Monthly Archives: May 2010

TOS Crew: College Prep Genius

High school. Two words that strike fear into the hearts of most homeschool moms I know. Add “college prep” and you crank up the fear factor.

One of the moms in our homeschool group has been an invaluable resource on the topic of preparing for college. She has a gift for researching and synthesizing information, and we ask her every year to share the information she’s garnered with the group. This includes things like record-keeping, choosing courses to take, researching scholarships, and putting together a transcript. She also a timeline for college-bound students: when to take the various tests (PSAT, SAT, AP, CLEP). She hasn’t said much about test preparation, and before the course from College Prep Genius arrived, frankly, I never gave it much thought. I should have, though, considering how high the stakes are. (Once again, I must express how thankful I am for the TOS Crew, and being introduced to new products and new ideas, things we needed but didn’t even know we needed!)

College Prep Genius has a proven DVD course, Master the SAT Class. This 10-hour class will help you plan and prepare for the SAT (and incidentally the PSAT).

This is a course on four DVDs, plus textbook and workbook, intended for an individual student. (You need to get the publisher’s permission to use the material in a group setting.)

The first DVD contains introductory material. There’s lots of good stuff here, including an exploration of 13 myths about the SAT, an overview of the various sections of the test, the timing involved in taking the SAT (you can take it early and often), and even a brief discussion why students who are not college-bound should take the test.

Each of the other three DVDs are concerned with a specific area of the SAT: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing.

The textbook is more than just SAT preparation. Yes, there’s plenty of test prep here — strategies, mnemonic devices, tips and techniques — but there is also information on obtaining grants and scholarships, preparing for college in other areas than standardized testing, and tackling the college interview.

The workbook combines clever acronyms for problem solving with practice problems.

Together, the DVDs, textbook, and workbook make a complete and practical course in learning to work out the logic involved in successful test-taking.

To order, go to the College Prep Genius website.


Regular pricing:

4-DVD set $79
Textbook  $39.95
Workbook $15.95

However, the publisher is currently running a special: Order the DVDs, textbook and workbook together for $79, at a savings of 30%.

To read more TOS Crew reviews about this product, click here.

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew were given a set of DVDs, textbook and workbook for their families’ use. They were asked to post two reviews each, an informational review and then a second review detailing their experience with the course. You can find both reviews at the TOS Crew review link above.

Prayer request for Gregg and Sono Harris

Edited to add: Please see update here.

Sono is Gregg Harris’ wife. Gregg is one of the pioneers of the modern Christan homeschooling movement. Perhaps you’ve also heard of Josh Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye, among other things), and Brett and Alex Harris (The Rebelution — — and Do Hard Things), who are among their children.

I went to a number of Sono’s workshops in our early homeschool years, and received a lot of encouragement and wisdom. One of the things that stayed with me was when she read a poem, with the recurring words “Call back.” It was about the journey of life, and taking the time to call back encouragement to those following you on the path. I would love to find a copy of that poem!

Here is a note sent out from the Oregon Christian Home Education

If one member suffers, all members suffer together; if one member is honored all rejoice together. ~1 Corinthians 12:26

Dear Homeschool Families,

Many of you are aware of the ministry over the years of Gregg & Sono Harris. Gregg has been a long-time Christian homeschool advocate, speaker and pastor and has been very instrumental in the Christian homeschool movement.

Sono was recently diagnosed with stage IV inoperable cancer. She has been an inspirational presence to many with her energetic, bright spirit and dedication to her family and others. May we, who love this family, now be mirrors and reflect back on Sono the strength of character, tenderness and courage which she has so brightly shone upon others.

The family is facing many additional expenses that we can share. Long-time friends of the Harris family have set up an account at West Coast Bank to help offset the additional expenses the family is facing. A gift to the Harris family can be made at any West Coast Bank branch in Oregon and Washington.  Contact me for more details if you’d like to contribute. (Leave a comment, and mention if you’d like to keep it private.)

This is not a tax-deductible contribution, but rather a gift of love to a family who has done so much for the Christian homeschool community in America. Because they are gifts to the family, the Harris family will not incur an additional tax liability. 100% of the gift will go to helping them financially through this crisis.

Of course, the most important gift we can give Sono and her family is the gift of prayer. Please pray for her healing. Her hope is in the Lord. She is also following a strict dietary regimen that has helped other cancer patients in the past. Please pray for the pain to be relieved. She has had some very bad days lately struggling with pain. And pray for the family as they work to support Sono.

abcteach Summer Special

Just to let you know, abcteach is offering a summer special, a three-month membership for $9.95. Check it out!

I like the newsletter, too, with timely links to teaching helps. There’s a lot to choose from, so I can easily pick out what’ll work with the topics we’re learning about now.

(I especially love their handwriting worksheet generator, graphic organizers, word-search generator, and… well, I suppose I’ll just link to my TOS Crew review if you wanted to know more.)

TOS Crew: Classical Legacy Press

When Eldest saw the Latin curriculum from Classical Legacy Press, she got excited. Something about the curriculum spoke to her, perhaps a glimpse of the sample sentences. (Great Latin Adventure (GLA) is truly named. There are sentences about pirates and battles, for one thing! The material is anything but dry.)

Teacher directed, Teacher friendly

This is a teacher-directed course, rather than self-study, designed for you to begin with 4th or 5th graders (though you can start later, of course). Our older girls have been enjoying the course, too, from the first lesson with its “secret code” — writing plain English with Latin pronunciation. I think the best one was, “Hei, dud, vat ar iu duin?” (Hey, dude, what are you doing?”)

Teacher helps include extensive teaching notes, answer keys, and a pronunciation CD. In the teaching notes you’ll find lesson planning and scheduling suggestions, grammar instruction, and answer keys to worksheets and quizzes.

The course is designed so that parents who don’t know Latin themselves can learn right along with the students. Teacher preparation involves reading through the lesson material ahead of time. (I used a highlighter to help me hone in on key concepts and activities.) No additional study is required on the part of the teacher. Everything you need for the lesson is included in the teaching notes.

Well organized lessons

The lessons consist of oral and written work. Lessons are laid out in a consistent, carefully organized manner. It’s clear to me that this curriculum was tried and tested with real classes; the material is suited to private homeschool use, as well as co-op classes. Students soon find themselves translating from Latin to English, and from English to Latin. Grammar instruction, note-taking pages, and derivative and translation workheets are built into the program, and quizzes and tests are included; in short, the program comes with everything you need. (Just add teacher, students, index cards for making flash cards, and writing implements. Stir well and serve.)

The publisher suggests you can complete Levels 1 and 2 in a time frame ranging from 18 months (older students working at an accelerated pace) to 2 – 1/2 years (younger students). After completing Level 2, the student is equipped to go on to further study (Latin Road to English Grammar, Wheelock’s, and Latin in the Christian Trivium are among the suggestions found in the FAQ).

Family friendly, Bible based

There is no mythology in this course, and the material is suited to young learners. The derivative worksheets contain examples that make me smile, like this example: “Your effort was laudable,” said Mother, “but your room is still not clean. Try again.” Christian material is also included in the worksheets, like, “Gossip in a church can divide brother from brother and ruin the fraternal relations believers should enjoy.”

Customer satisfaction a high priority

The publisher aims for customer satisfaction. In addition to excellent customer support, they offer a 60-day money back guarantee.

Great customer support

I had questions before we began GLA. We had done some Latin before, so was there a placement test? The publisher’s answer:

* It is strongly recommended that you start at the beginning of GLA, rather
than trying to jump in halfway through. If your child has already done some
Latin, you should find that you can charge along pretty fast (and you might
decide to omit things like pre-quizzes or derivative worksheets), until you
meet new topics. The sequence of topics in any given Latin program is likely
to be quite different, and most people who study GLA after other programs
find that their understanding is greatly deepened and consolidated on topics
they'd already "covered."

This is just what happened. We moved quickly at first, going through the pronunciation (which is Classical, by the way, rather than Ecclesiastical) and the first few lessons fairly quickly, then settling down to a steady pace. I expect we’ll keep going through the summer, too, to avoid a long interruption. The girls don’t seem to mind the thought.

The publisher offers answers to frequently asked questions at the website. You can learn more about the program and download sample pages at the publisher’s website.

Pricing and ordering

You can order Great Latin Adventure materials here. Prices are as follows:

Level 1 or 2 Student: $15.00 pages only, $22.00 pages with binder
Level 1 or 2 Teacher: $30.00 pages only, $40 pages with binder

You can read more TOS Crew reviews of Great Latin Adventure here.

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew received Great Latin Adventure Levels 1, or Levels 1 and 2, for the purpose of review and use within their family. No monetary compensation was involved.

TOS Crew: Lobster Network

One of the difficult things about homeschooling is that it usually involves so much stuff!

I guess that’s a little bit misleading. I had too much stuff to manage even before we began homeschooling. Being organizationally challenged, I have a bad habit of lending things to people and then forgetting, or losing the paper or notebook where I wrote down the loan.

Lobster Network is a free service that makes it easy to share resources, or just keep track of what you have. You can use it for an off-site inventory (great for insurance purposes), or even an “on-site” directory (Now what box did I put those Christmas videos in? It’s sure better to be able to find out at a click, rather than going through several storage boxes!)

You can create a private community (family, or friends, or friends and family) of people to lend, share, borrow, or sell items among. You can sell or give away items in the public marketplace at the Lobster Network website.

Membership is free!

Our homeschool group has a lending library, and I’m excited about the possibilities. With Lobster Network, our members can have access to lists of all the resources in the group. They can check out items, and the system will generate automatic reminders when it’s time to return materials. That would be a lot less work for our group’s librarian!

As you can see, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this web-based service. Check it out for yourself!

You can read more TOS Crew opinions and ideas how to use Lobster Network by clicking here.

Disclaimer: The TOS Crew was given access to Lobster Network, which is a free social networking site. No monetary compensation was involved in writing reviews.

TOS Crew: Cerebellum Corporation/Standard Deviants

To be frank, I really didn’t know what to expect of Cerebellum Corporation’s DVD course, U.S. Government and Politics AP Exam Prep. You see, we’re just starting high school, and I haven’t thought much about AP exams, though I think it’s an excellent idea to test out of as much introductory college material as possible. Advanced placement is a great way to save money and time, and to free up the college student’s schedule for more advanced courses, or courses that they really want to take.

We’ve been involved in a rigorous history and literature co-op the past two years, and this year’s topic was America Culture. The name might be misleading, depending on what you think “culture” means; we learned a lot about America’s founding, its government and political thought as well. I was curious to see how well this AP preparation course would line up with our studies of the past year, and so I set 14yo Middlest to review.

…and review she did, at a fast pace, hitting the highlights of what she’d studied over the past year as she listened to the youthful speakers on the DVD. She found the constant change from one speaker to another somewhat annoying and distracting, but the format is meant to hold the attention through a recitation of a multitude of facts. (The name of this series is “Light Speed video learning” and yes, they do go quickly through a lot of material.)

The youthful, energetic speakers go over the format of the AP test and talk about test-taking strategies, as well as topics covered in the test.

In addition to the video, the course also provides a digital workbook that includes handouts, quizzes, and activities to help hammer the information home.

Cerebellum Corporation also has AP Prep Courses on DVD for:

– English Language and Composition
– History of the U.S., and
– Chemistry

Regular price for each course is $14.98, but at the time of this post you can get each course for a sale price of $11.24. Click here for more information on ordering.

To read more TOS Crew opinions, click here.

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew received free video courses from Cerebellum/Standard Deviants for review purposes. No monetary compensation was involved. Opinions offered are those of our family.

TOS Crew: Ideal Curriculum (Preschool)

My heart sank when I began to look through this preschool curriculum. It would not have been a good fit with our family in our preschool years. It seems more suited to someone running a preschool program than for an individual family.

A lot of our early learning was interest-based. Thus, when the girls were interested in a topic (say, insects), we’d go to the library and check out a stack of picture books. We talked about math concepts in the course of a day (setting the table, counting blocks and half-blocks while walking to the park). We read aloud together and acted out stories. They told me stories and I wrote them down. This informal approach, with lots of time for play, does not seem to have done our girls any harm. They each learned to read when ready (Eldest at 7, Middlest at 3, and Youngest at 9), and all are now avid readers. They have had an eclectic education, picking up an astonishing variety of facts about the world we live in, and all this with a relatively unstructured academic format, until about age 10 for each of them.

This program is very structured. There are assessments and forms, exercises and activities with step-by-step directions for teachers to follow.  There’s some good advice here: Children are individuals. Teachers are individuals. Movement and music help children to learn and remember concepts. There are cute songs with catchy tunes (our girls didn’t care for the music, actually, a little too syncopated for their taste, but then we raised them on folk and classical music rather than the rock music we grew up with), games, and colorful workbook pages.

The curriculum is designed in monthly thematic units: transportation, color, weather, “About Me,” “A Healthy Life,” Animals, “People in Our Community,” “Traditions in our Country,” and “The World Around Us.” Lessons are designed based on the latest research. Teacher lesson plans are provided for literacy, math, and science. Thus your students will be learning in Month 1 about lines, letters and sounds, counting, numbers, wheels and axles. Each month is available in downloadable form for $30, or in print form for $55.

If you need structure for your peace of mind, or if you’re teaching a number of preschoolers together, this might be a good program for you. The program is carefully thought out and attractively put together. However, I have a hard time enthusiastically recommending this curriculum for the homeschool. When Middlest and Youngest were little, I was heavily influenced by the writings of Ruth Beechick and Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Their writings advocated delaying formal academics, and I have to say that our girls have not suffered from this approach.

To learn more about Ideal Curriculum or order materials, click here.

To read more TOS Crew reviews, click here.

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew were given a free Month 1 download with all the files for the Transportation unit from Ideal Curriculum. No monetary compensation was involved. Opinions reflect our family’s experiences.

TOS Crew: Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure

I think we’ve found a new series for our ever-voracious readers to devour. The Andrea Carter books are set in California in the late 1880s, and follow the adventures of a 12-year old girl who lives the life our girls would love to live. (Read that: horses. having a horse of your own. having a big brother–they don’t have one, so they really don’t know what they’re missing. did I mention horses?) Published by Kregel Publications, this series tries to give the flavor of living in the late 1800s in the Fresno area. (In one book, Andrea is sent to a girls’ school in San Francisco for a term.)

The story really struck a chord with one of our girls who is a lot like Andrea: she’s good at things that might be considered tomboyish, and put off by the giggly, boy-crazy growing-up girls of her acquaintance.

We haven’t read the earlier books in the series, but there are enough clues in Trouble with Treasure to let us know that Andrea was once much more carefree than she used to be. She still loves to ride, to camp, to fish, even to pan for gold, but she’s also experiencing some growing pains, in the form of expectations as she approaches young womanhood.

(I like the sensible advice one of her brothers gives her on this point, but won’t spoil it for you.)

Excitement, mystery, adventure

Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure, along with the other books of the seriers,  is aimed at a reading audience aged about 10-14. (The publisher gives the age range as a little younger, but I think the book might be a little to scary for a sensitive 8 or 9-year-old.) Note that this is the Old West, and guns play a role in the story (Isn’t there a gun battle in every Old West story? At least, it seems like it), though appropriately handled in the course of the story.

There’s a pictorial introduction to the book at Andi’s blog. I would have used the embed code to put it here, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work.

After getting into trouble in town (through no fault of her own, when she was trying to do the right thing!), Andrea is glad to go on a horseback camping trip with a couple of friends and one of her older brothers. The trip is adventurous enough in its own right, as they ride narrow trails in the mountainous wilderness, but the story takes an even more serious turn when Andrea’s brother is seriously hurt and everything depends on the three friends…

This is not one of those stories where the kids are smarter than the adults. Andrea’s older brother is very much in charge, even after he’s injured, though there are periods where Andrea and her friends have to do the best they can without his advice. The story has a Christian flavor, without overt references. In other words, the main character prays a few times, but there’s no Scripture and no preaching. There’s also no swearing–the bad guys do curse, but it’s reported as cursing, without explicitly listing any “interesting” words.

Violence is minimized and more is implied than shown in the story. For example, there’s a brief description of a bullet wound, without the reader having seen the actual shot. A man falls to his death, another dies in the gun battle (which we hear more than see), a horse tramples a rattlesnake and a girl is knocked down, hitting her head as she falls. Various characters are tied up or treated roughly, without a lot of details being given.

In the end, the Good Guys win, justice triumphs, and the bad guy gets his due.

I don’t know how accurate the language is. It might be updated for the modern reader–I’m no expert on how people talked in the 1800s, though we’ve learned some things in our interpreter training at a local historical site. However, the characters don’t sound completely modern and unbelievable (as we’ve found in some historical fiction meant for tweens), and I count that a plus.


A free study guide is available for download, including enrichment activities, if you want to supplement your reading. Lapbook packets are also available for purchase. As mentioned above, Andi has a blog where you can read more about her adventures

Purchasing information and more reviews

Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure is available from Kregel Publications for $7.99 (paperback). Check out the publisher’s website for more titles.

More TOS Homeschool Crew reviews can be found here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew reviewers received a free copy of Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure for review. Opinions expressed here are those of this reviewer. TOS Crew reviewers receive no monetary compensation for product reviews.

Make Way for Ducklings!

I am so grateful for the W.I.S.E. science class units where we studied birds. It has made us much more aware of the presence of birds in the world around us.

On our way back from the W.I.S.E. field trip to the aquarium last Friday (we’re studying sharks this term), we spotted a bald eagle, wheeling above the Interstate median. And then yesterday we saw a mother duck and her five or six babies (again, Interstate driving, so we didn’t exactly have the chance to take a good look).

This plucky mama was walking along the inner shoulder on her way to the river, her little ones following, while cars whizzed by at 40-50 mph only a few feet away. How in the world did they get to the inner shoulder, anyhow, without crossing three busy lanes? The girls hypothesized that she was a wood duck and had laid her eggs on a ledge under a  freeway overpass, perhaps.

We called it in as a traffic hazard. Can’t you just see someone slamming on their brakes and a line of cars behind them piling into each other?

We didn’t hear anything on the news, later, so hopefully Mama Duck got her brood safely to the river. I have no idea how, as the Interstate Bridge is so high above the river that people wanting to take their own lives jump off that bridge. However, in our studies of wood ducks a few months ago, we found out that the babies jump out of the nest to the ground within a day of hatching.

According to the All About Birds website, they can fall as much as 290 feet without injury! This is with little, stubby, down-covered wings, not the sort of thing a bird uses to fly!

So maybe they were able to jump off the high bridge into the river without any problems, after all. I hope so. They were awfully cute.

Wish I could post a photo of the mama and her babies making their way along the freeway shoulder but… we were one of those cars whizzing by at 40 mph in building rush-hour traffic…

TOS Crew: Beeyoutiful!

We’ve been into medical alternatives for a long time, now, ever since Eldest was a pale, listless 9yo and a medical doctor asked if there were any chronic illnesses in our family, “you know, like muscular dystrophy or something like that…”

All the doctors had done, since the child was a toddler, was throw antibiotics at her, in ever increasing doses and strengths. We didn’t know it at the time, but the treatment was damaging her immune system.

A friend directed us to a naturopath, and his treatments slowly brought her back to health, over the course of two or three years, as opposed to the long, slow decline she’d been fighting.

Since then we’ve explored various alternatives, including naturopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture, in addition to changing the way we eat (that’s an ongoing battle, and we are terrible backsliders) to more wholesome, healthy, less processed food.

I was excited when the TOS Crew was offered a choice of products from Beeyoutiful. Honestly, it was hard to choose just one!

(One of the things I love about being on the TOS Crew is being introduced to companies and products that are new to me. Beeyoutiful is one of these, and one we’ll be sticking with in the future.)

Our family received a bottle of Berry Well, a combination of “Organic Elderberry Syrup with Propolis, Raw Honey, and Echinacea.” It’s tasty, but more importantly, it seems to work!

The bottle sat unused in our refrigerator for several weeks after its arrival, waiting for just the right moment. Finally, the day came.

I started sneezing. It takes me a few hours to figure out whether it’s an allergy attack or the onset of a cold, but pretty soon I was feeling the aches, along with the sinus pressure, that meant that the next morning I’d be awakening with all the discomforts of the common cold: achiness, lack of energy, clogged nose, maybe sore throat, maybe fever. If I took cold meds, I’d be miserable for about a week. If I took my usual combination of garlic and C, I might be able to fend it off. (The fizzy tablets you can buy that have a combination of ingredients like C and Echinacea don’t seem to work well for me.)

Instead, I took a dose of Berry Well. I felt better later in the morning, but knew better than to overdo. Next morning, I woke up feeling better, and by the next day I was without any cold symptoms at all. (Overdoing that day brought on a recurrence of symptoms the next morning, so I took another dose of Berry Well and tried to take things a little easier, which knocked out the cold completely.)

A cold is supposed to last 7-10 days. Mine lasted 2! (Well, I had that “coming down” feeling again on day 4 because of too little sleep and trying to do too much, but quickly got rid of it again.)

I know from experience that if I don’t go the “natural” route, the same symptoms I was experiencing the first day I took Berry Well would have resulted in the full-blown, 7-10 day cold. (And with my lungs, a possible onset of bronchitis.)

Beeyoutiful! ‘s motto is “healthy living for the real world.” They have a wide selection of dietary supplements and vitamins aimed at enhancing your health and helping your body to function as it was designed. Check out their website for product descriptions.

Berry Well comes in a 16-serving bottle (a serving is about a Tablespoon) for $18. It’s not recommended for children under one year of age, as it contains honey.

To read more TOS Crew opinions of Beeyoutiful! products, please click here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were provided with a free product from Beeyoutiful for us to use, for the purpose of reviewing and providing our impressions and experience with the product. Opinions are our own.