Mama Manuscripts Has Become Real Life: Unscripted

Mama Manuscripts has gone on (likely permenent) hiatus, but I hope you’ll join me over at Real Life: Unscripted.

(It’s also the new home for Goal Planning Monday so I hope you’ll come take a peak!)

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Don’t forget that I’ve moved!

I see that I am still getting quite a few views on this blog a day despite the fact that I haven’t posted here in months. If you like what you see, be sure to visit me at over here at my new place on the web.

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Just a Reminder

That new posts on Mama Manuscripts can be found here….

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Signing Off (of facebook, that is) for Lent

Well, I’ve decided to give shutting down facebook for lent a try. I’m not particularly religious and I’m not 100% sure that I really buy the theory that giving up something for lent is going to help bring my closer to God but I do know that I’ve been spending too much time on the computer and not enough time on things that are more important and now is as good of a time as any. I do tend to run to facebook to post about things that are great in my life instead of running to my husband (who gets the “oh, I am so exhausted and the kid’s were crazy” stories) and I also turn to facebook when things aren’t going well for support in which instances I could probably look inside and towards God for answers as opposed to just hoping for “oh, I’ve been there” type replies from friends.

So there you have it. If you are looking for me, you can message me on facebook and I will reply (as I am TERRIBLE with e-mail) but besides that I won’t be keeping track of people, posting on walls, updating my status or posting pictures until Easter.

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Kid Scoop – A Review

Product: Reluctant Reader Solution & My Kid Scoop Newsletter
Company: Kid Scoop
Price: 97$ for the Reluctant Reader Solution and a year subscription to My Kid Scoop News.
Extra Info: Full 365 day money back guarantee

My son has never been a reluctant reader. He started reading at three and half and hasn’t looked back at all. My daughter, on the other hand has no desire to learn to read whatsoever. When I was given the opportunity to review The Reluctant Reader Solution as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew I jumped on the opportunity. While this program will not teach your child to read, I thought that it would be handy to have for my daughter when she does indeed learn to read. Perhaps seeing her big brother working on the fun worksheets would inspire her to give reading a try herself (not that I’m in any huge rush for her to read but everyone seems to be anxiously awaiting the day when she’ll read as her brother was reading really early on).

As this review was in two parts, we took a look at the Reluctant Reader Solution first. This is a whole school year’s worth of captivating high interest worksheets that grab your child’s attention and teach them without making it seem like work! I chose NOT to show my son the wide variety of topics that The Reluctant Reader Solution covers because we’re trying to conserve ink and I knew that he would want to print almost all of them and do only them for school. I chose the, let Mommy choose something that fits into what we’re learning approach (which works well because you are almost sure to find something that you can tie into something you are currently learning about. I choose to give Liam the worksheets on acting (as he will be in his first play in April) and on Valentine’s Day (which nicely threw a good deal about healthy eating and fitness in there).  He quite happily completed most of the game type sheets before I even got up and was thrilled to see some of his favorites (like the “invisible bench”) in the acting worksheets. It took a little bit more prompting but he actually did the writing assignments that were included in the worksheets as well (yes, while he certainly isn’t reading resistant, Liam can be quite writing resistant). I can see us using these worksheets regularly when Liam is in need of something to do. For the most part my children are interest led learners but I am sure that with the themes included in this kit that we’ll hit on topics that are included in The Reluctant Readers Solution kit.

Here are just a few of the topic that are covered (each come with 5, 6 or 7 worksheets):

  • Kitchen Creativity
  • It’s Show Time
  • Independence Around the World
  • Gorillas
  • Clay Play
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Solar Snacks
  • Bubble Gun
  • The Maya
  • and many, many more (a whole 365 pages worth of activities in all)

There were a couple units that we would not use being Canadians but for the most part we could pick any theme and be able to go along with it. With each unit being a .pdf file that we can keep forever and use with each child as they grown and being to read the 97$US price tag in not that high.

In addition to The Reluctant Reader Solution kit we also had an opportunity to view the online Kid Scoop Newsletter. This bright vibrant newspaper was a lot of fun but we chose NOT to print it because, as I said earlier, we are conserving ink and it seemed almost a shame to print these beautiful pages in black and white. The newspaper carries a variety of material that is relation to the month that it is printed and is chalk full of engaging activities just like the worksheets. These are included in the 97$US price tag above…otherwise, I likely would not purchase them for my family but I can see how such a nice e-newspaper would be a treat for many family each month!

All in all, we enjoyed Kid Scoop and I would be happy to purchase such a product if I did indeed have a reluctant reader. I think that the topics and presentation are high interest enough that even some of the most reluctant readers would be drawn in. There were some activities that I never would have thought to try with the kids that I look forward to doing in the future. However, as my child is a strong reader who will read just about anything I found this kit to contain a lot of  “busy work” for him. It’s nice to keep him quiet for a while but not always that educational (though I REALLY do appreciate the writing prompts and will be using them with my son). This will be more of a rainy day type of activity for us as opposed to part of our curriculum. I really do think that it would be great for children that aren’t that interesting in reading so if that sounds like your child I encourage you to check out the Kid Scoop website and while you are there sign up for their free news letter. There’s lots of little freebie activities on their site as well so hop on over and take a peak!

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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The Curiosity Files: Quicksand ~ A Review

Product: The Curiosity Files ~ Quicksand
Company: The Old Schoolhouse
46$ per bundle of 9 unit studies or available for purchase individually. See The Old Schoolhouse Store for more details.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was delighted to get the chance to try one of The Old Schoolhouse’s newest products The Curiosity Files™: Quicksand. After having the opportunity to use some of their other products over the last couple of years I was expecting  a lot from this unit study and I was not let down.  We’ve never really been a unit study/lapbooking type of homeschool but I am pleased to say that we did get a lot out of this unit study which introduced us to the world of quicksand while providing us with activities in almost all subject areas. Professor Ana Lyze – Expert in Outlandish Oddities was the perfect tour guide for our family as we explored quicksand which we found, much to my son’s surprise, could occur just about anywhere (under the right conditions, of course!).

This unit study includes (stolen from the website):

  • Bible study and memory verses
  • Math, history, and geography investigations
  • Literature and suggested book list
  • Writing, spelling, and vocabulary activities
  • Beautiful copywork pages (manuscript and cursive)
  • Science observations, projects, and experiments
  • Discussion questions
  • Art, crafts, drawing, and coloring pages
  • Lapbook and notebook pages
  • Internet resources and video links
  • Complete answer key

The information was given in an interesting and easy to understand manner and there were more than ample opportunities for the children to get involved, with the obvious example being homemade (cornstarch) quicksand. I’ve never heard so much about non-Newtonion fluids in all my life! This led to further investigation into these fascinating substances (did you know that ketsup is a non-Newtonian fluid, too?) and a general interest in all things physics, which I am sure we will explore more in the coming weeks. Thank you TOS!

In addition to scientific information, there were many bible verses that dealt with sand and water and not allowing oneself to sink. I, personally, have issues with The King James version of the Bible so we did not actually do the bible work this time around but the discussion questions that followed the “In the Beginning” bible study are worth exploring with your child if you do enjoy analyzing scripture (I found this section to be a wee bit over the top of my 5 and 7 years old ability right now, though). The bible verses were also given as copy work (both manuscript and cursive) later on in the unit study.

My son, the adventurer, love the geography section and knowing that he could encounter quicksand at anytime on his adventures (we certainly have the right conditions here in Cape Breton). He proudly made his geography terms notebook and then decided to add some information on how to get out of quicksand, just in case. We also did a fair bit of math as part of this unit study. It actually helped my pinpoint an area where Liam needs further work (and this was an area that I’d thought he was doing fine with).

We finished up yesterday by playing with cornstarch quicksand and seeing if it was easier to pull some Popsicle stick people straight out or easier if we circled them around slowly in the mixture. It was messy but fun! Who doesn’t love playing with non-Newtonian fluids?

While we didn’t quite use all the material in the package, I can assure you that there is a lot there that can be used for a variety of ages (from 5 right up to 12 or even older if you look at some of the additional links and information provided). I think unit studies like this are ideal for families with students of a variety of ages as all the kids can work together on the same topic. This unit study can be done in a week or two if you focus on this area (and it covers enough material that you can take a week off of regular school and still touch on every subject) or you can use it as a fun additional activity added to you homeschool. Besides quicksand Professor Ana Lyze also covers such topics as blue diamonds, MRSA, dung beetles, and the blue footed booby bird (for a complete list of the 9 unit studies included in The Curiosity Files™ bundle for 46$US just click here.) Each unit study can also be purchased individually so be sure to check out The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Store for more information.

We enjoyed this unit study and we look forward to checking out more from The Curiosity Files™ very soon. To see more reviews (on some of the other subjects that Professor Ana Lyze explores as well) be sure to visit the TOS Homeschool Crew’s blog.

No Popsicle stick people were harmed in the process of this unit study.

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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Friday Fave Fives ~ February 4th, 2011

Well, I’m a day late on this one as we went into town yesterday to run a few quick errands which somehow keep us out the the house until 8pm. I still really wanted to take part so here I am. I hope you will join Suzanne at Living to Tell the Story to share your favorite moments of the week. A nice reminder of the blessings in our lives. Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites from the week.

1. This wonderful coffee machine that I can pour with one hand. This was my birthday present a couple weeks ago but I really appreciate it this week as I have been getting very little sleep and coffee has been good. Mike also purchased some Kicking Horse coffee that is especially good.

2. Date squares. I made a most yummy batch of date squares on Wednesday (and ate most of them myself, no wonder my middle is expanding). I do believe that I will be making them more often.

3. A hubby that was able to cart us all around town yesterday. Considering how long we were out, it went really well and we got quite a bit accomplished. Going out with three kids can get a little hairy but we almost had fun with it yesterday. IMAGINE! Maybe they are getting a little older and these trips can be more fun again. YAHOO!

4. Really cheap yarn that I hope will become a sweater for Raudhán over the next week or so. This yarn is really easy to work with and knits up really quick so I hope to get a couple hours over the weekend to sit with a cup of herbal tea and knit. It would be lovely for the boy to actually get his sweater while the weather is still cool.

5. Getting a couple posts on my new memes. I’m just starting out with a week Monday Goal Planning meme and a Foodie’s Wordless Wednesday and I was happy (and surprised) to see that a couple people joined it (THANK YOU!). I love participating in Memes and it’s fun to see people joining mine. My heart always beats a little faster when I see that someone has linked up. I’m not expecting either meme to get very busy but it is still fun nonetheless.

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TenMarks – A Review

Product: TenMarks Online Curriculum – Grade 4
Price: 10$US/month, 49$US/6 months, 89$US/year (per student)
Ages: grade 3-10

Unlike some people who homeschool, we actually look forward to math. My son can spend hours sitting around looking at numbers/questions and finding patterns in them. No a bad thing, however, I really like having something to show for his efforts (just in case the ministry of education should come a calling, we’re REALLY behind in sending it his homeschooling registration for the year) and he is constantly lost in the realm of numbers these days and rarely gets around to actually completing a worksheet in the program he begged for last year. We were given the opportunity to review numerous math programs as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew last year and while it was a lot at the time, I actually found myself longing for a new math program to review this year in order to shake things up a bit. When the opportunity presented itself to review Ten Marks I eagerly signed up thinking that a change in the routine would be good.

Before continuing to read this review, I invite you to please check out the video below….

Ten Marks an online math program that can be used as a complete curriculum or supplement for children in grades 3 – 10 (we reviewed the grade 4 content). I think that what makes this program work so well, at least for us, is how very user friendly it is. My son was able to use this program with very minimal input on my part and when there’s a young baby in the house that’s definitely a plus.

When your child logs in he will be brought to his homepage on which his worksheets for the week are displayed with their due date. The default is to have 4 worksheets with 10 questions each assigned each week but it is easy to change this default to more or less depending on how quickly you would like your child to complete the program. Your children can even fast track their worksheets themselves if they want to advance through the program faster once they’ve master the week’s worksheets. The next week’s worksheets will be generated for them and they’ll be able to get a head start on them! Your child will also be able to see how many worksheets he has left before he gets to his next reward and he’ll be able to see what percentage of the section he’s completed. The Ten Marks program is broken down into a variety of topics that are then broken down into a variety of concepts that are then taught through a variety of tracks. Each track is evaluated through a worksheet of ten questions.

For example Liam is working on number operations which was broken down into the larger concepts of place value and number sense, addition and subtraction of whole numbers, multiplication and division facts, and multiplication. He has now worked his way to the multiplication section which is further broken down into a series of tracks (multiply by one digit numbers, multiply by greater numbers, patterns and multiples of ten, multiply by 2 digit numbers, etc). Each of these tracks have 10 multiple choice questions that your child needs to master before they can move on to the next track. Your child can ask for hints (a maximum of three for question) and if they still need help each question has tutor that will explain the concept being tested in sufficient detail for your child to be able to solve the question. Once your child has completed the worksheet they will be marked and then given the chance to correct their mistakes. In addition to the the weekly practice worksheets your child will also be able to take tests on the material they have covered (this this they only get one chance to get the right answer, and they can even practice any off the other material that 10 marks offers (from ANY of the grades) so if your 7 year old want to take a stab at highschool algebra he could or if he needs to review material from an earlier grade he’ll be able to. What more could you ask for?

As the parent, you will be able to customize your child’s learning experience by selecting the number of worksheets you want your child to complete each week, omitting or combining tracks, and rearranging the material to fit whatever concepts you are currently studying in your homeschool. You’ll also be able to see your child’s progress and how many hints and videos he had to use in order to master the material. You’ll also get an overview of what your child has completed and what is coming up in the program.

Having this information has been a relief for me as I’ve been feeling a little antsy about our unschooling approach and having proof that my children are learning something. Having a program that my son loves (so I don’t have to ask him to do it) that also tracks his progress is an unschoolers dreams!

Another fun aspect of TenMarks is the rewards system, and yes, I usually am very hesitant about reward systems. However, the child isn’t rewarded for every right answer with crazy graphics and fireworks so they actually have to work for their rewards which are pretty tame video games (racing, spotting differences, etc).  It isn’t an overwhelming, you are SOOOOOOO wonderful type of reward. As a parent you can also schedule rewards for your child. This can be anything that would motivate your child. In our case, I scheduled a one on one “date” with Liam to happen once he completed 18 worksheets. With 6 worksheets scheduled a week, it meant that approximately every three weeks he would get some one on one time with the parent of his choice. Last weekend I got the first date I’ve had in  long time with my son sipping hot chocolate and visiting the library while my husband slaved at home baking pies and oatcakes! *lol* Next time he’s decided to take Daddy on a date!

While we are very pleased with this program and will likely continue it next year once our free subscription (for reviewing) has expired, I can see some issues that people might have with it. First, it was very clear that a child could easily cheat their way to a good score. Very early on in the program my son came to some terms that we hadn’t really discussed and instead of watching the tutorial videos (which, to be fair, I hadn’t really explained to him well) he was clicking the hints (some which are pretty obvious like “the answer isn’t a) or c) so that the child already has a 50% chance of getting it right and then with a second chance to correct their answer once the worksheet has been marked you can see the issue) and then guessing. It was pretty clear to me that my son wasn’t actually doing the work as some questions would have required pencil and paper yet, somehow he was still getting the “answers”. However, once I explained to him that the whole idea was to LEARN and that the program was meant to TEACH him with the tutorial videos he was eager to use the program in the proper manner (not all children would be). Another thing that I felt necessary to tell Liam was that if he was having a problem with a question to watch the tutorial video FIRST and NOT the hints (as I said earlier some of the hints make the answers WAY too obvious and that isn’t teaching the child anything). The Ten Marks video tells you to look a the hints first and then if you can’t get it to watch the tutorial. I think that is a REALLY bad idea.

There were also so slight issues with the tutorial videos themselves. While I found that the material was explained in an easy to grasp manner sometimes the writing was not very clear on the white board and that could lead to some confusion. While I was not bother by the accent whatsoever it is probably a good idea to mention that one of the tutors had a bit on an accent and it could make him difficult to understand for some children (we didn’t have that issue).

This program sells for 10$US/month (per child) with deals for a 6 month (49$) or 1 year (89$) subscription and I would not hesitate to purchase this for Liam next year (probably at the year subscription level). I really like the fact that we get an overview of what your child is doing with the program (give me a few more months to get totally comfortable with the whole unschooling thing and maybe I won’t worry so much) and that the tutorials are really quite complete. The amount of material covered in the program is really substantial and things are covered in a variety of ways so that your child can choose from a variety of different concepts when they are faced with a certain math problem out there in the real world. I, personally find myself talking in circles when trying to give math explanations (English and history and more my thing) so having tutor available that gets right down to it is great for us. If we had to hire a personal tutor then we’d be spending a lot more than 10 dollars a month. I could see this working well for a highschool student (if they were honest enough to use the programs as intended on not cheat). The only downfall that I can see is that this program could get quite expensive if you had several children in the family all working at different levels. If that is the case, then you may want to look at other options or try Ten Marks free trial out before committing to the program. All in all, we are very happy with this program and I can see us using it again in the future.

As the girl says, “IT WORKS!”

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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Friday Fave Five – Jan 28th

It time again to share our favorite moments from the week. Please join Suzanne at Living to Tell the Story to share your moments, too. If you feel so moved please send up some prayers for Suzanne’s family as her mother in law has suffered a stroke in the last couple weeks and things have been very topsy turvey in Suzanne’s life.

Here are my favorites this week….

1. Switching places with my husband for and afternoon. That is to say, I got out of the house while he stayed home and baked. (oh and baked he did!)

2. Getting my new blog up and running. It isn’t completely set up how I would like it to be but I’ve begun to enjoy working on it and I hope to get into blogging a lot more soon (it isn’t so easy with a nine month old, though!)

3. Knowing that Homeschool Horizons is coming back to Canada and having a wee itty bitty bit of things to do to help it’s return. I’ve enjoyed getting to write a bit more than I usually do and getting to talk to my friend, who has taken over the magazine, on the phone regularly has been wonderful as well. I miss you, my dear, and cannot wait to see up this spring. (for more information on the blog, please check out their facebook page here).

4. Snow. It’s just beautiful, isn’t it?

5. Warm blankets.
Seriously, all I want to do at night is cuddle down under some warm blankets and fall into a deep winter’s sleep. Unfortunately, for reasons we won’t mention, my blankets have been stolen and I’ve been woken every night this past week but those first few minutes in bed under my big wool blankets have been heavenly. I’m so blessed to be warm enough on these cold nights.

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The Illustrated Bible Dictionary For Kids – A Review

Product: Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids
Company: Lifeway Christian Stores
Price: 14.99$US

My son, as you probably know if you frequent my blog at all regularly, loves bible studies so we were thrilled when we were chosen to review The Illustrated Bible Dictionary For Kids as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. Waiting for the package we seriously a lesson in patience for both my son and I as we were so eager to see this book. Fortunately, this book did not disappoint when it finally arrived on our front porch.

This bible dictionary is indeed beautifully illustrated and my son, who immediately opened it up to look for maps, was impressed with the depiction of what towns in biblical times might have look like. He’s vowed to read/study a letter of the alphabet each day and so far we have yet to remind him of the commitment he made. Who would think a child would like to read a dictionary? This book has 750 Bible words (places, people and important words) as well as illustrated charts, which I personally LOVED, pronunciation guide and verses in which the words can be found.

For 14.99$US this book is a spectacular deal in my opinion. The illustrations and photography are beautiful and book itself is of good hard cover quality. I would not hesitate to purchase this book for a moment. This book can be purchase directly from Lifeway Chirstian Stores (which is an incredible source for both children and adult Christian resources so be sure to check them out) or your local book store.

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

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