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Thursday, July 16, 2015

TOS Review: Homeschool Buyers Co-Op; Homeschool Planet home and homeschool scheduler

I was recently introduced to Homeschool Planet, an online interactive home and home school scheduling program produced by Homeschool Buyers Co-Op and asked to give it a try.

Homeschool Planet is an online scheduling and organizing program, great for schoolwork, household tasks, blogging and/or other home business work, kids activities, chores, etc. ... basically, everything on your plate and those of your family members.

To begin, I watched the video tutorials. There are thirteen short videos and they are amazingly helpful and provide lots of tricks and tips to the program that'd take quite a bit of trial and error to find otherwise. There are also "how to" and "FAQ" sections to the planner answering a lot of oft asked questions. I was very impressed and pleased to see how much effort was put into making this program as easy to navigate as possible.

After watching the videos I set up my people. Each family member is represented and by doing this I'm able to assign tasks to just certain people, ie - Adam and Kaden may be attending an event without the rest of us, I can specify that, or River may have an assignment to do for school that's unique to him, with this program I can easily clarify that.

We travel a lot in the summer and the kids spend part of the summer with their father so we really don't do a lot of schooling during summer break. However, we do do plenty of stuff. I wanted to be able to enter Adam, Kaden, and River's school schedules in now with correct dates and assignments so I opted to use our "real life" summer schedules (and chores) for the purposes of this review and enter the schoolwork accurately and do a mock run-through of us using the program for schoolwork.

Entering the regular activities is a piece of cake. I named the activity, assigned a date and time, if it wasn't all day thing, to it, specified who was doing the activity, and hit save. That simple. I could then look at everyone's activities using the calendar or planner views.

Suppose Ian is asked to do some volunteer work on Thursday afternoon. Well, Kaden's orthodontist appointment isn't relevant and neither is anything else that Ian isn't doing, I can go in and alter the settings so I'm only seeing what Ian has on the calendar, making it much easier to know if he can do that volunteer work or not. I could also print out his calendar, or planner view, so he knows what his week looks like without the clutter of everyone else's schedule..

Entering the schoolwork was also very simple.

I chose a subject, chose a child (or children) to assign the work to, and a time of day. Typically, I do our school schedule manually on a sheet of paper. With some subjects we do 1 assignment per day, every day, with some we do lesson 1 on Monday, 2 on Tuesday, 3 on Wednesday, etc., some things we do daily, some every other day, some once a week, and some Monday through Thursday. River does workbooks that need to be done by the end of the year and he does 2-3 pages per day. On notebook paper with a pen this is super simple and takes me about 10 minutes each Monday morning. Quite frankly, entering all that into this program sounded like a real pain the neck. Well, it wasn't. The program is designed to handle all those idiosyncrasies and more. I simply entered my parameters, the entered the days of the week we did the assignment, and the assignment on the calendar was generated the way I wanted it to be. There's even an option to complete a certain number of assignments or pages by the end of the year that'll automatically calculate how many pages to do per day. I was done entering the entire years worth of work in about 30 minutes.

Of course, I don't always need to know what everyone needs to do, so I can again print the schoolwork for just one student by isolating them and generating a printable calendar or planner for them.

The program will track assignments past due and ask what to do with them. They're not just going to disappear (much to the kids' dismay) and can be marked as completed or carried forward as assignments still needing to be completed.

It is very easy to print reports of schoolwork to do or completed, calendar views and planner views, as well as other reports.

The calendar you create can be shared with Google calendar or Apple iCal. Also, log in information can be created for each child so they can view their own schedules on their mobile devices. I think this is going to be a great way for me to share the kids assignments and schedules with their father when he comes to town.

I have really only touched the surface of the assets and benefits of this easy, multi-faceted planner. Right now, a 30 day free trial of Homeschool Planet is available at Homeschool Buyers Co-op and I highly recommend giving it a try!

Take a look at some more of the TOS Review crews reviews of this planner to see how they used it.

Homeschool Planet Review

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Memory Quilt for an Eagle Scout

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

One of the scouts in our Boy Scout troop earned his Eagle rank recently (congratulations, Sam!).

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

His mother has been saving mementos of his scouting journey through the years and asked if I would make him a quilt to commemorate his scouting career. Of course I said "yes".

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

The quilt measures about 50" by 60". The front side background fabrics are uniform shirts, scouting t-shirts, and rank neckerchiefs. The backing fabric is navy cotton. The binding is leftover fabric from the back and the neckerchiefs.

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges
Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

I attempted to put the patches on the right neckerchief - wolf rank on the wolf neckerchief. The patches on the bottom half of the quilt are mostly Boy Scouting ones, earned at various events.

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

On the left side I left space for his merit badge sash and included a pocket for Webelos pins and any other pins. Sam earned Eagle before aging out of scouts and needed his sash for another year or so, so the sash was added after he received the quilt.

Boy Scout memory Quilt, given at Eagle Scout ceremony, great way to display saved scouting memorabili, pins, uniforms, and badges

Again, congratulations Sam. We couldn't be prouder of you.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sew Sew Much More Sale

Independence Day Sale Going On Now

Saturday, June 27, 2015


I promise you, we'll be back to ties and fabric in no time.

In the meantime, a vacation photo taken near Waupaca, WI on the Chain O Lakes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

We're Back

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Flag Day

Happy Flag Day from all of us to you.

In case you hadn't noticed, the shop is currently closed for vacation. We'll reopen the end of this week after some family time.

Photo above taken a few days ago at Whitefish Bay in Door County, Wisconsin.

Friday, June 5, 2015

TOS Review: Memoria Press - The Book of the Ancient Romans

The Book of the Ancient Romans middle school history text and study guides
In the 1920's Dorothy Mills wrote a series of history books for middle school students; The Book of the Ancient World, The Book of the Ancient Greeks, The Book of the Ancient Romans, and The Book of the Middle Ages. For this review Adam, Kaden, and I were given The Book of the Ancient Romans to review, after it was republished with additional illustrations by Memoria Press.

For this review we were given the history book itself, a beautiful 435 page soft cover book filled with chapters of text and black-and-white illustrations and written by Dorothy Mills. We also received a Student Guide, written recently by Matthew Anderson, which contains 77 pages of questions for each chapter of the book with 2 pages devoted to each chapter, and a Teacher Guide, also written by Mr. Anderson, with the answers to the student questions as well as tests to use throughout the study of the book and a final exam . Both these books are soft cover books as well.

The Book of the Ancient Romans middle school history text and study guides

Adam (14) and Kaden (12) were able to work through the history book and study guide independently, with me just checking their answers and going over any areas they had issues with. The program is organized so well that I really didn't need to be involved in the day-to-day reading and learning.

The chapters of the history book run anywhere from 5 to about 30 pages, with the larger chapters divided into smaller segments. The boys were able to read the chapters to themselves and answer the study questions in about 20-30 minutes a day, varying a bit based on the length of the chapter.

The Book of the Ancient Romans middle school history text and study guides

Ms. Mills combines storytelling and history lessons to make the text interesting and engaging. The boys were easily able to read the lessons and feel that they understood what was going on. Also, the books provide a very comprehensive coverage of the materials, 435 may seem like a lot of pages but they are chock full of great information. The Book of the Ancient Romans begins with the founding of the city and ends with it's fall.

The student's guide has vocabulary words to look up, comprehension questions, activities such as adding to a timeline or creating a map or researching and writing a page, and facts to know.

The Book of the Ancient Romans middle school history text and study guides

The boys worked this program very independently, so I asked them to share their opinions of it.

Here is what Kaden (age 12) had to say:

The Book of the Ancient Romans is a fun learning book. You learn about Italy and Rome. You also learn about ancient tribes.

I learned new words that I had to look up.

I think that it was a learning activity that was not too challenging for kids, but it was hard enough so you actually learned about the ancient Romans. The book taught me about how Rome conquered all the places near them and became the biggest and most powerful city of it's time.

I also learned about Romulus and Remus. I learned how they founded Rome and Romulus was the king. I learned about how Romulus killed Remus.

The Book of the Ancient Romans middle school history text and study guides

And from Adam (age 14):

In the Book of the Ancient Romans you learn about the past of Rome, about how Rome was founded by Romulus, about the rulers along Rome's greatness. You learn about Rome's battles, how Rome kidnapped the Sabini women and how the Sabini women stopped a war with their fathers and husbands.

This book is very educational and a good home school book. I liked The Book of Ancient Romans and I learned a lot about Rome that I didn't already know.

The Book of the Ancient Romans by Dorothy Mills is available from Memoria Press for $16.95. The set of book, student guide, and teacher guide are available for $39.95. This program is geared toward 6-12th graders.

Memoria Press Review

Friday, May 29, 2015

I Heart Them

I heart them. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Review and Giveaway: Renuzit Pearl Scents

Because I'm Me Renuzit Pearl Scents

Have you heard of new Renuzit Pearl Scents?

Because I'm Me Renuzit Pearl ScentsThe long-lasting scented odor-neutralizing gel-type balls are encased in an attractive, decorative container with a slotted lid to release the fresh, gentle air freshener. They blend in well with home decor, so they don't have to be hidden in a secret corner.

I placed my container of Renuzit Pearl Scents near my downstairs bathroom, which is also home to the dreaded, stinky litterbox. The Sparkling Rain scent has been much preferred over the cat box smells, which has been minimized as a result of the odor neutralizers in the formula. Definitely an improvement!

Would you like to win your own container of Renuzit Pearl Scents? Of course! Enter below for your chance to win 2, yes two, coupons for free Renuzit Pearl Scents. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Setting Sail

His first regatta.

We've got a few things to learn about this new trimaran boat design.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

TOS Review: Homeschool Legacy - We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution

Homeschool Legacy Review
When asked to review Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Series unit study We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution, by Sharon Gibson, I was very interested, because I knew the need was there for Adam(14) and Kaden (12) to learn more about our goverment and it's beginning. When I learned that completing the unit study would also satisfy all requirements for Citizenship in the Nation, a challenging Eagle-required Boy Scout merit badge, I was more than interested.

This unit study, and many others in this Once-a-Week series, meet not only Boy Scout merit badge requirements, but also American Heritage Girls and 4H requirements. Information about what requirements will be met in the unit study can be found on the Homeschool Legacy's website and specific requirements being met are noted with symbols throughout the unit study.

The Once-a-Week unit study is completely downloadable, an easy single digital download that you can then print to use. I printed the 68 pages and immediately put them in a 3-pronged binder.

This unit study is an 8 week program, with a different chapter devoted to each week; the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the amendments to the Constitution, and the different branches of government. It is suggested that the user do parts of the unit study a few days a week, devoting one entire school day per week to doing the majority of the unit study. Fortunately, the program is very flexible because that wouldn't have worked for us, there's no way we could devote an entire day just to one subject - instead we did a little bit each day, completing the weeks work in 2-3 weekdays, putting in about an hour each day, with additional time spent reading and watching related movies. At the beginning of the unit study is a page outlining possible schedules for completing the unit study, and at the back of the program are four pages devoted to getting the most out of the unit studies; both of these sections are very helpful.

When We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution was first presented to me I was aware of the fact that it was a Christian based program, the premise of the unit study is to understand the Christian values and beliefs that our founding fathers possessed and the role those beliefs and Christianity played in the founding of the United States of America, particularly the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The kids and I don't home school from a religious perspective, but I do believe that our country was founded by men with a strong belief in God and very admirable values, and that that is important to understand and remember as our country grows and changes. One of the benefits of a unit study like this is the flexibility to adapt it to meet the needs and style of the student, which we did; we followed the majority of the unit study but omitted the bible work.

To give an idea of the program and how it worked for us:

Chapter 3 is about the Bill of Rights. Each boy was asked to read the first ten amendments to the Constitution (the Bill of Rights). We then learned about the "separation of church and state" which does not appear in the Constitution, as many believe, but was coined after it was said by Thomas Jefferson and referred to keeping the government out of religion, not to keep religion out of government.

In Chapter 3 the boys were asked to read a newspaper daily for a few weeks, which satisfies a Citizenship in the Nation requirement.

The boys also learned about felonies and what rights a felon loses. Gathering and writing about this information was their creative writing schoolwork for one day.

We discussed the reasons for the Bill of Rights and how it came to be necessary.

Throughout each chapter are numerous reading opportunities, with options for both strong and less confident readers.
What we thought:

I appreciated how thorough and clearly written this program was. It was very easy to grasp what the author was saying and where she was leading, and the boys learned a great deal from this program. I really enjoyed studying the Constitution with the boys because there were constant opportunities to think and discuss. While we could do the unit study work in an hour or so we often sat at the kitchen table discussing the founding of our country, comparing it to the way our country is running today.

Homeschool Legacy ReviewI have to admit that I'm not normally a fan of unit studies. I often find them cumbersome and confusing. I felt that this program was easy to follow and easy to teach, and I actually liked teaching it.

The program is biblically centered. I think this can be a positive or a negative, depending on the user, but as I said before we were able to adapt the parts of the unit study we needed to while still teaching many very relevant religious portions.

Would I teach this to our troop for their merit badge study? Yes, I would with a few alterations. Would I recommend the unit study to other students studying American history and the United States Constitution? Yes.

We the People: Getting to Know Your Constitution is geared towards kids in 4th through 12th grade and it, along with many other unit studies, is available at Homeschool Legacy.

Homeschool Legacy Review 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Summer Life

Happiness is ...

Friday, May 15, 2015

TOS Review: S is For Smiling Sunrise, book by WordsBright

S is for Smiling Sunrise, ABC book review at Because I'm Me
When asked if River, age 6, and I would be interested in receiving and reviewing the book S is For Smiling Sunrise, published by WordsBright, I offered a hesitant "sure"; while River has discovered a love of reading I wasn't sure if this book would be challenging enough for him, given that he's outgrown traditional ABC books.

S is for Smiling Sunrise isn't your average ABC book and River dove right into the book, and enjoyed it very much. The hardcover, full-color, illustrated book written by Vick Wadhwa is recommended for children ages 3-6. The book contains about 30 pages, all of  which are of a high quality, thick, glossy finish (ie - not going to rip easily).

As I mentioned, this isn't a typical ABC book. Instead of "A is for Apple" in this book A is for Artwork - drawing and painting, and singing and dancing. The other alphabet letters in the book are equally unique, with C representing colors and H for heart. Instead of focusing on beginning words the book focuses on seeing and thinking about beautiful things, and taking time to stop, pay attention, and appreciate the world around us.

S is for Smiling Sunrise, ABC book review at Because I'm Me

River and I received a study guide to use with the book, with questions and activity suggestions for each page. I used the questions to help River think about what he was reading. After reading the A page we talked about different types of artwork and what kinds of art he liked to create. We then discussed how dancing could be considered art and brainstormed about what else could be art that isn't typical "art class" art. The image below is from the study guide:

S is for Smiling Sunrise, ABC book review at Because I'm Me

At Cub Scouts River has been working on his photography beltloop. One of his requirements was to submit 10 photos that he took using tips he'd learned about photography. I tied this book in with that requirement, as photography also requires you to slow down and observe what's going on around you. Focusing on the subjects of the book gave him something to look for instead of just taking random photos. I'd like to say that these are all River's pictures, but he got sidetracked when we discovered an armadillo shell and bones, so some of these were taken by one of his brothers who, once he got a hold of the camera, didn't put it down all day.

S is for Smiling Sunrise, ABC book review at Because I'm Me

There is also a CD included with the book, with one song on it retelling the book. Personally, we preferred the book without the song, once I heard the song I had a hard time going back to the book and taking the "singing" out of the reading, if that makes sense. I found the song more of a distraction than an aide.

S is for Smiling Sunrise, ABC book review at Because I'm Me

River, nearing the end of First Grade, had no problem at all reading the book on his own. He liked the pictures and the variety of information in the book. Between the book and our discussion of the pages he did some great learning and thinking. There were some challenging words mixed in which was good for him. Is it a book he'll read again and again? Probably not, only because he's just at the cusp of being a little too old for the book, or it being a little too young for him.

I appreciated that S is For Smiling Sunrise encouraged River to look around and notice the world, and to think about the things he was reading.

S is for Smiling Sunrise, ABC book review at Because I'm Me

Had I had this book when I had my daycare I'd have gotten a lot of use out of it, tying craft projects in with the pretty pages of the book. For example, these adorable hand print caterpillars would have been tied in well with "B is for Butterfly". I'm sure I could have found projects that would have worked for each of the 26 letters, combining the book with the discussion questions, letter drawing, craft projects, and activities would have been a lot of fun for the kids and for me.

S is for Smiling Sunrise is available through WordsBright Publishing, with discounts for bulk orders.

Wordsbright Review