Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See!

This is the best Christmas shopping experience you could ever have. Enjoy!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

KB Teachers website resource

KB Teachers a division of Knowledge Bears, Inc., is a website dedicated to providing worksheets and other printable materials for parents and teachers. For $29.00 a year, or $49.00 for a two year subscription, homeschool families can have unlimited access to hundreds of resource materials located on the site. Similar in scope to other subscription based worksheet sites, KB Teachers offers a FREE 10 day unlimited trial subscription to those wondering if it is worth the investment. I received a FREE one year subscription to the site in exchange for this review.
I have test driven quite a few of these worksheet sites over the years, but for some reason KB Teachers felt a bit different to me. To begin with there is no search button to use. While some might think this problematic, KB Teachers is convinced that a well designed website does not require a search tool. According to the website, "We believe that on a well designed website you should easily find your way around and find what you need in three clicks or less. Gone are the days of searching endlessly." Is that right?! Hmmmm..... I was not so sure at first.

I spent my first visit to KB Teachers website testing the "three clicks or less" theory. Within minutes (perhaps even seconds) I had found seasonal educational games and worksheets to print out for my daughter to use with my six year old son and his friend during her weekly babysitting sessions with the boys. But were the very cute pumpkin/ghost maze/shapes game worksheets I found a true crowd pleaser?

"I think they were cool. I really liked the maze with the ghosts and haunted houses", said Aidan, age 6.

"I thought the games were really fun and interactive, yet simple for the boys to use. I liked that I could pack them easily to go because they didn't have a lot of pieces and easily fit inside a file folder", said Sammi, 19 year old babysitter extraordinaire.

KB Teachers offers a FREE weekly newsletter subscription distributed through email with every membership. The newsletter is filled with tips for using the site, highlights of educational moments for that week or month and links to other educational resources. For example, for the week of November 1st, I received a newsletter highlighting National Sandwich day, November 3rd and National Saxophone Day, November 6th plus other valuable tips and links. If I chose to take a few moments on the 3rd to celebrate sandwiches I only needed to clink on the live link in the newsletter and be directed to a printable worksheet at KB Teachers. Once on the site I could choose other links to enable further research for the topic of sandwiches. I found this feature very creative and relatively effortless to use; a great aspect for any parent.

KB Teachers definitely was a hit with the younger set as a supplementary/ educational play option, but I was a bit disappointed with the lack of depth the site provides for older students. There are geography, science, language and math worksheets, but no foreign language, history/ social studies ones like I've seen on other sites. Some of the text was difficult to read on the site perhaps due to my internet browser choice.

For the most part, however, I think KB Teachers is a great resource for anyone needing a little extra help with their homeschool lessons or simply something new to do with the kids while waiting for a sibling at dance or during lengthy visits to waiting rooms.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Write Foundation: Essay Writing

Since I do a LOT of writing many people often ask me what I use to teach writing to my children. Ironically, writing is not something I deliberately teach as a separate subject when they are young. Over the years I address grammar, vocabulary, reading, logic and other skills that will build a good writer, but deliberately I save writing instruction for the high school years.

One of the most important forms of writing for college bound students is the essay. I have never devoted an entire semester or year to learning to write an essay, but if I wanted to The Write Foundation has my back. Written by Rebecca Celsor, The Write Foundation's Essay Writing Instructions consists of 30 lessons (enough for a whole school year) divided into two books with 15 lessons each. I received Lessons 1-15 to use in my home for free in exchange for this review.

The 200+ page curriculum arrived spiral bound, black text on white paper. COMPLETE step by step instructions, scheduling recommendations and even ideas for assigning grades offer the novice writing teacher wonderful guidelines for handling instruction. Although this curriculum lacks visual appeal its content is very comprehensive. Incorporating more than basic skills, Essay Writing may tend to be too thorough for some families.

The Write Foundation Essay Writing could easily lend itself to a Co-op class or private school instruction. The Write Foundation Essay Writing curriculum is recommended for ages 14-17 and retails on the company website for $100.00 for the two volume 30 lesson set with separate student worksheets and resource CD or $65 for a one volume set. If student worksheets and resource CD's are not on your shopping list the instruction manual alone sells for $75 for lessons 1-30 or $40.00 for Lessons 1-15. This flexibility in pricing is a plus in my opinion as one size does not always fit all homeschooling families.

True to most great homeschool curriculum, The Write Foundation products were birthed out of need by a homeschool Mom looking to fill a gap. Rebecca Celsor homeschooled her own children through high school and then began to teach Creative Writing for a co-op. Frustrated by a lack of options for teaching her writing class, Celsor designed her own lesson plans which she now shares in the form of The Write Foundation curriculum. The curriculum is divided into three levels beginning with Level 1: Sentence to Paragraph Writing for ages 11-13, Level 2: Paragraph Writing for ages 12-15 and concluding with Level 3: Essay Writing for ages 14-17.

Homeschool families that embrace structured curriculum will love Essay Writing. Assignments and instructional goals are clearly written and organized for the teacher. Essay Writing Lessons 1-15 cover the topics of sentence structure, paragraph organization, essay organization, poetry, and outlines. Critical thinking MindBenders are integrated into the curriculum as well as an option for developing strong logical thinking; an often over looked element of essay writing.

From our sampling of this program I easily identified its merits, but it was more than I actually needed. Perhaps I have been blessed with competent natural writers for our home, but to spend an entire school year with essay writing at this depth would be a waste of precious time for us. However, the fact Essay Writing has been kid tested and homeschool Mom approved should be reason enough to check it out when curriculum shopping. For sample lessons of each level of the curriculum, syllabii designed for writing classes, or to purchase visit the company website at

Friday, November 5, 2010

Buckets O' Fun!

As weather begins to turn in our neck of the woods and activity becomes more centered inside the house, I usually begin to look for ways to keep energy and interest high. Lucky for me I received a Buckets O' Fun sample kit to review as a member of The Homeschool Crew in exchange for this review. My children Jonah, age 16, Aidan, age 6 and Sierra, age 9 signed up to assist me by offering their honest opinions onthis educational, family friendly product.
My intentions for cool craft projects or amazing science experiments often remain just that; intentions. Life can be hectic as the mother of six and understandably the benefits of hands-on learning often times get squeezed out by the reality of time limitations or having to find just one more item to complete the supply list. Buckets O' Fun brings great intentions to life by providing everything in one package with easy to follow directions. We received samples of Buckets O' Fun's Yuck activities.
In case you were wondering......Yuck is code for science experiments involving polymers. Yuck experiences are available in "Saucy", "Chunky", "Snowy" or "Sticky" options. Changing the polymer through hydration is as simple as adding water, but the effects are outstanding! A one pound package of dry Yuck powder complete with directions, scientific explanations, and optional expansion activities costs between $16-$20.00 depending on the polymer. A free sample of Yuck is available to interested, yet skeptical
customers at the company website.

I must admit I was curious how fascinating the Yuck could really be and was very pleasantly surprised by it's "WOW" factor. Aidan, Sierra and I created Snowy Yuck first and the squeals of delight were enough to draw their 16 year old brother into the room. Yuck is definitely appropriate for all ages as the scientific principles coupled with the hands-on experience keep everyone's interest.

When asked for his honest opinion Aidan eagerly said, "It's fun! We made snow. I liked
watching it melt when we put salt on it". Aidan highly recommends purchasing Yuck and says on a scale of 1-10, it is definitely a "10"!

Sierra's reaction to our sample of Buckets O' Fun was similar. "It's a fun science experiment", she said. "I liked seeing different things happen that I've never seen before!" she continued. Sierra also highly recommends Yuck products giving them two thumbs up for their "fun" factor.

Buckets O' Fun prides themselves on unusual fun-filled products. A visit to the company website is a one-stop shopping trip for mammoth beach balls, finger rockets, rubber chickens, ricochet balls, silly swords, belly bumpers and more. Pricing and specific product information can be found by clicking here.