Tuesday, March 27, 2018

FREE Lunch Combo @ Little Caesar’s on April 2nd!

Be sure to call your local store and verify their participation.  Ask for the manager.  Note that there is a limit of ONE PER FAMILY, and it’s only during lunch hours. 


Monday, March 26, 2018

REVIEW: Carole P. Roman Books and Collections by Carole P. Roman

We’ve always enjoyed these books in the past, so we were pleased to get the chance to review more of the Carole P. Roman books and collections by Carole P. Roman!


Carole P. Roman offers a number of series of books for children both to entertain and to teach them about history and world cultures.  Her full array of 20180325_185708books is designed for a span of ages from about 2-15, so there’s sure to be something for just about all the children in your family!

The cultural series is a gentle introduction to world cultures by giving your child some idea of what daily life is like in the given country, told through the eyes of another similarly aged child.

The historical series gives a lot more in-depth information and gives your child an idea of what it was like to live in another era of history.  You might find yourself reading about the Vikings, the Renaissance, or one of the ancient civilizations.

Then there are a variety of other stories designed to help younger children deal with everyday things like facing your fears, dealing with your problems, or simply using your imagination!

The vast majority of the titles range in price from about $9.99-$12.99.


My 10-year old son, Holden, will be starting 5th grade at the end of June, and we’ll be studying countries of the Eastern Hemisphere throughout the school year.  We’ve really enjoyed the books in the cultural series in the past when we’ve been studying new countries, so we thought this would be a great time to pick out some of the books from that series that cover Eastern Hemisphere Countries.  As a result, we chose titles about living in Russia, India and Australia.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Russia: A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World was probably our favorite of the three stories we read this time around.  We have a good friend from Ukraine, and she could speak Russian to her children.  We were always fascinated and wanted to know more about that culture.  In this book, we learned that Russia is so big that it spans 9 different time zones!  Hold20180325_185633en was totally shocked at that bit of information!  He couldn’t even fathom how that was possible, so we looked at the globe illustration in the book to see for ourselves just how big that country really is.  We really enjoyed the beautiful illustrations of some of the buildings in this book, like the drawings of Moscow and Red Square.  We learned that children call their parents Mamochka and Papochka (don’t worry…pronunciation guides are included throughout the story), which Holden thought sounded kind of funny!  It showed a picture of a shapka ushanka, a furry Russian hat with ear flaps.  I told Holden that my father, who had been in the military most of his life, owned one of those hats, and he said it was the warmest thing he ever put on his head!  Holden most enjoyed hearing about the unusual foods.  I told him I got to try borscht just recently as a guest at someone’s home, and it was surprisingly good!  He thought the foods sounded interesting (like blini and syrniki) and said he’d like to try them.  So maybe when we begin our studies, we can add in a tasting day to try some of the foods mentioned in this book!  We also learned that Russian children like to play ice hockey, which they call xoken, and their own version of our hide-and-seek called fipe.  I’ve actually seen Matryoshka dolls, which are little hand-painted wooden dolls that fit inside each other.  We also learned that Russians have a New Year’s celebration that sounds an awful lot like our Christmas holiday.  But we agreed that their holiday food was not something we’d want to try!  Smile

If You Were Me and Lived In…India: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World from that same series gave us a great introduction to a country we knew very little about.  We learned that its capital, New Delhi, was built over the site of seven ancient cities.  And we were amazed to hear that they speak over 100 different languages there!  Mom and Dad are called Maaji and20180325_185621 Pataji, and popular children’s names sound far different from anything we’ve heard before.  We learned about their currency, their common for of transportation the green and yellow rickshaw taxi), and what they do for entertainment.  We imagined how beautiful the white marble Taj Mahal must be and about other popular tourist attractions in India.  We were considering having an India-themed birthday party last year (we pick a new country theme each year), so we were really interested to see what kinds of food they eat. We found out that with so many cultures, they have lots of different types of food, but they do love to flavor them up with spices such as cumin, curry, cinnamon, and chilies, and they have naan bread at every meal.  Holden loves bread, so that would suit him just fine!  We were surprised at first to find out that they like to play cricket, which is the popular sport in England where I was born.  But then we remembered that India was a British territory at one time, so that wasn’t such a surprise after all.  We laughed when we read that they celebrate the Holi holiday by wearing all white and then throwing colored powders and water at each other!  Can you imagine the mess?  We figured kids would find that to be a lot of fun.

If You Were Me and Lived in Australia: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World was unique because Australia is not only a country but also a continent!  You may have heard people from Australia say they live in “bush country.”  We learned that Canberra, the capital city, is called the “bush capital” because it is surrounded by vegetation.  We discovered that typical children’s 20180325_185607names are just the same as American names that sound familiar to us, and mom and dad are similarly called Mummy and Daddy.  Also very similar, their currency is the Australian dollar!  There was a colorful illustration of kids diving in the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest reef in the world…so large that it can be seen from outer space!  That was hard for us to imagine, but I’m sure it’s a spectacular sight to see!  In terms of foods, we read that a lunch might include a Vegemite sandwich, which is a vegetable paste on bread.  I’ve actually seen that in the international food store but have never tried it myself!  And for dinner, they might roast meat on the grill (called a barbie) and serve it with a salad.  Sounds a lot like something we would have!  We were again surprised to see that Australians like to play cricket, but once again, it was once a British territory, so that makes sense.  We found out that Australia Day is a holiday celebrated in late January, but it’s in the middle of summer there since the country is in the southern hemisphere!  Holden looked at me strangely when I said that.  We also learned that since Australia is so far removed from other countries of the world, its culture has remained largely unchanged over time.  That’s neat!

As you can see, there are a lot of interesting facts to learn in this series, but with hand-drawn illustrations, rich colors, and just a few sentences per page printed in a large font, it’s not too much for younger kids to grasp and retain their interest.  Each 2-page spread has print on one side on a solid-color background and a full-page cartoon-like illustration on the opposing page.  Even my 10-year old found these stories appealing, but they would be great for younger children, as well.

I really like the way these stories are presented.  It’s just the right amount of information presented in a very digestible format, and the pronunciation guides keep me (or him) from butchering the words that are foreign to us!  There’s also a pronunciation guide and explanation in the back of each book with all the new words in one place taken from throughout the story.  These books make a wonderful supplemental resource for your homeschool library!

If you’d like to revisit some of the other Carole P. Roman books and collections we’ve explored in the past, check out these books about Mexico and some of the preschool stories, or learn more about Colonial America, the American West, Renaissance Italy, or Ancient China!

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about these and other books from Carole P. Roman by clicking on the banner below.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

FREE Small Cone @ Dairy Queen Today!!!

Yes, you heard that right!  It’s free cone day at Dairy Queen!  Stop by any time they’re open today and enjoy one free small cone per person (valid at participating non-mall locations). 

Image result for dairy queen small cone
Last year, I think they let us pay the difference to get a dipped cone, so we’ll probably do that again.  Yum!  What better way to welcome spring?!?


REVIEW: Super Beads by Zirrly

My artsy 13-year old daughter was happy try out the awesome Mega Pack of Super Beads by Zirrly!


Super Beads are an innovative product that allows crafters of all ages to design projects on a peg board that don’t require glue or ironing in order to fuse them together!  Instead, all that’s needed is a generous misting of water and time enough to air dry!  And if a bead happens to pop off once your project is completed, just apply more water, air dry, and your beads will be fused together again!

There are lots of project-specific packs of Super Beads available for purchase.  We selected the Mega Pack, which includes 4,500 Super Beads in various colors, 4 assorted design templates, 2 spray bottles, 4 boards to use with the templates or for creating your own designs, 1 design tool, and instructions.

Just think of how many projects you could make with the Mega Pack!  The possibilities are endless.  It’s available for just $18.98.  They are safe and non-toxic.


My daughter was so excited when our package came.  She ripped20180216_141742 it open and spread everything out of the table to see what was included.  As you can see, that’s a lot of Super Beads and plenty of colors to choose from!  She started out using them out of the resealable bag, but I ended up sorting all of the nine different colors into little craft containers with lids to make it easier for her to find the colors she needed for each project.  I think I’ll invest in a bead box to keep them sorted in one place in the future, and that will make them easier to store than in separate containers, too.

Haylee has worked with other bead products in the past, both at our house and at a friend’s house, and it always required a mom to be present to safely finish off the projects with a hot iron.  Super Beads are so much easier to use since they only require water and time to air dry!  And with 4 boards included, she can make several smaller projects that can all be drying at once.  Or she can snap the boards together to make even larger bead projects!

Zirrly also s20180320_113445ells some 3D project kits (like 3D Animals and 3D Car and Truck), and Haylee really wanted to try out something like that.  There weren’t any 3D instructions included in this kit, but since she is 13, she worked that out for herself!  She used the turtle template to make several of the turtles and then just fused the layers together so that her turtle could stand up by itself on the shelf!  It worked great and was easy to do.

The kit also included templates to make an apple, an elephant with a stand to hold it up, and a cupcake.  Haylee loves elephants and has a collection of them in her room, so she took a little license and gave hers rainbow ears!  Unfortunately, we found the stand pieces were not sturdy enough to actually hold up the elephant, which was pretty tall, so we weren’t able to get it to stand.

She said these were pretty easy to make, but the one thing she didn’t like was20180320_113302 that all of the beads have to be facing the same direction.  There’s a little lip around one end of each bead, and all of those must be facing up.  She said it made her fingertips a little sore manipulating them all in one direction.  But she said the little spray bottles gave the projects a nice, even misting as she held the frames up in the air, and it took about 4 hours for the projects to dry before removing them from the frames.  Sometimes, when she would remove the finished project from the frame, a few beads would disconnect.  However, all you have to do is re-wet them to reconnect them.

Once I finished sorting the remaining pieces by color, I realized there was significantly more red, white, and blue than any of the other colors.  And there were a number of defective beads that weren’t completely formed, and all of them were white.  But with 4,500 total beads, there were plenty to go around!

Haylee said overall, Super Beads were easier to fuse than other types of beads she’s tried, and she said the projects remained very flexible once dried, so if you put on a wrong bead, you could work at pulling it off and replacing it with the right one.  This was a really neat kit, and the projects turned out colorful and really cute!  This Mega Pack will certainly allow her to complete a lot of projects!

Check out what over Crew members had to say about the many cool and creative Super Beads kits from Zirrly by clicking the banner below.

Monday, March 19, 2018

REVIEW: Á La Carte Products from Home School in the Woods

We were really interested in trying out some of the Á La Carte products from Home School in the Woods for some hands-on history fun!


In the new Á La Carte store on the Home School in the Woods website, there are so many individual products to choose from, and new items are being added to the selection all the time!

It was hard to narrow down which ones to try, but I selected The War to End All Wars File Folder Game and The Art of Quilling (3D).

The War to End All Wars File Folder Game is a downloadable digital file available for $6.95.  This is a 2-player game intended for grades 3-12.  Playing the game allows students to learn about trench warfare and the many new weapons used in World War I.  It includes all of the printable pieces, instructions for assembly, and a brief overview of information about this war.  You need only add a 6-sided die in order to play.  This item is a 100th Anniversary Project, so it is not part of any other project pack.

The Art of Quilling (3D) is a downloadable digital file available for $1.95, and it’s intended for grades 3-8.  This item was originally part of the larger Time Travelers: Colonial Life history study.  Quilling is a unique art form that surfaced during the Renaissance era, and the settlers brought this skill with them to the colonies, where it experienced a resurgence in popularity. The file includes information about the craft, full instructions on how to do “paper rolling,” and a background pattern to create the 3-dimensional keepsake shown here.


If you’ve ever admired the larger project packs like the Time Traveler series, you may have thought to yourself that they look like so much fun, but perhaps you don’t have enough time to invest in the volume of hands-on activities in those packs.  If so, then these à la carte items are just right for you!  They’ve pulled out single activities from those larger packs and now allow you to order them individually!  There are also some special edition items that are not found in any other packs.

Perhaps your children like preparing timelines, or they enjoy making the newspapers or playing the games in the larger Home School in the Woods kits, but maybe the other items aren’t their favorite activities.  This new store allows you to pick and choose just the hands-on activities that suit your kids best.

My 4th grader, Holden, recently finished up his study of World War I and began World War II.  He was fascinated by the use of trench warfare and all the new weapons that were used during this war.  So I thought The War to End All Wars File Folder Game would give us the perfect opportunity to review what he learned about that first world war.

I did have to spend some time printing, cutting, gluing, and assemb20180317_120532ling the pieces for this game, but the printing and assembly instructions were very clear and easy to follow.  Once I had everything made, I must admit that the game itself looked pretty cool!  I opted to print color versions of all the game pieces since Holden doesn’t enjoy coloring very much.  But if you have a child who does enjoy that, you can print black and white versions, as well.  I chose to set up the instructions and the background information about the war in a binder, which also gave me pockets in which to store the cards, the file folder game itself, and the baggies of pieces I’d made.

Once we sat down to read the rules for the game, I knew there was no way my 10-year old was going to be able to play it.  It did have a lot of rules of engagement and steps to each person’s turn in each round.  So instead, he and my 13-year old daughter opted to watch me play it with my 18-year old son, Hayden.  That way, Holden still got to benefit from reviewing the weapons and strategies of World War I, without having to keep track of all the rules.  It also allowed him to come and go since he has trouble sitting still, and it took us about an hour and a half to finish our first game! 

The rules initially seemed a little overwhelming, but Hayden and I decided we would just start playing and refer to the rules of engagement as we went along.  They smartly included a little reminder card for each player that helped us recall the steps of our turn, which helped a lot.  Once we got through the first couple of rounds, we had both gotten the hang of it, and it all started to make sense.  Then the time we spent was taken up more on our strategic decisions with the action cards than with trying to refer so much to the rules.  We really started to get into the game!

With each turn, each player got to move each infantryman up to two spaces, and then we got to add two more infantrymen to the rear of our trenches as reinforcements.  Next, we could play any or all of our action cards, allowing us to u20180318_192133se our weapons against the enemy.  That’s where rolling the die came into play, as that was required for implementing many of the action cards.  Last, we got to draw replacement action cards so that we always held five in our possession for the next turn.  The goal of the game was to penetrate the enemy’s rear trench line, and then game play ended instantly, and that country won the battle!  Hayden had one infantryman who was wearing a gas mask who made it through my trenches, and he won the game!  It caught me off guard, because I was planning to move next to him and kill that soldier with my hand bomb on my next turn, but he got ahead of me by implementing multiple action cards that gave him the advantage!  I was the first to get past his first trench line, but he had killed my infantryman with a gas attack on the previous turn, taking away my chance for the win.  It was a great demonstration of how on the actual battlefield, you could spend lots of energy strategizing and setting your plans into action, but things can turn on a dime and completely overwhelm your army.  As you can see, it’s actually quite an exciting game!  We would definitely play it again.  Even my adult son said it was a lot of fun for him, and he really enjoyed playing it!

My 8th grader, Haylee, just loves doing all kinds of art projects, so I figured she might enjoy doing The Art of Quilling (3D).  She’s never tried quilling before, so I thought she might enjoy trying something new.  This project only requires20180317_132753 some white paper, 1 sheet of colored cardstock, 1 sheet of white cardstock, some colored strips of paper, and either a quilling tool or one you make yourself by splitting the end of a toothpick (instructions are included on how to do that).  I decided to make it as easy as possible for her, so I opted to purchase a basic quilling kit for her with the paper strips in various colors already made, the quilling tool, and a storage case to keep it all in.  I figured that would simplify the process for her and get her excited about trying out a new art form.  All I had to do was print out the instructions and the included pattern.  I decided to print the pattern on a sheet of cardstock rather than plain paper so it would provide a firm foundation for her to use to glue on her pieces.  I knew we would probably want to frame it in a shadowbox frame once it was finished, so I wanted to make that as easy as possible. 

Haylee said20180318_201546 the instructions were really easy to follow, and there were color illustrations demonstrating each type of shape that she needed to make to complete the quilling project.  She thought it was going to be hard since it was completely new to her, but she caught on quickly and was able to complete the project in one sitting!  She said the hardest part was gluing on the long stem piece, and making the curls for the flowers was just fun!  Her picture turned out really pretty, and she made it in colors that she liked best.

I got an email this weekend about additional products that have been added to the store, and I was so excited to see such a variety of individual projects that are available!  My mind started turning at how we could use some of them as great supplements to our learning.  I’ll be planning a study of the 50 states at some point with my youngest, and I saw they are offering a Name That State! File Folder Game for $4.95 to help kids practice recognition of the shape of each state, their capitals, some facts about each one, and their regions.  And since we are currently studying World War II and the many ways that civilians back at home had to recycle materials and sacrifice with rationing in order to keep the war effort well-supplied, what better way to summarize that than with the On the Home Front Lapbook/Notebook Project for just $5.95?  There are so many possibilities available in the store to supplement and solidify your children’s studies.  It’s definitely worth taking a look! 

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about the variety of Á La Carte products available from Home School in the Woods by clicking the banner below.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Great Homeschool Convention of Texas

I’ve never actually “attended” a homeschool convention…not in all of my 15 years of homeschooling!  A few years ago, I worked the Logic of English vendor booth at the HEAV Convention in Richmond, VA.  That’s as close as I ever got.  Since I had a vendor pass, I was able to shop the used curriculum sale and browse the rest of the vendor hall on breaks, but that was it.  I only worked one day.

I can’t imagine attending all of those seminars.  I’m in the winding-down phase of homeschooling with only one who will be left at home next school year.  He has just 4 more years before he will go to public high school, and then I can officially retire from this 19-year career as a homeschool teacher!  Image result for texas great homeschool convention 2018

But I have to admit I was excited to see that the Texas Homeschool Convention here in Fort Worth offered FREE shopping in the vendor hall on the opening night of the convention.  I decided to go and browse from 6-9 PM, and I ended up closing the place down!  I had to pay $18 to park (a bit shocking, but hey, it’s downtown Fort Worth), so it wasn’t totally free to go, but I probably wouldn’t have been happy to spend that and then pay to get in, too! 

Anyway, I really wanted to get some ideas of things I might use for Holden next Image result for bookshark 5year.  Since he’s the last one at home, I want to make next year fun for him.  It’ll be nice to do one-on-one homeschooling again, like I did in the beginning with Hayden as my one and only child.  I prepared myself by taking a list of the subjects I plan to teach, what I have that I could use to teach those (I have a lot of options since I’ve been reviewing curriculum for The Old Schoolhouse magazine for 7 years), and I put question marks next to things I wasn’t sold on so I would know what subjects to browse when I arrived.  I also had a printed list of all the books in BookShark History 5 where I had checked off the ones I already owned in the Sonlight version and circled the ones I needed to replace as new titles. 

20180315_191535I must say that most of all, I enjoyed chatting with vendors whose products I’ve already used.  I love giving feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and I guess that’s why I enjoy reviewing products so much.  I got a chance to meet Señor Gamache from La Clase Divertida, and he was such a nice man!  He offered to take a photo for Holden, who was dying to meet him.  Holden was at a soccer practice with his sister, so he missed the chance to go.  He loved seeing a real, live photo of him with mom!  Señor Gamache said the best part for him is getting to meet his “students!”

I stopped by the Sonlight booth to see all the changes they’ve made, and I spent Image result for eastern hemisphere notebooka good while discussing upcoming changes at the BookShark booth.  It looks like Core 5’s Eastern Hemisphere Notebook (EHN) will be coming out in color around June!  We start in late June, so I may not be able to wait for it, but I may order the 2017 version and then just update the EHN at that time.  I did get to peek at their new full-color IG’s for the early grades, which were really easy on the eyes!  And I got to peek at their new American History lapbooks, which I think are intended for Cores 3 and 4, but you could easily use them with Core 100, as well.  They were beautiful, and they were designed by Home School in the Woods exclusively for BookShark/Sonlight! 

I probably spent the most time talking with the representative at Classical Academic Press.  I decided to stop and ask them if they had considered Image result for song school spanishproducing a sequel to Song School Spanish, and he said YES!  In fact, they are releasing it probably in early June!  So Song School Spanish 2 is on the way shortly.  I can’t wait!  Haylee and I reviewed the first one when it first came out a few years ago, and I saved it for Holden to use in 2nd grade.  He loved it and finished the whole program!  This sequel is for upper elementary, so it will be perfect for him to use for 5th grade.  I think I’ll plan to buy that.  I also suggested they might consider doing another Review Crew run for the new one, and they seemed open to that!  I hope so.  I talked so positively about the program that the guy told his marketing director that I ought to be the one Song School Spanish at their booth!  LOL

At the Nature’s Workshop Plus booth, they had so many cool hands-on activity kits.  I picked up a few small oil pastel kits for Haylee to do.  She loves artsy stuff.  And I made some notes about potential human body models to get for Image result for apologia anatomy and physiologyHolden to use for 5th grade science.  We are currently reviewing Apologia Anatomy & Physiology, and I had ordered the Nature’s Workshop Plus lab kit to go with it.  We are enjoying all of the experiments so much that we plan to use the set for 5th grade science starting in June instead of doing BookShark Science 5 as we had originally planned.  It was nice to see that NWP had kits for all of the Apologia sciences.  If Holden really loves it next year, I may just continue with Apologia for the rest of his years at home.  I’ve reviewed Chemistry & Physics, Zoology 3:  Land Animals, and Astronomy in years’ past, so I have those on my shelves already.  I could just order the NWP lab kits to go with them, and we’d be ready to go.

Image result for eat your way through the usaAt some point, I need to plan to do a 50-state study with Holden, and a focused study on Texas history.  I have stuff to use for that already, but I did spot a really cool book called Eat Your Way Across the USA that had several recipes unique to each state.  Holden loves food and cooking and trying new things, so I think he’d really enjoy that.  I added it to my wish list at Amazon to keep in mind for when we finally getting around to doing that 50-state study.

I also jotted down that I liked the looks of Essentials in Writing 5 to possibly use Image result for essentials in writing 5for Grammar for Holden next year.  I reviewed the 9th grade version with Hayden many years ago, and it seemed like a good program.  He ended up enrolling in a charter high school, so he didn’t end up using any of the high school stuff I had, but I remembered that there were DVD videos that went with it.  When I got home, I stayed up super late, until about 2:45 this morning, doing more research on line about all the things I found, and I saw a video clip of one of the EIW5 instruction videos on YouTube.  It was pretty dull for an elementary student, so maybe I won’t go that route, or perhaps I’ll just use the workbook without the rest of it.  It’s something to think about. 

In any case, despite spending $18 on parking, I think it was a good trip.  I had a good time and got some ideas and information I was looking to get.  I always like to put my hands on new materials in person before making any purchasing decisions.  I’m not one to try something sight unseen.  That’s one of the advantages of reviewing products…I actually get to try them, and if we like them, sometimes I’ll stick with that vendor and keep buying their products or buy some more down the road when it seems appropriate.  But at least I already know what I’m getting and what will work for us.

I’m sure the convention center is packed today and tomorrow with all of those lectures taking place.  The vendor hall wasn’t too busy last night, so it seemed like the best time to go.  I’ll keep that in mind for next year, and perhaps I can carpool with someone and split the parking, or get Steve to drop me off and pick me up or something.  After all, it’s only 8 miles from home!  I feel lucky for that.

Are you going to a homeschool convention this year?