery.

Prices on other kits vary.

For reviews on other kits, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gratitude Flows Withing: Day 11


For the past several days, I've just felt like I've been rushing about, not getting very much done. Suddenly, my house is (relatively) neat and clean, the dishes are already washed, the kids are in bed, no reviews are due...I don't have anything that absolutely has to get done tonight. And I am truly thankful.

My Brain is Draining...

I've been reading this book by Nicholas Carr called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

Did you know that the very medium which we use to get information actually affects the structure of our brains? Fascinating stuff. Scary too.

I have a love/hate relationship with my computer right now. I would love to throw it right out the window. But I can't. It has become a necessary tool in my everyday life. I need it to keep in contact with certain people. I need it to write reviews that I've agreed to do. I need it to type up the kiddos' novels for National Novel Writing month. I need it to print out curriculum, to renew my library books, to get the co-op schedule. There are so many things I need and want to accomplish...and so many of them require me to be connected.

But, this great time-saver, this powerful tool, is also a time-waster, a distraction, capable of actually sucking knowledge and, quite possibly, good judgment from my brain. As much as I love the easy access to knowledge that the web affords, I'm beginning to doubt the value of that knowledge. And to cringe at the cost. I know that's a bit cryptic. Read the book (really). More on this at a later date at a more decent hour.

Disclosure: Nobody asked me to talk about this book, it's what I'm reading right now. Checked it out from the library. You can, too.

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 10


I'm a little late, again. Right now I'm thankful for being done for the day, finally.:-)

But tomorrow...oops, today! is another day and I'm ready to go to bed, get a few hours sleep and give it all another go. I've got ambitions, you see. Dreams of a dirty laundry free hallway upstairs, of a bedroom that I can leave the door open to, of no more dirty dishes in the sink, no more crumbs on the kitchen floor, no more stacks on my kitchen island, no more lego to dig into the bottom of my feet when I walk across the living room floor (or plastic barbed wire, whatever that thing was).

I'm thankful that I can have a positive attitude this late at night even though my house and me are both a wreck. And I'm grateful that God has given me the vision of what my home can look like with a little bit of willpower and lot of work. And help. He's shown me to ask for help. That's important.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: The Write Foundation


When homeschooling mama, Rebecca Celsor, took on teaching writing in a co-op, she searched high and low for the just the right curriculum. It should be easy to follow and take the kiddos step-by-step through the process of developing their writing from the foundations up…but when she couldn’t find it, she found herself writing her own curriculum: The Write Foundation.

This complete writing curriculum is divided into 3 levels:

  1. Sentence to Paragraph Writing (ages 11-13)
  2. Paragraph Writing (ages 12-15)
  3. Essay Writing (ages 14-17)

Each level contains a total of 30 lessons, which can be taught over the course of a year, or take 2 weeks for each lesson and stretch the course over 2 years. The complete curriculum includes the spiral-bound instruction manuals, loose worksheets and a cd-rom containing teacher’s presentations (example worksheets for teaching purposes), reading lists, grading sheets, word games, check lists, and weekly assignments. You will also need to purchase a 3-ring binder, 8 dividers, 6 different colored highlighters, and Mind Benders from Critical Thinking Co. (MB is optional, but a worthwhile addition). You will also need a Thesaurus and a dictionary.

For this review I received Level 1: Sentence to Paragraph Writing Lessons 1-15 to use with 10-year-old David. David is a strong writer for his age. He has a good grasp of language and sentence structure, but needs some help with organizing his thoughts…a paragraph can run to a whole page, if you know what I mean. He also tends to be a bit reluctant about writing…he’s grown out of this some the past year or so, but writing things out, especially with paper and pencil is generally not his idea of a fun time (unless it’s his idea). The Write Foundation is specially geared towards reluctant writers, so I thought this would be a good fit. Having known students when I was in college who needed to visit the Writing Center every week for remedial tutoring, I know how important it is to get the right foundation.

What we like:

David is enjoying this curriculum. When I first told him we would be starting a new writing program, he groaned. Now that he’s writing silly sentences and creating concrete and acrostic poetry, he’s not demanding to do it every day, but he’s not complaining about it (always a good sign). The assignments are pretty fun and encourage him to expand his vocabulary by using a Thesaurus and a dictionary. He likes that the final assignments to be graded must be typed (handwriting is still an issue for him).

I like that the program is incremental, so he doesn’t have to try to wrestle a paragraph into shape right away. We began by marking up sentences for subjects and verbs, and learning how to add more interesting language to his sentences. We’ll eventually move on to outlining ideas and finally writing full paragraphs.

The forays into poetry add variety and an appreciation for language. The poetry in the Write Foundation is not what you would call high art. I do have a little bit of concern about this…I don’t want to foster the idea that a poem is just something that rhymes, but I also don’t want poetry to seem like some inaccessible thing not to be enjoyed. I know from experience that poetry writing can have a very positive impact on a writer’s other writings. We’ve learning about alliteration (an effective tool in other writing, too) and how the physical shape of a poem can convey a message.

The teaching sessions are a joint effort---David likes that we are working together---to cement the idea, then he does his “homework” (independent work) on his own. The technique here is almost perfect. Personal experience has shown me that telling the kiddos how to do something, or even showing them how to do something, is not really enough to ensure that they get it. We need to do it together. And not just 1-2 examples, but several times so they are comfortable with what they are doing. The Write Foundation gives you plenty of examples to do with your kiddos (almost too many, really, but you don’t have to use them all). By the time I send David off to do his own work, I know that he knows what he’s doing.

What we tweaked:

Ms. Celsor does state in the introduction that you should change the curriculum as you need to …do not feel you are a slave to it. Of course, she knows that this is what homeschoolers do best.

Keeping in mind that this curriculum really was designed for a co-op, there are some things that we found weren’t necessary in our home situation. The 8-dividers were a little confusing at first, but I’ve found that we really don’t use all of them (I grade assignments right away, for instance, so no need to have a separate section for things waiting to be graded).

Some of the suggested activities don’t really work as well in a home situation, (like interviewing other students in lesson 3), but alternatives are sometimes offered.

I found some of the independent assignments to be too long, partly because by the time David gets to doing the independent work, he’s already done the bulk of the teaching session’s work (with some input from Mom). Here’s an example: For Lesson one, one teaching session involved writing several silly sentences using alliterating words. While David and I technically did this together, the sentences came from him, I just wrote them on the whiteboard, he copied them and then he highlighted the parts. The independent assignment required him to write 10 more sentences on his own. Since I already knew he got it, this seemed a bit too much, and I didn’t want a rebellion on my hands, so I assigned 5 sentences. He surprised me by having so much fun with it that he wrote 8 sentences.

What needs improvement:

While the overall curriculum is well organized and progresses logically, the week to week lessons are a bit of a jumble. The information to teach is presented in one order, but when you get to the assignment page at the end of the lesson, the days are laid out in a different order. For example, in Lesson 2, Concrete Poetry is presented last in the teacher’s notes, and yet the assignment schedule has it at day 2 for the week. The flipping back and forth and trying to figure out where I was at simply didn’t work for me, so I just worked from the teaching notes and ignored the assignment page. Worked ok, except the teaching notes don’t always have all the assignments to be given…oops! That’s another inconsistency.

I also found a number of typographical errors, some grammatical mistakes and so forth, things that require an editor’s eye. I wouldn’t give a curriculum a thumbs down on this basis alone (I know how easy it is to make these mistakes, blush), but it is distracting in a curriculum designed to teach writing. There were also some gaffes in the teaching notes where answers were being given for worksheets (verbs that were supposed to be highlighted, but weren’t, for instance) and inconsistencies between what at least one worksheet had on it and the the manual said it had on it. Minor little things, but they might be obstacles to someone who’s not confident in teaching this subject.

The curriculum was shipped with the worksheets loose…and a teeny bit crumpled. I’d like to see these packed more carefully.


I like the idea of the program and what the author is trying to achieve. While I don’t think the execution is spot on, The Write Foundation is definitely a worthwhile program and I can see that it’s accomplishing the goals in mind. We will continue to use it. I don't know that I would purchase lessons 16-30...the price seems a bit steep for the materials included, but I’m a cheapskate. UPDATE 11-15-10: The Write Foundation has reduced their prices (current prices reflected below) and the author is revising the curriculum to make it more homeschool friendly.


The Write Foundation Curriculum Bundles (Includes instruction manuals, printed worksheets, and cd-rom with additional resources to print):

Level 1 complete (includes lessons 1-30): $100 $69.95 plus tax and shipping

Level 1 (lessons 1-15 or lessons 16-30): $65 $39.95 plus tax and shipping

You can also purchase the instruction manuals and worksheets separately.

Sample lesson plans available here.

Also available: Level 2 and Level 3

See more reviews of this product and of levels 2 and 3 on the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free copy of the product reviewed in order to review it. I received no other compensation. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 9


I’m grateful for:

marys letter

Thank you, Mary!

It was time...

I haven't lived in the Midwest for over a year. I'm not originally from the Midwest. It was time to drop the hastily chosen nickname that I've outgrown. I thought about coming up with a clever new one, but well, I'm just not feeling so clever these days. I hope you don't mind if it's just plain me.

Craving Thanksgiving?

It's November. The weather's chilly. My furnace can't seem to figure out when it's supposed to come on. My feet are cold (must be those threadbare socks). There's something about holiday foods that just warms you from the inside out...:-)

While spending the day bent over the stove is not my idea of a fun time, I am craving some of those Thanksgiving treats.

I last made this roast for Christmas last year, and it was so yummy. Rave reviews from all our guests. I've got a pork roast in the freezer, might be time to fill the house with some crockpot cooking.

Cranberry Pork Roast (original recipe from Mable Hoffman's Crockery Cooking 1995)

1 (3-4 lb.) boneless or loin pork roast
salt and pepper to taste
1 c ground or finely chopped cranberries (my blender does a fabulous job)
1/4 c honey
1 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 freshly grated nutmeg

Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Place in a slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients; pour over roast. Cover and cook on LOW 8-10 hours or until roast is tender. Slice and serve hot.

Notes: The original recipe puts this at 6-8 servings...that's 1/2 lb of meat per person! You could serve many more especially with all your sides (my dressing is a meal in itself!). The last time I made this I did not have grated orange peel or the nutmeg...I skipped them and it came out fabulous anyway! Experiment with the seasoning. It also works well with pork chops.

The original recipe does not suggest it, but this makes an incredible gravy!
  • When the roast is done, take it out and put it under a foil tent to stay hot.
  • Raise your crock temp to HIGH.
  • In a small bowl, mix a couple of heaping tbs. of cornstarch with an equal amount of water (or used liquid from the pot).
  • Carefully whisk the cornstarch mixture into the liquid in the crock.
  • Heat and stir occasionally until it thickens, about 10 mins. (If it's not as thick as you like, repeat).

And what about that dressing that's a meal in itself? OK, this is a special treat, because I have never posted this recipe, or given it to anybody or anything:

Susan's Once a Year Dressing (feeds a whole house full)

1 bag of Pepperidge Farm herbed bread cubes for stuffing (or, cube and dry a loaf of homemade bread)
1 bag of Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing (or crumble and dry a pan of cornbread---lay it out on a cookie sheet and dry in a slow oven)
1 stick melted butter
2 Tbsp. butter
2-3 cans of broth (veg or chicken, or I also use homemade-the amount here will depend on how wet you like your dressing)
1 lb. bulk sage sausage
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 stalks celery, finely chopped
8 - 12oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1-2 cups walnut pieces
poultry seasoning (1-2 tsps, more or less)

You will need a huge bowl to mix this in (think 4- 5 quarts).

Pour your bread cubes and cornbread crumbs into your huge bowl.

Saute the onion and celery together in a large skillet in a couple Tbsps. butter until wilted and just starting to brown. Remove from pan and pour into your huge bowl.

Brown the sausage in the pan you sauteed the veg in. Drain and add to your bowl.

Saute your shrooms until they are completely sweated and have started to brown. Throw in your bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients (add the broth/stock last, one can at a time so you get the right consistency). Mix well. Pick up the bits that fell on the counter and put them back in the bowl. Mix again.

Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake another 15 or so minutes until it is brown on top.

All the amounts are adjustable in this recipe, and if you don't like mushrooms or nuts, leave them out.

Linking this up to MamaBuzz's Thanksgiving Recipe Exchange...check it out, there are some great giveaways.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 8


Ever had one of those days when you just want to knock a few heads together and call it a day? Except the kiddos are too busy knocking their own heads together to notice?

Maybe a rubber mallet would do it?

I think sending them outside is probably a healthier solution.

I am thankful that today was a sunny, if chilly, day and that the kiddos were able to play outside for a long time this afternoon. Sometimes it's more important to let them run around than do formal bookwork. I'm thankful that God has shown me the wisdom of that.

I'm thankful that Mary was able to go next door and retrieve David's shoe after he kicked it off his foot and over the fence.

I'm thankful that there was a minimum of fights while they were outside and only one kiddo got a ball in the face. And that it really was an accident.

I'm thankful that Emma has learned the word "me." She uses it whenever I ask "Who wants some ______?"

What are you thankful for today?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 7


I'm grateful for little boys with big imaginations and little girls who are not afraid to ask questions...though I am a little tired of cleaning up the debris of those grand plans and explaining in minute detail everything I do. Every minute of the day.

It helps to remember that it's the joy of learning that leads to the messes and inquisitions. I know it won't be long before they think they already know everything, so I'm enjoying it while I can.

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 6


I'm grateful today for homemade bread with butter (I'd be even more grateful if it didn't go to my hips), cool (but not freezing) weather, hot showers, simple meals, and silence (when I can get it).

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 5


So much to be grateful for today.

I'm grateful that the plumber was able to hook up our under-counter water filter without having to put in another supply pipe (long story), simple part we already had and the right know-how made it word...whoohoo, no more filling the Pur pitcher 20 times a day.

I'm grateful that I rediscovered a homeschooling resource that I had forgotten we had. I have Emma to thank for that. If she wasn't so good at tearing things apart and spreading them all over the house, I never would have had to pick it up off the floor. It's the A2 Curriculum from Accelerated Achievement, and there are some phonics materials in there that are going to be perfect for Peter and some other materials that will be good for the older children.

I'm grateful that hubby made it back safely this evening after attending a conference and in time to help put the kiddos to bed (albeit a bit late, wink).

I'm grateful that the school week is over (did I say that?) because I have some planning I want to do for next week.

Most of all, I'm grateful to our Lord for making this...all of this and so much more...real.

Fit Mommy Challenge: Week 2


See my first post on the Fit Mommy 10 week challenge to see my goals.

This week was harder, stress was my enemy and somehow the kiddos pushed every button I have until…I really did want chocolate.

The sweets journal:

On Saturday, I had a shortbread cookie for dessert (hubby and the kiddos made them, how could I refuse?).

On Sunday I had 1 itty bitty piece if my nephew’s cake. No Halloween candy, though.

On Monday, I did not trek to the store looking for 1/2 price Halloween candy (at least 300 kiddos came by our house the night before, and this is not an exaggeration, so we have no candy left other than my kiddos bags, no temptation!). I did have 2 shortbread cookies for dessert.

On Tuesday, I had a cookie for dessert.

On Wednesday, I did have some cookie dough. Horrors! And it did have Heath bits in it. Oops! In my defense, I didn’t know about the Heath bits until after I had some and then it was too late.

On Thursday, I had 2 cookies made from the cookie dough I had a taste of the day before. For dessert, of course.

Today, I had a cup of mocha cappuccino.

Water intake:

48 glasses of water (10-12 oz glasses)---I was a little light on the water intake this week. Our filtering pitcher suddenly stopped filtering, so water quality was not so good (our new undercounter filter is finally installed, so that’s no longer a prob) and we were out of the house more than usual.

Tea intake:

8 mugs---not too bad for a whole week.


Between cold and rain, the weather hasn’t been great for outside activities. Saturday I fell asleep instead of exercising. I started EA Sports Active for Wii on Monday. This is cool! I’m definitely getting a workout with it (I know this because I’m sore all over all the time, ha ha). I’ve completed 80% of the first week’s goal. I do that for 2 days and then for the “rest” days, I do some light activity with Wii Fit. I will probably take one day off each week. So, 20 minutes of exercise each day 5 days out of 7, and today’s not over yet. Not bad.

Review: Book Collector Pro 7.0


From oversized picture books to a set of encyclopedias to cheap paperbacks, we have thousands of books in our home. What homeschool doesn't? In fact, we are setting up a library of sorts. But organizing it all is a bit daunting…I admit that I’ve found more than one copy of more than one book while in the process of unpacking, and sometimes even on the same shelf.

How many many times have I gotten an idea for a great unit study, scoured the local library’s shelves looking for resources, only to find the perfect book “shelved” behind the sofa? Or in the toy bin? How many times have I racked my brain trying to think of that history book I was saving for 6th grade…and trying to find it amongst those double-shelved shelves?

And lest you think this is simply a lack of personal organization (and I admit, some of it is), my shelving of books in my home library is not alphabetical or Dewy Decimal for a very good reason: lack of space and aestheticism. A library has the luxury of shelving books of the same subject or author, regardless of the physical size and appearance of the books, but a bibliophile simply has to keep trade paperbacks together, over-sized books together, and so on…unless I’m going to add free-standing stacks to the middle of my library. Not going to happen.

I need a system to organize our books that doesn’t require physically organizing them beyond making the most of my available space. Book Collector Pro from Collectorz is just the thing.


Adding your books into Book Collector is easy peasy. If you have a scanner, like the cuecat (I don’t), you can scan barcodes, but if not, typing in a 10- or 13-digit isbn for each book is not at all taxing with a numberpad. I was able to enter stacks of books in no time at all. Just type in the isbn, click search, and Book Collector will search its online database for your book, pulling up all the relevant info, including a cover image. Don’t have an isbn? Books and magazines can be entered with an LC (Library of Congress) number, by title and by author. Your search will bring back a list of “likely suspects” to choose from. In the event that your book cannot be found, titles and info can be added manually. Cover image wrong? You can search for the correct cover for your edition or even upload your own image! This feature is super cool for me…I’m pretty visual, so knowing what a book looks like helps me tremendously when locating it or even when trying to remember what it’s about.

And this is what really sets Book Collector apart from other book database programs I have seen: it is so customizable! Each book has its very own profile where you can categorize it by subject and genre, choose it’s format (paperback, comb-binding, e-book, etc.), add notes as to its actual physical location (whether it’s a bathroom book or a bedroom book), give it an owner (create different owner designations for each family member), keep track of it if you loan it out, and more. You can even input books you don’t own one your “wishlist.”

Being able to categorize the books by their binding, or lack thereof (I’m thinking of the myriads of e-books I’ve got stashed on my hard-drive and various flash-drives, ahem), is a definite plus. Being able to note each book’s location, perfect! I’m seriously considering numbering each of my bookshelves and giving it a designation in Book Collector. It would make it so much easier to locate wayward books. Plus, for every e-book, I can note which flash-drive or hard-drive it is on, what folder, etc. I’m really pleased with this. Maybe this will push me to finally organize all my stuff.

You can add your own genres and subjects, too. And since all your books can be sorted by subject or genre (or title, or author, or…), it’s quite easy to create your own categories to “browse” when you are looking for the perfect resource. I could for instance, categorize books as homeschool books, 1st grade math, science unit study, whatever floats my boat…and makes it work for me.

If you are prone to double-buying books, ahem, there’s also an iPod app available to export your book list from Book Collector Pro to your iPhone or iPod Touch for $9.99.

Can you tell I like it?

Download the free trial of Book Collector and give it a try (you can input up to 100 books with the free trial).

Book Collector Standard is available for $29.95.

Book Collector Pro is available for $49.95.

What’s the dif? The Pro version allows you to use the iPod app, keep track of book loans, create customized lists, adds extra user defined fields (even rename fields if you like), and more. Check the site for a comparison.

Available for Windows and for Mac OS X.

Disclosure: This is a TOS Homeschool Crew review. I received a free license for this software for review purposes. I received no other compensation.

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 4

Ok, I'm late again:-)

But I haven't gone to bed yet, so I think it still counts.

Tonight I am thankful that I have a sweet baby in my arms as I type this. At 19-months, she's not really a baby anymore. And, yes, I do wish she were asleep in her own room instead of making my arm go to sleep. There are always so many other important things I could be doing. Like washing dishes or folding laundry or even, gasp, sleeping myself.

But tonight I'm thankful that I'm able to hold her and love and cherish her babyhood a little while longer. Even if my hand is all pins and needles from trying to type while her sweet head cuts off my blood circulation. Sometimes love hurts, lol.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Review: The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead


What would you do if you found yourself in an unfamiliar part of town and out of the shadows stepped your great-grandfather…the rogue who abandoned his wife and family long before you were ever born and simply vanished. Except that if this man really is your great-grand, he’s well over a 100-years-old if he’s a day, yet he’s a spry one for all those years. He starts talking to you about ley lines and traveling through time to another place where things happened a little differently than in the world you know. And how he needs your help. Would you take his hand, take a chance and enter an alternate reality?

This is the dilemma that faces Cosimo Christopher Livingstone (Kit, to you) at the beginning of The Skin Map, the first book in Stephen R. Lawhead’s Bright Empires series from Thomas Nelson. Before it’s over, he and his girlfriend, Mina, will find themselves becoming regular time-travelers searching for the coveted Map, a series of intricate tattoos preserved in the skin of a man who has long been dead. They hope it holds the secret to knowing where they are and where they are going. They know that if it falls into the wrong hands, their own lives are forfeit.

And by the end, you’ll be wondering when the next book is coming out.

I enjoyed The Skin Map. At first, Kit came across as a loser and Mina sounded like someone I really just don’t want to care about. But they grew on me, foibles and all. And they grew up a good bit over the course of the book---it seems they just needed the right impetus to snap them out of their gray lives. Lawhead very carefully weaves together several narratives, showing you glimpses here, snatches there of the overall story from different perspectives. You’ll meet the original bearer of the map and his chief adversary who will take it at any cost. You’ll journey through different times and locations and ponder the ethics of changing history in alternate reality where that history hasn’t happened, yet, and may never happen. And you’ll care about whether Kit, his great-grandpa, and Mina will get out alive.

I really do want to read the next book.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson for review purposes. I received no other compensation. This review reflects my honest opinions.

Review: Columbus Terra Political Globe


CSN Stores has all kinds of household goods, but did you know that they have high quality educational products for your homeschool, too? Like this beautiful political globe from Columbus:

Terra Political Globe - 10' Diameter

This illuminated globe shows political boundaries when it isn’t lit, but when lit, it becomes a topographical globe:

globe plus grammy visit 002globe plus grammy visit 007

The stock photo doesn’t show it, but the cord comes out of the south pole axis, which does not in any way interfere with its rotation. The globe comes with a candelabra bulb installed and a spare bulb.

At 10” (globes are measured in diameter), the Terra Political Globe is large enough that you can read most of the names (though if you have tired eyes like mine, you might like a magnifying glass), but small enough that it’s not impossible to store when not in use (I have it on top my my fridge).

What we love about it:

The actual globe is a virtually unbreakable acrylic ball! For those of you have been reading me long enough, you know we don’t have a good track record when it comes to globes:

global destruction

I’m hopeful that the Terra globe will last for a good long while…or at least until all the political boundaries in the real world change.

The bulb inside is not indestructible, that might be a problem. Winking smile

What could be improved:

    • The entire thing is made of plastic, which is a selling point for use with kiddos (nobody can brain anybody with a plastic base), but also a drawback. The hollow base is not heavy enough to resist tipping when 3 kiddos are simultaneously spinning the globe. I may try weighting it with some modeling clay.
    • The legend for the topographical map is very faint (it only appears when the globe is illuminated) and hard to read.globe plus grammy visit 008
    • No political boundaries for the states in the U.S. This is not an American maker, so I wasn’t actually surprised by this. The map is labeled with the names of countries and cities.

Overall, I’m very pleased with our new globe, and so are the kiddos…it’s helping to feed their enthusiasm for geography and the world we live in…definitely a worthwhile tool for our homeschool.

The Columbus Terra Globe is available for $49.95 at CSN Stores and it ships for free!

Disclosure: I received this product for free from CSN Stores for review purposes. I received no other compensation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 3


Today I am grateful that the furnace did decide to come on this morning after all. Visions of spending money (that we don't have) on a new furnace expired as the smell of warm metal wafted through my nostrils and radiant heat took off the morning chill. Not poetry, I know, but something to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

And (Emma) Keeps Happening

emma 002

Never a dull moment, lol!

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 2


Today I am thankful for…

Duct Tape!

For salvaging all those things

that would otherwise be


duct tape 006

duct tape 005

Emma Happens


Just Like Big Sis

halloween 009

duct tape 001

Gratitude Flows Within: Day 1

Tis the month of Thanksgiving, so Brenda over at Garden of Learning has issued a Gratitude Challenge...30 days of blogging about what you are grateful for. Since I've been belly-aching so much lately, I need to participate in this, even if I am a little late the first day.

I am grateful for my dear hubby, who's not afraid to be a loving Papa and take over with the kiddos when he sees his poor wife has had enough. Thank you, dear one, for snuggling down with little Emma at bedtime when she refused to go to bed for Mama (instead choosing to run around the house, pulling random things off of shelves and sticking other random things into her mouth in a desperate effort to keep her eyes open).

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: K’NEX Education Intro to Structures: Bridges


Building your way to understanding the laws of the universe…sounds like a perfect plan for those kiddos who would much rather be building anything than sitting around reading textbooks. What better way to understand forces than by building structures and witnessing first hand how those forces impact the structures we live in, walk on and even drive across? K’NEX Education sets are not just toys, but tools for education.


K’NEX very generously sent me for review Intro to Structures: Bridges for grades 3-6. This set comes with 207 K’NEX rods and connectors, a divided case for keeping the pieces organized, an instruction booklet, and a teacher’s guide on cd.

I was impressed the instant I opened the case. I’ve had plenty of science and building kits in the past that came in nothing more than a cardboard box, leaving me to figure out how to store the bits and pieces until next time. Something always falls out of the box and gets lost, rendering the set unusable until you come up with a replacement. Definitely not a problem with this set. Unless the baby gets hold of it while the lid is off.

october 2010 016

Number of times the 18-month-old dumped the whole works? One.

As you can see, I need to play with this setup a bit more (but I’m too lazy to take it apart), to get those long green ones to fit. There was no suggestion for divider placement included (the dividers need to be assembled), so I winged it. I could have planned it a bit better. The divided sections make it easy to spot the pieces you need without having to sort through them. Fabulous!

The 207 pieces are just what you’ll need to build any of the 7 different styles of bridges included in the instruction booklet, from a simple beam bridge to an arch to a suspension bridge. Each type of piece is color coded, so you can see at a glance which pieces you need for each bridge. I found the instructions to be clear and easy to follow, but my 10-year-old said he would have preferred a more step-by-step approach. He had no trouble assembling any of the bridges, however, and his 6-year-old sister was even able to help. There is a paragraph on the type of bridge included with each set of instructions that can be read by a child at a 5th-6th grade level.

But what really makes this more than just a fancy, well-organized building set is the teacher’s guide, 94 pages of background material, lesson plans, worksheets, and web-links to investigate (always a plus in case you want to expand your study). My children (ages 5, 6, and 10) all learned about tension, compression, torsion and shear using the simple yet effective demonstrations suggested in the guide. The 10-year-old was able to build and test bridges and investigate what factors make a stronger bridge.

october 2010 017

A Bascule Bridge

october 2010 021

october 2010 022

october30 004

A Cable-Stayed Bridge

october30 006

Demonstrating a Cantilever

october30 010

A Suspension Bridge

october30 052

Testing an Original Design

We spent two weeks on this unit and enjoyed every minute of it. I love the clear lesson plans, the materials lists, extension activities and the thorough background material. As someone who enjoyed studying physics in school, I still didn’t have a clue where to start with the topic and K’NEX Education took away all the guesswork. No hunting around for experiments to use to demonstrate torsion, no thumbing through the dictionary or a giant textbook to define a word, it was all there for me. I also felt free to pick and choose from the lessons, rather than follow a strict schedule, giving me the flexibility to concentrate on areas we had not yet explored on this topic and to choose activities that could also engage my younger children.

That said, keep in mind the the teacher’s guide is definitely written with a classroom in mind. In addition to the expectation that you will have several students working in teams of 2-3, there are some materials required for some of the activities that the average householder won’t have lying around. Like 2 bathroom scales. Or a calibrated weight set that goes from 10 grams to 1000 grams. Some things you can probably borrow so you can do these activities in your homeschool. Others, you can definitely improvise.

october30 031

Testing a Beam Bridge

october30 037

Testing a Truss Bridge

Activities that require students to work in groups (there are also some demonstrations that would require a group of students) can be modified or skipped. This would be super for a co-op, as long as your group was able to afford multiple sets (you would need one set for every 2-3 students).

One caveat on the teacher’s guide: It is a 63 meg file (that’s huge, most e-books are less than a couple of megs), due to it’s graphic intensive nature. Some of those graphics are unnecessary, like the very professional page backgrounds and borders that look nice, but would drink up a lot of ink if you chose to print out the file. K’NEX obviously did consider this: the worksheets are very plain and simple, so have no fear there. The obvious solution is to read it off of an e-reader, but the large size makes it a memory hog and slow to load on my Kindle. Reading it directly off the computer, while doable, might be much less convenient unless you have a laptop. Another possibility might be to have it printed at an office supply store. I think I just might go ahead and print the whole thing on my B&W Laser printer which will minimize the cost.

Overall, I give Intro to Structures: Bridges an enthusiastic thumbs up…and I’m seriously thinking about buying another set from the K’NEX Education series.

Intro to Structures: Bridges is available directly from K’NEX for $34.00. That’s an awesome deal!

Other sets from K’NEX Education include math and geometry models, DNA models, simple machines, and more.

Disclosure: I received this product for free from K’NEX for review purposes. I received no other compensation.